When you boil it down, the average American family uses 320 gallons of water per day, with about 30 percent devoted to outdoor uses. More than half of that goes to watering lawns and gardens. Nationwide, landscape irrigation accounts for nearly 9 billion gallons of water per day.
What’s nearly as staggering is that more than half that amount goes down the drain as a result of over watering, evaporation or faulty gear. The good news is that, with a little know-how, most people will be able to start saving significant amounts of water right off the bat.
As with organic gardening, learning to conserve water is a series of baby steps. It’s a process with an end result that informs future gardening decisions.
Our list provides many water-saving strategies and products to get you started, so pick your pleasure and take your first step toward being ‘water wise.’ Doing so is its own reward!
- Though watering morning or evening reduces evaporation, watering at night leaves some plants vulnerable to fungus. Aim for early morning – doing so also provides better defense against slugs and other garden pests.
- Try not to water when it’s windy.
- Group plants according to watering needs.
- Look at the soil the depth of a shovel scoop. If it’s damp, it’s fine; if it’s dry, time to water. With clay or sandy soil, the look and feel might be different; observe how your plants are doing to get a feel for it.
- Gradually reduce the amount of water applied over a few weeks to give plants time to adjust.
- Nourishing soil regularly with organic matter helps it retain moisture well.
- Add water-retentive granules or gel to soil. They swell many times their size then gradually release release water as surrounding soil dries. Though commonly thought of as being used in containers, in-ground plants also benefit from this product.
- Don’t overuse fertilizers, unnecessarily increasing growth – and water demands.
- Infrequent deep watering encourages deeper root growth, and results in plants with greater drought tolerance.
- Consider all angles when deciding whether to start an edible home garden. If you do, plant an appropriate size garden for your household, choose shorter season crops, mulch and keep on top of those water-hogging weeds.
- Use a broom, not a hose, to clean driveways and sidewalks.
- Check for leaks in pipes, hoses, faucets and couplings; they’re as wasteful as indoor leaks.
- While hoses and watering cans tend to be labor intensive, hand watering is very precise; even more so using a variable spray nozzle.
- Soaker hoses buried under soil or mulch in established row plantings greatly reduces evaporation.
- Drip kits can be fun to lay out with lots of choices and are easily adapted to a garden’s changing nature.
- Collect rainwater for irrigation; we can get you started!
- Reuse grey water for watering outdoors by installing a diverter from the house. Biodegradable household soaps and detergents won’t harm plants, but avoid using water containing bleach, disinfectant, dishwasher salts or other strong chemicals.
- Sprinklers and irrigation controllers have gone hi tech! Water-saving sprinklers are more efficient and precise with water, even regulating pressure for a constant flow rate.
- Wireless sensors detect as little as an eighth inch of rain and interrupt regularly scheduled irrigation accordingly.
- Moisture sensors provide a precise way of determining whether to water.
- A gauge installed between hose and sprinkler reveals the number of gallons consumed.
- Choose hoses with water restrictors.
- Automated irrigation systems let you schedule waterings, saving time and effort. Evergreen can help you create just the right system for your situation.
- The lawn is almost always the single largest user of water in the home landscape. Many gardens have large expanses of turf that are never used but require considerable time, effort and resources to maintain. Consider using turf only when it serves a purpose, such as play or entertainment areas, replacing it with ground covers, mulches, decks, walkways and gorgeous xeriscapes using native and other drought-tolerant plants.
- When in drought, mulch!