Conserve water in landscaping

Published: Thursday, May 29, 2014 at 02:44 PM.

Water conservation in the landscape has become a hot topic over the past several years.  Even so, most homeowners are more familiar with methods and techniques of reducing water use inside the home, such as using low-flush toilets, low-flow showerheads and water-saving washing machines and dishwashers. Beyond saving water, a properly designed, well-maintained, water-efficient landscape is an asset to any neighborhood and increases benefits to the homeowner. Just as inside the home, there are many practices and techniques you can implement in your landscape to conserve water and save money on your water bill.   

Water use

Landscapes account for 20 to 50 percent of the 95,000 gallons of water consumed by the average U.S. household each year.  Many of us struggle to achieve a balance between conserving water and enjoying the many benefits that a beautiful landscape provides.  For some, a water-efficient landscape conjures visions of a yard filled with rocks, sand and cacti, but in reality water efficient landscapes do not need to look like a desert. Following are several steps you can take to increase your water efficiency and help your plants survive future droughts and water restrictions.

Water-wise design

Design your landscape with your site and soil in mind and include a variety of plants. Choose plants suited for your climate that are tolerant of a wide range of weather conditions. Balance areas of turf and landscape plantings for practical water use and management. Group plants with similar watering requirements together. Remember that even drought tolerant plant species need water during the establishment period. It is more efficient and healthier for plant material if you water less frequently but for longer periods of time. Install drip irrigation or soaker hoses in landscape beds. If you are hand watering planted material, apply water directly at soil level with the hose at a low water flow rate.  Use fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides at proper rates and follow directions to ensure they do not pollute the water supply.

Efficient irrigation

Learning how to water is quite a balancing act.  Too much or too little and your plants will not thrive.  The most critical factor in determining water use is weather, which includes temperature, humidity, wind, sunlight, and precipitation. Most of the absorption of water and nutrients occurs in the upper half of the root system, therefore, water should be applied directly to the soil surface or to the root zone. Water is wasted if it is applied to plant leaves and tops since much of it will evaporate before it reaches the ground.  

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