25 Ways to Conserve Water in Your Garden and Landscape

Learn easy ways to save water and still have a head-turning landscape.

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Use an Adjustable Sprinkler

Conserving water in the landscape starts with re-thinking the ways you use and apply water to plantings. Trade in a non-adjustable oscillating sprinkler for one that offers multiple watering patterns. By sliding levers or pushing buttons, adjustable sprinklers let you direct water to where it’s needed — and avoid wasteful runoff.

Install Drip Irrigation

One of the best ways to water plants efficiently is with drip irrigation. DIY drip irrigation systems combine professional grade materials with simple installation. The result is water being delivered directly to the root zone of plants, eliminating runoff and losses through evaporation.

Choose Water Saving Containers

Choose containers with low water use in mind. Glazed terra cotta containers don’t just look great, they also don’t lose water through the pot sides, thus requiring infrequent watering.

Harvest Rain With Cisterns

Cisterns provide a large water storage option for roof runoff. Think of them like a rain barrel on steroids. A covered cistern eliminates insect issues that can develop with open rain barrels. Most large cisterns include a pump to speed water flow from the tanks.

Add Mulch

Cover bare soil with mulch to help slow water evaporation. A mulch layer that’s 2 to 3 inches deep helps retain soil moisture and reduce weed sprouting.

Water Pots in the Afternoon

Water plants at the right time of day: in-ground plantings in the morning and containers in the afternoon. Research has shown that watering container gardens late in the day leads to healthier plants.

Replace or Reduce Lawn

Replace part of a water-guzzling lawn with outdoor living and dining rooms. Modern building materials make it possible to design a deck that fits into the tightest spaces.

Build a Rain Garden

Include a rain garden on your property to slow down and help filter pollutants from storm runoff. Rain gardens can be large or small and designed to include plants that appeal to your home’s design aesthetic.

Choose Native Plants

Native plants are famous for their carefree personalities and ability to thrive on rainfall. The Mexican hat plant is no exception. It delivers season-long color to the landscape and demands minimal care and water.

Recycle Household Water

Catch and save water from household chores to use in the garden. Keep empty five-gallon buckets on hand to catch water from a dehumidifier. Use plastic milk jugs to save cold water that typically runs down the drain while you wait for hot.

Mow Your Lawn High

How you mow has a huge impact on how thirsty your lawn is. Mowing turf high encourages roots to sink deep, which means the lawn won’t need watering as often. A sharp mower blade cuts grass cleanly, which reduces water loss per grass blade.

Plant in Blocks

Arrange vegetable gardens in small blocks instead of rows. Watering a block of plants is a more efficient option than spraying water over a long row. Design blocks with a maximum 3-foot width to provide easy, reachable access.

Consider Permeable Pavers

Choose water-permeable building materials for hardscape surfaces including driveways, walks and patios. Permeable pavers allow water to percolate through the surface, which reduces rainwater runoff.

Install Porous Hardscape

Consider porous materials when designing outdoor living areas. Gravel or pebble patios combine good looks with low-maintenance upkeep that’s also easy on the environment. Porous surfaces allow water to drain freely, instead of creating storm runoff.

Make Your Own Compost

Compost is one of the best additives to soil because it helps to retain water in sandy soils and improve drainage in clay soils. Making compost is easy, and adding compost to soil fosters a healthy soil-food web.

Replace Hose Washers

Check washers – in hoses and attachments – at the start of each season, especially if your area has hard water or if you store hoses in an unheated shed in winter. Washers harden and crack over time, creating easy-to-repair leaks that take a matter of seconds to fix.

Water Slopes Carefully

Set irrigation systems to run for more, but shorter cycles on sloping sites. By letting the system run for a bit and then shut off, you give the ground time to absorb the water, helping to reduce runoff.

Space Plantings Tightly

Arranging plants tightly not only creates a full design, it also helps to shade soil. Plants that grow shoulder to shoulder act like living mulch, helping to suppress weeds and slow water evaporation from soil.

Group Plants by Water Needs

Arrange plantings in zones based on water use. Group thirsty plants together, including things like bedding plants and lawn. Keep lower water use plants like shrubs and drought tolerant perennials in a separate area. Install an irrigation system controller that supports zone watering to enjoy state-of-the-art water savings.

Select Low Water Use Plants

Swap water guzzling plants for low water use beauties. Many drought tolerant plants feature leaves that are silver, spiny or succulent (thick) in nature. You can find low water use plants for any region, from desert to Northern Plains. Visit a quality garden center to explore the plant choices for your neck of the woods.

Install a Water Timer

Make watering a hands-free affair with a programmable timer. Look for a model with a soil moisture sensor that detects how wet soil is and helps prevent overwatering. A programmable timer like this runs on batteries and typically costs under $75.

Focus on Drought Tolerant Perennials

When designing planting areas, focus on drought tolerant plants that won’t guzzle water. Purple Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) and burgundy tinted purple fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’) provide a long season of color and don’t need heavy amounts of water.

Add a Rain Gauge

You don’t need fancy equipment to water based on weather. Keep track of rainfall with a simple rain gauge so you can avoid watering when storms have provided sufficient moisture. For most landscape and vegetable plantings in average soils, about an inch of water per week provides enough moisture for strong growth.

Water Based on Weather

Update your irrigation system to include a smart sensor that detects local weather conditions, rainfall and soil moisture and adjusts water delivery accordingly. The result is significantly less water waste and healthier plants that are watered only when they need it.

Recycle Rainfall

Give your home a green outlook by harvesting rain water. A rain barrel is easy to set up, and the water you collect can easily be recycled on container or landscape plantings. A rain barrel also reduces the amount of rainwater runoff your property produces. In some municipalities, that can lead to a reduced utility bill.

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