Tired of sky-high water bills during the hot summer months? Or, maybe you're concerned about water scarcity and want to do your part to conserve. Either way, rethinking your landscape is the right place to start. According to the EPA, outdoor water use accounts for more than 30 percent of total household water use on average. In arid regions, that number can be as high as 60 percent. Much of that water never reaches its intended destination, and instead is lost to wind, evaporation, and runoff.
Homeowners can use water more efficiently and reduce overall water needs with water-wise landscaping. What does water-wise landscaping look like? For starters, it doesn't have to mean letting your lawn go brown in the summer or replacing your grass with gravel. It's possible to create a lush and lively landscape that also conserves water when you follow these eco-conscious landscaping tips.
1. Change Your Watering Schedule
Deep, infrequent watering is better than frequent, shallow watering. When you water deeply, you train roots to grow deep; the deeper its roots, the more drought-tolerant a plant is. Water less often and for longer, and don't water mid-day. By watering in the early morning or late evening, you minimize water lost to evaporation. Don't forget to cut back on watering in the spring and fall when weather is cooler and to turn off irrigation in rainy weather.
2. Change Your Watering Method
Sprinklers are an inefficient way to water your landscape. Sprinklers lose water to wind and to overspray on sidewalks, streets, patios, and other surfaces. Unlike sprinklers, drip irrigation delivers water directly to the base of plants via nozzles so water isn't wasted. And because drip irrigation is a low-pressure irrigation system, it's energy-wise as well as water-wise.
Drip irrigation is an ideal choice for flower beds, vegetable gardens, trees, shrubs, and other landscape plants. Drip irrigation can even be used under lawns so you no longer have to navigate a lawn mower around sprinkler heads. Installation, however, requires digging.
3. Mow Higher
A short-trimmed lawn only looks tidy until it browns. Because taller grass promotes deeper root growth and shades soil from the sun, cutting grass longer is better for conserving water and keeping your lawn alive. While the minimum height varies based on grass species, a lawn height of three inches is a good rule of thumb.
4. Install Drought-Tolerant Grass
You can have a barefoot-friendly turf with less environmental impact when you swap your grass for a drought-tolerant species like buffalograss, which Colorado State University Extension says uses 50 to 75 percent less irrigation than Kentucky bluegrass.
5. Shrink Your Lawn
Lawns use a lot of water and require a lot of maintenance, and most of the time we use less than half of the space. Save time and water by dedicating less of your landscape to lawn and more to drought-tolerant trees, shrubs, and perennial plants. Don't assume drought-tolerant equals boring; there are tons of gorgeous drought-tolerant plants, from the sunny coneflower to the fragrant, evergreen lavender.
6. Mulch Liberally
Mulching does more than make your landscape look manicured. Mulch also covers bare soil to improve water retention and reduce erosion. Mulch garden beds, but avoid mulching immediately around stems and trunks; mulch should look like a donut around a plant, not a volcano. Plan to pull your gloves out once a year to apply fresh mulch as the old mulch breaks down, but don't lay it more than two to three inches deep.
Your landscape can be beautiful and use water responsibly — just check out these stunning examples from the Los Angeles Times. For a gorgeous landscape that's easy on your wallet and the planet, start planning what you want your water-wise landscape to look like. In the meantime, make changes like watering less and mowing higher to start conserving water today.