Water Wise Gardening
Outdoor watering and toilets are the biggest users of water in and outside your home. In fact, during the summer half of all household water use is for the lawn and garden purposes. However, it is possible to dramatically reduce your water consumption, lower your water bill, and still have a beautiful, productive garden. The following steps can help you achieve these results:
- Add organic matter to your soil - All soil is not created equal. Soil is essentially a collection of mineral particles of different sizes. If most of the particles are large (sand), water drains through rapidly. If most of the particles are small (clay), water will penetrate the soil much more slowly. The solution for either problem 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 - Drip irrigation and soaker hoses ensure that up to 90% of the water you apply to your garden is actually available to your plants. Sprinklers can claim only 40% to 50% efficiency. Drip irrigation minimizes evaporation loss and keeps the areas between plants dry, which also helps limit weed growth.
- Use mulch to retain water - A 6- to 8-inch layer of organic mulch can cut water needs in half by smothering 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 1 inch of rain.
- Reduce your lawn - Turf grass is one of the most water and labor-intensive types of "gardens" you can have. Consider planting ground covers 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. Will you need to carry water to demanding plants in a remote corner of your yard? Planning will save you time and energy down the road.
- Choose plant 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 be naturally adapted for your local climate and soils.
- Take good 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 be able to ease off on watering (2014. Gardeners Supply Company).