Even if you live in an area that gets plenty of rainfall each year, saving water outside helps lower your monthly costs and helps the environment. Here are 5 ways you can save water in the garden that you might not have considered, in order of least expensive (no money, just a little time) to more expensive.
1. Water Wisely
This starts with buying plants that match your conditions, including plenty of native plants and those suited for your average rainfall and high and low temperatures. Next, prepare the soil or potting mix (if growing in a container). Remember that even low-water or xeric plants need a little more water their first year of life to establish roots. Then, water deeply and slowly but less often. Drip systems work best for this and lose less water to evaporation than do sprinklers. Water in the morning when possible, not in peak heat.
2. Learn Signs of Overwatering
When a plant wilts, we assume it needs water. Sometimes, it is over-watered. You can use a meter to test the soil, but you also can push your finger down about an inch or so below the soil line and see if the soil is moist. If it is, you usually can wait to water. Standing water in a planter’s tray or near a plant also can mean over-watering.
3. Choose Perennials
Perennial plants live all year in your climate, even if they drop leaves in winter. Perennials cost more initially than do annuals (plants that only stay alive one summer or season). Your perennial, especially a native variety, will only need extra water that first year. After that, it can need nothing but rain or a little watering.
4. Capture Rainwater
You can collect up to 550 gallons of rainwater for every 1000 square feet of roof surface per inch of rain! A cistern is ideal for holding the most rainfall, but is more expensive than a rain barrel. Use barrels to supplement spring and peak summer heat watering. Just use caution when watering edible plants; safety depends on your type of roof, collection and whether you include a way to flush nasty stuff out each time the barrel fills.
5. Use Smart Controllers
If you’re at home during the day, you can turn off drip systems from your house or rain barrel during or after rain. You would be amazed at the selection simple water timers, programmable watering systems, or systems managed using smart controllers with apps for sprinklers, rain barrels and drip systems. You can override a watering schedule on your phone from work or a trip. Some systems apply historical weather data for your area to manage watering. Solar-powered systems can control drip hoses for containers on decks or patios.
Most of all, spend time outside, checking plant health and looking for signs or water runoff or standing water. It gives you time to check up on – and enjoy – your perennial plants.
Looking for more water-saving tips? Here are extra ways to lower water usage in the garden during drought.