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Landscapers plan for environment

Sally Roberts
sroberts@nnbw

With three, going on four, years of drought in the area, many business owners and residents are taking a closer look at the water poured into their landscapes.

That’s something established landscape companies have been doing for years.

“We’re not doing anything different,” said Scott Gescheider, general manager of landscape services at Moana Nursery. “We are in a high desert. By definition, a desert doesn’t have much water.



“Most of the landscape companies (in the Reno area) have water conservation in mind.”

Steven Fine, marketing director at Signature Landscapes, said more people are looking at water conservation, but he doesn’t expect changes to become the norm until water costs increase.



“There are no mandatory requirements,” he said.

Some changes in landscaping reflect lifestyle trends more than drought. More space is being devoted to hardscapes like patios.

“I don’t think it’s because of drought,” Gescheider said. “It’s how people use their outdoor space.”

One thing that has changed and definitely is related to the decrease in precipitation and higher temperatures is the year-round work.

“We didn’t go down (in staffing)in the winter,” Fine said. “We’ve had crews busy all year.”

Although the average property owner may be thinking about water conservation more than doing anything about it, others are taking major steps, including the owners of The Village at Iron Blossom apartments on Patriot Boulevard.

“We ripped out an amazing amount of turf and replaced it with Xeriscape,” Fine said. The pile of old turf was 20-feet high.

“It’s an investment that pays off over years. The property manager is already seeing savings.”

Other Signature customers are tearing out ponds, “which were all the rage in the 2000s and ‘90s,” he said.

For new construction, contractors are building with more natural landscaping instead of all the greenery (natural to) the eastern U.S.

“For better or worse, we have to change what we want to look at (in our landscapes),” Fine said.

While reducing expanses of grass may be an effective way to save water, Gescheider cautioned against totally eliminating lawns.

Grass is a cooling agent, produces oxygen, filters runoff and provides dust control.

“The health benefits of grass in the community are worth it,” he said.

In contrast, rocks radiate heat. Replacing grass with rock will heat up a landscape.

“Grass is not our enemy; it’s overhead irrigation that’s the problem.”

Pop-up sprayers only deliver 40-50 percent of the water to the grass, Gescheider said. The rest blows away or runs off.

Rotary sprayers are much more efficient.

“The key is their spray is heavier and denser,” Fine said. “Water spray doesn’t get misted away (in the wind). You can water less and it soaks in deeper.”

Newer versions of rotary sprayers are more efficient and quieter and use 20-30 percent less water than pop-up mist sprinklers.

Gescheider hopes to see an even more efficient watering system gain ground in new construction. Drip irrigation for turf puts 90-95 percent of applied water where it belongs. The system distributes water below ground so it goes directly to the roots.

The drawback is that installation is more demanding and costly. Existing lawns have to be torn out, and inches of soil replaced with rock-free, permeable soil that allows water to spread.

A simpler method of saving water is to upgrade the sprinkler controls. Smarter systems consider water patterns, whether it’s raining outside, and even zip codes, Fine said. They have as many as 15 stations, so watering times can be set to the specific needs of each area.

Turf will continue to be part of the landscape because of its cooling effect and recreational benefits, Fine said, but the use of drip systems to target shrubs and trees will continue to grow and improve.

“We’ve been doing that for awhile and getting better at it,” Fine said. “We’re planting smarter and using more native plants that handle higher heat.”

Business owners and homeowners interested in making water-saving changes to their old landscapes should develop a 2-5-year plan with a landscaper, Fine said.

“It’s best to have a long-term plan.”