Five ways to conserve water when you garden

Story by Kristie Smith

Water conservation is more important than ever, especially with the way the planet is changing. From shorter showers to conserving water when washing dishes, water conservation is something we should all be aware of and take steps to conserve water in our yards and gardens. But conserving water doesn’t mean you can’t have a beautiful, bountiful garden. You just need to do things differently to reduce water use. Water conservation is an important aspect of any garden. Not only will it save you money on your water bill, but conserving water also helps keep the environment clean and healthy. Here are a few ideas:

Grow drought-resistant plants

One way to conserve water is to change the types of plants you grow. There are many drought-resistant plants that thrive with little water. These plants require little more than occasional watering during dry spells and can produce an abundant harvest. Some plants are naturally drought resistant, while others are bred to withstand hot weather and little water. To ensure your garden has enough water, choose more drought-resistant plants. Here are a few examples:

Cacti: The most popular varieties of cacti include the saguaro, prickly pear and barrel cactus. You can grow cacti from seed or cuttings and enjoy their beauty for years. These succulents are well suited for sunny, dry areas of your landscaping due to their high tolerance to drought.

Ferns: These plants have large leaves and need little water to survive. They make excellent ground cover and are easy to grow from spores or stem pieces. Ferns can handle both full sun and partial shade, making them ideal for a variety of spaces.

Agave: Agave comes in various species. One of the most water-efficient is called compacta, or Queen Victoria agave, because of its shorter leaves. Agave is drought resistant and may live as long as 30 years in the right environment.

Succulents: Cactus is one type of succulent but there are others in assorted sizes, shapes and colors. Some you can even grow in containers. Succulents make excellent ground cover, especially in dry conditions.

Use mulch to retain soil water

Mulching helps retain moisture in the soil and prevents weeds from sprouting between planting rows. It will help protect your seedlings from extreme temperature variations between day and night, which can occur if you do not mulch them properly.

Mulch works best if you apply it after you’ve planted your garden. Ideally, you should wait until after a good rain, then spread 2 inches of mulch around each plant. The mulch works like a blanket, retaining moisture in the soil for future use by your plants.

Use a soaker hose rather than a sprinkler

Soaker hoses are easy to install, inexpensive and more efficient than sprinklers. Plus, they reduce the amount of water you use because they’re drip irrigation systems that deliver moisture directly to the roots of plants — where it’s needed most. A soaker hose is like a big sponge that you bury underground. It works like a normal hose, except it emits tiny, thin streams of water that soak into the ground rather than spraying onto your plants. This means you don’t have to worry about getting your plants wet, which leads to rot and disease. Plus, this approach conserves water.

You can find soaker hoses at most gardening centers or home-improvement stores. The porous hose releases water along its length rather than sending it out in bursts from sprinkler heads, so water goes directly to the roots of your plants instead of evaporating into the air. Some newer systems even have built-in timers that allow you to set them to water for a specific amount of time and then shut off automatically.

Use a drip irrigation system

Water is essential for any garden, and if you don’t have a green thumb, a drip system could be the answer to your prayers. You can install drip irrigation in any garden, even if it’s just in a pot on your balcony. They’re simple to use and have advantages over traditional sprinklers or soaker hoses, which waste water by oversaturating the ground.

Drip irrigation is a type of irrigation that uses tiny holes in pipes or emitters to deliver water directly to the roots of plants in small quantities. This is done instead of watering plants by pouring the water directly onto the soil. The benefits are many with this type of system, including:

During normal watering, soils can become saturated, and excess water will be released into the air as steam, evaporation or runoff into nearby waterways. Drip irrigation delivers only the amount of water your plants need, so there’s no runoff of wasted water.

Drip irrigation also allows you to fill up every part of your garden with water instead of just wetting the surface. Drip irrigation is better for plants because they get more water directly to their roots. You’ll save money because this system uses as little as half the water of other methods.

Pick your watering times

Water in the early morning or late evening. Watering at these times helps avoid evaporation, so it conserves water. Plus, it will allow the water to soak in more deeply. LL

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