Gardening Tips for Conserving Water - dummies

By Charlie Nardozzi, The Editors of the National Gardening Association

Whether you’re a novice or experienced gardener, embrace water-conservation methods even if you don’t live in a water-restricted area. Conserve water as you garden, and you’ll help save this precious resource and save some money, too.

Keep these water-saving pointers in mind when tending to your garden:

  • Grow plants that perform better under low water conditions: Some drought-resistant food crops you might try include herbs and hot peppers. For flowers and other ornamentals, consider native plants and wildflowers, ornamental grasses, and succulents.

  • Plant closer together: Doing so allows you to conserve soil moisture and shade the ground, keeping it cool and moist.

  • Consider the time of day that you water, especially if you use a sprinkler: You lose less water to evaporation (an important consideration in hot, dry climates) if sprinklers operate in the cool of the morning rather than during the heat of the afternoon. Watering in the morning also gives leaves a chance to dry off before evening; wet foliage is an ideal fungus-growing medium.

  • Frequent, shallow waterings do more harm than good: They cause roots to develop mainly in the upper few inches of the soil, where they’re susceptible to drying out. Instead, go for occasional, deep waterings. Deep waterings allow moisture to penetrate deeply into the soil. The roots will follow the water, and the plant will be deep rooted and less likely to be effected by dry conditions. You’ll water less frequently; maybe deeply once per week.

  • If your garden has heavy clay soil or is on a slope, and you find that water begins to run off before it penetrates 6 inches deep in the soil, try watering at intervals: Water for 10 to 15 minutes, let the water soak in for 15 to 20 minutes, and then water again.

  • Try to use soaker hoses and drip irrigation to direct water to the plants and not waste it on pathways: Use a timer to turn on the system during cool parts of the day for only as long as needed.

  • Collect rainwater from roofs and store it to be used in the garden: Rain barrels are becoming more widely available. In some areas you can even use gray water from your home in your yards. Check with your local water municipality for regulations on using gray water.

  • Apply mulch, which helps retain moisture and keeps soil from drying out quickly.