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Lower Water Bill with Garden Upgrades

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One of the number one water users in your home is in the garden. You can dramatically cut back on your water bill with 'water wise' gardening.

Eddie Russell, a nursery professional with Cornelius and Calloway's, says the first step to going "water wise" is the soil.

"You need to incorporate some good organic matter into the soil," said Russell. "That can come from a homemade garden compost or you can go to your local gardening center and get a prepared soil mix that is specifically prepared for the region."

Then, you have to pick the right plants.

"Depending on what region of the country you are in, it varies but what you need to look at is categories of plant. The first plant you want to look for is native plant material. Native plants are adapted to your specific soil type and your climate. Your local nursery will sure give you a list," said Russell.

While nurseries in your area will know what will grow best in your part of the country, there are certain plants that will survive through pretty much anything.

"These are grasses that can be used in a water wise landscape," said Russell. "These are commonly used in the United States. This particular one is pampas grass. This is wonderful, you see this used in espenades of the freeways -- you know they don't water those very often. This will become 8-10 feet tall, gorgeous color, really nice wispy look. Really this plant can go 4-5 days without water."

And talk about getting your money's worth -- perineal plants will last through all the seasons.

"This is a strong perineal. It will freeze in the winter but will come back up in the spring just as beautiful and even thicker," said Russell. "These two plants here are both coreopsis. They are used nationwide. These will go down to minus 10 to minus 20 degrees. They can be used from south Texas all the way to Oregon. These will bloom from mid to late summer."

Another popular "water wise" plant is called "lambs ear."

"This has a real nice different look, different texture for your landscape, gives you a good contrast in your landscape in which you want to have," said Russell. "It has a very soft leaf, a leaf that looks like a lambs ear, hence the name."

Nandina's also do very well in gardens with little water. Yucca plants need even less water, and come in various shapes and sizes. And, they may be prickly, but these guys are sure to survive.

"The ultimate in water wise gardening is developing a cactus garden in your landscape. There's a lot of different cactus to choose from. Anywhere from real soft ones that don't have thorns to the real thorny ones, the barrel type cactus," said Russell. "Most of your cactus will bloom at some point in time as they mature."

Adding mulch to your garden will mean less watering.

"It retains moisture in the soil. If you put a two to three inch layer on all of your flower beds, it will insulate the roots, keep them cooler and keep that moisture in the soil and keep it from evaporating so the plant can take it up, which makes it more efficient," said Russell.

Eddie recommends two types of mulch.

"The one that is really popular right now is hardwood mulch, which of course is made from hardwood trees. What the consumer likes about this, and I like too it doesn't break down quite as quick so you get a little more shelf life with it," said Russell. "There's a really good mulch I like it's called ceder mulch. What I like about that especially around foundations of houses -- not only will it retain moisture but it has insect repellent qualities like a cedar chest or cedar closet would."

And, the most important rule of "water wise" gardening is when you water.

"Do not water during the middle of the day," advises Russell,. "It's very inefficient and it's not good for the plants. You water in the afternoon or midday-- there's a lot of evaporation. So water early in the morning get the plant very hydrated before they get into the heat of the day."

A $20 soaker hose can also put a dent in your water bill.

"Soaker hoses are 90 percent efficient which means the plant will take up 90 percent of that water that you actually apply to that root system. That is a very efficient way to water," said Russell. "The soaker hose is a seeping hose. It actually seeps out, it doesn't have little holes that shoot it out, it seeps out in a very slow manner. So when you use a soaker hose, you can put it around the root zone that needs to be watered. You can put it under mulch if you want to hide it."

A list of the plants featured in this piece: pampas grass, perinea plants, Lambs ear, Nandina, Yucca, cactus.

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