Water is a precious commodity – and its conservation is crucial here in Southern California. Most Californians agree that water shortage is a serious problem, especially as we enter our fourth year of drought. Rainfall in our mountain ranges has been consistently below average, leaving our reservoirs at critically low levels. All of this led our governor, Jerry Brown, to call on Californians to reduce their water usage by twenty percent. Recent articles in the LA Times and other publications refer to “water-wise ethics,” and bring thoughts of conservation to the forefront of the minds of homeowners.
So how can we each do our part?
One of the easiest places to conserve large amounts of water in your home is not enclosed in the four walls – it’s outside. According to the EPA, “nationwide landscape irrigation is estimated to account for nearly one-third of all residential water use, totaling nearly 9 billion gallons per day.” That’s a lot of water! It’s also estimated that nearly 50% of water used outside is actually wasted through inefficient systems, watering, and leaky equipment. Knowing that, you can make big strides through little changes – small changes that add up to a big impact for our state. Here are my top five tips to save water in your garden and outdoor landscaping.
1. Plant shrubs and lawns that are resistant to drought. Have you heard of xeriscaping? It is landscaping or gardening that reduces the need for water – by selecting specific plants, shrubs, and lawns for your home. Get a list of drought tolerant plants perfect for California here.
2. Water in the morning. Early morning watering, before the sun gets very hot, reduces water loss to evaporation. It also can help prevent the growth of fungus. One thing to remember though is to avoid watering when it’s windy . . . even in the morning. You don’t want all of your water to blow away.
3. Water weekly rather than daily (or only as needed). Your garden can actually benefit more from a weekly soak than a daily sprinkle. This is where crop selection can be important, too. Plants with a shallow root system will need more frequent watering. Plants such as tomatoes, corn, winter squash, sweet potatoes, melons, and asparagus have deeper root systems and need to be watered less. Do research to see what works best in your area.
4. Add a compost system to the garden. It doesn’t have to be large, but compost and worm castings (vermicomposting) can retain moisture in the soil as well as add nutrients. Bokashi, or fermented grain bins, are another way to compost food and add moisture. Basically a good composting system can lead to less watering in your garden.
5. Harvest rainwater. When it does rain, capture it for future use. I think one deterrent here is that people assume the systems are complicated and costly; that isn’t necessarily true. Learn more in this article (which also provides a link to build your own on a budget).
And one bonus tip for you:
Save water indoors to use outdoors. Did you boil vegetables? Clean a fish tank? These have precious nutrients that are actually valuable to your garden. Any water that you can capture indoors (that is chemical free) and be used outdoors can be considered a savings.
I hope these tips help you save water in your garden and landscaping this year. I’d love to hear what tips you have or how you plan to conserve water in 2015 in the comments!