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Be Water Wise: Plant What’s Native to Utah

By Kate Johnson

I grew up in a family that didn’t have money to spare, so my mother was relentless about making us turn off lights, keep the thermostat low, don’t waste water, and so on. The Energy Crisis of the early 1970s led to much media attention about ways to conserve energy, and my brother’s comment to my mother at the time was there was nothing for us to change in our routine: we were already doing all the things!

Nothing has changed as I’ve gotten older, but my focus now is more about
the inherent value of using resources wisely and conservatively. What I don’t use today I hope may be available in the future for my nieces, nephews, friends and neighbors.

On water use, my husband and I have chosen to keep our yard in the most natural state possible. The native plants of Utah know a thing or two about conserving water, after all! Our trees and shrubs are mostly Gambel Oak, Chokecherry, Serviceberry, and some pines and junipers. We’ve planted Elderberries and other fruit-bearing bushes, which are beautiful and also beneficial to wildlife. Native flowers like Penstemon, Butterfly Weed, Globe mallow and others are beautiful to look at and are great for the native pollinators. (And this is the time of year to plant them, before it gets too hot!) We use a drip system to water what needs to be watered, and the system is on timers that we fine-tune during the year, depending on how hot it is and how much rain we’ve been getting.

Not that we don’t have some not-so-guilty pleasures—we have some fruit trees and enjoy some vegetable and flowering plants that do need more regular watering—but we keep those where they are easy to give extra water to individually.

Kate JohnsonThese things do take a little planning and maintenance, but you don’t have to do them all at once. And keep in mind that once you’ve made a few changes, you might have more time to spend with your family on the weekends.

Tired of mowing the lawn? Get rid of some of it and plant some Utah natives. Insects and birds will thank you, you’ll use a lot less water, and you’ll have more time to spend with your family and friends.

I am an Environmental Program Manager in the Division of Drinking Water and oversee the Source Protection program. I’m a geologist by profession, married, love the outdoors, sewing, gardening, and bird watching, and just got a pair of in-line skates that I am nervous (yet excited) about trying out.