W A T E R W I S E
Water only when plants need watering. Water less frequently and deeply. Early morning watering is best – there is less loss due to evaporation and the leaves will dry faster reducing the invitation for fungal disease. Most established herbaceous perennials only need about an inch of water once every one or two weeks.
Add organic matter. Add 2 – 3 inches of organic mulch to cover your beds and add a heaping handful of organic material as you prepare a hole for new plantings. Organic matter helps aerate clay soils and holds in moisture in sandy soils. It also breaks down to enhance the soil.
Treat the planet, yourself, your garden, your community, and your checkbook to a waterwise garden. A waterwise garden has three zones for plantings with similar requirements. The Oasis zone is nearest the water source and includes areas such as window boxes, containers, and entrance gardens. The closer to the water source, the easier it is to water. These planting areas can hold your thirstiest plants. The Transitional zone is for areas that have plantings that require water only during the driest of times. And the Xeric zone is for plants in areas furthest from a water source that require no supplemental water.
Eliminate thirsty plants dotted around the garden beds. Journey through your garden with a notebook. Draw a line down the middle of the page – one side entitled KEEP and the other side entitled QUIT. Mourn your losses and then move on. Evaluate each plant’s needs within its location. Move thirsty plants to the Oasis zone, give them away, or use for compost. Also evaluate what did well and then plant more of those achievers.
Reduce lawn size or switch to low maintenance grasses. Consider going Dormant for the Moment. Choose not to water thirsty grasses; let them go dormant. They will return when the rains return.
Water the ground, not the plants. Use an end-of-hose sprayer, drip irrigation, soaker hoses, or watering can – saturate the ground and leave the leaves dry.
Improve potting soil mixes. Incorporate water-retaining polymers into the potting soil for your container gardens. They really make a difference.
Save your water. Add rain barrels. An inch of rain from a 1,000 square foot roof will give you 602 gallons of water. Figure the water will run down the spouts evenly from your home. If you have four drain spouts, divide 600 by 4 to get 150 gallons per drain spout. This will flow into your rain barrel with overflows directed to other parts of your garden – specifically your Oasis zone.
Evolve with the planet. As our climate changes, change with it.