Tuesday, June 17, 2008

What the....!

It's amazing, just amazing to me that in this day of conservation, now having over 10 days of 100 degree weather and a certain hottest summer on record, well on it's way, that every last one of us aren't doing more to watch our footsteps. Over the weekend someone in our neighborhood had a sprinkler system installed for a huge Saint Augustine corner lot with no trees! For the Yankees reading this, St. Augustine is a shade grass, to have it in full sun means daily watering and we are in a drought! Currently, you're only allowed to water twice a week, and that most likely will drop to once a week as the situation worsens. They're also planting trees! In June! Tree planting time is October to March. Not that this isn't enough but when their other neighbors are all putting in gutters, acquiring rain barrels, ripping out driveways doing everything we can to minimize the need to water by mulching and replacing water sucking lawns with natives, increasing the permeability of our land space...they have a concrete patio and path poured all the way around the house to the backyard where another GIANT concrete patio is being layed. It's pretty with inlaid stone...but totally impermeable. I'm in shock. We need more than watering regulations, we need some public service announcements on the news, daily, explaining to folks how to stop the waste. When I lived in southern California in the early 90's there were daily tips and regular citywide interventions going on. For example, I remember when restaurants stopped just giving out water or ice, you had to ask for it. There were examples on how to wash your dishes unlike the television programming of the 50's and 60's that showed folks just letting the water run while they did menial tasks. The ad sported a woman filling a basin half way, then she soaped up all the dishes and then rinsed them into the soapy basin quickly one at a time and when she finished a huge pile, she had only filled one side of the sink. I've been doing my dishes like this ever since and refuse to believe that rinsing, loading and then running a dishwasher which also uses electricity could be more efficient. Bumper stickers that read "If it's yellow then it's mellow, If it's brown flush it down" were everywhere, and the city was all over how to do it better and more efficiently...not about wasting and complaining and waiting for someone else to figure out the problem. I know that it's the big box stores, malls, businesses etc. that are making more of a problem, running the air ridiculously low to make up for the door opening and closing non stop, which by the way can be fixed by having an entry...some stores, like Target have this...but if every home owner just took personal responsibility imagine the difference we could make? Last summer the city of Austin, or maybe it was LCRA had a neighborhood conservation contest...I never heard who won. It would be nice to have reports like this on the general evening news/newspaper about what part of town is doing the best, maybe special interest reports on innovative saving tips etc. I have a girlfriend who's mother recently went into the Peace Corps in South Africa. Their entire family has become so water conscious since then that they take a shower with two buckets to catch the wasted water that doesn't hit them to water the plants with...this may sound extreme to some folks, but pouring concrete over the earth is so insensitive that it's shear craziness to me. This blog may very well become a nasty rant over the summer...by August my eyes will ache for green, it's damn hard gardening in Texas sometimes, but living among the ecologically blind is harder. Even if you don't believe we have a problem, or are unable to see it on the horizon, no harm ever came from being conservative with resources. In fact, I think it's the best place to apply a conservative hand. My dear granny, who lived an incredibly modest life, never owned a car, walked or rode the bus, lived in a tiny 2 bedroom one bathroom place would say with a smile "waste not, want not," and I didn't really understand what she meant...not being a waster, but I guess that's on the forefront of your mind when you don't have resources to waste. The question of personal taste or ignorance should not be allowed to come into play...we are all in this together and some folks simply are not ever going to be awakened by a price tag. Some cities are becoming so conscious about the upcoming water situation that they are running field tests on plants to formulate lists of acceptable turf, shrub and trees for new developments. The scary thing about this is the limitation...how will the lack of variety impact insects and disease? Limitations have to be carefully thought out, so do our decisions. If we don't want these kinds of limitations to be placed on us, we should make conscious decisions and do our part to help prevent water loss, plant appropriately and timely (Summer is time to plan not plant!)
and also make sure we are watering at the right time, and the right amount.

For Austin, odd numbered residences water Wed/Sat that's an either or both and for even numbers it's Thur/Sun. Google City of __________water conservation for your location.

If you don't know what the right amount is, set out an empty tuna can randomly under your sprinkler and when it's full, that's enough for a week. Your potted plants will need water daily when the temps are above 90 and most sturdy shrubs can handle a few weeks without water...watch for signs of wilting though and give them a deep soak. It's best to water super early, before sunrise or super late to avoid evaporation. If you have baby plants, less than 2 years old, or you planted late, you're going to have to baby sit these fellows and make sure they don't get too stressed. So, what does a conscious gardener do in the summer other than pray for rain? Remove invasive species, design and build hard scape, turn your compost, get out super early to water and enjoy the brief cool hours of the day and dream about the beach!


mss @ Zanthan Gardens said...

I also wish that we had more public service announcements on how to conserve. It is incredible painful to watch people build wastefulness into their designs. (Just the size of the houses is distressing.)

As for the dishwasher, though, I'll have to disagree. I got my first dishwasher in my entire life just two years ago. It's a highly efficient model and requires no pre-rinsing. Our water consumption dropped about 1/4 to 1/3 after we started using it. It was amazing.

And it's not like I ever filled the sink with water or left it running while I rinsed. I lived in Japan for two years in an apartment with no hot running water where I learned to wash my dishes the Japanese way--wasting very little water.

ConsciousGardener said...

Awesome! I would love to hear about the Japanese way and what brand/model of dishwasher are you talking about? It's still hard for me to believe that it uses less than one sink full of water, super if it does though!

stacy said...

Great information! I'm afraid I'm one of the ignorant ones with no excuse. I just planted some stuff in the yard - so focused on planting native, drought resistant I totally spaced on that I should have planted in March. Sigh. Now I'll be using more water. I could kick myself. I'm new to this gardening and learning as I go -love the blog, it's so full of wonderful info. Thanks for sharing the knowledge - it's very admirable and inspiring!

Lori said...

I know! And I'm trying to design my new front yard bed to catch runoff from the slope of the yard, and my neighbors are always commenting on how I should fix my drainage problems by running pipes to the storm drain. I was horrified to realize that my front gutter that empties under the porch connects to a pipe that runs into the storm drain-- that's water I could use, and I'm going to have to rip up the porch to reroute it! I've been looking into permaculture techniques like digging swales to allow water to soak in. It seems to me that with a little foresight in building and landscape design, we'd be hugely, incredibly, shockingly more efficient with our resources.

ConsciousGardener said...

Right on! We've got two swales and we rush outside when it rains to watch 'em fill! They add a lovely element to your landscape...a curvilinear line!

Lori said...

consciousgardener - That's so cool! How wide and deep did you dig your swales? I've been using Gaia's Garden as my design guide, but are there any other books about permaculture that you would recommend?

ConsciousGardener said...

My front yard swale is about 2 feet wide and 1 1/2 feet deep, the back yard is similar. Check out Bill Mollison's book: Introduction to Permaculture. There used to be a weekly lecture at Habitat Suites near Highland Mall on Wednesday nights taught by Dick Peirce, they have a Permaculture course here in Austin. Best of Luck!