Visit her secret, water-efficient garden
Abbey Calhoun reduces her household water bill by using a rain barrel to collect rainwater that she uses to water her garden.
Abbey Calhoun ascribes to the notion that a beautiful yard doesn’t have to be a thirsty yard.
Calhoun, recently retired, tends to her yard in Satellite Beach (Brevard County) with the same passion that she exhibited caring for her patients during her nursing career. She’s a Water Less hero whose back yard celebrates plucky creativity and the wondrous flora of natural Florida.
We follow the watering rules and only water on the permitted days. But if it has been raining during the week, we don’t even use (our sprinklers).
“We’ve done away with about half of the turf in our backyard,” Calhoun says, beaming. “We’re very careful about using our sprinklers, too. We follow the watering rules and only water on the permitted days. But if it has been raining during the week, we don’t even use them.”
Calhoun doesn’t just conserve water; she seeks alternative irrigation sources, including rain barrels. An orange barrel in the front yard collects rainwater from the roof. A nearby pan captures the overflow from the barrel. Out back, another barrel captures rain from the east-facing roof. At one point, the barrel was linked to a secondary barrel, but it needs to be repaired. It’s something that Marvin Land, Calhoun’s husband, has added to his “honey do” list.
“Never have just one rain barrel,” says Land. “During a good storm, you’ll fill that barrel in what seems like 30 seconds. It’s a good idea to interlink barrels to catch the overflow.”
Florida-Friendly and native plants abound, softening the edges of the small, fenced-in lot. Calhoun points out some of the classics: spiderwort, firecracker plant, porterweed, coontie, sunshine mimosa and firespike.
“I’m trying to give the birds and the bees a place to go,” she says. “I’m trying to look out for the natives.”
There’s no reason that conservation can’t be inspired. There’s a circular herb garden fashioned from an RV spare tire cover and an outdoor shower where Calhoun rinses off and captures overspray in metal buckets to water plants.
In addition to the plants, Calhoun has replaced much of the backyard with pavers, a small firepit that was a washing machine tub in another life and a barbeque pavilion where Land spends hours smoking brisket or grilling steaks.
“There are so many alternatives to turf grass that require little maintenance,” she says. “Our yard is small, but it is our little piece of paradise near the beach.”
Calhoun recommends the St. Johns River Water Management District’s Waterwise Plant Database for determining which plants are most appropriate for your landscape based on the natural growing conditions in your yard.
“Water is a precious resource that we all need to be mindful of conserving for future generations,” this Water Less hero says.
An orange rain barrel tucked away in brush in her front yard provides Abbey Calhoun with rainwater from her home’s roof that is used to water plants in the yard rather than running down storm drains.