Thomas Kuhn used the duck-rabbit optical illusion to demonstrate the way in which a paradigm shift could cause one to see the same information in an entirely different way. Source, Wikipedia
I’m applying those principles to my garden. Instead of simply planting what I like year after year, I’m now thinking about water conservation first, then figuring out from there what to plant. This isn’t a new reality for our semi-arid climate. In an average year, our rainfall is a mere 14 to 18 inches (35 to 38 cm).
Living in a developed country, we take water for granted. We open a faucet and water flows: fresh, safe and abundant. Actually, the first two are correct, but as we face year two of a drought, further complicated by an unseasonably warm winter and spring, abundant may no longer be the case.
We’re making incremental steps to reduce our water usage. While these changes are small and, forgive the cliché, a mere drop in the bucket, I think they’re worth doing.
Last week we finished removing the lawn from the sidewalk strip. This allowed us to cap off several sprinkler heads, and divert a smaller amount of water to one raised flower bed.
Over the weekend, I reduced the number of water-thirsty pots by half, then planted what remained with succulents. Native to warm, dry climates, succulents can go days without a drink.
Instead of lavender, drought-tolerant Mexican Bush Sage lines the deck.
There are a number of things you can do to improve water efficiency, but we’re already doing them:
- Watering in the early morning
- Use of a drip-irrigation system, delivering measured water directly to the source to avoid run off and rapid evaporation.
- Use of native plants
- Mulch to preserve moisture in the soil
The next logical step is to replace the lawn. Once a status symbol of the rich, water-thirsty lawns eventually found their way into suburban gardens. I hope their popularity is on the way out.
Major changes are time-consuming and costly, so we are making our changes incrementally.
Here’s what we planted:
The other part of the water equation is indoor use. I’ve ordered a free water audit through the City of San Jose. They read your water meter, check for leaks, and determine water flow from sinks, showers and toilets. They make suggestions for laundry and dishwasher efficiency, shower duration, etc. They’ll audit our garden use as well. I’ll report back when they complete our audit next week.
Have you ever made a paradigm shift? Please let me know in the comments below.