Eye-catching yards can increase a home’s curb appeal and boost its value, but gardening and lawn care account for a large chunk of household water consumption. The good news is that, whether you are environmentally conscious or just want to lower your water bill, you don’t need to use a lot of water to have a beautiful landscape. If you’re designing a new yard or sprucing up your current one, consider using water-smart landscaping techniques.
Go native or choose plants that need less water. Once established, native and low-water-using plants require little water beyond normal rainfall. Also, because native plants are adapted to local soils and climatic conditions, they rarely require the addition of fertilizer and are more resistant to pests and diseases than other species. Be careful when selecting exotic species, as some may be invasive, which may require more water and could displace native plants.
Recognize site conditions and plant appropriately. Areas of the same site may vary significantly in soil type or exposure to sun and wind. Placing plants that prefer shade in open sun will affect their ability to thrive. Be mindful of a site’s exposure to the elements and choose plants that will thrive in the site’s conditions.
Group plants according to their water needs. Grouping vegetation with similar watering needs into specific “hydrozones” reduces water use and protects the plants from both underwatering and overwatering by allowing you to water to each zone’s specific needs. For example, turf areas and shrub areas should always be separated into different hydrozones because of their differing water needs.
Maintain healthy soils. Healthy soils are the basis for a water-smart landscape; they effectively cycle nutrients, minimize runoff, retain water and absorb excess nutrients, sediments and pollutants.
Place turfgrass strategically. In traditional landscapes, turfgrass receives the highest percentage of irrigation water. To better manage outdoor water use, consider planting turfgrass only where it has a practical function, such as a play area.
Use mulch. Incorporate mulch around shrubs and garden plants to help reduce evaporation, inhibit weed growth, moderate soil temperature and prevent erosion. Adding organic matter and aerating soil can improve its ability to hold water. You should also replace mulch at least once per year.
In short, plan and maintain your landscape with water efficiency in mind, and it will continue to be attractive and healthy while requiring less maintenance and water.
Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency