Conservation at Home
The American Water Works Association recommends the following steps to help conserve water:
- Don’t over water your lawn. Only water every three to five days in the summer and 10 to 14 days in the winter.
- To prevent water loss from evaporation, don’t water your lawn during the hottest part of the day or when it is windy.
- Only run the dishwasher and clothes washer when they are fully loaded.
- Defrost frozen food in the refrigerator or in the microwave instead of running water over it.
- When washing dishes by hand, use two basins – one for washing and one for rinsing rather than let the water run.
- Use a broom, rather than a hose, to clean sidewalks and driveways.
- If you have a swimming pool, get a cover. You’ll cut the loss of water by evaporation by 90 percent.
- Repair dripping faucets and leaky toilets. Dripping faucets can waste about 2,000 gallons of water each year. Leaky toilets can waste as much as 200 gallons each day.
- Maintain a lawn height of 2 1/2 to 3 inches to help protect the roots from heat stress and reduce the loss of moisture to evaporation.
- Avoid planting turf in areas that are difficult to irrigate properly such as steep inclines and isolated strips along sidewalks and driveways.
- Aerate clay soils at least once a year to help the soil retain moisture.
- Promote deep root growth through a combination of proper watering, aerating, appropriate fertilization, thatch (grass clippings) control, and attention to lawn height. A lawn with deep roots requires less water and is more resistant to drought and disease.
- Mulch around plants, bushes and trees to help the soil retain moisture, discourage the growth of weeds, and provide essential nutrients.
- Plant in the spring or fall, when watering requirements are lower.
- When choosing plants, keep in mind that smaller ones require less water to become established.
- Collect rain water in a barrel and use it to water your garden (please note, this is not a legal practice in all areas).
- Use porous materials for walkways and patios to keep water in your yard and prevent wasteful runoff.
By combining water conservation practices with creative landscape design, you can create an attractive haven that’s relatively hassle-free. 85% of all landscape problems are directly related to over watering. A properly designed and operated irrigation system can reduce water use by 20 percent or more each year.
Grouping plants according to their watering needs saves a substantial amount of water. By using shade, rethinking traditional grass lawns, taking advantage of natural runoff, planting in low irrigation areas, and using mulch, your landscape can be transformed into a beautiful design that conserves water.
Planning and Design
Plan your landscape such that plants with similar water requirements are clustered together. Designate zones for areas requiring frequent watering, occasional watering, and no watering at all such as decks and patios. Be sure to match plants to yard conditions such as sunny, shady, dry or damp. When creating a landscape plan, take into consideration how the yard will be used and how it can provide the greatest benefit with the least amount of maintenance.
Proper soil preparation requires a combination of turning, aerating and enriching the soil with compost or fertilizer. A little extra work in the beginning will pay off with healthier plants that require less water to stay healthy.
There are many resources available that will help you choose plants appropriate for your region that match your needs and tastes. See the resources listed below, visit your local library or nursery, or contact your local utility for more information.
Creating Practical Turf Areas
The type and location of turf areas should be incorporated into your overall landscape plan. Match turf areas to their intended use, as well as topographical and soil conditions. For example, avoid using turf as a “fill in” material and placing turf in areas that are difficult to irrigate properly such as steep inclines and isolated strips along sidewalks and driveways.
Use of Mulches
Mulches applied around planting beds aid in moisture retention, discourage weed growth, and provide essential nutrients as they decay. Mulches can also be used in areas not appropriate for planting. Materials can include bark, wood chips, pine straw, nut shells, gravel, crushed stone, or landscape clippings.
Efficient irrigation means applying water in the proper amount and only when necessary. Understand the different water requirements of the “zones” in your landscape, and check automatic sprinkler or drip irrigation systems periodically to ensure plants are receiving the water they need without being overwatered. Proper irrigation will not only conserve water but promote deeper root growth resulting in a healthier, more drought tolerant landscape.
Regular maintenance will not only preserve the beauty of your landscape but will keep it healthy. Maintenance needs of a carefully planned Xeriscape™ should decrease over time as plantings mature. By following the seven principles your landscape will require less watering, mowing, fertilizer and other chemicals to keep it looking great.