Voice of the River

As April Showers Bring May Flowers…Now is Just the Right Time to Think about Water-Wise Gardening

It’s hard to believe we have made our way this quickly through April, and are rounding the bend to May! We’ll be seeing fewer snowy days, warming temperatures, and a slow and steady shift into summer mode. With a farewell to ski season pending, we’ll soon be dusting off our hiking boots, breaking out our tents and fly rods and getting ready for those beautiful, long Montana days. As summer approaches, now is also a great time to think about your lawn and how to make the most of it.

During the summer months, water use in Big Sky increases 7x compared to winter, mostly due to lawn irrigation. There is huge potential for water savings by converting your traditional landscape to one that is more “Water-Wise”. The benefits to this are three-fold: saving money on your water bill, saving water during the expected summer drought, and creating a thriving, Montana-native landscape. 

As part of our Water Conservation Program, we want to make it as easy as we can for you to make your home Water-Wise, here are some ways you can get started:

  • Start with the Big Sky Water-Wise Landscaping Guide to help you think through the aspects that are going to impact your landscape. Do you need a little bit of turfgrass for your pets or kids to play on? Do you want larger trees for shade? 
  • Use these resources to help plan your garden:
  • This NRCS guide for drawing and planning your landscape 
  • Think about what swaps and upgrades you can make to make your garden even more Water-Wise. Instead of paved areas, can you do more permeable cobblestone or mulch? Do you have an irrigation system, if so when was the last time you checked it for leaks? 
  • For plant selection, drought-tolerant plants and those native to Montana are going to do the best with little water. Use these places to find the plants you love the most:
    • Visit the Gallatin Invasive Species Alliance for dozens of great resources on Montana native and drought tolerant plants you can incorporate into your landscape!
    • Avid birder? Use the Audubon Society’s tool for finding what native plants attract different bird species 
    • Visit a local nursery and chat with their staff about plant care and needs. We recommend Wildwood Nursery, Big Sky Landscaping, and Cashman’s Nursery for their great native plant sections and friendly staff!
  • Either before or after you upgrade your lawn, Take the Trout Friendly pledge! Show your commitment to a Water-Wise landscape. The Trout Friendly Landscape initiative aims to promote eco-friendly and Montana-native landscapes in Big Sky. By using less water for irrigation and less nutrient heavy fertilizers that can run off into the Gallatin, you are doing your part to ensure happy and healthy trout. 
  • Apply for rebates! The Gallatin River Task Force offers cash-back for the upgrades you make to your lawn. After purchase and installation, we’ll send you a check for your commitment to a water-wise landscape. Current rebates include irrigation audits, upgraded sprinkler heads, and smart irrigation controllers. Restrictions apply, see website for details. 

Saving water in your landscape is a small way you can make a huge difference for the Gallatin River. Keeping water in our river keeps streamflows high and helps us be more resilient to drought. If you have any questions or need more resources, contact jessica@gallatinrivertaskforce.org, or call 406-993-2519. And remember, every drop counts!


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