How to Conserve Water by Xeriscaping Your Yard
On a typical day, the average American family uses 300 gallons of water, says the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). About 90 of those gallons are used outside, but in arid parts of the country or at homes with water-intensive landscaping, the amount is likely even higher.
Colorado WaterWise says that 50 percent of water usage in the Western United States goes toward landscaping, which is why the group urges residents to xeriscape. This type of landscaping helps reduce or eliminate the need for irrigation, says National Geographic, as the plants typically get most of the water they need naturally.
Whether you need to conserve water because you live in a desert climate or simply want to save some money by reducing your water usage, xeriscaping can be a practical way to minimize how much water you use in your yard and garden.
Start With the Basics
As you start planning and designing, HGTV recommends checking your yard for areas that consume the most water. This may help determine what you want to tackle first. Colorado WaterWise also notes that having a design may help you plan and complete your project in manageable phases.
Because xeriscaping often incorporates turf reduction, people may mistakenly think it means removing all grass and replacing it with native plants or pebble gardens with cacti nestled into the rocks, says Colorado WaterWise. In reality, a xeriscape can include a diverse collection of flowers, ornamental grasses and mulches that cool the soil beneath and conserve water — options that can help homeowners swap out water-guzzling flora for species that require less moisture.
Choose Native Plants
National Geographic says the key to xeriscaping is to select plants that are appropriate for your local climate. For example, if you live in an arid area, choose plants that are drought-tolerant. If you need some help determining which plants tend to thrive in your area, the EPA provides state-specific information on native plants. You may also want to visit a local botanic garden or nursery for more information.
An important part of xeriscaping is efficient irrigation, says HGTV. Using soaker hoses, drip irrigation systems or even watering by hand can help get water closer to the roots of the plants than a sprinkler or mister that sprays water over the plants. HGTV also suggests setting up “irrigation zones,” which is grouping plants by their water needs.
It’s a good idea to water during low water-use hours, particularly in the early morning as this helps to minimize water loss due to evaporation, says DIY Network. This Old House also recommends checking to see if water is being absorbed — puddles or run-off are signs that you’re adding water too quickly.
Utilize Other Water-Saving Tips
- Use Mulch. You can help reduce evaporation and keep soil cool by using mulch, such as wood chips or cobble rock, around your plants, says Colorado WaterWise. This Old House also suggests setting the mower on high and leaving the grass clippings on the lawn, which helps shade the soil and reduce evaporation.
- Use a Rain Barrel. HGTV suggests using a rain barrel to collect the rainwater that falls on your roof. Simply place a container under your downspout to capture the rainwater, and you can then use it to water your lawn and garden without running up your water bill.
Follow these recommendations and you’ll be helping to reduce your water consumption while keeping your lawn and garden looking nice.
Originally published on August 14, 2014.