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10 Ways to Conserve Water in the Garden

Put these water-wise garden tips to work, and save time as well as water

Photo: Mike Cogh under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0.

With just a few adjustments to your watering style you can save water, time, and money. Water-wise gardening can actually produce healthier plants and offer higher yields than you may have ever had before.

1. Build healthy soil. Never consider the soil in your garden “finished.” Add compost and organic matter regularly for good tilth, water retention, and drainage. Think of it as a work-in progress—forever.

2. Plant selection. Group plants together in a garden bed based on how much water they need. Plant drought-tolerant varieties the farthest away from your water source. You’ll not only save some water, but you’ll save time too.

3. Mulch everything possible. Mulches reduce evaporation, and many of them—such as wood chips, leaves, grass clippings, and newspaper—retain water, as well. (Bonus: mulch goes a long way as a weed suppressor.)

4. Consistent watering. Keep to that watering schedule and you’ll use less of it because you won’t have to soak soil that’s become “hard pan” after you’ve missed several days.

5. Use drip irrigation. It doesn’t matter if you incorporate a drip line system or tuck soaker hoses under plants. This is the best way to get water directly to the roots with the least amount of evaporation.

6. Use timers on your drip irrigation. Timers allow you to walk away when that buzzer for the oven goes off without accidentally leaving the water running for three hours. I speak from the voice of experience.

7. Water in the morning hours. Watering in the early morning hours (before 9 or 10 am) allows the plants to take advantage of that pick-me-up drink of water before the heat can set in. You also get more bang out of your buck because the plants get to drink before the atmosphere does (less evaporation).

8. Water frequently and deep (and less). Watering often and deeply encourages those roots to burrow deep into the soil, creating strong roots and healthy plants. (But remain consistent; see #4.)

9. Keep the weeds out. Every day that you leave weeds in your garden is another day that you’re watering them. Weeds compete with your plants for water.

10. Water slowly. Water your plants like you drink a cup of water. Start “pouring” and let it puddle a bit. Then stop for a beat or two (or more if you have clay soil) and let the water absorb before continuing. Let the water make its way deep into the soil.

Previous: 2 Smart Ways to Water Your Garden Next: Gardening Tip: Watering on the Cheap
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Planning Your Garden
Soil
Seed Starting
Maintenance and Troubleshooting
Easy-to-Grow Plants