Thursday, March 4, 2010
TxDOT wants you to SmartScape to save water
A public service announcement from the Texas Department of Transportation:
DALLAS Drought conditions occur regularly in North Central Texas, prompting everyone from residents and businesses to state and local governments to consider and promote water conservation. Texas SmartScape promotes native and adapted plants that are drought tolerant, an important feature in a region where an average of only seven inches of rain -- and often much less -- falls in the hottest summer months of June through August. Drought-tolerant plants also are good for water quality because they require little to no pesticides and fertilizers to maintain.
The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) has a lengthy history with smartscaping and xeriscaping practices.
- TxDOT began smartscaping and xeriscaping in the late 1980s.
- By the mid-1990s, TxDOT was xeriscaping around all state buildings and offices, maximizing the use of rainfall and reducing the need for supplemental irrigation to maintain native landscaping.
- In 1993, TxDOT extended its use of native and naturalized plants to its thousands of miles of roadsides.
- Today, the Dallas District of TxDOT maintains “SmartScape” landscaping in all of its seven counties. In addition, many of the plantings are maintained by the cities in which the planting is located; however, the planting's TxDOT is "required" to maintain are allowed to return to a more native state after several years.
A SmartScaped yard is a beautiful yard. It’s an array of beautiful and healthy flowers and trees that can be enjoyed all year, but SmartScaping offers many less obvious benefits for your family and the environment. For example:
- It requires less water. This is an important fact in North Texas, where droughts are a reality.
- It can reduce your water bill. During warm weather, 40 to 60% of your bill is a result of outdoor water use.
- It requires less fertilizer and pesticides. Fertilizer is most often applied in the spring and fall, when we receive significant rainfall. As a result, a high percentage of the fertilizer never reaches the targeted plants, but instead becomes storm water runoff that washes down our storm water drains and eventually enters our waterways. Pesticides often follow a similar path. Significant quantities of fertilizer and pesticides in our rivers and lakes can make them unsuitable for recreation and wildlife.
- It is less expensive to prevent storm water runoff pollution than to remove it. If concentrations of pesticides and fertilizers in runoff continue to increase, very costly options to treat runoff will be necessary and could result in higher local fees to maintain water quality.
- It invites native fauna to visit your garden. Your yard can become a tranquil setting to watch and learn about birds and butterflies.
Texas SmartScape tips
- Water deeply and slowly. Plant roots are opportunistic. They will grow where there is water. Deep, infrequent watering creates deep roots. Shallow, frequent watering creates short roots. As water evaporates from the soil surface, short-rooted plants and lawns will need water more often. Deep-rooted plants and lawns are able to absorb water from the deeper soil, over a longer period of time.
- Watering times are important. Whenever possible, water between 8 p.m. and 10 a.m.; early morning is best. Water trees separately by placing a soaker hose under the outer ring of branches and let the hose drip for several hours, as needed. Water lawns slowly, allowing water to reach a depth of 6 inches. Avoid runoff by adjusting watering duration, volume of spray heads, or direction of sprinkler/spray heads.
- Mulch your landscaping. Place three inches of mulch on all flower, shrub, and garden areas and leave grass clippings on your lawn. This will hold in water to keep the soil moist longer. Never sweep grass clippings or other debris into the storm drain system.
- From our yards to our creeks. Rainfall runoff carries pollution directly into our waterways. The water from a storm washes everything in its path into the storm drains and then directly into creeks, rivers, and lakes without being treated.
- Native plants save money. Native plants require less water during hot summer months and are much more likely to survive during times of drought-induced watering restrictions.
- Relax and enjoy nature’s beauty. Once planted, native landscaping and the wildlife it attracts can be enjoyed from indoors or outdoors. A visually pleasing garden or landscape has a soothing effect, and working in a yard is a stress-reliever for many gardeners.
- Learn more. For plant troubleshooting information and to find best landscape management practices to keep your Texas SmartScape beautiful, visit the Texas AgriLife Extension web site at http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu.
- Learn what to plant. Master Gardener experts can help answer your specific plant and garden questions. Contact them through your County Extension’s office.
Collin County: http://collin-tx.tamu.edu/
Dallas County: http://dallas-tx.tamu.edu/
Denton County: http://denton-tx.tamu.edu/
Ellis County: http://ellis-tx.tamu.edu/
Kaufman County: http://kaufman-tx.tamu.edu/
Navarro County: http://navarro-tx.tamu.edu/
Rockwall County: http://rockwall-tx.tamu.edu/
To search for other counties, go to http://county-tx.tamu.edu/.
Help keep Texas clean. Report littering at www.dontmesswithtexas.org or to the state hotline at 1-888 TEX 8683. Report illegal dumping in North Central Texas at 1-888-335-DUMP.