Gardening and landscaping can be a great way to spruce up the aesthetics of a backyard or outdoor living space. With conservation being a top priority for many, learning how to garden and landscape in a water-wise way can help save water resources and ensure that greenery stays vibrant and healthy. This guide will cover the basics of water-wise gardening and landscaping, from how to choose and plan for sustainable plants to tools and techniques for monitoring water usage.
1. Introduction to Water-Wise Gardening and Landscaping
As the Earth’s population continues to grow, so does our demand for water resources. It is essential for us to consider the environment and make water-wise decisions to conserve our intended water use and maximize its efficiency. Water-wise gardening and landscaping is a great way to achieve just this.
We’ll start this guide by defining what exactly water-wise gardening and landscaping entails. Water-wise gardening and landscaping is an ecologically conscious methodology whereby plants, soils, mulches, rocks and other components are strategically combined to create a garden or landscape that requires minimal amount of water to thrive. Water-wise gardens and landscapes are not meant to be dry, as plants receive water through natural methods such as rain and dew. Rather, water-wise gardening and landscaping is designed to:
- Reduce the amount of water that needs to be applied from external sources.
- Increase the efficiency of water use.
- Promote water conservation and sustainability.
- Increase resilience to drought.
Water-wise gardening and landscaping works best when it uses plants that are native or well-adapted to the local climate. Suitable plant choices require less water to survive, and need little, if any, additional attention from you. Such plants can better withstand the local conditions, including poor soils, dry summers and cold winters.
A successful water-wise garden or landscape starts with a thorough understanding of the site and the local climate. By understanding the native conditions and recognizing the site’s characteristics, you can select the proper landscape design and plants to create a well-functioning garden. Here are some key components to consider when designing a water-wise garden or landscape:
- Soil type: Sandy, silt, loam, or clay. Different types of soil require different approaches.
- Exposure to sunlight: Full, partial or shade? Different plants have varying needs and should be selected accordingly.
- Available water sources: Is there an irrigation system in place? Can you take advantage of free water sources such as rainwater or gray water?
- Wind level: Is it windy or protected from strong winds? Wind can affect plant health as well as water loss.
Water-wise gardening and landscaping is an effective way to reduce the amount of drinking water used on our gardens and landscapes. By implementing these practices, we can conserve water and ensure our gardens and landscapes are sustainable for future generations.
2. Choosing the Right Plants and Irrigation System
Know your landscape limitations
Before investing in plants and an irrigation system, it is important to understand the climate and environment of your landscape. Is it a desert landscape, and if so, what kind of plants are best suited to the environment? Is it an area that gets a lot of wind? Do you live in a region with frequent droughts? Knowing the landscape limitations and natural variables of your garden will help you select plants and create an irrigation system that are best suited for your environment.
Choose drought-tolerant plants
When selecting plants, it is important to choose species native to your region that are also drought-tolerant. Native plants are hardy, able to survive on the amount of rainfall and other moisture your landscape naturally receives. Drought-tolerant species require limited water and will help reduce your water usage. It is also important to select plants that are suited for the structure of your landscape. Group similar plants together, and use ground covers to block high winds from desiccating your garden.
Choose the right drip irrigation system
Drip irrigation systems water deeply and slowly, ensuring that the right amount of water is supplied to the soil and plants with minimal water waste. They are also able to be programmed for precise water distribution and timing, so you can easily regulate how much water is used. Drip irrigation systems are also great for areas with frequent droughts, as they help your plants survive during long stretches of dry weather. When planning your drip irrigation system, be sure to include a back-up system for unexpected times of need.
3. Best Practices for Water Conservation
Gardening and landscaping can be a great way to reduce your overall water usage, just by following certain water-wise tips and principles. Here are just a few best practices for water-wise gardening and landscaping:
- Conserve Water: Utilize plants that require little water and reduce your watering schedule.
- Recycle: Collect rainwater and recycled grey-water to irrigate your plants.
- Mulch: Protect the soil by using ground cover such as gravel or shredded straw to decrease evaporation.
- Raise Beds: Increase drainage in raised beds by using porous organic or mineral materials.
Using native and drought-tolerant plants also helps you reduce water usage. Native plants are adapted to the environment and require less maintenance, while drought-tolerant plants require little irrigation and are able to survive in dryer climates. By selecting these types of plants, you can drastically reduce your water usage without sacrificing beauty in your landscape.
Also, avoid over-fertilizing your plants. Too much fertilizer will create more growth, but also leads to more water usage. Make sure to adjust the amount of fertilizer to the needs and requirements of your plants.
4. Utilizing Greywater for Landscape Maintenance
Many gardeners and landscapers are facing an urgent need to develop more sustainable approaches to growing outdoor plants. Greywater is an abundant, sustainably-sourced water resource that can be used to reduce the demand on local water resources. With the right guidance, greywater can be safely and efficiently captured and re-used for landscape maintenance.
How to Collect and Use Greywater?
- Install a basic greywater system in your home; it’s easy and cost-effective.
- Design a landscape that works with the greywater system; include more drought-resistant plants as they will require less water.
- Harvest greywater from your washing machine, shower and bathtubs; do not use water from the kitchen sink or toilet.
- Choose greywater-friendly cleaning products; using natural, biodegradable products is best.
- Direct greywater to the lawn, garden and other irrigated areas; avoid using any greywater on edible plants or near bodies of water.
Greywater is an excellent source of water for your landscape maintenance. It’s also an environmentally sound choice, as it helps to conserve local water resources. As long as you take the necessary precautions and consider the guidelines above, greywater can be a great addition to your water-wise gardening and landscaping practice.
5. Tips for Efficient Water Usage
Utilize a Watering System
Using an in ground or above the ground water system can help save water and time. The water released from these systems is precise and can be set to automatic watering timers found either at local gardening stores or online. Using watering systems for gardens and lawns tells homeowners exactly how much is being used each day, so it allows for precise and efficient water usage. Though using a watering system can be a bit expensive to install, it can save a lot of money, water, and time in the long run.
Group Plants With Similar Water Needs
Grouping plants together that have similar water needs helps to conserve water as it will require you to water in that one area; the plants that do not require as much water will be able to access the leftover of the water given to the plants that require more of it. This is also beneficial to the landscape design as it ensures the garden design is aesthetically pleasing while conserving water at the same time.
Mulch Your Garden and Lawns
Mulch in a garden or lawn helps to reduce water evaporation and prevents water loss. It also helps with soil erosion prevention and reduces the need for frequent weeding. Different types of natural and synthetic mulch can be used depending on the needs of the garden.
Use Automatic Sprinklers
Automatic sprinklers can be set up to water the garden and lawn on specific times of the day, with the duration and frequency being adjustable depending on the needs of the garden. This efficient garden watering system not only saves water but also saves time, as you don’t have to worry about manually setting up and changing the flow of water each time.
Rainwater can also be used to water gardens and lawns. Rainwater collection barrels can be installed in yards to capture rainwater that can be used for the garden later. By using captured rainwater the lawn and garden get a natural boost, receiving all the natural minerals from the rainwater.
Gardening and landscaping can be done in a sustainable manner that helps conserve our critical resources – namely, water. While it may be tempting to overwater to achieve stunning results, it’s possible to use water wisely and still have an extraordinary garden.
- Start with the soil. Choose the right material and feed it with a little organic compost. Unless you are in an arid environment, native soil typically has enough nutrients for many plants.
- Choose plants wisely. Select native or Mediterranean plants. These thrive with little water and help keep weeds at bay. Make sure to match the right plant to the right environment.
- Mulch your garden. Mulching helps to conserve moisture. Use samples from your local suppliers that will help keep the weeds away.
- Water sparingly and deeply. Apply just the right amount of water, avoiding frequent light watering. Spread the water over a wider area and water deeply to encourage deeper root growth.
- Choose a watering system. Consider using efficient drip irrigation and other water-conserving technologies. Traditional overhead sprinklers waste huge amounts of water.
- Maintain your garden. Get rid of weeds and dead plants. Make sure trees and plants are pruned regularly, and don’t let fallen leaves accumulate.
These water-wise gardening tips can help you create a garden that is as stunning as it is sustainable. Whether you’re a novice or a pro, following these principles can help you create a water-wise garden with native plants that will thrive for years to come.
Water-wise gardening and landscaping is a simple and proactive way to conserve water, conserve resources, and make your garden unique while getting the most out of your landscape. In the long term, with smart water conservation techniques, you can save money on your utility bills, protect your landscape from drought, and have a smooth transition into a more sustainable garden and landscape. With the implementation of a few water-wise changes, your garden and landscape can make a huge impact on the preservation of our valuable water resources.
Water conservation is an essential part of preserving and protecting our environment. By taking the initiative and transitioning your garden and landscape into a water-wise environment, you can be sure that your efforts will be rewarded in the years to come.