Water Saving Tips For Your Lawn and Garden
The average American family of four uses 60 gallons of water per day — almost 22,000 gallons per year
— just to water the lawn and garden. Experts estimate that up to half of that water goes to waste due
to evaporation, wind, improper system design or overwatering. Converting to a water-wise landscape
can reduce outdoor water use by as much as 50%.
Enter Xeriscaping (zer-i-skaping), a term coined in 1981 by a group of professionals from the landscape
and water industries in Colorado that combines the Greek xeros, meaning dry, and landscape.
Essentially, Xeriscaping is a sustainable form of landscaping that conserves water, protects the
environment and results in less overall maintenance on the landscape.
The following are 12 easy-to-implement tips that can help you conserve water, lower your water bills and
help you watershed.
Choose plants that will flourish in the regional climate and microclimate, but that don't require a lot of
water. That doesn't necessarily mean native plants. You don't have to use natives to be effective. Some
native plants require a lot of water. Choose plants based on the soil conditions, environmental factors,
slope, space available, etc., not just whether it's native to the area.
Healthy soil is the key to healthy plants. Rich, organic soil better absorbs water, encourages deeper
roots and decreases water runoff. In most areas of the country, improving the soil means adding
organic materials. You can increase the amount of organic matter in your soil by adding compost,
aged animal manures, mulches or peat moss. Because most soil life and plant roots are located in
the top 6 inches of soil, concentrate on this upper layer.
To learn more about making your own compost, see Compost Basics.
Fertilizer, used in both agricultural and urban activities, is a major source of phosphorus and nitrate
pollution causing lake deterioation across the State. Smart fertilizer use focuses on good soil
management as a long-term process to improve soil quality. Granulated and water soluble forms of
fertilizer are nearly 100 percent available in the first year after application. However, organic forms
such as animal manures, meals, compost and green manure release about one-third to half of their
total nutrients in the first year after application. By using organic forms of fertilizer, you are adding to
your soil’s organic matter and reducing the chance that nutrients will leach out, ending up in
waterways and natural ecosystems. If you are using commercial fertilizers, move to slow-release
fertilizers to reduce the inadvertant leaching of the fertilizer to the groudwater and waterways.
Up to 70% of water can evaporate from the soil on a hot day if you don’t have mulch as a protective
layer on top. Mulch is one of the best moisture holding strategies you can employ. Mulch prevents
evaporation from the soil surface, helps suppress water-thieving weeds from growing and many
mulches add vital nutrients to the soil at the same time. Avoid fine mulches that tend to clump and
become water-repellent. Instead, use a coarser mulch which allows water/rain to move down
through to the soil.
For more information on the types of mulches and their uses see
How To Use Mulch
Rainwater isn’t metered, it’s free from restrictions placed on mains water and, most crucially, our
plants love it! It makes sense, therefore, to collect some of this natural resource for us in our
gardens. For gardeners the best method is, of course, the rain barrel. These can be fitted to
intercept a downpipe coming off a roof. A rainwater diverter will do as it says – divert the rain
running down the pipe to your rain barrel. But don’t stop at one rain barre. If you have the space
link two or more together so that as one reaches capacity the water overflows to begin filling
the next. Modern rain barrels don’t have to look utilitarian. There are plenty of eye-catching
barrels that are features in their own right.
You want to make sure your gardens are receiving an optimal amount of moisture, but you’re
not sure how to avoid overwatering plants? We have all been there before. Every gardener
has killed a plant or two with kindness. You know you’re over-watering plants when the leaves
start to look limp, turn yellow, and eventually fall off. Yes, plants that don’t get enough water
will also turn yellow and fall from the plant, but those leaves usually turn dry and brittle.
There are water meters on the market you can stick in the soil to measure how much moisture
it holds. But nothing is cheaper and easier to use than your finger. For potted plants, stick your
index finger into the soil down to your first knuckle. If it feels moist, hold off on watering for a few
Stop watering your plants on a specific schedule. Instead, lift potted plants and learn how heavy
they are when recently watered and when they are dry.
Don’t buy cheap potting soil for potted plants, and avoid cheap topsoil and bagged soil when
starting a garden bed at all costs.
Build the foundation of your garden with compost you produced yourself.
Plants that receive water every day never send their roots deeper to look for moisture and
nutrients. This creates a weak root system, leading to a feeble plant.
Research has shown that the timing of when you water your garden and pot plants during the
day can have a significant effect on plant growth. Plants watered after 12.00 pm and during the
afternoon, “significantly outperformed plants grown with early morning irrigation.” So, watering
container plants in the afternoon may lead to healthier, stronger growing plants compared to
container plants watered early in the morning.
The optimal watering time for the rest of the garden, is early morning before the temperatures
begin to rise, winds are lower and there is less evaporation. Morning watering gives the plants
a good supply of water to face the heat of the day. Avoid evening watering especially on the
foliage as night-time temperatures are often inadequate to dry the moisture on the leaves. This
can encourage some fungal pathogens to grow.
Choose your plant container carefully. Different materials heat up quickly or lose moisture due
to porosity so think about your pot location before making a final decision. For example, metal
heats up quickly so raised galvanised garden beds and metal containers will draw moisture
out of the soil and these gardens will need more watering. Clay pots such as unglazed terra
cotta will lose moisture through their porous surface and the soil will dry out faster than
glazed pots. It’s vital to use a quality potting mix that holds moisture.
Grass mowed at the proper height, and not scalped, develops a deeper root system to better
find water and nutrients in the soil. Properly mowed grass can grow and support more roots
allowing your lawn to withstand wear and tear, heat, and drought. Taller grass shades the soil
keeping it cooler, plus it's softer to walk on and helps cushion falls better than short grass.
Most lawns prefer your mower set to one of the highest settings, providing a 3-4 inch cut.
Keep your mower’s blades clean and sharp for clean cuts and better performance. Lawns
cut with dull blades lose moisture faster and are more prone to disease.
Nothing sucks the fun out of gardening quite like weeds. They can be persistent, hard to
kill, and may even have thorns or toxic properties. Fighting them is hard work and often
discouraging, especially when they come roaring back a few days after they were removed.
Applying water to desirable plants through controlled irrigation
Using mulch to reduce water loss and suppress weed seed germination
Selecting and planting plants adapted to the climate and environment
Using weed barrier fabrics under mulches can further reduce weeds
Maintain a lush garden without the high cost of watering it. Don't use those sprinklers on
vegetable or flower gardens because most of that water is lost to evaporation. Your answer
is in the form of a soaker hose. These basic hoses have tiny perforations that allow water to
seep through and into the ground. Here are several tips for soaker hose success.
A flat layout gives optimal performance in a soaker watering system.
Keep the end cap on
Fill the hose up entirely
Avoid high water pressure
Lay out your design and test before you cover with mulch or dirt to make sure water is reaching
everything you want it to water.
How To Measure Soil Water Moisture
How To Use Eggshells In The Garden
Provide Spring Nesting Materials For Birds
Best Practices For Perennial Plant Fertilization
How To Use Rooting Hormones
Spring Pruning Basics