Water-wise gardening or xeriscaping – the practice of gardening in dry conditions – is becoming much more important to gardeners, especially those in dry areas.
If you have sandy soil, steep slopes where water runs off quickly, a country garden you visit only on weekends, high water bills or watering restrictions during the growing season, read on to find out how to save money, use water resources more responsibly and stop lugging all those hoses around unnecessarily.
Ten ways to make each drop count
- Group especially thirsty plants together, so you can water them without having to do the entire garden; take advantage of low moist spots for such plants.
- Investigate drought-tolerant plants – they often have taproots, or grey, fuzzy, waxy or finely divided leaves.
- Avoid frequent, shallow waterings; water needs to penetrate about four inches into soil for it to do any good.
- Encourage plants to develop extensive root systems by infrequent, but deep, generous watering – about one inch of water every week if rainfall is inadequate (buy a rain gauge to measure precipitation, so you don’t water unnecessarily).
- Mulch bare soil to a depth of two to four inches to prevent evaporation and maintain soil moisture; use organic materials such as shredded wood or bark, straw, shredded leaves, compost or cocoa bean hulls; (inorganic mulch such as gravel or stone chips also retains moisture, but won’t break down to help improve soil).
- Don’t water between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. when hot sun evaporates a lot of water.
- Water plants at soil level to get moisture straight to roots, rather than on leaves.
- Use soaker hoses or drip irrigation, rather than sprinklers (much of the water thrown into the air by sprinklers evaporates); these systems also avoid wasting water on walkways, patios and driveways.
- Install a barrel to collect rainwater from roof; a modest rain of one quarter of an inch on a 1000 ft square roof yields 150 gallons; rain barrels come with a shut-off valve and hose connection so you can fill your watering can for hand-watering.
- During drought, water large trees by allowing your hose to dribble a small amount of water around the drip-line for several hours to ensure that water is absorbed instead running off quickly. Newly planted trees need supplemental water for the first two seasons, especially in hot, dry summers.
Garden writer Yvonne Cunnington dispenses gardening tips at her website http://flower-gardening-made-easy.com/
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