Friday, May 20, 2016

Conserving Water While Gardening

Conserving Water.jpg
A concern for gardeners is the efficient use of water. Gardeners of any variety of plants may struggle with managing water to best promote plant growth. Gardeners with insufficient water resources or who experience low natural moisture may have to resort to manually watering their gardens. Conserving water effectively can save money and help reduce water waste in your community. Here are some ways that you can conserve and manage water efficiently while gardening:

Care for Your Soil

The way you look after your soil can determine the success of your garden and lawn. Conduct a pH test to determine the quality of soil at the beginning of the season. Add organic matter such as bark clippings, ground-up leaves, pine needles, and grass clippings to help retain moisture. Adding mulch to the base of your flower bed, shrubs, and trees in spring can help your plants retain moisture and prevent evaporation during dry periods.

Water Appropriately

Research has shown that when you water your plants can have a significant impact on plant growth. The best time to water your garden is early in the morning before temperatures rise. Winds tend to be lower and there is much less evaporation occurring in the atmosphere. It is also a good rule of thumb to water plants whenever they show signs of distress, which can be at any time of the day. Avoid evening watering as it can encourage fungal growth. For potted plants in your garden, water them in the afternoon. Container plants often have rates of lower moisture retention, meaning they dry out more quickly.

Don’t Waste Water

Save and reuse water when you can. Use a big barrel or rainwater system in your garden to harvest rainwater and roof runoff. (Learn more about how to develop a rainwater system here.) Even saving cooled water that you have used for cooking or water that was used in a fish tank can help prevent waste and give additional nutrients to your plants.


When you do water your plants, don’t focus on watering the foliage as that doesn’t contribute much to the growth of the plant. Focus on watering within the root zone, which is approximately 1 to 3 times the diameter of the canopy of the plant. Stop if the water is pooling, and allow the roots to soak up the water before resuming. There is such a thing as over watering a plant, so don’t drown your plant as it robs the roots of air and causes root rot and soil compaction.

The most important way to prevent water waste is to water mindfully; use your sprinkler deliberately because water won’t help your driveway, sidewalks, or patio.

Choose Your Plants Wisely

What you choose to plant in your garden will make a big difference in how much effort you will have to put into your garden. Look into growing native plants. Native plants will be able to quickly adapt to your garden and will require minimal care on your part. Pick appropriately-sized plants and give them plenty of room to grow. Don’t opt for a bush that grows up to 10 feet if you only need a five-foot shrub in your front yard. Overcrowding plants can impede the growth of your garden, as well.

Consider the time you add plants to your garden as well. Adding plants to your garden at the end of fall or in the beginning of spring when it’s still cool will help those plants grow and establish a healthy root system.

Watering mindfully can save thousands of gallons of water a year, reduce water use by 50%, and shave hundreds of dollars off your water bill. Take a few of these tips to heart this season, and you’ll have a green thumb and a greener wallet.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Tips to Keep Your Drinking Water Safe

Tips to Keep Your.jpg

National Drinking Water Week will take place May 1st – May 7th. The American Water Works Association and its members have celebrated Drinking Water Week for more than 35 years. Although the United States has one of the safest drinking water supplies in the world, the recent drinking water stories from Flint, Michigan have caused concern about the safety of their water. Though it remains very unlikely that Minnesota will see a similar problem, there are a few things you can do to ensure that your home drinking water is safe.

Education is the Key

Public water suppliers provide an annual water report called the Consumer Confidence Report. It has the most current testing data and outlines where your tap water comes from and if it is in compliance with EPA regulations. If you have questions, contact your water supplier. They are the best resource to help educate you on what you can do to ensure your tap water is safe.

Protecting Yourself from Lead

If you live in an older home, or your plumbing is out of date, there may be some risk of consuming small amounts of lead. “If you have a lead pipe in front of your house, if you were in my family, I would tell you to never, ever drink that water without filtering it,” says Marc Edwards, Virginia Tech civil and environmental engineer. There are filtering systems on the market that tackle your entire house, but experts say your best defense takes place at the sink. Water filtered through a whole-house filtration system still needs to travel through pipes (possibly lead pipes) to reach your faucet. This is why it is best to invest in a filtration system at your kitchen sink. You don’t need to worry about showering in water. “There’s no harm; it doesn’t go in through your skin,” Edwards says.

water-1008978_640.jpgPrivate Wells

Public water sources are regulated and tested often, but private wells are the responsibility of the homeowner. If you get your drinking water from a private well, you should: ● Test your water frequently - at least once a year. Be sure to use a state certified laboratory. You may want to test more often if someone in your household is pregnant or nursing, someone becomes ill, you notice a difference in taste or smell, or you replace any part of your well system. ● Make sure to maintain your well and the related equipment. Well installers will service your equipment to ensure it is operating properly. ● Become educated on the aquifer and any well-head protection efforts that are implemented to ensure it remains a safe supplier of your water.

Purifying Your Water

What happens if you are alerted that your home tap water isn’t safe? Well, (pun intended) there are a few steps you can take to make absolutely sure it is safe to drink. Passing water through a muslin cloth or a home treatment device will help remove most impurities, but can still leave you vulnerable to bacteria and viruses. The best way to remove all impurities is to boil it - bring the water to a rolling boil, and continue for 1-2 minutes.

Containers Make a Difference

With so many water containers on the market today, don’t store your water in recycled containers from your home, like old milk jugs or juice containers - sugars and milk proteins settle at the bottom of these bottles and can cause bacterial growth. Start with a clean, NEW container to ensure the cleanest water. Thanks to the billions of dollars invested in water systems across the country, water contamination in the United States is, thankfully, a very rare occurrence. Recent news stories have caused concern, but there is little reason to fear a problem in your tap water. To keep your mind at ease, follow the above tips and you will no doubt have the safest drinking water possible. Happy Drinking Water Week from Minnesota AWWA.