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Helpful water conservation tips for landscaping

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As impending hot summer weather looms, so does rising water costs to properly irrigate your plants. If you manage or live in a community where water is shared by all its residents, you also know this time of year brings about questions on how to reduce its use.

There are several methods that landscapers utilize to maximize water efficiency for their clients. Implement just one and notice how your water bill shrinks. Implement them all and the savings could be significant.

The easiest, of course, is the use of mulch in your planter beds. This simple wood product, if laid down 2 to 3 inches in depth, not only enhances the appearance of your beds, but reduces weed growth, enriches soil and stabilizes soil temperature -- ultimately resulting in less evaporation and more water retention. Mulch comes in many wood types, sizes and colors, and its cost is quickly recovered by the amount of water saved. If you are not utilizing mulch in your community, you should seriously consider it.

The second method that truly makes a difference is the reduction of turf areas. They are gorgeous when maintained properly, but turf is also the largest consumer of water in a landscape design. Consider replacing turf areas with planter beds. Utilize drought tolerant materials, as well as mulch, and your water costs could be reduced by 30 percent. Also, talk to your landscaper about rebates that are available through the city and the Water-Wise Landscape Rebate Program. Rebates can dramatically reduce the cost of your landscape project and there are many available.

Some believe that if they reduce their turf and utilize more native plant materials that their property may resemble a desert-like scenario. Not true. There are hundreds of beautiful California-native plants. In addition, with technology as it is today, many landscape contractors can provide you with a photograph of your property with proposed water-saving plant designs. This way, you can see how your property would look before any soil is ever turned.

Lastly, it is extremely important to group similar plants together to keep from under-watering some or over-watering others. For example, placing annual color in a planter bed with Bronze Flax, Pittosporum or other drought tolerant plant material could prove deadly. If the irrigation is not separated to water each individually, then the annual color will get more or less water than it needs to survive.

Take the time to review your site and note the areas where potential savings is possible and discuss them with your landscaper. Your bottom line will thank you.

-Buccelletti is director of business development at LaBahn's Landscaping, member of the San Diego chapter of the International Facility Management Association. Visit ifma.org to learn more.

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