Recently every night on the news we are reminded of the drought our state is now experiencing. It is very important to know how to create a water-wise garden and grow plants that require less additional water. At the greenhouse, we hear that customers want to save water, but don’t want their yard to look like a desert. It is possible to reduce your water consumption and still have a beautiful garden.
- Add organic matter to your soil. Soil is essentially a collection of mineral particles of different sizes. If most of the particles are large (sand), water passes through rapidly. If most of the particles are small (clay), water will penetrate the soil much more slowly. The solution for either of these problems is to add organic matter. Organic mater in the form of composted manure, chopped up leaves, green manures, or vermi-compost will improve the texture and water-holding capacity of your soil.
- Soaker hoses ensure that up to 90% of the water you apply to your garden is actually available to your plants. Sprinklers can claim only 40 to 50 percent efficiency. Drip irrigation and soaker hoses minimize evaporation loss and keep the areas between plants dry, which also helps limit weed growth.
- Use mulch to help retain water. A 6-8” layer of organic mulch can cut water needs in half by blocking thirsty weeds and reducing evaporation. Mulch can retain some water themselves, and increase the humidity level around plants.
- Choose your plants carefully. Varieties that are native to or area or areas with a similar climate will require a lot less work from you. Make sure you plan your garden before you plant. Group plants that have similar needs of water, sun, shade, wind, and soil.
- Using free water is a great choice for your plants. Rainwater is clear, un-chlorinated and free. In Colorado (as of 2016) most homeowners are allowed to collect rainwater in a barrel or cistern from their downspouts. Find out more about rainwater collection in Colorado by clicking here.
- Reduce your lawn, by adding a patio, surrounded by trees, shrubs, or perennials. Turf grass is one of the thirstiest and labor-intensive types of gardens you can have.
- Take care of your plants. Healthy plants need less water, fertilizer and pest controls than stressed plants.