Zilker Neighborhood Gardens

Commentary by a National Wildlife Steward who helps Zilker neighbors establish native plant gardens

Tag Archives: water

2014 Grow Green Homeowner’s Landscape Training ($10) – This Wednesday!

Registration’s open for the 2014 Grow Green Homeowner’s Landscape Training

Wednesday, April 23, 2014 – 6:00pm – 8:30pm
Celebrate Earth Day by joining the City of Austin Grow Green team for our spring homeowner’s landscape training.


6:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. The Soil-Water Connection, William Glenn, Garden-ville
Learn how compost acts not only to grow healthier plants, prettier plants, but how it can reduce water usage and frequency. Moreover, how it helps the soil’s structure to allow for better infiltration of water into the subsoil layers and back into our aquifers
7:00 p.m. – 7:15 p.m. Break
7:15 p.m. – 8:15 p.m. Outdoor Water Conservation Rebates, Christopher Charles, Austin Water
WaterWise Landscape refers to landscaping and gardening in ways that reduce or eliminate the need for supplemental water from irrigation. Major water savings can be made by converting your healthy turf grass to native plant beds and permeable hardscape. Residential properties may receive $25 for every 100 sq. ft. converted. Get details on program eligibility, the process and requirements, as well as information on some new landscape-related rebates.

8:15 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. Questions
Registration: $10 per person, www.austintexas.gov/event/2014-grow-green-homeowner%E2%80%99s-landscape-training

Contact: Denise Delaney, (512) 974-2581, Denise.Delaney@austintexas.gov

Rain garden workshop 4/5/2014

Here’s a great opportunity to learn how to build a rain garden. It’s a great system to collect run-off rain and slowly drain into the ground while being absorbed by native plants and grasses that like “wet feet” (i.e., they don’t mind be in sloggy water for a day or two at a time.) If you can’t make the workshop, be sure to click on the links for the Austin Grow Green website that has more information available there for free!

Learn how to build a rain garden at your home, school, or community garden! A rain garden is a low area that absorbs and filters rain water runoff that comes from roofs, sidewalks, and driveways. Rain runs off the hard surfaces, collects in the shallow depression, and slowly soaks into the soil.
Rain gardens are planted with colorful native plants and grasses, and, where the water collected is free of contaminated run-off, food-producing plants can be used, as well! Join the City of Austin’s Watershed Protection Department and the Sustainable Food Center for an interactive, outdoor, hands-on introduction to rain gardens at the J.P.’s Peace, Love and Happiness Foundation Teaching Garden at Sustainable Food Center.
Registration: $35 at http://sustainablefood.nonprofitsoapbox.com/calendar/event/241
Learn more about rain gardens: www.austintexas.gov/raingardens , more gardening tips at www.growgreen.org
Date: Saturday, April 5, 2014
Time: 9:00 a.m. – noon
Location: Sustainable Food Center, 2921 E 17th St, Building C, Austin, TX 78702

Watering Restrictions for Austin

As of September 4th, 2012, Stage 2 watering restrictions were re-implemented (they were instituted earlier in this year as well). There were a few changes to the “rules,” so I thought it was worth repeating them here for our neighborhood.

Here’s a graphic that is suppose to summarize the rules though I think it could be vastly improved. State 2 Water Restrictions graphic of the "rules"

If you have an automatic sprinkler system, then you water your yard between 12am-5am or 7pm to 11:59 pm either:

  • on Wednesday (Odd Addresses)
  • on Thursday (Even Addresses).

If you water by with a sprinkler on the end of a hose, then you water your yard either on Saturday or Sunday between 12am-10am or from 7pm-11:59p. While evaporation will occur more between 7-10am, this allows people to not have to get up at 3am to water their yard!

See above if you need the rules for public schools or commercial/multifamily addresses.

The following watering is exempt from rules and can occur at any time:

  • Watering with handheld bucket or hose (do anytime)
  • Drip irrigation (do anytime)
  • Soaker hoses under drip line of tree canopy / tree bubblers (do anytime)

Prohibited Actions:

  • Washing your car at home (you must go to a commercial carwash facility)
  • Charity car washes
  • Fountains with fall or spray greater than 4″ (unless necessary to preserve aquatic life)
  • Serving water to restaurant customers unless requested
  • Commercial properties using misters between 12am-4pm.

You may call in violations to 3-1-1. However, if it is your neighbor, why don’t you just go over and explain the new rules to them – they probably didn’t hear about it.

For more information, see the City of Austin’s Water site.



Free Soil Moisture Gauge

The City of Austin is giving away soil moisture gauges to help you know how much you’ve watered and when you should water. Here’s where you can pick one up for free:

Pick up your meter between 8am and 4:30pm, Monday through Friday, at 625 E. 10th Street, or call 974-2199 for more information. One per customer, mailing and delivery not currently available.

How To Water a Tree (and know it has enough drink)

I found this video on tree watering tips to be very helpful, and I think I’ve been underwatering! Treat your trees and plants nicely – they are worth a lot of $! All you need is a screwdriver to figure it out.

Drought returns to Central Texas

The statesman reveals what many of us have already noticed. We are in a drought. Not a lot of water is falling from the sky.

As drought returns to Central Texas, relief unlikely until May.

This supports good reasoning to plant natives as they can usually live with waxes and wanes of water availability in Texas.

Land Use Transformation with Green Landscaping

There’s a story on The University of Texas’s features website that you MUST read in lieu of any new info from me (very busy week this week!). Learn how “Wildflower Center ecologists help spur land use transformation through national green landscaping initiative.” The article discusses a nationwide initiative to bring attention to green landscaping. There are pictures, some even before and after, of the landscaping creating across pilot sites in the U.S. I will highlight some of the incredibly motivating findings from their work below.

In the six-year Santa Monica study, the native garden required 62,000 gallons less water annually than its neighbor. With little lawn to maintain, yard work took a fourth as much time and cost two thirds less. And half as much yard waste came from the native yard versus the traditional lawn with its Marathon grass, azaleas and other non-native plantings.

When my husband and I moved into our house in Zilker, we thought we were happy to have irrigation – until we got the first bill! We had not paid much attention to the watering schedule set up by the former owner, and we were aghast at the 27,000 gallons used in only one month to water – grass!!! To give you a sense of the difference, right now when we are watering very little and by hand, we use about 3-4,000 gallons a month for the household. So, about 24,000 gallons of water was being used to water our very green and lush grass. The water conservation data in Texas would be much greater than that of the Santa Monica, CA, study above because of our excessive heat and need to water more deeply and/or frequently. At my house alone, I know that we’d save about 200,000 gallons of water a year. Right now, while I’m in the process of redoing our yard and we still have grass, we water occasionally to keep the grass somewhat presentable (not at all right now in the winter, of course).

The following quote from the article highlights my post from last week on killing grass with newspaper. Clearly, you can also do the method using cardboard!

Instead of using chemicals, the landscaper snuffed out the alien, invasive, plants by mowing and covering them with layers of cardboard and mulch, topped by a nutrient-rich material and new plantings.

They also discuss an urban (Washington D.C.) university which has committed to capturing rainwater through collection, raingardens, and permeable hardscape (there’s also a great picture of a permeable walkway being installed).

Native plants such as Virginia sweetspire and American beautyberry decorate rain gardens and other sunken areas that have plantings that capture stormwater. Walkways of permeable material usher rain drops into underground tanks that supply water for the landscaping and a decorative fountain.

Clearly, underground tanks might be pretty ambitious for us home and apartment dwellers, but there are plenty of less arduous ways to capture water and reuse it. I’ll share more about that, as I’m preparing to install a small raingarden soon on my property.

Happy gardening!

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