Creating A Water-Wise Landscape - Virginia Cooperative Extension
Use the Best Watering Method Measure the Quantity of WaterWhile soils vary greatly in their ability to hold water, To measure the amount of water – whether from a sprin-your garden and lawn should receive enough water to kler or rain – use a rain gauge or a tin can set in the lawnwet the soil to the bottom of the root zone each time or garden areas to be measured. The soil has received anyou water – generally 1 inch per week. Determine this inch of water when the water in the container is an inchby digging a hole 5 to 6 inches deep in the watered area deep. Creating athe day after watering so the water has a chance to seepin. Adjust weekly watering to your soil needs. Water-WiseAvoid watering by hand – it often wastes water asthere is excess runoff, and water does not penetrate Landscapebeyond the top 1 inch of soil. This irrigation practiceharms plants by forcing root growth too close to thesurface. If you must water by hand, place a 5-gallonbucket with a few holes in the bottom next to the plantand fill it with water; when it is has drained, move it tothe next plant and refill. For more information on selection, planting, culturalProperly used sprinkler systems can deliver a large practices, and environmental quality, contact your localquantity of water in a short time. They have the disadvan- Virginia Cooperative Extension Office. If you want totage, however, of excessive evaporation, both during learn more about horticulture through training and vol-watering and from the plant and soil surface. Early morn- unteer work, ask your Extension agent about becominging watering minimizes water loss. However, sprinkler an Extension Master Gardener. For monthly gardeningsystems that deliver the water from overhead are the most information, subscribe to The Virginia Gardenereffective means of watering turfgrass. Be sure to position Newsletter by sending your name and address and asprinklers to shower areas of vegetation, not driveways, check for $5.00 made out to “Treasurer, Va. Tech” to Thestreets, or patios. Water until the soil is moist 6 inches Virginia Gardener, Department of Horticulture, Virginiadeep, usually 1 inch per week applied at one time. Tech, Blacksburg, VA 24061-0349. Horticultural infor- mation is also now available on the Internet by connect- ing with Virginia Cooperative Extension’s server at http://www.ext.vt.edu. The original development of this series was funded by ESUSDA Smith Lever 3(d) National Water Quality Initiative Funds and the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Soil and Water Conservation.Trickle or drip irrigation systems and ooze hoses arevery efficient, slowly applying water to vegetable and Revised by Joyce Latimer, Extension Specialist, Virginiaornamental gardens. Soil moisture can be maintained at Techa level most suitable to plant uptake. If properlyinstalled and maintained, little water is lost to evapora-tion or runoff and water use can be reduced by up to 50 www.ext.vt.edu Publication 426-713percent. For many situations, the expense of installing Produced by Communications and Marketing, College of Agriculture and Lifea good trickle irrigation system will be compensated by Sciences, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, 2009reduced water usage, less replacement of plant materi- Virginia Cooperative Extension programs and employment are open to all, regardless of race, color, national origin, sex, religion, age, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, or marital or family status.als, and less work. On any irrigation system, replace An equal opportunity/affirmative action employer. Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Virginia State University, and the U.S. Departmentleaky parts promptly. of Agriculture cooperating. Mark A. McCann, Director, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg; Alma C. Hobbs, Administrator, 1890 Extension Program, Virginia State, Petersburg.
Creating a Water-Wise Landscape Prepare Soil Adequately Mulch Your Gardens Good soil is the basis for healthy plants and optimum use Use mulch to conserve soil moisture. Organic mulchesWhat is Water-Wise Landscaping? of water. The key to good soil is the addition of organic help retain moisture so there is less need to water. TheyWater-wise landscape design and management focus on matter, such as compost. Sandy soil will hold water and also recycle plant materials that might otherwise end upworking with nature and natural forces (such as rain- nutrients better if organic matter is incorporated. Clay in the landfill. In addition, mulches control annualfall) to create an aesthetically pleasing, livable land- will absorb water faster, reducing runoff and erosion, if it weeds that compete with desired plants for water.scape, while using less water from the local supply. is loosened with organic matter. Incorporate approxi- Organic mulches improve soil structure as they decom- mately 2 to 3 inches of compost, shredded leaves, or other pose and moderate the soil temperature, two factors thatMinimizing the need for watering in your landscape fine organic material into the soil annually. also help plants use water efficiently.requires careful observation, planning, and commonsense. Several principles for water-wise landscaping Use Optimum Cultural Practicesinclude choosing the best design and plants, preparing Proper mowing and fertilizing of the lawn help con-soils, and watering properly for efficient water use. serve moisture. Mowing at the proper height (do not remove more than one third of the grass at any one mowing) allows the grass to develop deeper roots that Water-wise landscaping is also known as xeri- are more efficient in using soil moisture, and reduces scaping, a word trademarked by the National annual weeds. Fertilizing at the proper time (your Xeriscape Council. The word is a combination of In locations with established trees and shrubs, it is difficult Extension agent or local nursery experts can help you the prefix xero- or xer- meaning dry or dryness to incorporate organic matter, but applying and maintain- determine this) encourages healthier turf that needs less and the suffix -scape meaning scene or view. ing a 2- to 3-inch layer of an organic mulch (coarse leaves, watering. shredded bark, pine needles, or wood chips) will gradually improve the soil as the humic acid formed by the decom- Leaving shrubs in their natural forms reduces stress to posing material leaches into the ground. the plants and, therefore, lessens their need for water.Plan Your Landscape Keeping weeds, insects,The first step in any successful landscape is a good Select Plants Wisely and diseases under controlplan. Observe the site and take notes on the current use Decide on the trees, shrubs, and ground covers for your reduces the competition andof different areas or their desired use. Indicate high-use water-wise landscape based on their natural ability to stress to plants that increaseareas, desirable views, environmental concerns (such as grow well in your area. Select plants that do well with their waterwind direction, slopes, dense shade), and traffic flow little or no addition of water. Consider native plants as demands.through the yard. Sketch the property, including any well as introduced species for residential landscapes.permanent structures, trees, and shrubs that you plan to Your local Extension agent and nursery personnel can These principles minimize the water demands in yourleave, grass areas, driveways, and sidewalks. help you identify suitable plants for your location. landscape, help you save money and time, and reduce your impact on the local water supply.Based on your notes, develop a plan that meets your Limit plants with high water demands to small areas thatneeds for use, appearance, and budget. Consider main- can be watered efficiently. Grouping plants by water Use Turfgrass Appropriatelytenance and water requirements in making your deci- requirements is one way to guard against overwateringsions. For example, maintaining a high-quality lawn some plants and underwatering others. Limit the amount of turfgrass you use in the landscapearea for entertaining will require frequent fertilizing to areas in which grass provides a functional benefitand mowing, as well as high water use. A more mainte- In general, ground covers require less water than turf- (i.e., a play area for children) that exceeds the benefit ofnance-free choice for get-togethers is a deck or patio, grass, so replacing some of your lawn with a ground other ground covers or surfacing materials. Select turf-but don’t overdo the use of wood or concrete on your cover will conserve water. If you have large deciduous grass suitable to your climate and site.land. Leave plenty of vegetative surface for rain to trees in your yard and want to reduce work and water, goreach the soil and soak in; otherwise, runoff and erosion natural – allow leaves to accumulate as they would in Design the grass area to make watering easier. Longproblems are created. Whatever plan you develop, the nature. Plant a few understory shrubs (such as azaleas narrow areas and small, odd shapes are hard to watercost can be distributed over a period of time if you and rhododendrons), a few understory trees (such as efficiently. Avoid turf in the strip between the sidewalkimplement your design over several years. dogwood), and quit raking! and the road; most irrigation water will land on the paved surfaces and run off.