Smart Irrigation Tips for Eco-Friendly Gardens

Benefits of Smart Irrigation Eco-friendly Garden
Water-harvesting Eco-Dublin® permeable paver system.

Across the nation, people in the irrigation industry have been celebrating July as “Smart Irrigation Month” and showcasing various technologies that improve the efficiency of outdoor water usage. According to the EPA, the average family uses 320 gallons of water per day, about 30 percent of which is outdoors. It is estimated that as much as half of that water used outdoors is wasted due to inefficient irrigation.

Indeed, even this blogger has vivid memories of growing up in a home with lush outdoor gardens that were constantly being watered by my mother, who simply moved hoses around all day (or instructed me and my siblings to do it). “Time to move the hoses,” was a constant call from one side of the house to the other. In the hot Louisiana climate, this was a near-daily occurrence throughout the majority of the year. Many of our neighbors had similar habits. Practices like this are likely what drove the industry to find a better way.

Benefits of Smart Irrigation

Smart irrigation techniques not only protect the community water supply, but offer multiple additional benefits to individuals. First of all, depending upon your municipality and water source, reducing your water usage can have a major affect on your utility bill. You can also improve the look of your yard by watering at the right times — not to mention the added convenience of automation.

Do-It-Yourself Smart Irrigation Techniques

Here are some simple ideas on improving your home irrigation.

  • Break your yard into zones that have different irrigation needs due to shade, slope or sun exposure.
  • Make sure the water is always aimed at the plants — never a driveway, walkway, building or deck.
  • Water in the early morning and/or late evening, when the most water will be absorbed without evaporating.
  • Water plants more often for shorter periods of time, which will allow the soil to better absorb the water.
  • Adjust water times and amounts to seasonal conditions.

Smart Irrigation Technology

Smart Irrigation Technology
A permeable paver system can be outfitted with water-harvesting technology for irrigation or interactive fountains.

The official term “smart irrigation” typically relates to underground sprinkler systems that incorporate computerized technologies like soil moisture sensors, rain sensors, fertilizer injectors, programmable timers and smartphone apps. However, there are multiple other technologies on the market today that can improve both efficiency and ecological responsibility.

  • Water-Harvesting Permeable Paver Systems – Providing multiple ecological benefits, permeable pavers reduce flooding and pooling, filter rainwater to reduce pollution and can be outfitted with an underground cistern to capture and reuse rainwater. Some municipalities offer tax incentives or rebates for installing these types of permeable paver driveways or paver patios.
  • Rain Barrels – Many municipalities offer tax incentives or even offer free rain barrel programs. These barrels capture the water from your gutter downspouts for you to reuse for irrigation. Many big box stores, like Lowe’s and Walmart, offer a wide variety of barrels to choose from.
  • Solar-Powered Sprinkler Timers – Reduce both water and electricity usage by using renewal solar power to irrigate your gardens. These systems are available from numerous retailers like Home Depot and Lowe’s.

Green Movement Drives 2015 Outdoor Design Trends

Subterra
This outdoor living space incorporates many of this year’s top 10 design trends, including Subterra┬« Stone permeable pavers, a centrally placed fire pit, downturned low-voltage hardscape and landscape lighting, and low-maintenance landscaping. 

The results of the annual nationwide survey conducted by the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) indicated that concern for the environment appears to be driving the design trends of 2015, with eco-friendly or sustainable practices dominating the top 10 trends in this year’s survey. Here are the top 10 design trends reported by the survey, in order of popularity.

1. Native plants: Back in the 70s and 80s, it was typical to see lush green lawns and tropical plants in the gardens of dryer climates. Today’s homeowners, however, are choosing plants that more easily thrive in local conditions, without having to overtax the municipal water supply.

2. Drought-tolerant plants: Even in wetter climates, homeowners are choosing plants that require less water.

2015 garden trends center on conservation and sustainability. (photos courtesy Time Inc.)
2015 garden trends center on conservation and sustainability. (photos courtesy Time Inc.)

3. Edible gardens: With an edible garden, a homeowner can grow more of their own food, requiring the purchase of fewer food items at the grocery, and thus requiring less use of natural resources to get those foods to market.

4. Fire pits/fireplaces: Although not necessarily an avenue to help improve the environment, fire pits and fireplaces do offer a gathering spot where people can spend time together enjoying their outdoor environment.

Although fire pits and fireplaces rank as the fourth highest in overall outdoor living trends, they rank number one in popular design elements.
Fire pits and fireplaces rank as the fourth most popular in overall outdoor living trends, but rank number one in terms of most popular design elements.

5. Low-maintenance landscapes: Today’s homeowners want to spend less time mowing, weeding, and watering their yards and more time enjoying them.

6. Permeable paving: Permeable pavers offer an attractive way to reduce flooding and improve the quality of local waterways by allowing stormwater to percolate through a graduated bed of aggregates into the ground below, removing pollutants in the process.

With permeable pavers, water soaks into the pavement system instead of running off.
With permeable pavers, water infiltrates into the pavement system instead of running off.

7. Water-efficient irrigation: Multiple technologies exist that automatically sense the amount of water needed and help avoid unnecessary over-watering, thus conserving water use.

8. Rain gardens: Rain gardens offer an attractive, natural way to reduce the burden on urban and suburban sewer systems caused by stormwater runoff.

9. Lighting: Many of today’s outdoor lighting options include energy saving features, such as solar power, low-voltage output, or timers. The light fixtures themselves often incorporate design elements intended to reduce resulting light pollution.

10. Rainwater/graywater harvesting: Many municipalities now offer rain barrel programs to conserve outdoor water use. In addition, a permeable paver system can be designed to harvest and reuse rainwater for irrigation and graywater purposes.

PICPstorage
A permeable interlocking concrete pavement (PICP) system can be designed to incorporate water harvesting and recycling.