By Jeanne Meadow, originally published in Let’s Talk Plants! November 2015, No. 254, republished November 2022.
Should you have a water feature during the drought?
During our extreme heat and drought, where every drop of water counts, should we have some type of garden water feature? To fountain or not to fountain – that is the question.
The current rule is that a fountain must be re-circulating. Who knows what new restrictions could be coming up? So, if you are considering adding a new one, don’t make a big investment. If you want a water feature to attract birds, even a shallow tray will do; our flying friends are not picky.
Many of us have worked hard to turn our gardens into micro ecosystems with butterflies, larger birds, hummingbirds and beneficial insects. But guess what? They all need water. They will leave your garden in search of it or die. How sad.
A few months back, to help cut water use, my husband and I decided to change our backyard fountain from a water feature to a repository for succulents. Then a funny thing happened; our little private oasis was losing its magic. We began to hear the rumblings from the local freeway, became acutely aware of the many everyday neighborhood sounds that encroached on our once peaceful garden.
The more we planned to shut it down, the more we appreciated it. We began looking at who else would miss our fountain. We knew that the local owls and their babies frequented it, as well as a hawk family. From time to time, a thirsty coyote might jump our six-foot fence to enjoy a drink. Then there are all the beautifully hued birds. Sometimes when I wake up in the morning, I’ll look out through the bedroom window to see finches or scrub jays frolicking in the fountain. Then there are the bees, along with the occasional praying mantis and other flying insects. One time I even saw a rat in there, but hey, the rats will keep the hawks, owls and snakes fed… it’s the circle of life.
We don’t use any chemicals in our fountain, so it’s safe for everyone, even our dog, who enjoys his daily outings to the fountain for a tall, cool one. Yes, you have to watch out for mosquitoes, so you can’t just let the water collect. It’s got to be kept moving, and clean. We add an organic straw pellet to the water and clean the fountain regularly (weekly in the summer, twice a month in the winter).
Find a way to keep a water feature, like we did, even if it’s just a small birdbath. You don’t need to turn on the hose either, you can simply add water from a bucket in your shower. The birds, the bees, and the butterflies, along with all their friends, will thank you.