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St George Landscaping, Masonry and Excavation

How to Design Your Yard With Water Efficiency in Mind


When it comes to landscaping, a lot of us are interested in saving water. Not only does conserving water help the environment, but it can also save us significant money. Unfortunately, the trouble comes when we try to decide how to get both a beautiful yard and a big reduction in water use.

The American Water Works Association estimates that about 30% of our water use goes to outdoor irrigation. That’s a big percentage. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to design a yard that is both beautiful and water-efficient. This article will give you some things to consider and lay out some of the steps you’ll need to take to beautify your landscape while saving our precious water.

  1. Plan ahead
    When you’re considering changing or installing a new landscape design, take the time to do some research. Contact your local university agricultural extension or conservation park to get their advice. Or, talk to a local landscape company or designer to learn more about water-wise and native plants in your area. Native plants, once established, require little water beyond normal rainfall, so they can save you from running your sprinkler system too much. They also require much less in the way of fertilizer or pest repellants, because they are naturally resistant to these local issues.
  2. Plant appropriately
    How and where you plant your new landscaping can also save you water. Once you’ve identified a number of plants you like that are appropriate for your area, sort them into “hydrozones.” This means grouping the plants into different areas depending on how much watering they are likely to need. By creating hydrozones, you can water each section according to its specific needs, instead of watering your whole yard to hit just a few areas that actually need it. For example, areas where you have planted grass are going to need more water than succulents. With appropriate hydrozoning, you can avoid overwatering your water-efficient plants in your efforts to keep the grass healthy.
  3. Grass isn’t always “greener”
    Common types of turfgrass used for lawns require a lot of water. While we love the cool, lush look and feel of grass, we don’t have to put it everywhere. By eliminating turfgrass from your landscape or putting it only in areas that receive more shade and less evaporation, you can save yourself a lot of watering. Also consider the use of each area in your yard when it comes to grass. If there isn’t a practical need for it, think about using more water-wise vegetation there instead. For real grass lovers, there are native, more drought-resistant species of grass you can consider. The local organizations mentioned above can give you some ideas.Also, keep in mind that even turfgrass doesn’t need the amount of water that many of us habitually give it. Try reducing the watering time on your grassy areas – you might be surprised at how well it does. Watering less often can actually encourage healthier grass by forcing the roots to go deeper in search of water.
  4. Keep soil healthy
    Many of us don’t think about soil health and its relation to water efficiency. However, maintaining healthy soil can actually help your plants need less water by providing the right nutrients, minimizing runoff, absorbing pollutants, and retaining moisture. Look for ways to keep your soil healthy, such as enriching amendments that can improve soil condition.
  5. Use mulch
    Sure, using mulch is pretty common, but the value of a good mulch cannot be overemphasized. Mulching around trees, shrubs, and flower beds can significantly reduce water evaporation and moderate the temperature of the soil. Both of these things can help with water retention – and the more moisture you retain, the less you’ll have to water. Once mulch is placed, be sure to replace it yearly or as needed, so you don’t lose out on its effectiveness.
  6. Evaluate irrigation
    Most of us have a sprinkling system that waters our yards in large zones at a time. When designing or modifying your system, take your hydrozones into account. Make sure your sprinklers are adjusted properly to avoid watering the driveway, patio, or sidewalk. Water less in shady areas, and only water at night or early in the morning, when the sun’s heat won’t evaporate the water before it soaks in. Keep an eye out for runoff and reduce watering time accordingly. And when it rains, you might be able to turn the sprinklers off completely for a few days.Another thing to consider is breaking the mold of the typical sprinkler system and using some combination of different watering methods. Drip irrigation, for example, can be combined with traditional sprinklers or used alone, depending on your landscape. Drip systems work well for small yards or zones on a specific schedule, delivering 1 to 4 gallons per hour. With a drip system, you lose very little water to evaporation or runoff, since the water is delivered more directly to the soil.

    One watering method that is often overlooked is simple hand watering. Why water excessively in a whole zone, just to get more water in a specific area? Instead, try cutting back the system water and hand-watering the areas that require a little extra as needed. But again, do so when the sun isn’t out to cause excessive evaporation.

  7. Collect rain
    In most areas, local laws allow homeowners to collect rain water. Rain barrels provide an easy way to collect the water when placed under a the downspout of your rain gutter system. Most of them come with a hose that you can extend out to your flower or vegetable garden. Even if you don’t live in an area that gets a lot of rain, feeding what you do get from your rain gutters right into your rain barrel can be a significant amount.

With proper planning, a little bit of research, and some common-sense modifications, your yard can be both beautiful and water-efficient. Choosing the right plants, laying out an efficient landscape design, keeping your soil healthy, and evaluating how and when you irrigate can all add up to significant water savings – for the environment and your pocketbook.

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