Cultivating conservation and efficiency for Charlotte landscapes

Cultivating conservation and efficiency for Charlotte landscapes

Bob Mersch of Matthews fought with weed-choked fescue grass for years at his last home, fertilizing in the spring and fall and spending roughly $200 monthly during the summer on watering.

So when he moved to his current home a few years ago, he hired highly rated Overstream Landscaping and Irrigation in Matthews, N.C., to sod with hot-weather-loving zoysia, the carpet-like grass he padded over barefoot as a child.

Mersch cut back on $50 to $75 fertilizing treatments and estimates he halved his water bills, now roughly $100 monthly in the summer. The zoysia left no room for weeds, either. “There’s nothing that’s prettier,” he says.

Bill Zemak, president of Overstream, says turf presents homeowners’ greatest opportunity to improve the energy efficiency of their landscape. The fescue prevalent in the Charlotte area actually prefers cooler climates, so keeping it green during the warmer months requires heavy watering, he says.

Zemak instead recommends planting summer grasses such as Bermuda and zoysia hybrids that thrive in the area’s warmer weather and require less water, fertilizer or fungicide. “There are many hybrid varieties available now that offer great color, thicker blades, and a lush feel to compete with the fescue look, which a lot of people like,” Zemak says.

He acknowledges one possible downside: The grass turns brown when temperatures cool, about five months of the year. But warm weather drought and water restrictions shrivel fescue. “It doesn’t bother me,” Mersch says of zoysia’s dormant period. “I don’t like brown yards in the summer.”

Experts advise those who want to improve efficiency to consider other methods as well, such as strategically planting trees to shade the home — preferably strong, leafy ones, such as oaks — or using drip irrigation to better target water to plant roots. Zemak also recommends installing LED low-voltage outdoor lighting systems, which he says use only up to one-quarter the energy of traditional lighting.

Member Judy Hustead of Charlotte pulled out the stops when she hired highly rated landscape firm Outdoor Life in Mint Hill for a backyard makeover that included installing a patio, stone fireplace, pergola, deck and pond.

But the $60,000 job came with resourcemoderating measures, too — LED landscape lighting to reduce electricity costs and a drip irrigation system to reduce consumption. “We now have a backyard that is gorgeous and relatively maintenance free,” Hustead says.

Jonathan Reed, owner of highly rated Paragon Landscape Management in Charlotte, advises drip irrigating most plants, except when conservatively deploying spray heads or rotors to water grass. He adds that proper irrigation system maintenance and repair helps conserve water, just as vehicle maintenance improves fuel economy.

“Leaks, improperly pointed heads, broken heads, cut drip lines, inaccurate nozzles can all lead to tremendous water waste and cause harm to your landscape,” Reed says. As with any effort to realize a more energy efficient landscape, experts say planning and upkeep can go a long way toward conserving — and being a little more — green.

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