Whether you live in an area with abundant fresh water or drought conditions, every drop of fresh water is precious, and should never be squandered. By following these conservation tips, you can water responsibly and maintain a healthy lawn and garden.
Start by collecting rainwater. Placing a rain barrel underneath your downspout is a great way to save water for drier periods. A fine mesh screen will keep mosquitoes from laying eggs in the barrel. Another alternative is to attach a hose connection to your downspout to disperse rainfall as it happens. This works especially well for watering plants close to the house that may not be getting the benefit of the rainfall.
Don’t hose down your walks or driveway. Ever. If they need to be cleaned, sweep them with a stiff brush and let nature take care of the rest.
Add compost or coir (coconut dust) to soil to improve its ability to retain moisture. Coir holds moisture well, wets easily, drains well, and decomposes more slowly than peat moss. Even better, coir is a renewable resource, while peat moss takes hundreds of years to form.
Regardless of climate, a layer of mulch will help to keep your garden moist, with the added benefit of providing a barrier to weeds. There are many mulch materials available, with shredded bark currently being the most popular. Ensure your layer is at least 2 inches deep to retain water at the soil level.
When watering your lawn or garden, be sure to water early in the day, when the sun is lower and temperatures are cooler in order to minimize evaporation. Try not to water in the evenings, as damp foliage increases the chance of fungal disease in the plant. Be sure to provide more water for plants that are young or newly-planted. Older trees and shrubs with larger root systems are better able to withstand drier conditions. Lawns require about an inch of water a week. A rain gauge will give you a good idea of when to water. Be sure to water close to the ground. Drip or soaker hoses enable more water to reach the soil and less water to evaporate than sprinklers do. Don’t overwater your lawn or garden, as overwatering can cause a number of problems for your plants, including fungal diseases.
If watering with a hose, ensure there are no leaky connections. You’d be amazed at how much water is wasted from a worn out hose washer. Not only will a new washer prevent leaks, but it will help to increase water pressure.
Choose drought-tolerant plants, which will thrive in dry soil, or, better yet, choose native plants, which are ideally suited to your soil and weather conditions. Naturescaping (also known as GreenScaping or Beneficial Landscaping) reduces water, energy, and chemical usage in the garden while attracting native species of birds and insects.
With any – or all – of the conservation methods provided, your garden should thrive without causing you any guilt.
This article by Julia Girouard and Colin Dunn