Landscape watering is one of the biggest uses of water for the average homeowner. However, it is possible to dramatically reduce your water consumption, lower your water bill and still have a beautiful, productive garden. Just follow these eight steps:
- Add organic matter to your soil.
Soil is essentially a collection of mineral particles of different sizes. The solution for either too much sand or clay is the same: add organic matter. Organic matter, in the form of compost, chopped up leaves or composted manure will improve the texture and water-holding capacity of your soil. Add at least an inch of compost each year.
- Deliver water to the root-zone.
Soaker hoses ensure that up to 90 percent of the water you apply to your garden is actually available to your plants. Drip irrigation and soaker hoses minimize evaporation loss and keep the areas between plants dry, which also helps limit weed growth.
- Use mulch to retain water.
A 6-8″ layer of organic mulch can cut water needs in half by blocking thirsty weeds and reducing evaporation. Organic mulches retain some water themselves and increase the humidity level around plants.
- Use free water.
Rainwater is the best choice for your plants. It’s clear, unchlorinated and free. Use rain barrels or a cistern to collect water from your downspouts. A 1,000 square foot roof will yield 625 gallons of water from one inch of rain.
- Reduce your lawn.
Turfgrass is one of the most thirsty “gardens” you can have. Consider planting groundcovers or low-maintenance perennials instead.
- Plan before you plant.
By planning your garden before you plant, you can take advantage of the characteristics of your site, such as sun, shade, wind and soil. Group plants with similar water needs. Also consider how your plants will get the water they need. Planning will save you time and energy down the road.
- Choose plants carefully.
A plant that’s satisfied getting most of the water it needs from natural rainfall will require a lot less work from you. For drought-tolerant perennials, choose varieties that are native to your area (or a region with a similar climate). These plants will have adapted to your climate and soils.
- Take care of your plants.
Healthy plants need less water, fertilizer and pest controls than stressed plants. By keeping on top of tasks — such as weeding, thinning, pruning and monitoring pests — you’ll water less frequently.
Written by Kathy LaLiberte, Reprinted with permission from Gardener’s Supply