Sustainable Watering Solutions for Every Landscape

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Water – providing the right amount of it – is every gardener’s concern, and the most critical resource we rely on every single day.

Good water management in your landscaping is key to providing the water your plants need while also conserving this precious commodity. Too much water and some plants get leaf mold or rot but too little and they wilt and die, and to complicate things, different plants can have vastly different water requirements. So, what’s a plant-lover to do when faced with water woes?

Water Wisdom and Sustainability

Water sustainability refers to the continual supply of clean water for human uses and other living things. When we know more about wise watering use, we can:

  • Reduce wastefulness
  • Improve the quality of the water
  • Design our homes to fit into their surroundings

Instead of fighting with your regional climate, take the opportunity to learn all you can about the plants that grow best there. Embrace the innate beauty of your little spot on the planet and let it teach you how to be a better steward of all natural resources. 

Let’s explore some creative and easily-implemented techniques for optimizing water use and improving your landscape at the same time.

Sustainable Landscapes

To save water and conserve your time, consider turning your yard into a sustainable oasis with the help of native plants.

Plants native to your area have adapted over time to the climate, soil, and insects in your neck of the woods, so they will happily bloom and thrive where they’re planted. And you’ll be rewarded with a healthy, hardy, low-maintenance garden. Many nurseries now offer native plants, so no matter what area of the country you call home, you are sure to find native trees, shrubs, and plants to suit your needs. Ask your landscape professional for suggestions!

Don’t Let Rainwater Get Away

You can easily save rainwater for the times when your plants are thirsty. Using rainwater not only reduces your water bill, it also prevents it from running off your property into storm drains. This allows the earth to naturally process the water and protects streams and lakes by preventing many contaminants from entering the watershed. 

Set up a Rain Barrel

Collect the rain that runs off your roof in a barrel. Plants like rainwater because it’s free of chemicals and chlorine and naturally soft. It also brings peace of mind during drought times and water restrictions to have this backup supply. Check to see if your water authority offers any discounts, programs or materials to help you install one on your property or search online for ideas and instructions for adding a rainwater collection system.

Install Permeable Pathways

Return rain and surface water runoff to the groundwater by allowing it to permeate your pathways. Instead of paving paths and walkways with concrete or asphalt opt for crushed stone or mulch. If you really prefer hardscape, ask a landscape professional to show you samples of permeable pavers.

Help the Plants Help Themselves

Encourage the buddy system in your landscaping by grouping together the plants that help their neighbors.

Companion Planting

Folk wisdom asserts that growing certain combinations of plants side by side can be mutually beneficial. The theory is that certain plants “help” each other take up nutrients, attract pollinators, and improve pest management. Research shows that some plants act as hosts to beneficial insects that keep harmful pests under control. A classic example is planting marigolds with tomatoes because the chemical compounds in the marigolds are believed to help repel pests. While this strategy is often used in vegetable gardens, it can be used in other areas of the landscape. Try planting a shade-loving plant under the protection of a taller, sun-loving plant.

Intensive Planting

Rather than leaving lots of open space between plants, consider placing them closer together. This allows the plants to support one another, send down deeper roots, and crowd out weeds while conserving water. A good rule of thumb is to space them so that the leaves of each plant touch those of its neighbor, but not closely enough to crowd each other’s roots.

Deliver Water Directly to the Roots

When plants are watered from above, much of the water is lost to evaporation. It can also encourage fungal growth and/or sunburned leaves. Watering at the roots solves these problems for happier plants and lower watering costs. Here are two irrigation methods that deliver the water right where it’s needed most.

Soaker Hoses

These are basically water hoses with tiny holes or perforations. They are laid out on the surface of the planting beds and attached to a faucet. The water slowly seeps into the soil, providing a controlled amount of moisture to the plant roots with almost no evaporation or runoff.

Drip Irrigation

Drip irrigation systems involve perforated tubing, valves, stakes and electric timers. They are often automated and usually more expensive up front, but the cost savings and effectiveness over time can be worth the investment. A good drip irrigation system is also far easier to maintain because soaker hoses will often clog over time.

Do any of these water-wise techniques make sense for your landscaping needs? If you have questions about sustainable watering solutions or want more ideas consult your local landscape professional for answers and advice.

Photo courtesy of Designs By Sundown, Littleton, CO, a member of the National Association of Landscape Professionals.