When dealing with drought conditions or mandatory water restrictions, don't feel that reducing water use means you need to let your beautiful landscape plants die. We have 10 short-term and 8 long-term tips to help you use water more efficiently in your yard or commercial landscape. We'll teach your how to protect your plants while reducing water use.
10 Tips To Reduce Water Use and Save Your Plants For The Short Term
- Water less. It's a fact that we over-water our landscapes. Water weekly, not daily. Over a growing season, you can train your yard to be less thirsty by watering less frequently but more deeply, to encourage deeper root penetration into the soil. Shallow roots need much more frequent irrigation. Yes, plants will wilt, leaves will drop, but the plants will survive.
- Don't rip out your lawn and replace it with gravel. This knee-jerk reaction amplifies the urban heat island effect that increases the temperatures in our urban and suburban areas. And this increased heat actually decreases rain/snowfall and increases drought intensity. On a more personal level, big patches of gravel makes your house too hot and increase your need for air conditioning. This simply moves the water use from your home to the electrical generating stations, where huge amounts of water are used for cooling the generating equipment.
- Focus your water use on trees and shrubs. Lawns, annuals, and perennials can be replaced. Let your lawn go brown, but deep water the lawn area monthly to protect valuable trees and shrubs whose roots are growing under the lawn and depend on the water from irrigating the lawn. A large, twenty-year-old tree is worth a lot in terms of the cooling effects of its shade and the food value of its flowers to pollinators like bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds (who still need to eat during droughts). You can't buy back time!
- Use wetting agents to improve the soil's ability to absorb water. These surfactants are sprayed over the ground every couple of months to makes water "wetter" and help the water to penetrate dry soils more evenly and deeply.
- Don't use any chemical fertilizers, only use organic and natural formulations. Use of chemical fertilizers increases plant growth and makes the plants thirstier as they have more leaves and stems. Instead, feed the soil with organic fertilizers and compost to improve the soil's ability to absorb and store water.
- Inoculate the soil. Inoculate the soil with beneficial mycorrhizal root inoculants to increase plant's ability to absorb water from the soil. Many plants depend on the symbiotic (mutually beneficial) relationship between plant roots and root fungus to greatly improve the extraction of water and nutrients from the soil. These inoculants are inexpensive and will make a huge difference in plant health and resilience during drought.
- Mulch to protect the soil's moisture from the drying effects of the sun and wind. Use an inch or two of mulch on top of the soil around smaller flowering plants and a three-to-four-inch deep layer around trees and shrubs.
- Check your sprinkler and drip systems for leaks and over-spray. Understand how to use your irrigation controller and check how often and for how long the water comes on. Don't water for 15 minutes twice daily, as this actually causes shallow root growth and reduces a plant's ability to withstand dry conditions. Water for longer periods but much less frequently. You'll use less water and make what you do use more beneficial to your landscape.
- Re-use shower/bath water. Local regulations regarding the use of "gray water" will vary. Find out if you can re-use water from your home and apply it to your landscape.
- Read your water meter. Learn how to read your water meter and check it to monitor the rate of water use.