Given the price of water these days, anything you do to save water also saves you money. It turns out that saving water saves time, too. The less you have to water, and the less watering you do by hand, the more time you have for other important activities in your life.
- Turn your soil into a sponge: add compost, chopped up leaves, decomposed manure, or other organic material to improve texture and the soil's ability to hold water.
- Water the roots: drip irrigation, which gets 90% of the water right to your plants, is best. Soaker hoses in borders and beds work well, too.
- Mulch 2 to 3 inches: you'll keep water in the soil and weeds out.
- Water in the morning or early evening: you'll lose less water through evaporation.
- Use "free" water: collect rainwater in barrels or cisterns for your garden and container plants.
- Put a timer on your tap: easily control how much and when you water.
- Reduce your lawn: plant native groundcovers and low-maintenance perennials instead.
- Plant carefully: choose native plants that thrive in the amount of natural rainfall your area gets; group plants with similar water needs together.
- Water less often but thoroughly when you do: watering too lightly encourages the plants' roots to stay at the soil's surface, making them vulnerable to drought.
- Take care of your plants: weeding, thinning, pruning and controlling pests will keep your plants resilient and needing less water.
Getting "Free" Water
According to Gardeners Supply, j ust a half inch of rain falling on a 1,000-square-foot roof will yield 300 gallons of water! To get a quick idea how much water the roof of your own house might yield, here's an example. For a modest-sized house, say 30 x 36 ft., with a typical 2 ft. roof overhang, a half inch of rain would yield about 408 gallons of water. That's enough to fill six standard-size rain barrels. You can attach a spigot and hose to the bottom of the barrel if you want to tap the water for large garden and lawn areas. You can also fill watering cans from the top of the barrel. As long as you keep a tight fitting lid on the barrel to prevent mosquitoes from breeding, you'll have a good, clean source of free water to freshen your landscape. Interested? Take a look at these standard rain barrels, or an option with a hand pump.
A couple of years ago, my husband installed a drip irrigation system throughout our entire yard. We have an extensive perennial garden, and it was taking me hours to water it, especially in the heat of the summer. It was the job I hated most in the garden. I'd inevitably get eaten up by mosquitoes while I watered plant by plant or moved various sprinklers around. It took him one weekend to figure out what configuration of hoses and nozzles we needed, and two weekends to install everything (with very minimal help from me). The system works like a charm. It saves me a tremendous amount of time and hassle, and some money too, as I'm not wasting water on anything but the plant roots. I'm putting in a couple of rain barrels next, simply because the idea of getting "free" water is simply too good to pass up! As for my lawn, I never water it. My "grass" is some combination of drought-tolerant grasses and various weeds that, when kept about 3 inches tall, never seem to turn brown no matter how little water (or fertilizer) they receive.
Xeriscaping is derived from the Greek "xeri" meaning "dry" and "scape," meaning a kind of view or scene. In actuality, xeriscaping simply means landscaping with drought tolerant plants to conserve water. A xeriscaped yard usually requires less fertilizer and even reduced pest control effort because the plants are growing in greater harmony with nature. Plants in a xeriscape are usually, though not necessarily, native to the region. Learn more about xeriscaping and how it can work in your landscape here.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Water-efficient Landscape Planner can help you create a water-saving plan for your entire yard.
If you insist on having a lawn, follow these suggestions from Sydney Water, in Sydney , Australia :
- Add compost to your soil before planting lawn, or use a good quality soil mix if you are buying soil.
- Choose slow growing, water efficient lawn varieties that are best suited to your soil. They have deep roots for drought tolerance and don't need as much mowing as other varieties.
- Try not to plant lawn on slopes or in hard to reach places that are difficult to water and maintain.
- To assist the establishment of your new lawn and to minimise the amount of water it requires, apply a weed-free, sand based, organic top dressing mix.
- Water your lawn for longer periods of time, but less often, to encourage deeper roots and drought tolerance. A good soaking every now and then is ideal.
- The less water you use, the less fertilizer you need. Fertilizers based on well decomposed animal manure or organic matter are best. Slow-release fertilizers are also good.
- Aerate the soil occasionally with a garden fork - it will help water soak in.
- Try not to cut your lawn too short. Mow only the top third of the leaf area, leaving it three centimetres or higher. You can reduce water loss even further by leaving your lawn clippings as mulch on your lawn or garden. They're also great to add to your compost bin.
- If your soil is sandy, design your driveways and paved areas to slope slightly towards a lawn or garden bed. This way, rainwater can easily drain into these areas.
- Another tip for sandy soil is to design your lawn area to be curved so that it acts as a kind of water retaining bowl.
- You can tell if your lawn needs watering if it starts to lose color or wilts. If you step on it, and it doesn't step back, give it a good soak.
- When planting lawn, use sod rather than seed. Turfgrass sod requires 15 to 60 percent less water to establish a lawn than does seeding. Avoid blue grass. Instead use fescues, ryes, and buffalo grass. Or better yet, use a groundcover which requires less water than turf.