Water-Wise Practices Around the Yard
To respond effectively to California's unique weather conditions, marked by record dry periods and intense storms, we must prioritize water conservation in our day-to-day activities. One significant way to contribute to water conservation is by making smarter choices in our yards and gardens. This initiative not only proves beneficial for our environment but also plays a part in strengthening water resiliency in our region.
Adopting water-conscious habits isn't hard. We can implement some straightforward practices in our outdoor spaces. The key is to remember that every drop we save today counts towards our future. With this mindset, here are some practical and easy-to-follow steps you can take to make a substantial difference:
Check Your Soil
An easy way to check if it's time to water is to test soil moisture. Use a long screwdriver; it will easily push into moist soil, but struggle in dry soil. If you can't poke it at least 6 inches deep, it's time to water.
Install Drip Irrigation & Add a Smart Controller
Traditional sprinkler systems can waste an enormous amount of water. By installing a drip irrigation system and incorporating a smart controller, you can save up to 15 gallons each time you water your garden. Ensure your sprinkler heads are properly adjusted to avoid water wastage. Small leaks, even as tiny as the tip of a ballpoint pen, can waste an astounding 6,300 gallons of water per month!
Slow, deep watering helps to avoid run-off and waste. If you have trees on a slope, place your watering system above the trees so water flows and soaks around the tree.
Use Water-wise Plants
Choosing the right plants is a significant first step. California-native plants, such as certain types of cacti and flowers, are adept at thriving in arid conditions and require less water. Selecting drought-resistant plants and trees can result in water savings of 30-60 gallons per 1000 sq. ft. each time you water. Check out our Waterwise Garden to identify some plants that work well in our area.
Allocate your water judiciously. Vegetable and fruit plants that feed you should be given water priority. Once established, water-wise plants and shade trees require little or no watering. Meanwhile, thirsty plants such as lawn and container plants should be considered lower priority.
Use a Broom to Clean Outdoor Areas
Water isn't necessary for cleaning your outdoor spaces. By using a broom, you can save 6 gallons of water every minute.
Set Mower Blades to 3”
This might sound odd, but setting your mower blades to three inches actually encourages deeper root growth, which in turn saves between 16-50 gallons of water per day.
Mulch not only enriches your soil but also helps retain moisture, saving between 20-30 gallons of water per 1000 sq. ft. each time you water. A layer of 4-6 inches of mulch or leaf litter helps retain moisture, reduces water needs and protects your trees. Keep mulch away from trunks and stems to prevent rot.
Prioritize Your Trees
It's crucial to use water responsibly during drought, including providing adequate water to our trees. Not only are trees an investment - losing a mature tree to drought costs more water, time, and money to replace than to maintain - but stressed trees can also pose significant wildfire risks. Therefore, proper watering, especially during droughts, not only sustains these vital assets but also aids in reducing wildfire hazards, thereby protecting lives and property. Remember, California needs trees, and trees need water.
Young trees (0-3 yrs) need 5 gallons of water 2 -4 times per week. Create a small watering basin with a berm of dirt. For established trees (3+ yrs), soak the root zone under the canopy until water penetrates 12-18 inches below the surface. Avoid watering close to the trunk.
Limit Pruning and Fertilizer
Avoid pruning or fertilizing trees during dry periods as these practices can stress the trees. Fertilizer encourages leafy growth, which requires more water.