Yard Art that Rocks

Yard Art that Rocks

ladybugKeeping your garden lively can be tricky, especially as the seasons change. At this time of year, summer annuals are dying off, insects are eating your veggies, and wildlife sightings may be dwindling in your very own yard. Even though weather conditions are getting colder, have no fear; you can create life in your garden without expending a drop of water! To animate your patio, porch, or pathway garden, make yard art that rocks.

Painting the Perfect Landscape

With painted stones, your options for a lively landscape are limitless. Wish you could see more animals in the backyard? Paint a native turtle or frog on a pebble, and place him comfortably in your dormant flowerbed. Is it too cold for your koi fish in the pond? Devise an optical illusion and paint a rock to plop into your fountain for a realistic effect. Do you prefer pansies year round? Try arranging a few of your pretty painted gems in an outdoor planter pot!


Bringing Your Rockin Canvas Inside

Don’t have a green thumb, but want to enjoy plants indoors? Paint a series of no-maintenance stone cacti to display as windowsill decor or a table centerpiece. The videos below can guide you through the water-less process of growing a new cactus.

Painting Not for You?

Try transferable images! This simple procedure produces results that your friends and neighbors will be raving about all year long. You’ll need to make a trip to the craft store to pick up your choice of transferable images, as well as a clear coat paint to secure the illustration onto your flat rock. And the best part is….no water necessary!

butterfly bird

The Artful Life

Think outside of the watering can! Spruce up your garden with some of the examples above and let your creative juices flow by taking a glimpse at my Pinterest board below. Before you know it, your garden will have a themed set of painted pebbles for every month! Just remember: Bringing life to the garden doesn’t always require water.

This week’s blog was written by WCO intern, Emily Bilcik.

Outdoor Water Conservation in Athens

This week’s blog post is from WCO Intern Laura Keys.

Quick! Think of 3 ways you can conserve water at home!

… Are you thinking about shorter showers? Turning off the water when you brush your teeth? Running dishwashers and washing machines with full loads? Fixing leaky faucets? All of these are excellent practices that will help you reduce the amount of water you use at home. But did you think about anything on the outside of your house?

The actual sprinkler at fault wasn’t quite as cute as this Toys ‘R’ Us yard snake.

More than half of residential water use is estimated to go towards outdoor use — for watering plants, washing cars, power-washing houses, playing in sprinklers, and so on. And even more so in the summer when we’re all feeling motivated to be outside (but still want to stay cool).

I thought that surely people have moved past the whole “watering the street with their sprinklers” thing, but on a walk through 5 Points, I was reminded that this scenario still happens: in front of some new construction with brand-new bermuda grass, there was a lone sprinkler merrily watering the grass, sidewalk, and street during the heat of the day.

So clearly there are still problems with how water is used in Athens, but there are also a lot of people that do things right! Here are a few concrete things that people in Athens are doing that YOU too can do around your home to conserve water use outdoors.

First off, don’t let all that lovely rainwater that hits your roof go to waste… set up a rain barrel! Rain barrels collect rainwater and store it until you decide to use it. You can water plants with it, wash your car, wash the dog, anything you would normally use the hose to do. The Public Works building downtown has a rain barrel system in place that collects water from the roof and waters a lovely vegetable garden with it.


While you’re harvesting water for your plants, consider how much water your plants will need. Athens isn’t in a state of drought at the moment, but we’re often on the cusp of it. In drought-prone areas, try out some plants that require less water, such as amaranth, okra, succulents, peppers, and many varieties of tomatoes.

yard landscaped with pine mulch (outdoorlivingbymrmulch.com)

In addition to your desired plants and grass, use mulch to keep moisture in the soil and to control undesired weeds. If you really want to save on the watering, skip the green lawn and cover your yard area entirely with wood chip or pine mulch.

Finally, be smart about watering and use smart irrigation practices. You don’t need a lot of fancy automatic moisture sensors to figure out when to water! Just use an old-school, manual approach: dig down about 2-3 inches, and shape a handful of soil into a ball. If it keeps its form, there’s enough moisture in the soil already. And when the time inevitably comes to water your plants, do what you can to prevent evaporation. Avoid watering during the hottest parts of the day, and water the plants on the ground near their roots rather than in the air around their leaves.

And above all, remember: people and plants need water, but your driveway doesn’t!

To read more about particular sites in Athens practicing water conservation, check out this older blog post: https://thinkatthesink.wordpress.com/2013/06/24/sandy-creek-nature-center/

Visit Transportation and Public Works

Stop 2. Transportation and Public Works

Our journey continues in search of buildings, businesses, and organizations that demonstrate water conservation methods in Athens-Clarke County. The next stop is the Transportation and Public Works building at the corner of West Dougherty Street and Lumpkin Street. The water conservation method highlighted here is a rain chain. The side of the building (facing Lumpkin Street) has a rain chain attached to a rain barrel.

What are rain chains? Rain chains are alternatives to downspouts. They visibly guide rain water from the roof down chains to the ground, a drain, or storage container like a rain barrel (remember the ones at Sandy Creek Nature Center, our Stop #1?). The collected rain water can be used to water flowers and gardens. The Transportation and Public Works rain chain supplies water for a rain garden. Some organizations suggest rain chains should replace downspouts, claiming they fulfill the same purposes of downspouts, but also break the flow of water as it hits the ground, mitigating its impact.

History of rain chains. The Japanese have used rain chains for hundreds of years. Today the chains are used to direct the rain water from their roof to storage units for later use in household chores. The Japanese are also known for incorporating large decorative rain chains into their temple design.

The style. The styles of rain chains vary from traditional chains to cups to decorative flowers. Link, cup, and flower chain styles are far more attractive than traditional downspouts and often add to the decor of a building rather than detract from it. Many people make their own rain chain from recycled materials such as clay pottery, pebbles, and even pine cones. Look at this website for inspiration and installation tips.

For more information on rain chains visit here.

Check in next month as we visit another place in ACC!

Originally posted on waterconservationstation.blogspot.com, 2/19/13

Sandy Creek Nature Center

Are you ready for a road trip???  

If so, join the Water Conservation Office as we travel around Athens-Clarke County in search of buildings, businesses, and organizations that demonstrate cool water conservation methods!  Every month we will visit a new place and learn about how they conserve water.  We will share with you what we have learned and give tips on how to conserve water in your own home or business!  So buckle up and let the journey begin…

Stop 1. Sandy Creek Nature Center

Sandy Creek Nature Center (SCNC) is known for being home to over 4 miles of trails that go through the woodlands and wetlands of Georgia’s Piedmont.  Live reptiles, amphibians, marine and freshwater fishes also call SCNC home.  SCNC has recently expanded and includes various interactive exhibits on everything from composting to water conservation (our favorite part).  Now you might know all of that, but there is one thing that you might not know about Sandy Creek Nature Center…

Sandy Creek Nature Center is the proud home of two 500 gallon rain barrels!  A rain barrel collects and stores rainwater from a downspout.  This collected rainwater can be used on lawns, gardens, and even for washing cars and windows.

The first rain barrel is located in the front of the nature center as you walk in.

The sign in front of the rain barrel informs readers that this is a rain water capture system that collects rain water runoff from the exhibit hall roof.  SCNC conserves water by using the collected rainwater to water plants instead of using tap water.  This system also reduces erosion and flooding by slowing down runoff from the roof and slowly releasing it to the ground.   

 The second rain barrel is located behind the nature center near the trail heads.  This rain barrel collects rainwater from the roof and condensate from the air conditioning system. SCNC uses this water for gardens around their property.

Some of the benefits of using rain barrels include:

~Providing an alternative to using tap water for outdoor watering,

~Reducing stormwater runoff that can cause floods,

~Slowing stormwater runoff so that it can replenish groundwater and soil moisture,

~Saving money on your water bill, and                            

~Rainwater is often softer than tap water, which is better for plants.

Most rain barrels around homes are 55 gallons.  You can find rain barrels at local garden centers or you can build your own.  Here is some more information on rain barrels from the Environmental Protection Agency and you can see how local artists have turned rain barrels into works of art at www.rolloutthebarrels.org.

Finally, visit Sandy Creek Nature Center and check out their awesome rain barrels and gardens!

Check in next month as we continue our journey around Athens-Clarke County!

Originally posted on waterconservationstation.blogspot.com, 1/22/13