With the growing concern of water sustainability, many are looking to reduce the need of water use in their own home and garden. For some, simply trying to use less water is not the answer. Rather, a new perspective on gardening with water conservation as the leading principal is becoming the new standard. If you are thinking about planting a xeriscape garden, or are looking for more innovative ways to conserve water – we have a few guidelines below to consider.
Planning a Xeriscape Garden
Xeriscape gardening conserves water by designating three different zones based on water use and encourages the use of native and locally adapted plants. Before cultivating a xeriscape garden, it’s important to begin with a master plan. First, observe your garden for a few days. What are the microclimates caused by sun and shade, sloped and flat areas, and air movement on the site? Once you have mapped out these areas, designate your property into hydro zones of low, moderate and high water use. Many refer to these as the Natural, Transition and Oasis zones.
The Natural Zone is the lowest water use area and should include native and local plants already growing naturally on your property. Once these plants are established, they will survive well relying on natural rainwater, averaging 10-12 inches per year. If your area is experiencing a drought, you may supplement with a little water when needed.
The Transition Zone is the area to plant trees (at least 15 feet from your home). These trees will provide shade, cooler temperatures, and can be quite aesthetically pleasing in your outdoor space. Once established, these trees will need occasional but little watering to help them thrive and look attractive.
Finally, The Oasis Zone is the most water-intensive and should be planned next to your home. This will provide easy access for watering, while naturally cooling your home in the warmer months. An oasis zone can have a variety of plants, flowers, vegetables and herbs, which will create a lush environment. Keep in mind that areas near your home that are very rarely used should be planted with native plants that require little water.
More Water Conservation Techniques:
Plant Selection: Whether you are creating a new garden, or when replacing plants; proper planning and research is key to effectively conserve water in your home and garden. Before purchasing and installing new plant material, know the full and mature size of each plant, as well as the necessary water and maintenance requirements. If possible, use low water and drought resistant plants – as there are many varieties available that need little water (including a variety of herbs and deep root vegetables). Avoid tropical plants as these will require consistent watering.
Water Harvesting: Water harvesting, grey water x and drip irrigation are efficient ways to sustainably water your garden. Try to incorporate one or all of these techniques into the landscape design so that water can be channeled to planted areas and then preserved for later use. Passive water harvesting simply directs excess rainwater where it is needed, and includes sloping sidewalks/ terraces and channeling roof water. Also, by constructing well thought out earth mounds of berms and channels, one can passively water harvest by keeping water on site for plants to take advantage of.
If passive water harvesting proves difficult or is simply not your thing – active rain water harvesting is the new trend that involves storing water for later use in rain barrels, cisterns or other storage systems. Be sure to drain the water if you are unable to use the stored amount, as sitting water can be a breeding ground for mosquitoes and other insects.
Grey Water Recovery: This involves channeling laundry, shower and bath water into basins or French drains. Some prefer filtering the grey water so that soap and lint don’t wind up in your garden. However, many prefer directly draining the grey water into the soil quickly, allowing the soil to act as an effective biological filter. Remember that allowing the water to stagnate more than 24 hours can compromise the water.
Efficient Drip Irrigation: Drip irrigation can be a very efficient way to irrigate your plants because it puts water directly where it is needed, and reduces the risk of evaporation. Early morning or late night irrigation reduces evaporation rates even further when wind or high daytime temperatures are a problem. Also, using a timer or controller to regularly schedule irrigation, and adjusting the water seasonally reduces the risk of over-watering and run-off. Plus, good irrigation encourage roots to develop more deeply, improving drought resistance.
What are ways you conserve water in your home garden?