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Automatic sprinkler systems are often looked at as a waste of water. However, a well-designed system will actually save water, because it will have separate areas that run at different times according to the plant material. Turf areas should run separate from shrub beds. The reason is that when a shrub matures, it will no longer need the frequent watering that the turf will during the hot months.
Automatic systems should have a rain sensor to suspend watering when it’s raining. I’ve often driven by landscapes during a rain and seen an irrigation system running. For a small investment, that wasted water could have been saved. It is also important to periodically check underground systems for leaks or damaged heads that can cause them to be inefficient.
Another way to conserve water is to use rain water. Water barrels attached to downspouts will catch rainfall, which can be used for container plantings or other areas of the garden. These small cisterns are available at many garden centers. In addition, using permeable paving surfaces – such as bricks for a patio or stepping stones for a walkway – instead of solid concrete will allow the rainfall to infiltrate the garden soil instead of running into a ditch or storm sewer that does not benefit the landscape at all.
We don’t have to abuse our resources to have fine gardens. However, we do need to be wise in both our planning and our practices.
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