Earth Friendly: Be water smart
By Meredyth Byrd
Spring is in full swing, and to the surprise of perhaps no one, we are once again behind on our rainfall totals for the year. In an average year, Victoria would have already received more than 9 ½ inches of rain by the end of April, but in 2011 we have seen only two-thirds of that, or just a little more than 6 inches.
Victoria averages nearly 40 inches of rainfall per year. That sounds like a lot of rain as compared to El Paso and Albuquerque, each of which see just a little more than 9 inches yearly. In contrast, New Orleans and Baton Rouge both have average rainfalls approaching 65 inches. May tends to be one of our hometown's wetter months, so cross your fingers that we see some rain soon.
In the meantime, spring flowers are blooming and vegetable gardens are starting to produce their bounty. It is time to start thinking about ways to save water while still maintaining your gardens.
It is hard to resist the call of beautiful plants. Nurseries, hardware stores and grocery stores all have their blooms on full display, inviting you to take a few home. Native plants are great for landscaping for a few reasons. First, plants that are native to South Texas are naturally drought-tolerant, requiring little water once they are established. You can find natives in every color of the rainbow, from yellow esparanzas to red-orange milkweed to blue mistflower. As an added bonus, many native plants such as these are known to attract hummingbirds, butterflies and bees.
Vegetable gardens and flowerbeds require regular watering. Be mindful of when and how you water, adjusting sprinklers so that they do not reach driveways, sidewalks or the walls of your house. You are not doing your plants any favors by letting water run into the storm drain.
Water either early in the morning or in the evening, when your beds are not being bathed in bright sunlight or battered by winds. As the temperatures rise, much of the water being distributed by your sprinkler is lost to evaporation, so watering during the heat of the day is particularly wasteful. Incorporate mulch and compost into your beds: Both help retain moisture.
Lawns require about an inch of water each week to stay green. Since you don't want to under-water or overwater your lawn, figure out how much time it takes for your sprinkler to distribute an inch of water. Place a coffee can or other similar container within reach of the sprinkler and check it every 20 minutes until 1 inch of water has accumulated.
The weather is heating up, and summer is just around the corner. Let's be mindful of our water usage so we don't waste a precious resource.
Meridith Byrd is a marine biologist and invites readers to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.