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Water saving ideas for my grandother's property  RSS feed

 
Dave Brownson
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Hey everyone!  I've been lurking for a while and have decided to see if you all could help me out a bit.  I apologize in advance for my first post being a question although hopefully it could benefit more than just myself and my grandmother.  I'm new to permaculture, have been enjoying the website & podcasts.  I'm also a listener of TSP. 

First let me explain the problem.  The irrigation district that supplies water to my grandmother's property says that they are unable to meet the demands of the community it is supposed to supply water to.  Thus the water rates are extremely high.  Around 150 bucks a month high with somewhat minimal irrigation and only one resident in the house.  They are currently trying to raise the rates another 50% above what they are now. 

So my main goal is to reduce her overall water consumption, possibly reuse more water, and make better use of the water that is used for irrigation.

Her lawn has been in horrible condition, degrading annually, for years now.  I think she may be open to seeding it with something to help the dirt become soil again, but it may take pulling a couple teeth.  And I'm sure this will be quite difficult to accomplish.


Site description:

Hardiness zone: Zone 8b: 15F to 20F

Elevation: +/- 800 ft

Local Climate Data
Mon Min Max F Precip In.
Jan 36 58 3.75
Feb 39 64 3.41
Mar 42 68 3.66
Apr 46 74 1.42
May 52 83 .62
Jun 59 92 .21
Jul 65 97 .04
Aug 64 96 .05
Sep 59 90 .41
Oct 50 81 .98
Nov 41 67 1.94
Dec 35 59 2.33
Ann 49 77 18.81

winds are typically from the west

Soil is rocky and sandy, rocks being large granite river rocks from the river that runs below the property. 

The property is sloped in tiers from the driveway/ residence elevation.  It then drops about 10ft to the back lawn elevation, which then slopes another 6-8 ft below to the lower elevation which finally drops another 8-10 ft. to the rear property line.


For now I am just brainstorming ideas that I can piece together into a presentation of sorts that I can present to my grandmother.  I'd like to start working on something this fall/ winter so that hopefully by the time next summer rolls around she will be consuming less water and have a greener back yard.


For now, throw out some questions for me and I'll see what I can come up with for answers.  I'm thinking your questions alone could present ideas I've never had. 

Thanks everyone,
Dave

PS: north is to the right on the map.  Circles are property corners, property lines didn't plot correctly for some reason.
32119RIDR_site.jpg
[Thumbnail for 32119RIDR_site.jpg]
 
Dave Brownson
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Some photographs from the back patio.





 
Dave Brownson
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Tyler Ludens
pollinator
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Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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Lots of useful information from Brad Lancaster:

Rainwater Harvesting Basics (1) Brad Lancaster  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2iQ-FBAmvBw

http://www.harvestingrainwater.com/
 
Dave Brownson
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Thanks, I'll check it out after work. 

Step one is in progress, sent her a link to richsoil.com  Hopefully she will get her gardeners mowing high and leaving the clippings.  I'll talk to her later today, hopefully she reads the page.
 
Hugh Hawk
Posts: 225
Location: Adelaide, South Australia (Mediterranean climate)
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Man, those golf course membership fees must be high if water costs that much

I'd suggest more trees for a start.  Lawn just isn't going to stand those sort of temperatures in direct sun all day without browning off.

Shrubs could be another possibility.  I assume hot winds would come from the south in this region - and there is a big open area on the south which will allow wind in.  Even short shrubs could help to reduce hot winds blowing into the lawn area, which will help reduce grass transpiration.  You could sow a native wildflower meadow on that barren slope.  This could probably be established primarily with just water from rain, if you sow at the right time.

How close is the laundry to the grass area?  Given the slope, a line of greywater irrigation at the house side should work its way down over the grassed area.
 
Leila Rich
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Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
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Do you think if you present your grandmother with an attractive, realistic planting plan she might be up for getting rid of the lawn altogether?
I'm aware how strongly many Americans feel about lawns and I imagine  trying to influence someone who's generational/cultural expectations may be very different could be pretty challenging
A thick layer of chipped tree mulch planted with shrubs, trees and other perennials, along with self-seeding, draught-tolerant annuals looks great to me and can be very tidy and landscaped-looking.
I'm not familiar with American property boundaries/laws and...I'm assuming the stone 'border' by the golf course is her actual property line? I want to make sure the golf club won't kick up a stink. Is planting, be it height or whatever, a potential issue? Again, I'm clueless on 'the rules', but I read some rather intense stuff about HOA-type requirements.
If a lawn's mandatory for any reason,  but your grandmother will consider something other than grass, does clover cope in your climate? Dutch clover's pretty drought-tolerant and low-growing.  Maybe a compromise: lose some lawn, plant perennials, overseed what remains in clover...I  have no idea how clover competes with some of your full-on running-grasses though.
Do you know what the lawn grass is?
 
jacque greenleaf
pollinator
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Location: Burton, WA (USDA zone 8, Sunset zone 5) - old hippie heaven
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If she has to have a lawn, how about buffalo grass? My strong suspicion is that her local extension office or soil & water conservation district or even the irrigation district would have some area-specific recommendations on alternatives to traditional lawns.

And see if you can find people who are already using these alternatives, so she could have something real to look at.
 
Brenda Groth
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Location: North Central Michigan
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i would like to see borders in a u shape around the 'lawn' are leaving a small lawn for a place to sit and relax between the two large trees, use drought tolerant grasses in that area, overseed the lawn..the areas that are "deadish" should be removed and planted to perennials that are drought tolerant and that you see growing well at other homes in the area..I would probably put in some well mulched dwarf fruit trees, some shrubs, perennial plants and ground covers.

some drought tolerant ground covers are vinca and ivy and sedums and also mediterranian herbs, creeping thyme would be nice down those banks, oregano, mints, and other ground covers, and put in a few shrubs ..if there are terraces on the banks that would be a good place for some dwarf or semi dwarf fruit trees, but only if it is safe to harvest there, put a small swale on the downhill side of each tree to keep water in the soil there and fill with mulch..that will allow water in.


use somewhat invasive plants in the slope area they will help to hold the soil and will fill it in, if you want privacy from the below area and can sacrifice some view..jerusalem artichokes would fill in nicely in a year or two..
 
Richard Nurac
Posts: 52
Location: north Georgia
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Have you thought of collecting the rainwater run off from the roof with a largish storage tank, which can be concealed from view by a hedge, bamboo or fence?  Since the property receives very little rain from May to September, you would want to capture most of the winter and spring rain.  The excess could be infiltrated into the ground, which will help the plantings. 
 
George Lee
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Location: Athens, GA/Sunset, SC
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Consider something similar to what my friend did here..









That's 275 gallons. You could interlink them and go well over a thousand (alongside the property especially).

You may need a plumber if you aren't familiar with fittings,couplings etc. I've had enough experience..I can answer your questions if you're interested.
 
Dave Brownson
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Hugh H. wrote:
Man, those golf course membership fees must be high if water costs that much


She dropped her membership a while ago, but they snag their irrigation water from the river, store it in ponds and pump it out to water all the grass.

I'd suggest more trees for a start.  Lawn just isn't going to stand those sort of temperatures in direct sun all day without browning off.

I'd like to reduce the amount of lawn she has.  Towards the west is a large olive tree, and just east of it the grass hardly grows there.  I'd like to omit that part of the lawn as it is more out of the view.  I think some shrubs could green up that area well.

Shrubs could be another possibility.  I assume hot winds would come from the south in this region - and there is a big open area on the south which will allow wind in.  Even short shrubs could help to reduce hot winds blowing into the lawn area, which will help reduce grass transpiration.  You could sow a native wildflower meadow on that barren slope.  This could probably be established primarily with just water from rain, if you sow at the right time.

Winds come from the west.  There once were blackberries that grew at the edge of the lawn & slope.  Planting some new shrubs there could help a bit. 

How close is the laundry to the grass area?  Given the slope, a line of greywater irrigation at the house side should work its way down over the grassed area.

The laundry dumps down onto the barren lower portion of the property now.  I would just have to locate the line and have it drain onto the lawn & get my grandma to stop using bleach or install some sort of diverter.




Leila Rich wrote:
Do you think if you present your grandmother with an attractive, realistic planting plan she might be up for getting rid of the lawn altogether?

I would love to try this route.  I just don't know what kind of stuff I could show her.  I'm sure she would love a nice green space that has some colorful flower growing year around.  Nobody ever walks on the lawn.  It's just there to be green and "pretty".  I'd love something she wouldn't have to pay the gardeners to mow/ feed/ weed/ etc.


I'm aware how strongly many Americans feel about lawns and I imagine  trying to influence someone who's generational/cultural expectations may be very different could be pretty challenging

A thick layer of chipped tree mulch planted with shrubs, trees and other perennials, along with self-seeding, draught-tolerant annuals looks great to me and can be very tidy and landscaped-looking.

I'm not familiar with American property boundaries/laws and...I'm assuming the stone 'border' by the golf course is her actual property line? I want to make sure the golf club won't kick up a stink. Is planting, be it height or whatever, a potential issue? Again, I'm clueless on 'the rules', but I read some rather intense stuff about HOA-type requirements.

There is no HOA that I know of, I think the houses were mostly build before they became in vogue.  The only height issues I would have is not blocking the view of the hills and green golf course.  Her property actually extends all the way to the level that the golf course is at.  The dead slope is hers as well.  There is some ice plant type stuff that is growing pretty well down there, but not nearly enough.

If a lawn's mandatory for any reason,  but your grandmother will consider something other than grass, does clover cope in your climate? Dutch clover's pretty drought-tolerant and low-growing.  Maybe a compromise: lose some lawn, plant perennials, overseed what remains in clover...I  have no idea how clover competes with some of your full-on running-grasses though.
Do you know what the lawn grass is?

Clover springs up often in lawns.  I don't know how a sea, so to speak, of it would do.  We get quite a few hot days in the summer with virtually no rain for the summer months.  A light sprinkle once every other month in the hot months if we're lucky.  It also starts to freeze around late December.


jacque g wrote:
If she has to have a lawn, how about buffalo grass? My strong suspicion is that her local extension office or soil & water conservation district or even the irrigation district would have some area-specific recommendations on alternatives to traditional lawns.

And see if you can find people who are already using these alternatives, so she could have something real to look at.

I'll check into "buffalo grass" and see what it looks like.



Brenda Groth wrote:
i would like to see borders in a u shape around the 'lawn' are leaving a small lawn for a place to sit and relax between the two large trees, use drought tolerant grasses in that area, overseed the lawn..the areas that are "deadish" should be removed and planted to perennials that are drought tolerant and that you see growing well at other homes in the area..I would probably put in some well mulched dwarf fruit trees, some shrubs, perennial plants and ground covers.

Shrinking the lawn is definitely part of my agenda.

some drought tolerant ground covers are vinca and ivy and sedums and also mediterranian herbs, creeping thyme would be nice down those banks, oregano, mints, and other ground covers, and put in a few shrubs ..if there are terraces on the banks that would be a good place for some dwarf or semi dwarf fruit trees, but only if it is safe to harvest there, put a small swale on the downhill side of each tree to keep water in the soil there and fill with mulch..that will allow water in.

Rosemary does really well around here when it is irrigated, but it looks like it would do well without as well.

What do you mean if it is safe to harvest there?  Slope conditions or soil?


use somewhat [s]invasive[/s] opportunistic plants in the slope area they will help to hold the soil and will fill it in, if you want privacy from the below area and can sacrifice some view..jerusalem artichokes would fill in nicely in a year or two..


Replies in bold

I think rainwater harvesting is a bit of a jump for her this go around.  But it's not off of the table by any means.  It just seems like it could be quite costly to install the first go around even though labor is cheap.  It's an investment though I'm sure. 
 
George Lee
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It's actually not to bad at all. I've seen those 275gal containers go for as little as $15 on local craigslist (farm/garden section)... You'd be downright surprised what you can do with $100-200 bucks.  Wish I we're able to help directly. I do this kinda stuff for a living.
 
Dave Brownson
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one more thought, attracting wildlife needs to be a part of my plan as well.  I would love to encourage more rabbits, grey squirrels, quail, deer, and other birds to come onto the property.
 
Dave Brownson
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LivingWind wrote:
It's actually not to bad at all. I've seen those 275gal containers go for as little as $15 on local craigslist (farm/garden section)... You'd be downright surprised what you can do with $100-200 bucks.  Wish I we're able to help directly. I do this kinda stuff for a living.


Once I get into the project I'll have to keep a lookout for some barrels.  I do need to make sure whatever I install is a very passive system.  My grandma isn't much of a green thumb. 

Does rainwater keep well for a long time if it is exposed to sunlight?
 
Leila Rich
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xxdabroxx wrote:
one more thought, attracting wildlife needs to be a part of my plan as well.  I would love to encourage more rabbits, grey squirrels, quail, deer, and other birds to come onto the property.

You sure about that? North America appears to have a pretty hungry  population of 'critters'. Deer are not something I'd want wandering round my place, but maybe your deer have different feeding/breeding habits than ours.
 
George Lee
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xxdabroxx wrote:
Once I get into the project I'll have to keep a lookout for some barrels.  I do need to make sure whatever I install is a very passive system.  My grandma isn't much of a green thumb. 

Does rainwater keep well for a long time if it is exposed to sunlight?


You sure you wanna encourage all those? They're in the vincinty regardless, but will you be putting in some nice leafy vegetables? Rabbits will eat the hell outta some cabbage crops. Hungry deer will eat tomatoes (so I witnessed this season), as well as a multitude of other things. If you're attracting wildlife for the sake of, I'd suggest cover cropping. Do a seedmix of grains, grasses, field peas for example..Buckwheat for bees,and insects.
 
Hugh Hawk
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Location: Adelaide, South Australia (Mediterranean climate)
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Rainwater is best stored in the dark to avoid algal growth.

Make sure you know where drying winds come from as well as winter prevailing winds.  Here, for example, winter winds bring weather from the SW, but on hot days warm winds blow from the north (coming off the deserts inland).  For the grass, the hot winds are probably the ones you want to block.
 
Dave Brownson
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Yeah. I believe I do want to encourage the wildlife. She has no vegetables going now, but I would like to try an incorporate some edibles into the landscape design. I want to attract the animals because my grandmother spends most of her time on the patio watching the world pass and she always enjoys watching them.

She does have a small fenced in side yard that could be used for more vulnerable plants. This would only deter them for so long but that's why I would like to try and consider things they would enjoy as well.

My grandpa learned long ago not to try and grow roses for the pretty flowers. The dear love them more.  Roses are somewhat drought tollerent aren't they? Could make for a decent barrier too maybe.
 
jacque greenleaf
pollinator
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Location: Burton, WA (USDA zone 8, Sunset zone 5) - old hippie heaven
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Birds are more active during the day than most mammals, and less destructive to the shrubbery. And what's good for birds will also attract other animals.
 
Cory Arsenault
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What about conserving other uses of water?  I reduced my water consumption by 42% and dropped my water bill by about $30 a month by retrofitting dual-flush systems onto my toilets, bought a high efficiency front load washer, got a low flow shower head and use the "if it's yellow let it mellow" method.

I'm fortunate that I live in an area where it really isn't necessary to water your lawn.  I've only ever watered it when seeding and my gardens are irrigated by soaker hoses attached to rainbarrels located under my downspouts.
 
Richard Nurac
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Location: north Georgia
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Nice 'photos of the storage tank setup.  I use similar tanks, though for the overflow I connected to the side of the tank near the top, rather than from above.  My method results in less storage capacity  but then I don't have to worry about a good seal at the top where the water flows in.  You can see 'photos of my tanks at www.nutrac.info.
 
Dave Brownson
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ROCKS!  I was just reading around on the forums and it clicked that there are tons of rocks in/ on my grandma's property. 

Anyone have any good links to some ways to use rocks to create moist places.  I understand the concept, but lack the knowledge to effectively apply it. 

How many rocks do you need?  I know I have moved a layer of river rock from someones front yard in the summer and the ground underneath was moist.  The surrounding lawn was also irrigated, but I don't know how recently it had been watered prior to the rock removal. 
 
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