Garden Tips for Conserving Water

There are several things gardeners can do to get the most out of the water we pull from our aquifers and reservoirs. Some of these are old hat, and others may not have crossed your mind. Here are a few tidbits I’d offer:

• Start with plants you know to be water-efficient. That doesn’t necessarily mean growing desert plants in the eastern half of Texas, if that’s where you live, but it means choosing plants that don’t pale in the heat.

• If you have a sprinkler system, but if one particular area always seems dry, consider using an old-fashioned hose-end sprinkler to water just that spot. There’s no point in turning the automatic system on if it’s not doing a good job there anyway.

• Water deeply, but less frequently. By doing so, you’ll encourage deeper rooting. So many people have the mistaken idea that it’s acceptable to water a little bit every day or two. Simply not true!

• Repurpose water by using "gray" water to irrigate trees and shrubs. However, if you’re using a flexible pipe or hose to do so, remember to disconnect it before the first freeze. Our large drain hose dipped down in the yard in one spot, and it acted like a water trap. When that trap froze, the clothes washer flooded our laundry room. Good idea/bad implementation. I believe they call it "user error."

• Remove weeds. They’re aggressive growers, and they’re more efficient in using water than your "good" plants. They use more water, and they use it fast. Get ’em out!

• Mulch to minimize soil-to-air contact. Soak a paper towel, and put it into a fold of waxed paper. Soak another paper towel, then lay them both out on the ground. Which one dries out faster? Lots faster! Mulches really pay off. They discourage weed growth as well. Apply 2 to 3 inches of compost or bark mulch, or cut and fit a piece of roll-type mulch.

• Wait to fertilize plants you’re growing in the ground. Unless you’re able to keep them moist and growing actively, you probably don’t want to foster vigorous new growth in your lawn, trees and shrubs until late August or early September. However, container plants need to be fed several times each week with a water-soluble plant food. The nutrients in their soils are quickly leached away with all the watering.

• Similarly, avoid severe pruning that might stimulate rapid regrowth. If you’re reshaping shrubs and vines, that’s work for late winter anyway.

• Water early in the day. There is less breeze to blow the droplets, and higher humidity to lessen the impact of evaporation.

Posted by Neil Sperry
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