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Home gardening program focuses on wise water use

February 21, 2008

Media contacts:
Karen Neill, N.C. Cooperative Extension urban horticulture agent, Guilford County, 336.375.5876 or
Roger Cobb, Alamance County Cooperative Extension director, 336.570.6740 or
Amy Lynn Albertson, N.C. Cooperative Extension horticulture agent, Davidson County, 336. 242.2091 or
Wendi Hartup, natural resources agent, and Stephen Greer, horticulture agent, N.C. Cooperative Extension, Forsyth County, 336.703.2850 or,
Mary Helen Ferguson, N.C. Cooperative Extension horticulture agent, Randolph County, 336.318.6000 or

Carolina Yards and Neighborhoods started preaching water conservation and water quality protection before the 2007-08 drought began.

For the Triad area and surrounding counties, drought has become a way of life. The region's growth has outstripped its water supply, and even a moderately dry summer forces local water consumers to reexamine how they use precious water resources.

Water shortages are particularly problematic for home gardeners, who rely on water to keep lawns and ornamentals alive. To help gardeners manage their landscape with limited resources, North Carolina Cooperative Extension initiated a program in five counties called Carolina Yards and Neighborhoods.

CY&N is a landscaping program designed to teach people simple strategies on how to efficiently maintain their lawns and protect the environment at the same time. Extension centers participating in the program are located in Guilford, Forsyth, Randolph, Alamance and Davidson counties.

The program was started in 2005 with a two-year grant. Though the funding ended last fall, the program will continue because of the demand for it in the Piedmont area, said Karen Neill, Guilford County urban horticulture agent. In fact, there is interest in taking the program statewide.

"The key thing is that with water being a limited natural resource, these strategies help homeowners have a more attractive landscape, while conserving water," Neill said. "These principles not only help homeowners conserve water, but also help them protect the quality of water that runs off their property and into rivers and streams."

Neill said there are many other benefits to water-wise gardening, including reducing nitrogen in waterways, helping consumers spend less money on municipal water use and helping them keep more water in their own yards.

The program is based on a similar Extension program from Florida. It encourages gardeners to uses water resources wisely, relying on nine basic principles. Those principles, and how they impact home gardeners, are described here:

- Use the right plant in the right place
- Use water efficiently
- Mulch
- Recycle
- Fertilize appropriately
- Manage yard pests
- Reduce stormwater runoff
- Attract wildlife
- Protect the waterfront

The program focuses on helping gardeners choose the right plants for their landscapes, according to soil and sun conditions, and then prepare the soil properly to hold moisture. Using plants that fit the site helps cut down on the need to water, as these are plants adapted to our dry, hot summers.

Mulching plants is a technique that helps retain moisture in the soil so irrigation is not needed as frequently, prevents erosion, removes pollutants and helps to regulate the temperature of the root system so plants do not freeze in the winter or burn in the summer. Creating mulch from yard waste is a way to recycle.

Recycling is a strategy that can be used with water as well - particularly rainwater. Rain barrels and other water harvesting strategies collect rainwater for use in the landscape. North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Guilford County has promoted the use of rain barrels. Last year, the center sold 300 65-gallon barrels to help homeowners collect rainwater for use in their landscape.

For more information on Carolina Yards and Neighborhoods, visit the Web site:

Written by: Natalie Hampton, 919.513.3128 or

Posted by Dave at February 21, 2008 08:00 AM