Globally, 2020 was the warmest year on record. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, warmer record years are likely on the horizon, resulting from human activities, specifically emissions of greenhouse gases. With predicted increases in temperature, fluctuating precipitation, which causes both flooding and droughts, the question becomes how can you help? And, one of the answers could be, start with your own yard.
Reed Libby, founder of Affordable Lawn Sprinklers and Lighting, one of the largest residential lawn sprinkler and outdoor lighting contractors in the the Metropolitan Washington area has some important pointers. With 50 employees and a current customer base of 10,000 plus residents, his expertise is extensive. Libby recommends saving money, resources, and frustration by choosing plants that are suited for a changing climate, as well as introducing sustainable landscape techniques and practices. By planning for these climate changes now, one can ensure an aesthetically pleasing, sustainable and resilient landscape for years to come.
The key to successful landscaping is water conservation and drought-tolerant vegetation. In general, native plants require less care and are more successful since they are already adapted to the existing climate. Any plants that grow naturally in the region will be well adapted to the local weather. By sticking with native varieties, one’s landscape will require less watering and less overall maintenance because the homeowner can largely avoid using pesticides or fertilizers. Native plants also support local pollinators and provide food and shelter for the local ecosystem. Some plants to consider include Boxwood, laurel, Knock Out Roses, Coneflowers, Coreopsis and Black-Eyed Susan’s.
An advisory member to the Irrigation Association for three years and a member of its elite advisory team of “Grow Group, ” Libby cannot stress enough the importance of conserving water in drought-affected areas. He encourages the use of a drip irrigation. which is a more efficient form of watering plants than a traditional sprinkler as it delivers water straight to the roots on a slow drip, thereby saving water and fertilizer.
A basic drip irrigation system includes a network of tubes with emitters to release water evenly across the network. This helps to distribute a low flow of water to plants over time. By watering the landscape more slowly, the soil has more time to soak the moisture in while also preventing water waste from runoff. To reach this level of efficiency, one must carefully regulate the amount of water used and one’s watering schedule.
With most irrigation systems, homeowner still need to monitor the weather and manually tweaking the amounts of water used based on need. If one can invest in a smart irrigation system, all that work is automated by a smart controller, which is designed to recognize weather conditions through methods like downloading weather information or utilizing sensors that track the amount of moisture in the air or a rain gauge. Based on that data, the smart controller can change the amount of water distributed to the yard automatically.
More information and ideas for conservation landscaping is available from the Chesapeake Ecology Center.