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Dr. Gary Wade has some Xeriscaping tips.

Today, the south is facing one it's most serious threats. As we grow and prosper in the south, there's more and more demand for one of our most precious commodities: water. Did you know that in 1965, the average person used about 50 gallons of water every day, today, the average person uses 200. Add that to the growth many areas are having and we've got a serious problem. We've rarely worried about the quantity or quality of water in our part of the country. In many areas we would get 40, 50 even 60 inches of water a year. That's plenty to do just about anything we want. But as you know many parts of the South are experiencing serious drought.

And, as you can guess, the greatest demand for water is in the summer where, listen to this, 60 % is used outside your house. At first this surprised me but then I was looking closely at the directions for my water sprinkler and I found out that this one is pretty typical and applies about 300 gallons per hour! That's a lot of water! I knew our water bill just about doubled in the summer but I had no idea we were using so much..

So what are we to do? If we just stop watering our lawns and gardens will turn to dust. Fortunately, there's been lots of research done in water efficient landscaping. You've probably heard the word. 'Xeriscape' or Xeriscaping' It was actually coined in Colorado back in 1981. Xeriscape comes from two words, Xeros, a greek word for dry and scape for landscape. Today, there are over 40 states with xeriscape programs. There is even a National Xeriscape Council in Atlanta

A good xeriscape type landscape can reduce outdoor water consumption without sacrificing the beauty and quality of your garden. In fact, just modifying your watering schedule by watering early in the day can provide significant water savings. Xeriscaping is environmentally smart and it requires less maintenance, less fertilizer and less chemicals and above all less water. It just makes good gardening sense. There are 7 steps to developing a xeriscape or xeriphytic landscape and we want to spend a little time today looking at the first one.

The first step involves planning and design. As you develop a completely new landscape or are renovating an old one think about function and purpose. There's a philosophy of design that states that form should follow function. This basically means that the form or shape of anything including your landscape should follow or be based on its function or purpose. In other words, make sure that every plant, every element you choose for your landscape has a purpose besides just looking pretty.

I want you to use good looking plants, don't get me wrong but I want you to make sure that your plant choices solve a problem or enhance the value of your life and landscape as well as show off their aesthetic qualities. Let me show you what I mean. When we moved in we had a severe slope that needed something quick to stop the soil from eroding down the hill on to the house. I noticed that Ivy already very well established on the hill and behind our house. Now truthfully, ivy isn't one of my favorite plants but it was thriving here.

So, taking my cue from mother nature, I gathered about 100 very long vines from the vacant lot behind us, broke up the ground and buried the vines about 1" beneath the soil. Mulched it thickly with leaves and kept it watered until the following spring. Ivy typically takes about 3 years to establish itself. I'm sure you've heard the saying, "First year it sleeps, second year it creeps and third year it leaps. Well with this approach you can jump start your plants and cover a very large area in just a year or so. The ivy on this slope has only been here a couple of years and it's really filled in well. .

You see I picked a plant for reason other than beauty. It does an excellent job stopping the erosion and it naturally thrives in the area. Imagine if I had tried to get rid of this ivy and start something else. It would be almost impossible. One of the characteristics of a xeriphytic landscape is you don't fight the site. Any changes to the existing landscape needs to be very minor, very subtle You cut down on an enormous amount of time, money and effort when you stop trying to fix mother nature. DON'T FIGHT THE SITE IS A GOOD START TO ANY XERISCAPE PLAN.

So take a good hard look at the existing plantings. If they volunteered there, it is a good assumption that the site conditions are perfect for that type of plant.

Helen Phillips from Callaway Gardens shows us how to make a unique pond garden with a Frog and a wheelbarrow. It's a low cost and unique idea that takes little time to make.

Dr. Rick has some tips for getting plants to grow in those troublesome shady areas.

As we deal with the heat and drought of summer lets continue to look at xeriscaping or water-efficient landscaping as a foundation for our gardening activities. One notion we've discussed is the need to survey the site, to analyze your property and select plants that naturally thrive in your existing conditions. 'Don't fight the site' is an important philosophy to embrace as you create your drought tolerant landscape.

This is particularly important if you have shady areas in your landscape and here's why. A shaded garden can be up to 20 degrees cooler than one in full sun, shade the cooling unit on your air conditioner and you can cut the cost of cooling your home by 10%. Most of your herbaceous annuals and perennials, even the one's that love full sun prefer a little shade in the afternoon, a siesta from the heat. Because, herbaceous plants support themselves with water pressure and it gets very difficult to pull up enough moisture out of the ground and reduce transpiration to deal with the temperatures and dryness we are seeing this season. And, weeds hate shade. Did you know that some mature weeds can distribute up to 20,000 weed seeds over its lifetime? However, most weed seeds need direct sunlight to germinate. In fact, in a typical cubic yard of garden soil there are thousands of weed seeds. As long as the weed seeds are not exposed to the UV rays of the sun, most won't germinate. So, shade offers us and our landscape some real advantages

From a design standpoint, the shade garden has a great deal of character. There is nothing as cool and inviting as shade in the summer here in the South. There's an enormous number of plants that thrive in the tones and undertones of shade and there's nothing as fascinating to our eyes as the way light dapples through the trees and creates a checkered pattern on a path, a pond or shady border

Parker Andes from Callaway Gardens has tips on the care of Oak Leaf Hydrangeas.

They're common in the South, hardy and low maintenance, a great addition to your yard.

Dr. Rick demonstrates a rain and roof top retrieval method that makes good use of rain coming from your gutters. Why not direct that water to where it can do the most good.

With drought conditions predicted throughout the South this summer, we need every trick to conserve water and make the most out of what we get. There's no question that we will have to turn the hose on now and then to irrigate our garden but let's try to use every drop that falls on our property. This approach is known as gutter gardening or rooftop rain retrevial. Essentially what we want to do is capture all the water that comes off the roof when it rains and channel or direct it to specific parts of the yard. I purposely planted my pumpkin patch next to this gutter because it is the one that catches all the water off one of the largest sections of our house.

Instead of allowing the water to flow down the hill into the neighbor's yard, I am going to catch it with this black plastic pipe and direct it to my vegetable garden. I use one of these adaptors that connects the gutter to the black plastic pipe and I dig a trench about 6'' wide and just deep enough to allow the hose to be below the surface. Now I've dug the trench in a circle around the pumpkin patch as you can see and I lay the pipe in the trench and leave the end pointing toward the middle, but above ground. Just in case you have a gully washer, you don't want to restrict the water coming off your roof and back up the gutters. Now whenever it rains, every drop of water that comes off the roof goes directly to this part of the garden and we get a little rain through out the summer won't have to water as often. Gutter gardening. It's a water saving easy way to make the most out of the water that would typically just run down the hill and be lost.

Dr. Rick has some ideas about Termites. If you live in the south Termites are a problem, we offer some ideas for fighting them.

Plants figured out something along time ago that makes them very unpalatable to most animals including humans. Larger plants that don't die to the ground every year are mostly made from a very sturdy, very indigestible substance known as cellulose. As a plant cell matures, their walls become packed with millions of fibers of cellulose and they become woodier and woodier until they become so woody that it kills the cell. These cellulose fibers help the plant stand and support itself but this growth process is an act of suicide for the cell and a mature hardwood tree is made up of mostly dead cells. There are very few organisms in the world that can digest wood. But what about termites? Believe it or not, they are unable to digest these cellulose fibers and they're all microscopic. Certain types of bacteria are the only organisms that can feed on cellulose. But what about termites, can't they digest wood. Believe it or not they can't do it alone, In their gut are millions of these cellulose eating bacteria that break down the cellulose into a form that can be used by the termite. That's why termites can lives off of wood and can do billions of dollars of damage each year. Termites are industrious pests that thrive where the soil is slightly moist and there is a source of food (point to wood).

A healthy termite colonies can reach 50,000 and they're made up of several different types of members. Workers make up the majority of the colony and are creamy white but cannot reproduce. Soldier termites have huge heads and strong jaws and protect the group from maurading ants and other insects. There is also the reproductive swarmer termites that have long, narrow wings, blackish bodies and big eyes. As with most colony type insects, there is also one queen.

After a colony is 3-5 years and usually on a warm spring day, the winged swarmer termites leave the colony to start a new one. The swarmers are looking for a moist area with plenty of food. Once they've found such a site, they build extensive tube-like tunnels. If wood isn't touching the soil, they may build mud tubes to it, to avoid contact with outside air. Drying air is deadly to termites. It dries them out and kills them.

Keep your eyes open for evidence of these hidden pests. They can hollow out major structural supports in your house or other structures but it usually takes between 3-8 years for any extensive damage to occur. In some parts of the south, New Orleans for example, one species, the Formosa termite even hollows out large trees such as a live oak.

Key point: Keep untreated wood off the ground. If you do use wood for decking or other outdoor structures, select ground-contact pressure treated lumber. Now pressure treated means it is imbedded with a chemical called penta chlorophenol. And the amount varies. For example, you can purchase lumber with a treated rating of .20. That's for outdoor use but not ground contact such as the deck boards on your deck. Anything that touches the ground needs to have a rating of .40 or higher. Believe me termites wont touch this stuff for decades.

I'm a huge fan of mulch and I really need to be careful about how I use it and where I place it especially near my house. Avoid piling mulch up against the house. A light application is OK but several inches near the base of your house, especially if the ground stays wet and you're asking for trouble. Avoid stacks of untreated lumber or wood piles next to the house. Just keep these dry and away from your home and you'll be fine. Lately there is a new system that is proving very effective in encouraging termites to move away from your house rather than toward it. See this black pipe-like structure. It's actually filled with an attractant that lures termites to it. They feed on it and it kills them.

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