Water is a precious resource—given its importance and scarcity, it’s surprising it doesn’t cost more than it does—and landscaping is one of the largest uses of water in terms of volume consumed, surpassing bathing and cooking by orders of magnitude. Whether you want to shrink your ecological footprint or shrink your water bill, following these tips is sound advice for anyone with a garden or lawn.
The plants you use, of course, will drastically change how much you need to water. Fruit trees are thirstier than cacti. If you’re still considering how you want your yard to look, keep that in mind.
Obviously, you should use as little water as possible to keep your plants healthy. Talk to your landscapers or a nursery about how much water your plants need, and keep in mind this can change depending on the season and a plant’s age. You should also note how much water your soil retains; soggy soil can harbor funguses, root-rots, and other unwelcome problems.
Know Your Sprinkling Specs
You should know how much to water your plants, but this doesn’t help if you’re not sure how much your sprinkler system applies. Impact sprinklers typically apply about .2 inches of water in 15 minutes, while pop-up sprinkles deliver twice that. However, it may behoove you to check this. Set out six to eight short, flat cans (like tuna cans or cat food cans) and spread them about five feet apart across your lawn. Turn on your sprinklers for 15 minutes, then measure the depth in each can. Take note if some cans are more full than others—uneven watering means an uneven-looking lawn, so adjust your sprinkler heads to make the pattern more uniform.
When to Water
Water that evaporates before it hits the grass won’t help your lawn—water at night or early in the morning. Not only are temperatures lower at these hours, but the wind is calmer too.
When to Adjust
It’s convenient to leave your sprinkler system on autopilot, but not exactly efficient. If it just rained, don’t use your sprinklers. Also, high wind speeds can keep one side of the lawn dry—if you’re giving bare-bones watering to save money and resources, then you shouldn’t waste it by watering when it’s windy out.
Also pay attention to how much light the different parts of the yard get. Areas in the shade may need less water, but the adjustment should be made only for these areas. If you can’t adjust only part of the sprinkler system, then it’s better to let these areas be a little more comfortable than to risk the other parts of the yard withering or burning.
Fertilizer can help grass and other plants, but it can also increase the plant and soil’s demand for water.