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How to Save Water in Your Lawn and Garden

Pregnant woman watering green tree with hose. Gardening concept

With rainfall becoming unpredictable over the summer in many parts of the country, the cost of keeping your lawn and garden green can become astronomical. Water restrictions set by areas experiencing drought also make it impractical to rely solely on the hose or sprinkler for moisture. For a lawn or garden that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg to keep watered, try a multi-pronged approach that takes advantage of the rain that does fall to reduce the demand for irrigation.

Timers for Sprinklers

Digital garden timer, hand setup schedules program for garden watering.

Sprinklers may be old-fashioned, but they can be an effective lawn or garden watering tool when used effectively. Water gardens in the morning to minimize water loss without causing extra disease risk for delicate plants, and water your lawn in the evening or at night to prevent evaporation. Doing this can drastically reduce the amount of water you need to apply to the lawn, compared to watering at the peak of a day’s heat and sun exposure. There’s no need to keep track of these schedules on your own; instead, set up timers for your sprinklers. Another plus? You also won’t have to worry about accidentally leaving them on and running up the water bill.

Drip Irrigation

Black water hose drip irrigation system in a vegetable garden filled with seedlings

While there are ways to make traditional sprinklers more efficient, they still can’t beat drip irrigation when it comes to reducing water use. Depending on where you install them and how you use them, you can cut the water volume needed by 35%–70%. The drip lines deliver water right to the root zone of the plants or grass, preventing losses to evaporation even when used at the hottest part of the day. They also work well with mulch and keep water from splashing up on the leaves, which is common with sprinklers. And, of course, they’re usually operated with timers for efficient water delivery.

Rain Barrels

System for collecting rainwater from two barrels with overflow

To take advantage of all the rain that falls each summer, no matter how little it is, leverage your home’s roof and gutters. Consider installing a rain barrel, a simple piece of technology that connects to your downspout, with one barrel per downspout being the easiest way to set up a system. One rain barrel can hold anywhere from 15 to 200 gallons of water, or more, for use in the garden or on the lawn. Each barrel has an overflow that will send excess rainwater down the drainage path you’ve already installed for the downspout. With just a few rainstorms per summer, you may be able to avoid using well or municipal water at all on the landscape.

Mulch Correctly

Close-up man wearing gardening gloves spreading brown mulch, bark, around garden hosta plants to kill weeds, front yard, backyard, lawn landscaping

Mulching is one of the best practices for trapping moisture in the soil, whether it came from rain or your hard-won efforts to irrigate. Most people who garden are familiar with using pine bark or even decorative river rock on flower beds to hold in moisture. However, they may believe there’s no way to mulch a lawn for water retention. The secret to keeping water in the lawn is to leave a layer of grass clippings after mowing so they can break down and mulch the soil. This doesn’t contribute to thatch despite common misconceptions, and there’s no need to leave a thick mat every time. Just skip bagging or blowing the clippings away once every second or third time you mow, and you’ll notice the soil holds a lot more moisture for the grass. Setting up hardscapes with rock and concrete can also help funnel water to gardens and lawn areas if set up with a subtle slope to prevent the water from gaining too much momentum.

Native Plants

Lupine in a Wildflower Garden on the Maine Coast

Choosing plants that are adapted to your local conditions goes a long way in reducing how much water a garden or lawn needs. This applies equally to perennials like shrubs, annuals used for flower beds or vegetable gardens, and turf grasses for the lawn. Each region of the country has specific plants and varieties that thrive in their conditions, even if that’s a challenging drought-prone summer. Native plants have lasted generations through your area’s toughest water restrictions, so they’re more likely to thrive than the imported and sometimes invasive species often sold as decorative garden plants.

Cut the Grass Less

The wheels of a used lawn mower on old lawn grass with its first spring mowing. Close-up

Cutting the lawn a little less often shades the soil and prevents water loss through the cut end of the grass. There’s no need to let it get shaggy and hard to cut, but try either trimming at a higher setting or adding a few days between mowing efforts. A slightly longer lawn will hold water longer after rain or irrigation, reducing how often you have to water as well.

Make this summer greener regardless of how much rain falls by making your garden and lawn water-ready. Put in mulch and rain barrels ahead of time so that spring showers can help before the heat of summer arrives.

While do-it-yourself projects can be fun and fulfilling, there is always a potential for personal injury or property damage. We strongly suggest that any project beyond your abilities be left to licensed professionals such as electricians, plumbers, and carpenters. Any action you take upon the information on this website is strictly at your own risk, and we assume no responsibility or liability for the contents of this article.

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