Water Saving Strategies for Landscapes

Reducing Water Use in Your Landscaping

The picture is Chester and Jessie when they were puppies. Fun times.
The picture is Chester and Jessie when they were puppies. Fun times.

The rain situation locally is much better now than it was in January and hopefully we get a decent amount of rain for the rest of March and April. I still think it is a good possibility. However, it is best to plan for the situation while hoping for the best as I see it. It is still a very dry year.
Below are some easy ways to reduce the water use in your landscaping.


Adding a layer of mulch 1 to 2 inches thick in flower beds and planting areas will significantly reduce the amount of watering needed. You can easily cut the number of times watered per week by almost half. The mulch holds the moisture in and not allowing evaporation so the moisture stays in the soil for the plants. Spread mulch 2 inches or more around the base of ornamental trees and fruit trees out to the drip line. Keep the mulch at least 6 inches away from the trunk of the tree.

Drip Irrigation

Use drip watering systems for your shrubs and trees. Better to water every 2 to 3 days when it is hot rather than every day. The mulch you applied above holds the moisture in. During the cooler months once a week watering may be enough. As long as there is mulch. Put the drip delivery at the drip line of the plant. For trees, use several emitters if necessary depending on how large the tree is. Dripping the water as close to drip line as possible is where you want it. With trees in particular, its much better to give infrequent deep soaking as opposed to daily watering. Once or twice a week is a good schedule. Depending on temperatures. Be sure to have a two inch layer of mulch out to the drip line.

How Much Water?

The amount of water to use depends on the age and size of the plant. Many shrubs can be watered with a half gallon of water every other day as long as there is mulch. Maybe less during the cooler spring weather and maybe a little more during the hottest weather. The best way to determine is to pull the mulch back and check the moisture in the ground before you are about to water. If you can find moisture within the first few inches of soil then you can put off the watering one more day.
Trees benfit from watering only a couple of times a week during the hottest weather and only once a week during the cooler weather. A newly planted tree will be fine on 5 to 10 gallons of water a week. As long as you mulch. Older trees will need more but still follow the same strategy as above by checking the moisture before you are about to water. If plants start to show significant signs of stress, re-evaluate the water frequency and amount. It will take close monitoring to use the least amount of water necessary and still keep your landscape healthy.


Lawns do take more water than other plants in your landscape. If you need to reduce your lawn to reduce water, consider replacing with plants that would use less water. Spiraea, Rosemary, Lavender, Salvia, Russian Sage, Barberry, Rose of Sharon, Crape Myrtle. This is to name a few. We have a list of plants that use small amounts of water. A lawn does have value though in keeping it cool around your house thus reducing energy use in the summer. You can reduce the amount of water given to your lawn, in many instances by half. It won’t look as pretty but will get through the drought and be okay. When you mow, mulch the grass and leave it on the lawn. Mulch the leaves and small debris with your mower and leave it on the grass as mulch. This will help to reduce the water needed. Again, watch it closeley and only water if it is needed. Push it longer between watering and you can reduce the water use significantly.

A little effort goes a long ways

The easiest way to reduce the water you use is to mulch. You can use shredded mulch or bark or you can use leaves or lawn clippings (which if you mulch it back onto the lawn you won’t have) even rocks will act as mulch to an extent. Any form of mulch or cover over the soil reduces evaporation therefore reduces water usage.

The watering amounts above are guidelines to follow. Watch your plants closely. You may be able to reduce the water usage more. Mulch, mulch, mulch. It saves lots of water.

And as always, we hope to see you soon.