Every Drop Counts!

Water scarcity and drought are so much more than a hot desert

 

1.1 billion people do not have access to water, and 2.7 billion experience a shortage or even scarcity of water at least once a year. The

world is in dire need of water, and so much goes straight down the drain, unused.

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In mid-June, the city of Longmont, Colorado goes through upwards of 30 million gallons of water per day, according to local authorities!

There are so many areas of your outdoor water use where you could be saving big water for the world, and big bucks for yourself.  Imagine the amazing water we could save if millions of people started minding their water use- even just a little bit.

Let’s cover a couple of non-lawn water issues first, then we’ll get into detail about how to optimize your garden and lawn watering operations!

Public service announcement: 

You can get the better part of a decade (or more) out of your garden supplies.

Take good care of your stuff and use it for a long time. It’s worth noting that all of these garden supplies can be very wasteful if not taken care of. Then they need to be thrown away sooner. This involves not storing your items in the sun and rain. Both will help them deteriorate much faster than keeping them in a covered and cooler location.

Now… On to the frequently asked questions:

Dusty Outdoor Chores and Allergies

Strategic Sweeping and More

Caution:

*DO NOT sweep or disturb anything that is suspected to have lead dust or paint on it. Lead can cause serious health problems and poisoning. Call lead paint

Leave questionable paint undisturbed and call a specialist.

specialists. This could be something like the foundation of your house, your old cellar inside, or anything, really. Lead paint was not banned until 1978, so be aware or ancient looking paint, especially if it is cracking.

How to:

  • As long as lead and intense allergies to the dust aren’t a concern, use a broom and sweep the area. If you absolutely must get it sparkling clean, you can still use the broom first. Keep nearby windows and doors shut to avoid getting dust in your house.
  • Do a great job with the broom. Then you can use much, much less water spraying down the small remainder of what you could not get clean with the broom.

    Use a push style broom for lowest dust and best results.
  • Depending on the situation,  you may want to use a high quality reusable dust mask, gloves, and goggles to protect your health when sweeping dusty areas, even if you don’t have allergies.
  • Also, washing your face and hands at the very least when you’re done with the task is super important. It’s definitely recommended to take a quick shower if the job is dusty. But don’t waste too much water in there! Engage your low-flow showerhead! Hehe…

Plan your sweeping and other dirty jobs for right before, when you already need a shower, and you will save even more water!

Know Yourself

Of number one importance is understanding that you know your allergies the best. Trust your gut. Don’t do anything silly and get yourself sick. That’s very important! Depending on the severity of your allergies, ask your health care pro.

If you decide it is ok for you to sweep, there are many precautions you should take to protect yourself from an allergy attack. Click open the next questions for more info, and take any other precautions that feel important also.

As a life habit, and especially to flush toxins and allergens…

This is always recommended anyways. And drinking lots of water before during and after Dusty chores will help flush allergens through your system. Lavender and mint tea are also fantastic for an extra anti-allergen boost!

Tools, timing, and technique

Sweep in the morning before it is super dry and sunny outside. If there is still some moisture in the air, it will help keep the dust low while you sweep.

In the morning while there is still some moisture in the air is a good time to sweep.

Use an outdoor “push broom”, and use short, brisk strokes that are close to the ground. This will keep the dust reasonably low as you sweep it away. Imagine this versus bigger sweeps, possibly even with a kitchen broom, and you will understand what I’m talking about right away.

Ah, the old adage: don’t piss into the wind, don’t spit into the wind, and don’t sweep into the wind!  Don’t sweep while it’s windy at all, for that matter.  If it’s windy, wait until the weather is calm, and then do your outdoor sweeping chores.

Go incognito

Use a reusable dust mask, gloves, and safety goggles. If you use these, you’ll greatly cut down on lots of irritation in your eyes, nose, mouth, and lungs.

Water-Saving Barbie reminds: “Don’t forget to be FABULOUS about it!”

A pair of protective pants and long-sleeve shirt, plus a hat or bandana to cover your hair, is a good thing to have around for yard work when you have allergies. Junky old clothes that you are about to give away are great for this, or get something from the thrift store to be greenest. There certainly is no need to buy new clothing for these kinds of chores! Wash with workout clothes or similar dirt level.

Find fabrics that protect your skin from the allergens, but also help you to not overheat. Lighter colored fabrics absorb less heat from the Sun, and therefor help keep you cooler.

Wash it all away

  • Move slowly when you walk through your house with contaminated clothing, and when you change out of it, to keep indoor allergens at bay.
  • Be sure to put those dirty clothes in the appropriate place- possibly a closed container or hamper- after you finish with your chore, so that they don’t dust you later!
  • Take a quick shower after the sweep, staying conscious of water use.
  • To be greenest, sweep when you are already in need of a shower, then take a full shower afterwords, and save even more water!

Start your allergy self-care hours or days before your chores for best results.

  • You could put a few drops of allergen fighting essential oil inside of your dust mask to help you out! Eucalyptus, lavender, peppermint, Roman chamomile, and frankincense are all great for helping fight allergies. Dilute them with a carrier oil in case they touch your skin a little bit. Pure essential oils can be very irritating to the skin, especially the facial area.
  • You could also have the essential oil diffuser going in your house with any of the above mentioned oils for when you are done, and also use them in the shower you take afterwards if it’s steamy.

    Stock up on immune/allergy specific remedies like Netti pot, herbal tea, essential oils, and tinctures.
  • Take your best-working allergy supplements or medications, preferably  for several days, before you start your work in the yard, and have some peppermint or lavender iced tea waiting as a reward for your efforts! These (and many others) will all help fight the allergens and clear you up.
  • Blow your nose well, then some more in the shower, and then use a sterile Neti pot or nasal rinse after you’re finished with your outdoor chores. Proper amounts of sea salt and essential oils are very helpful in the Neti pot. Don’t go overboard! Try one drop each of frankincense, rosemary, and eucalyptus.

Go with a compostable or recyclable outdoor broom.

Choose wood, or recycled, recyclable plastic if you do not have scrap metal recycling available to you. Then do the right thing with it when it’s done serving you- recycle, compost, etc.

Compostable plastics will probably have to be taken to a commercial compost facility, as they may not decompose at the temperatures your backyard compost reaches. Complicated! I know! Look for the option that’s best for you and your knowledge/situation- The one that you are most likely to follow through on.

From house brooms to push brooms, compostable and recycled, recyclable brooms are your greenest options. Synthetic bristles are the hardest part of a broom to recycle, so try to steer away from synthetic bristles.

Here are a few other tips for success:

 

  • If you have a very strong preference for synthetic bristles, or your town is restrictive on what it recycles and you won’t be able to recycle brooms, look into recycling your lawn supplies at terracycle.com. They will take all sorts of things you never thought you could recycle! Check out their outdoor decor/yard work supplies recycling program.
  • If you buy a plastic broom, make sure it is made from recycled plastic. Recycle through terracycle.
  • Store your broom out of the sun and inclement weather to keep it like new for years to come!

At home with a bucket and rag. Hands down.

  • If you go to a car wash, make sure you go to one that recycles their water. Not all of them do this, and a lot of water is wasted in fancy car washes. Also, the chemicals they use are horrendous for the environment most of the time. Try to avoid car washes.
  • In some areas you can actually find waterless car washes nowadays. Look into this in your area. I am unclear on what kinds of chemicals they might use, however.

If you need to wash your car it’s usually best if you do it carefully, at home.

When washing your car at home, use a bucket and an old rag, instead of using the hose the whole time. Try to avoid sponge use, and other frivolous materials that harm the earth, such as microfiber. Do they really work better anyways? I haven’t been able to see that they do.

If you do use sponges and microfiber,, take very very good care of them, and use them for years to come. Again, terraycle.com will help you out in recycling these when you can’t use them anymore…

Use biodegradable, eco friendly car wash soap. And make a plan of attack for the rinse job, so that you can get it done as fast as possible.

Pretend that you’re in one of those old car washes: you have to pay $0.50 for 2 minutes, and see how fast you can get that car rinsed as the moments tick away!

Conserving Water In The Garden

Ways to save and use clean wastewater

  • Anywhere that there is a faucet or spigot, you can keep a watering can or other collecting bucket. Obviously you will want to get any leaky faucets fixed first and foremost to save water. But if you can’t seem to stop the hose connection from leaking, keep a bucket nearby to catch the water. Drip by drip and day by day, you will collect water, and be able to pour it on your plants.
  • Collect water from your kitchen sink that is otherwise mostly clean and
    Why not re-use bath and kitchen rinse water instead of sending it down the drain?

    going down the drain.  When you rinse a pot, the second rinse on that is pretty clean water. Assuming no animal products or chunks of food, you could pour this type of water into a bucket and it would be very healthy for you to put on any plant!

  • Collect your bath or shower water in the tub. Use a bucket to take it outside to water with, or around the house to indoor plants with a watering can!
  • You can actually have your shower plumbed to drain some place specific- like straight to a garden, or into a collection area for future use. Just be sure you are using very natural shampoos and body cleansers. Even if you salt scrubs or epsom salts- in the right dilution, these can all be beneficial to your garden!
  • Many people actually collect the water from their washing machine on its rinse cycle for reuse! If you’re using biodegradable, natural laundry detergent you can rig this up, and reuse this water to water indoor and outdoor plants! Borax is beneficial to soils as well in these small quantities.
  • Some people with very old pipes feel the need to run the water for 30 seconds to a minute every morning, or even every 8 hours or so, to clear any possible toxic debris. You could use this water for nonedible decorative plants instead of letting it roll down the drain.

Strategy, strategy

  • Use companion planting guides to mix and match your garden for optimal natural pest repellent and water use. Some plants will compete with each other for water. Plant these guys separate from one another.
  • If you are planting on a hill, make sure that the plants that need the least water are at the top of the hill. Plant the plants that want the most water at the bottom of the hill.
  • Look up the best xeriscaping plant and landscape options for your region.
  • Water between 4am and 10am, or 6pm and 9pm, to avoid excess evaporation during the day, and potential for fungus and disease to flourish overnight.
  • Cover your garden with mulch. This could include wood chips, thick layers of hay, leaf clippings and more
  • Collect rain in barrels to the extent that it is legal in you county
  • Bury logs under your garden-they will sponge and hold water as they compost and feed your plants.
  • Allow cover crops, or certain “weeds” to grow, to shade the soil, which keeps sun evaporation down. The water they drink up is worth it

Water the roots the most.

This gives you the least water evaporation, and creates strong roots that naturally need less watering.

  • Water by hand, close to the ground, with a watering wand that turns on and off as you need it to.
  • Sprinkler hoses are also quite conservative, as long as they don’t shoot the water too high. More specifically you can get something called a drip hose, that sort of slowly seeps water out of the pores of the holes straight onto the ground it is lying on. You can weave these types of hoses around your garden to water the roots of your plants with ease. Put them on an
    Close proximity showers are good, too.

    automatic cycle timer, like the lawn! Find the drip hose kind that bubbles and gurgles, instead of ones that sprinkle upwards.

  • Use cycle irrigation in your garden as described in the lawn watering section. This gives optimal water to the roots.
  • Keep automated watering systems in check by installing a rain shut off gauge. This gauge will know when it rains, and tell your sprinkler not to water the garden.

Look for recycled and Rainforest safe rubber, and treat your hoses with respect

Garden hoses are overall not very green- do your best. Here are some tips:

  • Look for hoses that are made out of recycled rubber! Many brands of these gurgling drip or sprinkle hoses fit the bill.
  • Take good care of all of your hoses, tools, and buckets, so you can use
    Make it easy for yourself to take good care of your hoses, etc.

    them year after year. Do not leave them out after frost, and keep everything out of the sun as much as possible. Weather ages things and maked them break sooner.

  • Mark hoses, etc. if they are laying in your garden for the whole summer, so you don’t accidentally puncture them when gardening. Cheap plastics will not want to be left in the sun or freezing cold, as mentioned.
  • Bonus tidbit: Cleaning your pruning shears and other sharp devices after using them keeps them sharp for years. Letting the sap and plant matter sit on them helps deteriorate them faster. So go ahead and give them a soapy once-over at the end of your task, and be sure to dry thoroughly to avoid rust.
  • And as always, click up on terracycle.com to recycle almost everything you never thought was recyclable. Don’t send it to the landfill, and possibly the ocean.

Watering the Lawn

The greenest, least expensive irrigation system is a well maintained one

Check your irrigation system yearly to make sure that it is functioning properly. This, of course, starts in the fall when you blow out your sprinkler system thoroughly before anything freezes.

Be sure to note any place where it seems like there are puddles where your irrigation system lies. You may have a leak in your system that needs to be fixed.

Take the time and effort to aim your sprinkler heads so that they do not spray the sidewalk or your house. Spraying your house can be damaging to your siding and foundation anyway, so definitely watch out for that.

It’s such a waste of water to water a sidewalk and watch it roll on down the way into the drain. Read more about how to fix that issue in the specific question about sidewalk runoff.

You can do it!

If you are using hoses, be sure that you don’t have wasted water dripping out leaking at your faucet connection. If you do, it’s probably a easy fix. Time for some new rubber washers inside of your hose connections!

Combine brand new rubber washer and possibly quick-connect hose attachments for a drip-free connection.

You may simply need to disconnect your hose from the connection point and clean the rubber washer inside the end.

Remove the washer. Clean the washers and the metal of dirt particles, and re-adjust them. Worst case scenario, pick up some good ones at the hardware store, and replace the washers in seconds.

It’s possible that you will need to call the plumber. Do it for your conscience and the planet. Or, if you are feeling handy… YouTube it!

**Always cut open anything ring-like that you are tossing or recycling, so that an animal does not get stuck in it.

Morning or evening is best.

Watering between 4 a.m. and 10 a.m. is your best bet, and here’s why:

 Heavy watering after about 9:30 p.m.can cause fungus and other lawn problems.

Watering later in the daytime wastes water due to evaporation, and can also burn your grass if the sun is very hot and bright that day.

Not very often, not very long.

Most lawns only need 2 waterings per week. And in shorter intervals than you might expect. Really?? Yes, really. Especially with the use of cycle irrigation, which is much simpler than it sounds. Read down to the question about water running down the sidewalk to learn more.

Try watering twice a week for 20 minutes, with the option for a third round.

Depending on the weather, you may want to lower your watering.

 

Get a rain gauge for your water timer and let nature do her job.

When your lawn is doing great you can cut back a little bit. A few less minutes of watering can actually add up!

Best case scenario, you can install a rain shut off device, which will know if it rains and turn off your sprinklers until the next round.

Only water your lawn 2 times a week during the correct hours of the day for optimal water absorption.

How to avoid water runoff while watering:

Develop deep roots, so that your lawn will absorb better and naturally need less water. This is done by the use of cycle irrigation.

With cycle irrigation, you water your lawn in cycles, with an hour in between

Cycle irrigation and proper sprinkler head placement will prevent runoff.

each cycle. If you water your lawn for 20 minutes, you would go for 2 rounds of 10 minutes each instead, having those watering rounds be one hour apart.

This is specifically important if you notice that some of the water you are using to grow your lawn is running off down the sidewalk, after you have made sure that your sprinkler heads are aimed properly.

Aiming your sprinkler heads so that they only hit your lawn is the other trick here.

But even if you don’t notice runoff, cycle irrigation will help grass develop deeper roots, and your lawn will actually require less water over time.

Let’s clear up the intimidation…

Water timers are very easy to use, and don’t take too much effort to install. You can get many varieties. Some are more complex than others. Ask someone at

Just pick one up at your favorite hardware store!

your local hardware store to help you pick the one that’s right for you.

You can set your water timer for two times per week, and also for cycle irrigation, and forget about it! This is especially awesome when combined with a rain shut off guage. Be sure to check where it is spraying from time to time, and check up on your lawn water runoff, to make sure things are running smoothly.

Automation is king, but there are other options

A well-maintained underground sprinkler system on a timer is the ultimate water-saving solution! This is also greener than hoses and faucets, if well maintained. But you can save a lot of water either way with the right supplies.

Whether it be an underground automatic system or hoses and sprinklers, choose sprinklers that offer large droplets of water. See that they spray the water evenly, in a low-to-the-ground fashion. All of this equals less evaporation and more water for your lawn, so less time and money watering!

MAYBE you don’t even want grass.

It’s too high maintenance, and it just seems wasteful. If this is your situation, click open the next few info boxes, and check out some alternatives that require little-to-no water and mowing.

Maybe you’d rather have a field of tulips!

If you do not have an HOA, and the laws in your town or community permit it, there is a really fun and effective way to beautify your property! If you’re renting your place, you will definitely need to talk to your landlord before making landscape changes.

Question the system

If the laws in your county don’t permit this type of lawn, definitely get in touch with the correct officials, and question them about their reasoning. This may be an amazing opportunity to create change in your community, simply by asking some questions, and asking for what you want!

Yarrow: if you mow it, it will fuzz and spread.

A ground cover herb instead of a lawn.

It is an amazing low-water alternative! Many ground covering herbs can also have benefits to your property. Thyme is specifically great to help keep pests at bay.

Have you ever mowed a lawn full of weeds all summer long? Suddenly mowing a lawn full of medicinal ground cover doesn’t sound so awful or foreign, does it?

And you can get great coverage with many herbs as long as you keep them mowed… Like a lawn, but way easier! Many of the herbs you could cover your lawn with require very little maintenance and mowing.

Things are about to get exciting!

  • Thyme, especially wooley thyme, would probably be my number one pick for this. Soft and anti-pest and anti-fungal! It would not need very much water, mowing, or harvesting at all.
  • Yarrow- would require more mowing for sure, to keep it short and soft. You wouldn’t want to let the yarrow flower, but instead spread out in its soft leaves, close to the ground. Anyone who has had yarrow in their area knows how well it likes to spread. Mowing it speeds this process!

Less lawn-like options:

Depending on preference and your lawn use, you can get really creative

Creeping Thyme

with your landscape. Obviously, you will want to look at variables such as where and how your kids play, whether you’re needing to scoop up after the dogs, and how easy that will be in higher growing, thicker ground covers.

  • If you feel confident that your lawn is clean enough, without any pet or animal deposits, you can grow a variety of medicinal, low water ground covers (like thyme) and actually harvest them! If you do have pets, you can even fence off a garden area, so that it is clean and safe enough for whatever you want to grow.
  • If you really feel wild, you can even just sprinkle wildflower seeds, and turn your yard into a wild garden. I have seen this a couple times- it’s gorgeous and unexpected in the middle of town.
  • Succulents are amazing in many situations as well. There are so many beautiful ground cover varieties that you can even make a patchwork quilt out of them! Like always, it just depends on how you are using your lawn otherwise.

Yes!! Do it! 

Grow food, not lawns.

You’ll want to double-check to make sure it’s totally legal and ok where you are, which definitely would include checking with your landlord! Unfortunately, many landlords are not going to want you to dig up their lawn to grow food… but you never know!

Keep questioning the system:

Definitely respectfully challenge a city ordinance that does not allow you to grow your own food on your property. Ask lots and lots of questions about why and why not!

nward down the block!

Keep the peace

Because of the spreading properties of many of these herbs, you definitely want

Yes, you have to respect your neighbor’s lawn. You’ll win them over eventually!

to be mindful of them. Your neighbors may not love that yarrow, etc. if it starts sprouting in their lawn.

Better yet though, live by example as always. Stay respectful with your choices and opinion. Someday, at a natural and appropriate time, tell them about how awesome it is.

See if you can make them see the light, and maybe they will end up with a medicinal, decorative ground cover lawn as well. Then o

Happy water saving, and thanks for reading! You are awesome!

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