Torch lilies conserve water
Torch lilies are hardy summer flowers that help conserve water.
Jodi Torpey

How to keep plants happy while conserving water in the landscape.

Water-wise gardening isn’t just for gardeners who live in regions that experience drought. All gardeners who care for lawns, flower beds, and vegetable gardens need to be water smart to manage their water budget.

Some landscape experts believe that almost half of the water used outdoors is wasted because of inefficient irrigation systems and methods. That’s a lot of water!

For those who’d like to conserve water, here are 7 easy ways to cut back, even during the height of summer:

  • Build healthier soil. It pays to amend the soil with organic matter, like compost. A loamy soil helps hold water longer to give plants time to soak it up. Another key to healthy soil and healthier plants is regular applications of an all-natural organic fertilizer.
  • Think smaller. A smaller landscape footprint will naturally save water. Hardscape features, like paving stones, retaining walls or other sculptural elements can replace the amount of planted space to add interest without needing to be watered.
Russian sage
Russian sage blooms in the heat of summer and attracts bees to the dry garden.
Jodi Torpey
  • Plant tough, heat-loving plants. Daylilies, torch lilies, and Russian sage are three flowering, xeric plants that prefer life on the dry side. A garden filled with drought-tolerant plants still looks good and attracts pollinators, but uses less water.
  • Check irrigation systems regularly. Sprinkler systems should be reprogrammed throughout the season to match the weather and landscape water needs. Turfgrass grows healthier roots when the lawn is watered deeply, but infrequently.
  • Reduce the amount of grass. Another good strategy for saving water is to limit lawn area to the size that’s actually used. A smaller lawn still provides a cool, green space without all the extra inputs to keep it that way.
  • Plant where the waterfalls. Take advantage of downspouts or naturally low areas for growing thirstier plants. Berms can redirect rainfall to flower beds instead of allowing water to runoff into streets and drains.
  • Mulch like crazy. Use mulch in areas around the lawn and in perennial gardens, annual flower beds, vegetable gardens, and flower containers. Mulch helps hold moisture in the soil and keeps plant roots cooler. Mulch can include rocks, bark, straw, untreated grass clippings, chopped leaves and other organic materials.

By Jodi Torpey, garden writer and author