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Ask the contractor: Workshop offers training in rainwater harvesting

Rainwater harvesting and how to use native, drought-tolerant plants for landscaping are some of the topics T. Barnabas Kane will discuss on April 14. (Courtesy)

Rainwater harvesting and how to use native, drought-tolerant plants for landscaping are some of the topics T. Barnabas Kane will discuss on April 14. (Courtesy)

Did you know that one inch of rain on a 1,000-square-foot roof can yield roughly 600 gallons of water?

Rainwater harvesting can capture rainwater and divert it to storage for use in plant irrigation and other home projects, like washing cars. The term “actively harvesting” rainwater means collecting, storing and recycling heaven-sent water that, otherwise, would drain into municipal sewer systems.

It is relatively easy to get started with an active harvesting rainwater system. You just need to purchase or make rain barrels out of a food-grade drum and a hose spigot. The rain barrel needs to be positioned under a roof downspout, so when it rains — collection happens!

Other popular phrases in the gardening vocabulary right here in Yavapai County — and in other regions where rain is not abundant — include drought-tolerant plants, xeriscape, and water-wise gardens. These phrases refer to some of the ways that homeowners can be mindful of the water we extract from our watersheds. If we aren’t careful, significant environmental consequences can result from overuse of watersheds.

In recreating a home landscape that conserves water, it’s prudent to use plants that are native to our region or from one that is very similar. Many of our readers and new homeowners to the area are from lush regions, where rainfall is more plentiful. And while, initially, it may seem that a drought-tolerant garden limits the garden to a “desert” look, many plants are well adapted to our arid climate, so that almost any garden style can be created, maybe with the exceptions of tropical rain forest but even that look can be created with plants that only take a gentle sip.

We tend to think that the more water we use in our gardens, the better, and with automated sprinkler systems, it is easy to program the timer to provide enough water, so even the thirstiest plants have their appetites quenched. One of the most unexpected lessons I have learned in talking with landscapers is that surprisingly many plants do better with less water. For years, local nurseries have produced drought-tolerant plants that, in the home landscape, have been over-watered to the point that they rotted.

One of the greatest challenges for the plant-buying public in this region is to become knowledgeable about drought-tolerant plants. While they sometimes look rather awful in their containers, many drought-tolerant plants will flourish in Yavapai County’s home landscapes. If we wait for these plants to become big and overflowing in their containers, they might not transition well into the landscape. In buying a plant, consider how it will do in your garden, rather than being an impulse shopper, moved mostly by how we feel when we look at the plant.

Keep in mind, too, plants do not fare well with the chloramines and other water-sanitizing chemicals. For that reason, in a choice between using an inch of irrigated water or an inch of rainwater on a home landscape, plants that receive the natural option will be happier and healthier.

To become more knowledgeable on rainwater harvesting and drought–tolerant landscaping, mark your calendar now to attend the free meeting presented by our local Citizens Water Advocacy Group (CWAG), from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, April 14, at the Granite Peak Unitarian Universalist Congregation building, 882 Sunset Avenue, Prescott.

It’s spring! Are you thinking about new landscaping? Are you wondering what to plant and where the water will come from?

Landscape architect T. Barnabas Kane will answer these questions and more at the CWAG workshop.

Using a residential case study, Kane will perform a site analysis to offer a better understanding of local conditions, including describing all potential water sources for home landscaping and how to prioritize water use. He will also discuss active and passive rainwater harvesting. From a supply-and-demand perspective, he will analyze the available water as it relates to the landscape and discuss how to approach net-zero water use, introducing decision-making strategies.

Workshop participants will then design a landscape, specify plants for particular locations and develop a working plant list. Bring your iPads, notepads and your love for the landscape.

That same afternoon, from 3 to 4:30 p.m. at the Prescott Public Library, Kane will offer a second workshop on rainwater harvesting as part of Librarypalooza.

With the City encouraging the newly annexed areas to use less water, we should all do our part to save water.

So bring your questions, come and meet Kane and the CWAG crew and get some valuable information that will increase your awareness of rainwater harvesting and how to use drought-tolerant plants beautifully in your home landscape.

Remember to tune in to YCCA’s Hammer Time every Saturday and Sunday morning at 7 on KQNA 1130AM, 99.9FM, 95.5FM or the web Listen to Sandy to Mike talk about the construction industry, meet your local community partners and so much more. What a great way to start your weekend.

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