Practice No. 12. Using Water Efficiently
It is conceivable for a gardener to create an organic landscape while at the same time using water somewhat inefficiently. I don't mean wastefully, but not using this valued resource to our best advantage even when freely given in the form of rain or snow. For the most part, when using the above and below ground practices, your landscape will be primed for water conservation, along with health and beauty.
Some of the best methods of using rainfall have been covered already in these 16 practices:
- Amending soil with organic matter.
- Amending the soil with inorganic substances that are able to retain/store water and nutrients for future use.
- Minimizing soil disturbance, avoiding compaction of soil.
- Designing your landscape to the best use of micro-niches.
- Designing your landscape to create micro-niches that capture, hold, and direct water for future use.
- Hydrozoning your landscape and the use of low water-use plants.
- Altering the planting seasons of cool weather crops to the cool and cold seasons.
- De-thatching and aerating lawn for better water absorption and in-soak.
- The use of mulch in limiting soil evaporation (to be discussed in this series).
The Texas Panhandle, in average years, receives 17 to 21 inches of precipitation a year, an amount sufficient for growing beautiful landscapes. These are all principle-based practices that should be woven into the fabric of our landscapes. In fact, all landscapes should have these water efficiencies as the starting point, as part of the base kit. Largely, these practices all involve preparing soil so the water can actually soak in, and remain there until plants need it. Food production, of course, requires more; using these practices reduces the amount of water required.
There is always room for improvement in using water efficiently.
- When irrigating, water longer and deeper. Instead of three irrigation cycles a week, water longer, once a week for deeper in-soak. Apply an inch of irrigation at a time. This works better if your soil is able to accept the water before it runs off.
- Know your irrigation system. Test it to learn how long it takes to apply an inch. Irrigation systems do not water uniformly, especially when windy. Know your dry spots and either spot water them or make changes (in the irrigation system, soil or plants).
- Avoid watering concrete and asphalt driveways, streets and sidewalks.
- Avoid watering during the heat of day, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and when windy.
- Check auto sprinklers often for proper maintenance.
- Adjust irrigation cycles for the seasons and after rainfall.
- Determine whether drip irrigation might be better in certain areas.
- Know the water requirements of your plants. Are you watering more than is needed? Beds and turf should not be kept soggy.
- Spot water new plants in established beds, as they take more frequent watering.
- Monitor turf, plants and soil to determine when to water during the growing season.
- Install a water catchment system.
- Convert a portion of high water-use landscape to a lower water-use. There are many ways to do this.
- Container gardening is a water efficient practice for favored high water-use ornamentals.
For a fuller explanation of the efficient use of water, visit Efficient Use of Water or other sites about water conservation.