Break Up With Your Garden Hose

By Robin Leja | December 16, 2015
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by Robin Leja
December 16, 2015

Robin is a Master Gardener living near Columbus Ohio with her husband Brian, where she loves to capture her sunny, suburban garden with her camera for her blog Life In Robin’s Nest. When she isn’t gardening, she’s singing with her friends in one of several groups to which she belongs. She also loves to read, shop, travel, cook, and decorate her home. If you can’t find her in the garden, she’s likely at a beach somewhere with her toes in the sand, or off visiting her far away children and grandchildren.

If you’re like most gardeners, dragging a heavy, kinking garden hose around the yard is an almost daily event in the summer. But what if there was a better way? What if we gardened in such a way that we didn’t need that hassle? What a concept!

Drought tolerant gardening is becoming more and more popular as water limitations are put into effect in parts of the country. I’ve developed some strategies to limit the use of your garden hose, while still enjoying a beautiful garden. Some of them may seem radical to the average gardener though, because my first bit of advice is to limit the use of containers. Yes, I know that most gardeners just love their container gardens full of color. But those same containers dry out quickly, and need constant watering. What if you planted a pot full of succulents instead? It looks lovely too, and never needs extra water. Is it not colorful enough for you? Well, use pretty and colorful containers instead of flowers that need twice daily watering. And guess what? You could plant your flowers directly in the ground where they don’t dry out so quickly.

IMG_6984 IMG_1649 IMG_5119
Zinnias Karly Rose pennisetum ornamental grass Munstead lavender

And while we’re talking about those pretty annuals all lined up like candy at the nursery, I have another novel idea. If you really want to limit extraneous watering in your garden, it’s a lot easier if you also limit your use of annuals. Most of them bloom like crazy in their brief life, but require constant feeding and watering to keep those flowers going. Try using more perennials, especially those that are not water hogs, and you’ll find your garden hose may even start to gather dust. Now there are a few annuals that aren’t quite as needy, common geraniums, marigolds, vinca, zinnias, and moss roses come to mind. Just remember to plant these low maintenance lovelies directly into the ground for the lowest watering usage.

Another water hungry garden activity is the use of seeds. Seeds are cheap, for sure, but they must be kept constantly moist in order to germinate. If you let the seeds dry out and die, you haven’t saved a thing. Think about buying plants instead. Yes, they still need water when transplanted, but they aren’t quite as demanding.

The most radical way to break up with your garden hose is to limit that wide expanse of green lawn. Yes, that emerald carpet that you preen over, fertilize and mow constantly, is the biggest water hog of all. It’s also an environmental monoculture, with little appeal to bees, birds and butterflies. If you are tired of high water bills, cut down that wide expanse of lawn with more garden beds. Or let your lawn revert to it’s natural state, with clover and other natural greens all mixed in. Either way, you won’t need nearly as much water.

sedum Autumn Joy Sedum Container Agastache and rudbeckia
Sedum Autumn Joy Sedum Container Agastache and rudbeckia

But the best way to garden without the heavy use of garden hoses is to plant accordingly. There are many perennials out there that are not quite so thirsty. Read that plant label before you buy it! Don’t let its blooms trick you into buying it without studying its needs a little. If it says it needs moist soil, just put it back down and keep looking. Native plants are a good start, because they are adapted to the conditions in your area. Ornamental grasses are another way to bring interest and texture to your yard without sacrificing being overly dependent on watering. Think of plants like sedums, coneflowers, gaillardia, lavender, agastache, yarrow, salvia, and penstemon when you plan your garden. They all thrive on neglect. You’ll likely discover that most of these hardy plants are also favorites of the bees and butterflies that you want to visit your garden. Imagine that! You’ll be doing the most good, just by breaking up with your garden hose.

Black swallowtail on coneflowers cabbage butterfly on sedum Red Admiral butterfly and bees on echinacea
Black swallowtail on coneflowers Cabbage butterfly on sedum Red Admiral butterfly and bees on echinacea

~The earth laughs in flowers~


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