The tips below can help you grow a beautiful, healthy—and water wise—landscape. Making just a few changes can have a big impact in lowering your water use outdoors.
For more ideas, check out the additional landscaping resources linked below.
How do I water wisely?
For established landscaping, the needs vary by type of plant and by weather (hot and windy days means more water needed; cold, calm days means less). Think of the plant root zone as a water "bank." The plant makes withdrawals as the soil dries and irrigation and rain make deposits. Under watering will stress plants; it's easy to identify since plants turn brown. Overwatering is harder to see since excess water either runs off or drains below the plant's roots.
Irrigation audit: Learn how much water your system puts out.
To find out how long to run your sprinkler system, collect several cans or straight sided containers of equal size. Place them in a grid pattern between sprinklers on the lawn. Run the sprinklers for 15 minutes. With a ruler, measure the depth of water in each of the cans. Add up the depths and divide the total by the number of cans. This is the average depth. Multiply the average by four to get the precipitation rate in inches of water per hour from your sprinklers. This is also a good time to check for sprinkler uniformity to see if some of the water collectors are getting lots more or less water than others. If so, check your sprinklers to see if one is clogged or broken. You may also need a different type of sprinkler for that area to increase the uniformity.
If your sprinklers are watering unevenly, applying enough water to adequately dampen the dry spots will put too much water on the wet areas. This wastes water—and your landscape won't thrive.
Amount of water.
Once you know how much water is being put out by your irrigation system, refer to the Paradise Weather Station to determine the most recent evapotranspiration information for our area. Evapotranspiration is the amount of water used by plantsYour lawn will use about 70 to80% off this number Add up seven days and that will tell you about how much water your plants need for one week in order to replace water lost by evapotranspiration. Compare this to your sprinklers' output to determine how long to run your system during this season.
For a simple way to start reducing water for your lawn, cut back your watering time by 20% for 10 days then check your lawn. Walk across the grass; if the blades spring back up, the lawn is still getting enough water, even with the reduced amount. If the grass blades are turning deep blue-green—or yellow, the next stage in getting dry—your lawn isn't getting enough water. Make further irrigation adjustments based on what you find.
You can also ask the folks at Mendon's Nursery or Paradise Garden Center—they're experienced with our area's soil type and weather and can give you more of the information you need.
When to water.
Due to drought conditions, there is no outdoor watering permitted in the Paradise Irrigation District between 10 am and 8 pm; those are the hours when the most water is lost to evaporation. Water only on even/odd days, based on the last digit in your street address. For example, an address of 6254 waters only on even days; 6253 waters on odd days. No outdoor watering on the 31st day of the month. Water no more than 15 minutes a day per station—and consider breaking that into two segments of seven minutes each to allow water to soak in between the two sessions. Some gardeners recommend watering just before dawn and early morning to take advantage of the best watering conditions yet keep your plants healthiest. These limitations apply to spray head sprinklers, not rotors or impacts (as they apply water at a much lower rate).
Get friendly with your irrigation controller.
Taking the time to adjust your irrigation controller/timer once a month to adjust the run time/amount for the current weather (less in the winter, more in dry months) can save you 20-25% in landscape irrigation water use. If you're replacing your current irrigation controller, consider purchasing one of the new controllers which have sensors or a radio signal to adjust automatically for evapotranspiration. Another option is purchasing a controller with a percentage setting and adjust it for the season.
Which plants and where to put them?
Place your landscape plants where they get the best water for their specific needs. Sometimes this means grouping plants with similar water needs together. Other times you can position plants so the type of watering they need (soaking, sprinkling) matches with your current irrigation system's setup. The next time you add or replace a flower or shrub, use a species that's a proven to require less water—and note that not all native plants are drought-tolerant. Put new plants in the ground in spring and fall when the plants' watering requirements are lower.
Place two to four inches of organic mulch around plants to reduce evaporation and save hundreds of gallons of water annually. Mulch will also minimize weed growth which competes for water with the plants you do want.
Adjust your lawn mower to the height of 1.5 to 2 inches; taller grass shades roots and holds soil moisture better than short grass. If possible, leave the clippings on the lawn after you mow to cool the ground and hold in moisture.
Just the plants, please.
Check your sprinklers to make sure you're not accidently watering or have overspray on hard surfaces (like driveways, sidewalks and paths); those don't need the water!
Use a broom to clean up the driveway, porch and walkways—a standard hose typically uses five to 20 gallons per minute. If you wash your car at home, use a bucket, sponge and hose with a self-closing nozzle and you'll save 8 to 18 gallons a minute.