No matter where you live, the conservation and wise use of water in our gardens and landscapes is important. Sustainable water use helps grow beautiful gardens while conserving water and helping to reduce water pollution and storm water overflows.
Amend the soil with compost or other organic matter to increase the soil’s ability to absorb and hold rain and irrigation water. More water is absorbed by the amended soil, so less runoff off your landscape and onto the street. This means less fertilizer and pesticides go into nearby storm drains, rivers and lakes.
Cover bare soil with a layer of organic mulch. It retains moisture so you water less, prevents erosion and helps suppress weeds. As the mulch breaks down, it improves the soil by adding organic matter and nutrients.
Use rain barrels to collect rainwater that runs off the roof. Buy a rain barrel or make your own from a recycled food-grade container. Evaluate the functional design, appearance and space needed when making your selection. The flat back rain barrel fits perfectly in your home and holds 50 gallons of water. Add storage or planting space with a rain barrel like the Madison Rain Barrel with space on top to hold watering accessories or flowering plants. Use rainwater to water gardens and containers. Start by calling your local municipality as some have restrictions on water collection, while others encourage the practice and even offer discounts.
Use drip irrigation or soaker hoses to apply water directly to the soil where it is needed. You will lose less water through evaporation and overspray. Avoiding overhead watering helps reduce the risk of disease. Irrigation systems also reduce the time spent watering and are particularly useful for container gardens and raised beds. Systems with closer drippers like the Raised Bed Drip Irrigation Kit (gardeners.com) are more effective for watering small areas like raised beds.
Plant native plants suited to your growing conditions and landscaping whenever possible. These deep-rooted plants help keep rainwater where it falls, reducing the risk of basement flooding and storm sewer overflows. Plants slow the flow of water, helping to keep it on your landscape for plants to use. Their deep roots create pathways for rainwater to penetrate and pass through the soil. Plant roots and soil help remove impurities from water before it enters groundwater and aquifers.
When adding walks, patios, or other hard surfaces to your landscape, consider enlisting permeable options. Permeable pavers allow water to seep into the surface rather than run off into the street and storm drains.
Stepping stones placed in mulched walkways or surrounded by ground cover make for an attractive driveway or patio. Look for products that are attractive, durable, and easy to install like Rubber Leaf stepping stones. Plant ground covers suitable for the growing conditions and those that tolerate foot traffic. Planted spaces between hard surfaces allow water to move into and through the soil.
Implementing a few of these changes to your landscape design and water management can help increase the sustainability of your landscape while reducing your workload.