Monday, January 26, 2009

Water Conservation
Save water with efficient systems and healthy plants.
In Your Backyard
Wise use of water for garden and lawn waterings not only helps protect the environment, but saves money and provides for optimum growing conditions. Simple ways of reducing the amount of water used for irrigation include growing xeriphytic species (plants that are adapted to dry conditions), mulching, adding water retaining organic matter to the soil, and installing windbreaks and fences to slow winds and reduce evapotranspiration.
Watering in the early morning before the sun is intense helps reduce the water lost from evaporation. Installing rain gutters and collecting water from downspouts also helps reduce
water use.
Plant Needs for Water
Water is a critical component of photosynthesis, the process by which plants manufacture their own food from carbon dioxide and water in the presence of light. Water is one of the many factors that can limit plant growth. Other important factors include nutrients, temperature, and amount and duration light.
Plants take in carbon dioxide through their stomata--microscopic openings on the undersides of leaves. Water is also lost through the stomata in the process called transpiration. Transpiration, along with evaporation from the soil surface, accounts for the moisture lost from the soil.
When there is a lack of water in the plant tissue, the stomata close to try to limit water loss. Wilting occurs when the tissues lose too much water. Plants adapted to dry conditions have developed numerous mechanisms for reducing water loss, including narrow leaves, hairy leaves, and thick fleshy stems and leaves. Pines, hemlocks, and junipers are also well adapted to survive extended periods of dry conditions which they encounter each winter when the frozen soil prevents the uptake of water. Cacti, with leaves reduced to spines and having thick stems, are the best example of plants well adapted to extremely dry environments.
Choosing Plants for Low Water Use*
You are not limited to cacti, succulents, or narrow leafed evergreens when selecting plants adapted to low moisture requirements. Many plants growing in humid environments are well adapted to low levels of soil moisture. Numerous plants found growing in coastal or mountainous regions have developed mechanisms for dealing with extremely sandy, excessively well-drained soils, or rocky cold soils in which moisture is limited to months at a time. Following is a list of low water use plants from various parts of the country: North West

  1. Saskatoon serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia)
  2. Blue grama (Bouteloua gracilis)
  3. Rocky Mountain Juniper (Juniperus scopulorum)
  4. Oregon white oak (Quercus garryanna)South West
  5. Four-wing saltbush (Atriplex canescens)
  6. Fairy Duster (Calliandra eriophylla)
  7. Penstemon (Penstemon spp.)
  8. Pinyon pine (Pinus edulis)North Central
  9. Aromatic aster (Aster oblongifolius)
  10. Sideoats grama (Bouteloua curtipendula)
  11. Bluegrama (Bouteloua gracilis)
  12. Pale purple coneflower (Echinacea pallida)
  13. Compass plant (Silphium laciniatum)South Central
  14. Aromatic aster (Aster oblongifolius)
  15. Sideoats grama (Bouteloua curtipendula)
  16. Bluegrama (Bouteloua gracilis)
  17. Tall blasing star (Liatris aspera)
  18. Bur oak (Quercus macrocarpus)
  19. Aromatic sumac (Rhus aromatica) North East
  20. Big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii)
  21. Eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana)
  22. Blazing star (Liatris spicata)
  23. Pitch pine (Pinus rigida)
  24. Beach plum (Prunus serotina)South East
  25. Tall blazing star (Liatris aspera)
  26. Longleaf pine (Pinus palustris)
  27. Sand Live oak (Quercus germinata)
  28. Little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium)
  29. Compass plant (Silphium laciniatum)

*Always check with your local State extension service when selecting plants to avoid the potential of selecting a plant that is considered invasive in your par

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