Grandma’s Flower Garden – Water Conservation

hollyhocks1 Grandma’s were conservationists long before there was Serra clubs, the green movement or other such groups.

Grandma’s front yard flower garden was mostly populated by plants that are no longer commonly planted or cultivated. All of them were tough as nails or they didn’t survive in a dry-land flower garden.

On each side of the path to her front door, next to the yard fence gate, Lilac bushes, closer to the front door was Rose of Sharon bushes.

Climbing on her yard fence was several vine type roses and Trumpet(hummingbird vines) vines. The ones often seen growing in old cemeteries. As long as I can remember, she had 3 concord grape vines on each side of her yard supported on 2 wire trellises grandpa put up for her.
The grapes got more attention and water than anything else because they produced fresh table grapes and were made into jelly and jam.

Two sides of her porch were covered with Morning Glory vines for morning flowers and afternoon shade. Hint: Don’t let these things go to seed. They can become a real problem if not kept under controlled.

Along the drip line of the house roof was 4 O’clock bushes. She always had a few patches (beds) of assorted Hollyhocks, Zinnias and Sun flowers to brighten and add color to her front yard. Gras(s) was a four lettered word and was not tolerated in her yard. But in those days no one in the country had lawn grass. That was a city thing.

windmill-water-tank She had a yard broom made from a 1 inch cotton wood sapling with either broom weed or broom corn lashed to it that she used to ‘sweep’ her yard every Friday morning. Just in case she had weekend visitors. I was afraid of her yard broom, it looked like a witches broom to me as a young boy.

Once a week or so she would sprinkle a little water on her flower beds from a bright blue painted water can. Grin, the nearest water was taken out of a livestock water tank behind the house that was filled from the windmill pump. Overflow from this livestock tank is also where she got water for her garden. The same windmill also provided house water from a wooden tank that sat next to the windmill.

Water conservation was not a fad talked about by tree huggers sipping Starbucks $10.00 a cup specialty coffee. All the while sprinkling thousands of gallons of water on their lush green grass lawns. It was a way of life, a way of life that was required to survive on a dry-land farm.
I have spent most of my adult life living on dry-land farms and have for the past 50 years or so I have planted and grown many of the same flowering plants that I knew growing up in the country. Flowering plants that require little or no care or tap water to survive and thrive.

Something to think about this summer, the next time you set your lawn sprinkler or see your automatic lawn watering sprinklers watering your lawn during a rain storm.

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Why is common sense so uncommon?
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29 responses to “Grandma’s Flower Garden – Water Conservation

  1. I live in a neighborhood in Michigan where you would get fined for having long field grass or if your grass turns brown. I think it’s a shame. I would gladly grow a field on the majority of my property in order to conserve water. I do gather rain in rain barrels for my outdoor watering of flowers and vegetables though! Also…you talked of old fashioned flowers that conserve their water intake….have you ever heard of one called kiss me over the garden gate? I’m sure it has a botanical name, but that’s what I have always heard it called. It’s an heirloom flower that gets tall and has red or pink blooms. Thought you might like it….it has very woody stems that help retain water. Anyway…thanks for the posts! Always interesting!

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  2. Grandmas rock! I can’t even begin to think about all of the gardening I learned from mine. She only watered when she thought about it…which wasn’t often, and her garden thrived!

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    • Re sladow Thanks for taking time to visit my humble little blog and for your comment(s) 🙂 many people water far to often, almost daily, using far to little water when a weekly deep watering is a much better watering schedule.
      Happy productive summer garden

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  3. I’ve taken over my grandmothers house(in Sweden), built by my great grandfather more than a hundred years ago. The garden is one of the best things about it! I’ve always been taught that visiting my gran, don’t leave the tap on, take quick showers etc because she couldn’t afford a huge water bill. There is a well in the garden and in summer every morning is spent watering the flowers, now the pump is broken and I have to carry all the water by hand but it keeps me fit!

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    • Re Thanks for taking time to visit my humble little blog and for your comment(s)
      There are worst things than needing to water your garden by hand! 🙂
      Happy gardening

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  4. lovely post about a very wise woman. i often wonder why so many of the old, more frugal ways of living have been abandoned! People don’t use common sense anymore!

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    • Re SmallHouseBigGarden – Thanks for taking time to visit my tiny blog and for your comment(s). 😦 It’s easier to swipe a food stamp card at the check out register than it is to plant, tend, harvest and can vegetables from your garden.
      Happy productive summer garden

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  5. What an inspiring blog when I’m planning a new garden. It doesn’t matter that I’ve got water to spare here in Sydney, I’ll be looking at some of the plants you mentioned and seeing where I can tuck them in. It was a timely reminder that water conservation isn’t just a trendy choice, it’s a necessity for many and we can all do more to conserve this precious resource. Thank you for a great blog, I really enjoy reading it

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    • Re debhuntinbrokenhill Hi, old fashion flowering plants do have a place in every garden. Where if only to look at and enjoy or to attract fruit tree and garden pollinating bees.
      Happy gardening

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  6. I live in a high rainfall area (only tank water on small acreage) but have also lived in places of less than 20 inches per year. Water conservation should just be part and parcel of what we do. Even though we have plentiful water I still do the handwashing in a bucket with pure soap and then toss the water onto the flowering shrubs near the verandah.

    Your grandma taught you well!

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    • Re Fairy Hi I’m glad that you found time to stop by for a visit and for your comment(s).
      It seems that after the news media frightened people on the east and northeast coast states into panic buying because of a little bit of snow and ice, that food wars very well may come before water wars.
      Happy gardening

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  7. Oh such true comments. I must have gotten a bug from grandma. I often drive around cities thinking of how many vegetables and flowers could be provided by the land wasted on those lawns.

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    • Re lucindalines Hi, thanks for the visit and your comment(s)
      I think at least in the west and southwest U.S. the days of over fertilized, over watered lush grass lawn are numbered. In my little corner of this galaxy many counties are under stage 4 mandatory water conservation measures. That means for one thing No Outdoor water usage. No watering lawns, No filling of private swimming pools, No car washing at home. Mostly common sense water conservation actions.

      Happy productive gardening

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  8. I’ve been trying to get people to reduce lawns, and encourage meadows instead, for decades. Other than a little hand-watering of certain flowers, the vegetables are the only plants that should require regular watering. Vegetable are providing us with quality food. Grandma understood this.
    Oscar

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    • Re hermitsdoor – It is sometimes hard to break bad habits like cultivating lush grass lawns.
      To make this worse many cities and town counsels are as much to blame at the home owner.
      They discourage or forbid front yard vegetable gardens or replacing lawn grass with fruit producing vines(grapes) or a small fruit orchard or the use of native non-grass land scape planting that will survive with little or no watering from the tap.
      Happy productive gardening

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      • Absolutely! I have friends “in town” who have gotten notices from their cities that they will be fined if they do not mow. My technique, when I lived in such environments, has been to stealthily reduce the lawn over several years. Start with some boarder flower beds (who could complain about daylilies, hollyhocks, dianthus, columbine, daisies, or decorative grasses…) along the driveway, and foundation plants (azaleas, blueberries… though they would not survive your dry garden region) along the house, leaving the sidewalk open to the lawn, so it has the appearance of being enhanced. Add a birdbath on the lawn and tell the neighbors you are making a bird sanctuary. The next year, cut out about a foot of the lawn following the curve of the perennial beds and plant a salad garden (colorful lettuces). This lets the flowers expand. The lettuces provide a transition from lawn, and you get fresh greens (assuming that you have an organic lawn, so your lettuce is not toxic). Start giving away the greens to your neighbors to co-opt them into the program. The 3rd year, cut the lawn back a foot again, move the lettuce, and carefully plant smaller growing tomatoes and peppers. Rather than using farm strength metal cages to support them, purchase or build some decorative wood structures that have curb-appeal until the neighbors are enjoying the tomatoes and peppers that you are giving to them. Keep expanding the garden until the lawn is relegated to a decorative pathway, meandering through your flowers and vegetables. Neighbors who enjoy the vegetables, butterflies, birds, and other wildlife in your yard will not turn you into the local yard-police. Hopefully, by then, you can have several of them doing the same, making your neighbor a sanctuary.
        Oscar

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  9. Being in Ireland, I never ever have to water the grass. But! I grow a lot of things in pots as I have a tiny yard front and back, and they dry out so fast. We will be paying for water for the first time ever in Irish history next year, so I’m looking into ways to keep my potted plants happy on the cheap, in a country that gets sh*t tons of rain.

    But I grew up in FL, and we had 4-o-clocks. I’d almost forgotten about them! Thanks 🙂

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    • Re heretherebespiders Thanks for visiting and your comment(s). I have a blog visitor from South Africa that uses only soap, with no detergents and pipes his kitchen sink and bath water directly onto his fruit orchard trees.

      Happy gardening

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  10. Thanks for taking me way back – to collecting 4 o’clock seeds, being chased by bees if you got too close to the Rose of Sharon, and grape vines! Yes, my grandma grew concord grapes for wine! She did make plenty of plum butter, raspberry pie, grape jam, and something called chili sauce. All from her yard!

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  11. Go grandma! We need more people like her–look at what an example she set with you. Happy Gardening!

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  12. I would love to have seen Grandma’s Garden. I bet it was so beautiful. I appreciate your blog and have learned a lot about gardening from you. Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge.
    Andy

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    • Re Andy Oldham Good morning and thanks for visiting my humble little blog and your comment(s)
      It seems like there was always something in bloom in her front yard.
      Your welcome and I hope you find something on my blog useful from time to time
      Happy gardening

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