Water is our most precious resource; yet judging by our water use, many of us take it for granted. A household can use approximately 280 gallons of water per day, with outdoor landscape use accounting for 20% to 50% of this.
An hour of suburban lawn watering can use as much as 250 gallons of water. With many municipalities charging for water usage, it makes sense to consider more water-efficient landscaping. You can garden with less water by utilizing smart design concepts and selecting the right plants suited to local conditions.
The concept of utilizing less water to garden is referred to as “xeriscaping”, from the Greek word “xeros” meaning dry. Xeriscapes are common in areas of the country with limited rainfall; however, the principles can be applied anywhere.
It’s not about a totally dry landscape. Instead, xeriscaping is a gardening method which combines common sense ideas with the use of native or drought tolerant plants.
Here are some ways to decrease your garden’s water requirements without cutting back on color, texture, or style:
Limit grassy areas. Lawns require significant water; consider replacing some lawn space with drought-tolerant groundcovers or hardscaping.
Choose the right plants for the right spot. Native plants are more adapted to the climate and will have an easier time surviving dry days without extra water. Select perennials and annuals classified as more “drought tolerant”.
Amend your soil with compost. The secret to a fabulous garden is good, quality soil. Compost adds beneficial nutrients to the soil. Plants can handle stress better if their roots are growing in quality soil.
Be smart about watering. Soaker hoses and drip irrigation systems provide water right where it’s needed, the roots, versus losing moisture to wind and evaporation as sprinklers do.
Consider collecting rain water via rain barrels. Add polymer crystals to the soil; they absorb moisture from rain or irrigation and slowly release it to plants over time. Check your watering systems at least annually to insure parts are in working order and are not leaking.
Remember to mulch. Mulch will help keep the soil from drying out. Compost is not only a soil amendment but can also be your best mulch choice because it puts organic matter back into the soil. If not compost, consider other organic choices, such as wood chips or leaves; any material which breaks down and further enhances the soil.
Arrange the plants carefully. Streamline your watering requirements by grouping plants with the same moisture requirements. If your yard is sloped, place plants with the greatest moisture needs at the bottom of the slope where water drains.
Provide regular maintenance. A water-wise landscape is a low maintenance garden; but it cannot be totally neglected. Weed routinely. Mow grass as needed, but raise your mower blades to a height of 2-3 inches. Regularly check for pests and disease and keep them under control. Use compost as a natural fertilizer and pest/disease deterrent. Prune and deadhead plants when needed.
To garden with less water not only makes sense, but it saves time and money. Plan a beautiful garden with water efficiency in mind.
Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oneida County is always happy to help with your garden questions.Find your own answers on our website http://cceoneida.com/ and click Home & Garden on the menu or call us at 315-736-3394 ext. 100. Be sure to like and follow us on Facebook and check out our Youtube channel for great gardening talks.