Drought is a real problem these days in the state of California as well as other areas of the United States. The problem is so significant that Californians have been forced to limit their water usage and as you might imagine this is having a significant impact on gardeners throughout the state. Water is not an endless resource and gardeners are going to have to learn to adjust to this reality. On a positive note, there are changes we can make that shouldn’t be too painful and these changes can make our gardens more resilient in the face of water shortages and climate changes.

The Sustainable Sites Initiative (www.sustainablesites.org) indicates homeowners in the United States use upwards of 7 Billion gallons of water per day and that lawn irrigation accounts for nearly 1/3 of all residential water use. Running a sprinkler system for 2 hours can use up to 500 gallons of water and using your garden hose in lieu of a broom to clean sidewalks and driveways can use up to 50 gallons of water in just 5 minutes. Based on these statistics here are some suggestions of actions you can take to reduce the use of water in your garden:

  • Check the position of sprinkler heads to ensure you aren’t watering sidewalks and streets
  • Water early in the day as cooler temperatures will allow water to be absorbed more effectively
  • Don’t water when it is windy
  • Use a broom and not a hose to clean sidewalks and driveways
  • Check all of your appliances such as dishwashers, showers, and toilets for leaks
  • Mulch your vegetable and flower beds to help retain moisture in the soil so you won’t have to water as frequently
  • Water your plants deeply but do so less frequently

Once you’ve done some of these simpler things you might want to consider implementing some of these changes in your yard:

  • Install rain barrels on your downspouts. A 1,000 square foot roof can produce 600 gallons of water during a 1” rainfall. Think of how much you can save on your water bill!
  • Use drip irrigation systems and soaker hoses as a way to deliver water to your plants. They water the plants at the soil level where it is most effectively absorbed and it uses a lot less water in doing so.
  • Go Native! Add plants to your garden that are native to your area. These are typically much better able to handle drought and won’t need as much water once they are established.
  • If you have areas in your yard where water collects such as the bottom of hills consider putting in a rain garden. A rain garden is made up of plants, typically native to your area, such as ornamental grasses and groundcovers that help slow down the speed of water runoff and help it absorb into the soil.

If you’re really ambitious you can consider replacing your lawn with plants that don’t need a lot of water. This is a concept known as xeriscaping and can involve plants such as succulents and cacti. We all have a responsibility to be good stewards towards our natural resources so why not consider implementing some of these at your home. You’ll feel good knowing that you are doing your part and you’ll probably save some money too! 

Photos courtesy of Jill Mazur

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