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These seven tips will help you conserve water, save money on your water bill, and make your garden a healthier place.
1) Water correctly: Knowing when and how to water your garden makes all the difference. It's best to irrigate in the early morning, during the natural dew cycle, because the water evaporates less. This allows plants to dry before evening, and reduces fungal diseases and other problems. Using drip irrigation or soaker hoses – rather than overhead sprinklers – saves water and keeps plant foliage drier and less attractive to diseases. Water deeply, so that you reach the entire root system. Check regularly that your sprinkler system is watering properly, and not missing its irrigation targets.
2) Save water: Using a rain barrel can collect and store more free water than you may think. Just one-tenth of an inch of rain falling on a 1,000 square foot roof can fill 65 gallons of water. Most plants need about an inch of rain weekly – or a half gallon of water per square foot of garden – so that’s more than the 55 gallons you'll need for a 100 square foot garden. Consider the Fiskars® Salsa Rain Barrel System, which stores up to 58 gallons of storm water for your garden use.
3) Beware of sprinkler timers: There’s nothing more wasteful than watering when it's raining. But this happens all the time—often because sprinklers were timed to water automatically. More often than not, the owners are working or away from the home, and have no idea their sprinklers are watering during a storm. That’s why it’s best to water according to need, and pay attention to sprinkler timers during rainy periods of the year.
4) Buy drought-tolerant plants: You don’t need to sacrifice style and beauty while saving water in the garden. From lavender to butterfly bush to yarrow, many popular plants are quite drought-tolerant, once established. Mediterranean herbs, such as rosemary, sage and thyme, thrive particularly well in rather lean, dry soil. Don’t forget native plants, which often require less water and general care, yet attract pollinators to your garden.
5) Group plants together: It's always best to group plants together in the garden, based on their soil, sun and watering needs. This principle is called "hydozoning" and can save a lot of water. For best results, place the most xeric plants furthest away and group more thirsty plants nearer the house’s irrigation system.
6) Build healthy soil: Amending your soil regularly with organic matter, such as compost and aged manure, will increase the soil's water absorption and holding capability. In clay soil, these types of soil amendments allow water to penetrate more easily. In sandy soils, these organic materials increase water retention. Best of all, your plants will grow better, and suffer less pest and pathogen problems in healthy soil.
7) Mulch, mulch, mulch: Don't forget to add a couple inches of mulch in garden beds. Mulch not only saves water, it also keeps soil temperatures cooler in hot weather, reduces weeds and prevents fungal diseases from splashing up on plants. Always keep your mulch a couple inches from plant stems to reduce the risk of root rot and other problems.