After over 40 years of landscape design and installation in Montecito, CA, we have learned a few things about efficient watering and believe if one applies these simple basic water-wise garden tips you can have a beautiful garden even in dry years.
Water-wise Tip #1-Train Your Plants
Simply put, plants use as much water as you give them and can be “trained” to live within their water budget (like we all wish we could). Think about when you saw the “rings” of a felled tree, wide rings when there had been a wet year and narrow rings during drought. All plants work this way to some degree. In nature, California Natives, for example, are dormant in the summer, when there is no rain. Their growing season is in the winter when water is present.
What does this mean to you, the homeowner? Plenty! It means you are in control of your garden’s water consumption.
Water-wise Tip #2-Drip irrigation
Drip irrigation is the most efficient watering method. It delivers the water to the individual plants without waste and overspray. People sometimes “freak out” because they don’t see water on the surface, but a property maintained drip system, creates a cone of moisture beneath the ground so all the water is absorbed and none is wasted.
Water-wise Tip #3-Automatic Controller
Remember when I mentioned that plants use as much water as you give them? Here’s where your automatic controller is vital, especially when plants are young. The regularity of the watering is more important than the volume. The watering needs to be the same time, same day, week after week, month after month. Because you are controlling the amount of water the plants are getting, you can give the plant less, as long as it’s on a regular, predictable schedule.
Water-wise Tip #4-Mulch is Your Secret Weapon
Cover every square inch of your property with 3-4” (minimum) of mulch. Any thing will work, tree chippings, leaves, pine needles, even newspaper and cardboard can be used to cover the earth. No matter how much mulch you have, you need more. There are many benefits to mulching, water retention, reduction of evaporation, weed abatement, moderation of soil temperature are just a few. Since mulch does decompose, it needs to be reapplied once a year at a minimum.
When you see gardeners raking or blowing away your precious mulch, they are factually, slowly, inexorably killing your soil. Get them to spread more mulch not rake it away.
When nature gives us less water we start paying attention, but in actuality these water-wise basics are applicable all the time so, why wait for a dry year?
Next week, more water-wise garden tips.
Until then, fill your garden with joy, not water.