A landscape designed and maintained according to good horticultural principles that allow for a beautiful healthy landscape with minimal supplemental irrigation and little or not runoff from the landscape.
A WaterWise landscape can be evaluated according to its use of seven basic principles:
1. Analyzed soil
A soil analysis is essential for a WaterWise landscape plan. Results of the analysis, and actions needed to alter the quality of the soil, are also essential components. Soil depth dictates which plants will thrive in an area and how much water they will need. Soil type, (sandy, clay, sandy loam) dictates timing and extent of supplemental irrigation. In the case of a new subdivision, native soil may have been displaced and soil tests will help to evaluate the condition of the remaining topsoil. A minimum of eight inches of soil is recommended for turf. A Soil Test packet is available at the Agri-Life Extension Office at 604 N. Main in Weatherford.
2. Appropriate plant selection:
Select trees, shrubs and groundcovers based on their adaptability to your soil and hardness zone. Parker County is mostly 7b.Use native plants which are naturally adapted to the region. Most have lower water demands, fewer pest problems and less fertilizer needs than many non adapted, exotic plants.
Use a mulch wherever possible. A good mulch conserves water by significantly reducing moisture evaporation from the soil. Mulch also reduces weed populations, prevents soil compaction and keeps soil temperatures more moderate. In choosing a mulch, aesthetics is typically the most important concern of a homeowner or landscaper. Two - Three inches of organic mulch in beds and around tree add the most value to your soil. Remember to leave about a 6" space between the tree trunks. As the mulch can provide a habitat for pathogens (fungus or molds) if directly against the tree's trunk. Stones or rocks can also make an attractive ground cover. Remember the stones will be substantially warmer in the summer months.
4. Efficient irrigation:
Of the tremendous amounts of water applied to lawns and gardens, much of it is never absorbed by the plants and put to use. Some water is lost to runoff by being applied too rapidly, and some water evaporates from exposed, unmulched soil; but, the greatest waste of water is applying too much too often.
The use of drip irrigation or new sprinkler head technology can greatly reduce water use.
5. Practical Turf Areas
Turf should be used for play and entertainment areas, and to slow down, absorb, and clean runoff. Turf is a design element. The WaterWise landscape does not consist of large tracts of manicured turf, but it does include turf strategically placed and appropriate turf plant selection based on use. Turf will usually need supplemental irrigation, but the varieties of turf vary greatly in their water needs. Turfgrass needs eight inches of soil to allow for a deep root system that can survive limited watering or extended drought. Turf should not be placed in narrow hard to irrigate areas or near hardscape so that irrigation water must water the hardscape as well as the turf.
6. Appropriate maintenance:
WaterWise landscapes requires less maintenance. A well-designed landscape can decrease maintenance by as much as 50 percent through reduced mowing; once-a-year mulching; elimination of weak, unadapted plants; and more efficient watering techniques. Even the most WaterWise design can become water thirsty if not properly maintained. Check your irrigation systems for any needed repairs a couple of time a year. Learn how to reset your controller for the seasons, as most plants do not need as much water in the late fall or winter months. Have your mower blade sharpened at least once and possible twice during the mowing season. The best maintenance prevention is walking thorough your lawn or gardens observing any changes or needs.
7. Planning and design:
With all the prior information in mind it is time to plan and begin your design. A WaterWise landscape doesn't just happen. It is intentionally designed to enhance the natural space with minimal environmental impact. The design should include an estimate of supplemental water needed to support the plant material in normal times, and to keep it alive in times of drought. Keep in mind even drought tolerance plants need substainal water to get established during the first year of growth. After that time period water need will reduce.