Gardeners take pride in their beautiful landscapes, sometimes showering them with an abundance of water to keep them lush. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 30 percent of water used by households goes toward outdoor applications. Try a few design tricks in your landscape to enjoy a thriving garden that requires less water. (See References 1)
Integrated Landscape Design
A garden designed in harmony with the topography of the landscape conserves water. Consider planting a rain garden in low-lying areas or where storm water drains from your roof or driveway. Rain gardens are composed of permeable media with plantings of trees, shrubs and herbaceous perennials resilient to standing water. Add porous media to the site at a depth of at least 8 inches or up to 3 feet for the best drainage. You'll enjoy a thriving garden that makes good use of storm runoff and requires less irrigation. (See References 5, 6)
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 50 percent of water from irrigation systems is wasted to wind, evaporation and improper installation (see References 2). To reduce water loss to evaporation, water your garden in the early morning or at night. Be sure that sprinklers are providing water only to thirsty plants rather than paved areas. Northern and eastern areas of your yard receive less sun exposure and may not need as much water compared to other parts of the landscape. Also, consider installing a rain barrel to harness rain water for irrigation, conserve city water and reduce your water bill. (See References 4)
Installation of drought-resistant turf conserves a considerable amount of water. Bluegrass, for example, is durable but requires a lot of water (see References 3). Instead, consider turf that is more resilient to periods of drought. Also, try extending a border garden to include ornamental grasses and ground cover appropriate to your region. In desert regions, different types of rocks replace a majority of turf in the landscape as a way to conserve water. Before you transform your yard, however, keep in mind that rock surfaces with southern and western exposure increase temperatures in the vicinity. Too much rock surface also leads to wasteful runoff. (See References 3)
Proper Plant Selection
Before installing your garden, take time to plan your landscape design and plant selection. Choosing plants that grow well in your climate is important aesthetically and also for water conservation. Consider the microclimate of your yard in your selection, such as the amount of sun and drainage properties of the soil. For efficient irrigation, group plants based on their water requirements. Also, install shade trees to cool gardens and reduce irrigation requirements. (See References 4)
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Water-Efficient Landscape Design
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Watering Wisely
- Colorado State University Extension; Xeriscaping: Creative Landscaping; C. Wilson and J.R. Feucht.; October 2007
- University of Georgia; Best Management Practices for Landscape Water Conservation; David Berle and Gary Wade; 2011
- American Society of Landscape Architects: Sustainable Residential Design: Improving Water Efficiency
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Bioretention (Rain Gardens)
- Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images
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