To a kid, mom knows just about everything. Mine always knew when I gave my broccoli to the dog or when I hid peas in my napkin. But maybe, just maybe, there are a few things Mom doesn’t know about the world of veggies. Does she know that it takes 30 gallons of water to produce a single serving of potatoes? Or 522 gallons for a serving of olives?! So, when we send food to the landfill we send a lot of water with it.
Perhaps you’ve seen one of the recent national educational campaigns that urge better food shopping practices to avoid waste and save water. Save The Food reminds us that each American wastes almost 290 pounds of food a year. That’s a LOT of food! And water! Especially as many fellow Americans live in “food deserts” – communities where fresh produce and meats are difficult to obtain.
So, if you’re wondering what you can do to save water each time you sit down for a meal, consider these simple tips. First, think twice before tossing those uneaten potatoes in the trash. Save waste, water and your time by making a plan for leftovers. Consider how to turn them into something new and exciting for tomorrow’s dinner. I like to make frittatas out of leftover roasted veggies and chicken. My family loves it and it I can turn out a new meal in just a few minutes. Also, I’ve invested in higher quality storage containers so I can save my extras in the freezer and then combine them with leftover foods for a completely new meal.
And for the peels, how about composting those right in your own back yard? It’s easier than you think to create rich soil for your vegetable garden, flower beds or lawn. Join a short and FREE Environmental Services Composting Class this spring to learn all you need to know.
Here are some more easy ways to save water in the kitchen.
Break the habit of rinsing off your plates on the way to the dishwasher. With new high tech dishwashers there’s no need to rinse dishes before loading them. Pre-rinse too much and the sensors won’t find the food particles, causing the machine to run a shorter cycle, leading to a less thorough cleaning. If you’ve got big chunks, scrape them into the trash instead of rinsing.
Did you know most people use 10 to 15 times more soap than they need. If you’re using too much dish soap, you’ll need more water to wash away the suds.
And remember to wait until the dishwasher is full before you run it. You’ll save energy, too.
So, the next time you can’t eat all your veggies, save them for leftovers, freeze them or compost them. And be sure to let Mom know that you’re saving water too!
Are aphids camped out on your roses? Leaf miners munching away at your prized lemon tree? It’s enough to send you scrambling for the quickest, easiest solution. That’s understandable. Just please don’t look for that solution in the chemical aisle at the hardware store, compromising the health of your backyard “habitat” and your pocket book. Integrated pest management (IPM) offers a research-based alternative to chemicals that is economical, environmentally friendly, and it works!
Pests in the home landscape may be an insect or other arthropod, plant disease, weed or other organism that negatively affects plant health or becomes an annoyance to people or pets. IPM is an approach to managing those pests that respects the interconnection and inter-dependency of all organisms. IPM is used to solve pest problems while minimizing risks to people and the environment.
Using a combination of IPM methods, like biological, cultural, physical and chemical creates unfavorable conditions for pests. Biological control is the use of natural enemies, like a ladybug, to control pests, such as aphids. Cultural controls are practices that change the environment to remove the source of the problem, like adjusting irrigation levels, since too much water can increase root disease. Physical, or mechanical, controls trap or block pests from access to plants. Barriers or screens for birds and insects are great examples of a physical control. The use of a chemical control, or a pesticide, is used only when needed and in combination with efforts of the above mentioned methods. If pesticides are needed, applying them so they minimize harm to people, beneficial insects and the environment is imperative. Check out this fact sheet from Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service for more information on IPM.
With the average homeowner in need of problem-solving techniques to manage landscape pests, The Woodlands Township Environmental Services Department is presenting a FREE class on Integrated Pest Management in the Home Landscape. Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Specialist in IPM and board-certified entomologist, Wizzie Brown will offer practical research-based information to support implementing IPM in your own back yard. Wizzie shares specific tools for use in the home landscape to strengthen plant health and reduce plant pests. You’ll take home information that can immediately be put to use in your own yard or garden.
Join Us Saturday, January 18, 2020 from 9 a.m. to noon The Woodlands Emergency Training Center 16135 Interstate 45 South The Woodlands, TX 77385
Back in November, Andy, a resident of The Woodlands Township, told me he’d made a conscious effort to reduce water consumption in his yard some time ago. He was adding more and more natives to save on water usage and to create habitat at the same time. I wondered how successful he had been, so I inquired about the status of his burgeoning ecosystem. Here’s the update:
Andy has only a small area of turf grass, specifically Zoysia. This is a grass species that doesn’t tolerate a lot of shade, but is otherwise a good choice for our weather. It tends to stay lower growing and needs far less water than the traditional St. Augustine.
Although a few non-native plants and shrubs remain in Andy’s yard, lots of native vegetation has been added. To support pollinators, native flowering plants were added in bunches so bees and butterflies can easily find them, and host plants were mixed in so that caterpillars (future butterflies) have a food source. Andy’s observed a significant increase in pollinators and birds this last year.
Andy converted much of his sprinkler system to drip irrigation, assuring his plants and grasses don’t get over watered. And he can easily avoid watering areas that consist solely of native plants – they don’t need it.
Andy subscribes to Weekly Watering Recommendation emails from Woodlands Water (formerly Woodlands Joint Powers Agency – WJPA) to tell him just how much, if any, water his lawn needs each week. When he does water his lawn he does it in three-minute cycles with breaks in between. This allows the water to soak into the soil, avoiding run-off.
Andy told me he avoids chemicals in his landscape, except on occasion when the nut-sedges try to take over his Zoysia. Otherwise, he’s careful to avoid anything that could be harmful to the pollinators and birds that visit. Twice-a-year applications of mulch to his beds help maintain the moisture level, reducing the need for watering while also deterring weeds. He noted that he sees few insect pests thanks to the many beneficial insects that now live in his gardens.
Andy reduced his water consumption by 11,000 gallons a year by implementing these changes. And, he hasn’t stopped there. He’s been finding ways to avoid water waste inside the home, as well. By installing simple low-flow faucet aerators, fixing leaky toilets, reducing shower time and minimizing waste water in the kitchen, his two-person household now uses less than 60 gallons-a-day, on average. Compare that to the national average of 180 gallons a day!
Considering trying some of Andy’s ideas and transforming your yard into an ecosystem? Here are some things to know:
Benefits of Native Grasses
Our native grasses provide great “texture” in a habitat for birds and butterflies. Providing grasses in multiple heights and native varieties creates resting places, nesting places, and shelter from predators. More than a simple food source, grasses provide a safe space for wildlife.
The Zoysia grass in Andy’s yard receives controlled amounts of water by hand. Overwatering is avoided encouraging the roots to grow deeper in to the soil in search of nutrients. As a result, the grass is greener and more resistant to disease.Native grasses not only require less water but support healthier waterways, too. As rainwater runs across your yard, the grass filters out debris on its way to the storm drain. Keep in mind that any chemicals used in your yard will also wash into the storm drain. Use compost and mulch instead of fertilizers and weed killers to reduce chemical runoff.
Reducing Chemical Use
Pollinators and other beneficial insects don’t do well in landscapes where chemicals are present. Research shows that many of the commonly used chemicals persist longer than originally believed. More than 90% of pollen samples from bee hives in this study were contaminated with multiple pesticides. The Environmental Protection Agency has identified a number of effective alternatives to pesticides and herbicides. Check here for a list of resources.
Tools and Resources
The Woodlands Township has a variety of water saving and native plant resources to help you transform your yard, just like Andy. Now is the time to plant trees, before the warmth of spring and new blooms appear. The best time to integrate native plants into your yard is during the spring and fall.
Simple tools, like a rain gauge, are great for ensuring your grass is getting the right amount of water. Stop by The Woodlands Township Environmental Services Department’s office (8203 Millennium Forest Drive) to pick one up for FREE. We’re open between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Don’t forget that The Woodlands Township Environmental Services Department has a full schedule of FREE programs and classes this spring that can help you transform your yard into your very own flourishing ecosystem. From drip irrigation and invasive plant removal to pest management and organic vegetable gardening, if you are inspired by Andy’s story to change your yard, let us help!
Thanks to Andy for letting me tell his story! If you would like to comment, or wish to contact Teri MacArthur, the Water Conservation Specialist for the Township, with your story, email to: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 281-210-3928.
Every day more and more residents of The Woodlands Township are turning off their sprinkler systems for the winter. Letting grass “rest” for the cooler months is a trend that continues to spread. From soil scientists to turf grass specialists, all agree a “no watering” policy helps cultivate deeper roots and stronger grass while the grass goes dormant.
So, what does that mean for your yard? First off, don’t fertilize during the winter; it makes your grass lazy. By adding nutrients, your grass spends its energy staying green, rather than turning brown and concentrating on improving the root system. Secondly, don’t water your grass. Just like fertilizing, roots become lazy when they find moisture easily in shallow soil. By not watering, they reach deeper into the soil where microbes are working to recycle nutrients though decomposition and moisture is available.
When you turn off your sprinkler system, you will find you will not need to water your gardens and flower beds at all, or not as often as you think. Use a manual hose-end sprinkler if your landscaped bed needs some moisture.
One resident, Andy, reported saving 11,000 gallons of water in one year by turning off the sprinkler system and using drip irrigation in its place.
Last year, nearly 700 residents took the pledge to turn off their sprinkler systems from mid-October to mid-April. Many of these water-conscious residents have reported their lawns are better than ever! Perhaps it’s time for YOU to join them. If you are a resident of The Woodlands, your pledge also becomes a point for your Village Association in the competition for scholarship funds. The benefits of turning off your system are plentiful: water savings, healthier yards, and the potential for your Village to present scholarships to college-bound students.
When you’re ready to pledge, the form is available ONLINE. And here’s a bonus: Once you pledge, pick up a free hose timer at the Environmental Services Office, located at 8203 Millennium Forest Drive, Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
If you weren’t able to join us for a Pollinator Garden Class
at Woodlands Landscaping Solutions last month, don’t worry! Lauren Simpson,
area pollinator gardening expert, is coming back this month and is offering a
deep dive into how she transformed her own yard into a beautiful space for
Lauren is passionate about educating on pollinators, their
conservation and the urban wildscapes that support them. Her own pollinator
garden is a Certified Wildlife Habitat, a Monarch Waystation, and a Certified
Butterfly Garden. Lauren has observed 48 species of butterfly, 20 species of
syrphid fly and around 30 species each of bees and wasps within her home
Through the success of her garden, Lauren helped create the St. Julian’s Crossing – wildlife habitat, and has received much recognition around the Houston area for her efforts in pollinator conservation. For more information and to see Lauren’s home garden, check out the St. Julian’s Crossing Facebook page.
Register online here. Registration is required. For a complete list of upcoming Environmental Services programs, check out our calendar of events here.