by Joyce del Rosario
If you’re thinking of redoing your yard or are starting afresh with a new home, designing your landscape to conserve water may be one of the best decisions you could ever make.
On average, a typical suburban garden uses about 10,000 gallons of water each year, and that’s not even counting rainwater. Aside from preserving natural resources, a water-efficient landscape will reduce soil erosion and save you a lot of money in the long run, especially if you live in a warmer climate.
A big part of building a green landscape is selecting the right types of plants that are native to your country and climate and can do well without too much maintenance such as watering, fertilization or pesticides.
Another important aspect of “greenscaping” is the preservation of as much of the existing landscape as possible. This means that rather than uprooting shrubs and hacking down trees, you will work around what is already there, improving and beautifying the landscape, without destroying indigenous species.
Following are a few tips to help you get started:
Choose the right type of grass for your lawn (or eliminate the lawn altogether)
Reducing the amount of grass on your property is by far the best way to cut down on watering costs, as lawns generally require more watering and maintenance than other plants or shrubs.
Understandably, however, not everyone will be willing to forego their lovely lush green lawns, and if you fall into this category, it would be a good idea to do some research on the various types of grass that will do well in your area.
In cooler northern climates, grasses like Kentucky bluegrass or fescue will grow well, while warmer climates may call for other types of grass like zoysia or buffalo grass.
How and where the grass is planted will also have an impact on how much watering it will need, so it pays to speak to a local garden center or landscaper about your plans before you get started.
Don’t forget to mulch
Mulch is very important in a water-efficient landscape as it prevents water from evaporating as quickly (it has been found to reduce evaporation by nearly 70%) and helps the soil to retain the water it receives so the roots don’t dry out.
This is especially important in dryer climates. Mulch can also prevent weeds from spreading, which can save you a lot of work in the long run.
Organic mulch such as wood chips, straw and leaves will break down over a period of time, thus improving the soil by adding nutrients. You should spread mulch around trees, shrubs and flower beds about once a year to replace mulch that has been dispersed or broken down.
Place trees and shrubs strategically to avoid erosion and runoff
Planting trees and shrubs in the right places can help you to prevent soil erosion and storm water runoff in your garden. Certain plants and trees also hold a lot of water on the surface of their leaves in droplet form, which can then be dispersed more evenly over time.
Another benefit is that plants are able to absorb carbon dioxide, which is a greenhouse gas, and can cool the ground’s surface, thus having a positive effect on global warming.
Capture your rainwater
Rainwater harvesting, especially in areas with higher rainfall, can save you a lot of money on watering costs, and you may even have some left over for other uses like flushing the toilet or washing laundry.
If you don’t have a very large garden, a simple rain barrel placed under gutters will be sufficient, and many municipalities even distribute these for free or at least very cheaply to promote conservation of water.
For those who have larger areas to water, an underground storage tank may be more suitable.
Water only in the morning
Watering in the morning will prevent the water from evaporating as it would later on in the day. While water won’t evaporate as quickly in the evening, evening watering is generally discouraged due to the fact that it can increase mold growth.
If you don’t have time to do your watering in the morning, consider investing in an automated sprinkler system, which will actually help you use less water than if you used your garden hose.
Just make sure the sprinklers aren’t watering areas that don’t need water (like the pavement) and make sure you check the grass before turning the sprinklers on to see if it actually needs watering. If you step on the grass and it springs back up, it’s a good sign that your lawn doesn’t need watering just yet.
Allium photo via Shutterstock