Gardening Against Drought in Union County – New Providence

Despite occasional thunderstorms, rain has been rare in Union County for the past several weeks. Gardens wilt in dry conditions, and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection has declared a statewide drought watch. Union County gardeners can take steps to sustain their plantings through storm and drought cycles by focusing on hardy native species and water conservation.

“Drought-tolerant gardens can help avoid the cost of high-maintenance plantings and save on water bills, while attracting birds, butterflies and other beneficial pollinators. They can also help prevent excessive stormwater runoff and flooding during heavy rains,” Union County Commissioner Chairperson Rebecca L. Williams said.

During dry periods, hardy native plants, shrubs and trees help conserve water and reduce the need for yard maintenance chemicals. They also contribute to a more diverse and healthier ecosystem.

Union County’s free downloadable guide to planting native species, Plant this, not thatis available online at ucnj.org/green-connection/gardens.

More information on the role of trees in water conservation and flood prevention is available at the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

Native plants and shrubs can also be deployed in specialized rain gardens to help reduce puddling and flooding during heavy rains. A rain garden bed is created with soils that allow more water to naturally seep into the soil, helping to support the garden bed during dry periods.

Rain barrels are another strategy that allows gardeners to “store” water during rainy periods, for later use. For tips on installing rain barrels, visit the Rutgers Water Resources program online at water.rutgers.edu.

For more information on landscaping for water conservation in New Jersey, visit the Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station at njaes.rutgers.edu/home-lawn-garden/water-conservation.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency also provides general water conservation advice to property owners, including taking steps to ensure that any buried irrigation system is working efficiently. For more details visit epa.gov/watersense.

Gardeners who would like to see photos of local rain gardens in Union County can visit the Rain Gardens of Union County Biodiversity Project online at Rutgers Agricultural Experiment Station in New Jersey.

To see local rain gardens in person, visit the Union County Trailside Nature and Science Center, located on the Watchung Preserve at 452 New Providence Road in Mountainside. Trailside participates in the Rutgers Biodiversity Project. The facility houses two sets of rain gardens designed by Rutgers Water Resources Program staff and funded by an NJDEP grant, for a total of five gardens in all.

The five gardens are located between the Trailside parking lot and the Scout camping area. Working together as a system, they allow runoff from the parking lot and other paved surfaces to seep into the ground and feed a nearby stream. The gardens also help prevent storm runoff from damaging a nearby hiking trail.

The Trailside grounds are open to the public daily from dawn to dusk, as are all Union County parks. The Trailside building is open for free from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. daily except Mondays and holidays. More details on programs and activities at Trailside can be found at ucnj.org/trailside.

For quick links to all Union County Environmental Services, visit Green Connection at ucnj.org/green-connection.

Over 90% of Union County is currently classified as experiencing moderate drought conditions by the National Integrated Drought Information System. To check local conditions, use the postcode search engine at drought.gov.

For more details on the NJ DEP’s Drought Watch Statement, visit https://www.nj.gov/dep.

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