Water Plants Just Enough

Did you know more than 50% of residential water use is spent outdoors, and it’s estimated that some homeowners over-irrigate by as much as 60%!  Find out how to keep a beautiful garden while also tending our most precious resource – water.

Easy
Households: 13 completed, 2 committed
1310
Points ?
$80
Annual Savings
$0 - $0
Upfront Cost
These are estimates
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Energy and water savings

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0
kWh Electricity
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0
Therms Natural Gas
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0
Gallons Gas
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13078
Gallons Water
  • Save precious water resources
  • Save money
  • Create a healthy robust garden

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Overview

The Action
We will learn about our plants' water needs, adjust our irrigation and water just enough.
Is this action for me?
If you do any outdoor watering, this action is for you!
When and Who?
This action can be done anytime by anyone. You can also consult a landscaper for water tips on your garden.
How long will it take?
Medium - time to learn about your plants' watering needs and adjust your watering schedule.
What is the cost?
No cost - and extra savings!

Benefits

  • Save precious water resources

  • Save money

  • Create a healthy robust garden

Resources

Information

Gardening tips for drought conditions from the UC Master Gardener Program. 

The Basics

Plants are good for the soul! However, water is precious and it is important to be careful with our water use. The good news, is with a bit of planning you can do both. There are a number of steps you can take to ensure thriving gardens without excess water use. Your plants will thank you - over watering can actually hurt plants and watering the right amount will keep your plants healthy.

Checklist

Set up microclimates
Check the water requirements for your plants
Cover soil with mulch
Remember to weed!
Aim water to the roots
Water early morning or evening

Plan your garden

If you are considering re-doing your garden, a bit of planning can go a long way towards lowering water requirements.  Plants have different water needs.  Watering your entire garden or a large portion of it extra to satisfy only the thirstiest plants, can lead to overwatering the rest.  A lot of overwatering can be remedied by placing plants with similar needs together in “microclimates” to avoid unnecessary irrigation.

Setting up microclimates also creates a more self-sustaining habitat for the plants, which will benefit from the shade and moisture of their neighbors.  In addition, planning your plants around other characteristics of your site like sun, shade, wind and soil will give your plants a healthier environment and better chance of thriving.  Healthy plants need much less water than stressed plants!

Help your soil retain moisture

A hot summer day can zap up to 70% of the moisture in the soil from evaporation, and much of that can stay firmly in the ground with a good layer of mulch. This can be made of wood chips, grass clippings, shredded leaves, compost or other materials.  A layer of 3-8 inches, depending on your garden’s needs, can lower watering needs substantially and also hinder weeds by blocking the light they need to grow.

Adding compost to your soil also increases the water-holding capacity of your soil, retaining water and lowering watering needs.  Add at least one inch of compost each year.  Finally, weeds need to be kept in check as they will otherwise steal the water intended for your plants. A good groundcover, complementing your perennials, is another good way to keep weeds down and soil damp.

Irrigate wisely

It’s easy and tempting to reach for the hose, but try using a watering can when your plants are thirsty or set up a drip system that will limit unnecessary water use. You’ll get a feel for how much it really takes to keep your garden happy. Many of your plants won’t need to be watered every day. Look up and check the recommended water needs for your plants.

It's easy to want to “overwater” them to make sure they have enough, but it is actually better to give them just enough.  Overwatering can stress your plants.  Try reducing your watering schedule a bit and observe your plants.  They might do just fine - or even better, with just a bit less water!

In addition to how much to water, where and when also makes a big difference.  The sun evaporates water quickly, so water early in the morning or late in the evening to avoid evaporation.  Most importantly, put the water where the plants need it.  Try to water as close to the roots as possible, this will also help avoid unnecessary evaporation.

Soaker hoses and drip systems are great at putting the water where your plants need it.  They also keep the areas between plants dry which helps limit weed growth.  Sprinklers are much less efficient.  If you have potted plants, note that water evaporates more quickly from terracotta pots, and if you do have these, consider using a smaller non-permeable pot inside.

Reuse your water & go native!

Some of the water from our indoor water use like the laundry or shower is suitable for the garden. Find out more about installing a greywater system.  Also, choosing native or drought tolerant plants and installing efficient drip irrigation systems also lowers your watering needs substantially.