I spent the morning at another Armstrong Garden Center class, this time on water wise gardening. It was very informative and a good reminder on how to properly water plants. Here are 10 ways to grow a water wise garden.
Before I get into this list, I do want to remind you that all of these tips will not necessarily apply to your garden, based on where you live. This class and these tips are geared for gardens and plants in the Southern California area. We don’t get much water, so these are great tips for those who live in more arid parts.
I know many of you live in other parts of the United States and world, where climates vary. Use what tips you can and let me know if you have any tips to add in the comments section below!
Even if you do live in a warmer climate, you may or may not need to use all these tips based on the size of your garden. For example, I have a balcony to work with, so I use a watering can and have no need for a watering system, although you may find it beneficial to have one based on your budget and size of your garden.
Here is the list of 10 ways to grow a water wise garden!
1. Water in the Morning
Watering in the morning will help the water not evaporate in warmer temperatures later in the day. There is also less of a chance for wind to carry off the water early in the morning. If you water at night, other issues might occur, like black spot, snails, and fungal diseases.
I don’t always have time to water in the mornings, and yes, sometimes I water in the heat of the day or evenings. Try to get in the habit of watering as early in the day as possible, since this can also contribute to you saving water for your plants in the long run.
2. Low Flow Watering
Set up an irrigation or drip system, which can save you from using up to 90% of your water. The environment and your budget will love you for it! An irrigation system with soaker hoses can be used for this, or pay to have a drip system installed. A “smart controller” can also help you save water by using it with your irrigation system. Your water requirements can be adjusted and calculated on a “smart controller” to also help you save on your water bill. Check your system from time to time for leakage problems.
3. Water Deeply
Water deeply, which will also help you save on water since plants can be watered less often when done deep enough. The roots in your plants will grow deeper, which can help the plant survive during dry seasons, especially around here.
I’ve made the mistake of watering a little at a time, but too frequently. In general, plants in containers need more water than plants that grow in the ground. I’ve taken this to the extreme where I’ve watered too much and too little, where the water only stayed near the top of the containers.
When you water this way, the roots stay near the top instead of growing deeper. You can train your plants’ roots to grow deeper by watering deeply and less frequently. If you have plants in containers, you may want to water several times at once so that the water reaches the bottom of the container.
If you have a large garden, you want to pay special attention to weeds since they need water to keep growing. You don’t want the weeds to take up all the water from your plants. Using landscape fabric, a drip system, and mulch will help keep away weeds. You also want to be aware and get rid of any weeds you see.
5. Plant Groups
Keep plants with similar water needs close together to save water as well. Pots and plants that need more water should be grown near your home where you can easily water them. Have native and Mediterranean plants further away since they don’t need as much water.
You also can grow plants together that need similar water needs. If you mix and match plants with various water requirements, you may end up with a dried up plant or plant that gets too much water. Plan these things out when starting a garden or a new area of your garden.
6. Plant in the Fall
If you have a large project planned for your garden, plant in the fall when it’s cooler outside. Unless you are like me, with just a small space to work with. If I see something I like, I’ll buy it and hope it grows, no matter what time of year it is!
7. Use Mulch
Using mulch on top of the soil can also help save on water since mulch can help keep moisture in the plant’s soil. One to three inches of mulch can be used on the soil. Materials like shredded leaves, bark, or grass clippings can be used as mulch. If you are using a drip irrigation system, place the mulch over this as well. Keep the stems and trunks clear of mulch to give your plants room to grow.
I use mulch on several of my plants and these plants don’t seem to need as much water as the others. I also like that mulch is very inexpensive, especially if you use what is around your yard!
8. Native Plants
Plants that are native to Southern California don’t need as much water as other plants. Many of these plants can also resist pests when attacked. Many native plants only need rainwater to survive, although I would water these plants since rain seems to only fall around here once a year lately.
Below are some plants native to this area or that don’t need much water to survive:
- Russian Sage
- Breath of Heaven
- Santa Barbara Daisy
- Agapanthus (Lily of the Nile)
Adding compost to your plant’s soil helps the soil hold and absorb more water so that you don’t have to water as much. Adding compost can also slow down the release of nutrients, which can keep away pests.
Using an organic fertilizer can also help the plants defend themselves against pests. Synthetic fertilizers can work as well, just remember you have to feed more often with synthetic fertilizer since they are released faster than organic ones.
10. Lawn Care
Growing up, my parents had a really hard time keeping the lawn from drying up. Unless you have the money to keep your lawn looking nice, it’s a challenge to upkeep a lawn in this environment. Most lawns are pretty dried up around here, but there are still some things you can do to make keeping a lawn manageable.
There are several types of grasses that are drought resistant, such as Bermuda, Buffalo grass, and St. Augustine. Another option is to remove the lawn and replace it with groundcovers that are water wise or perennials that won’t take much work to maintain. Rock gardens with succulents are also an alternative to a lawn.
These are 10 ways to grow a water wise garden. Do you have any tips to add? Let me know in the comments section below!