Does your landscape have a drinking problem?

Posted at 8:10 AM, Oct 14, 2016
and last updated 2019-04-30 13:42:05-04

Water is a precious resource—and even more so in the dry desert climate of Arizona. Did you know that up to 70 percent of our water use is used outdoors? 

About half of the water we put in our landscape often goes to waste. Overconsumption is a serious problem for many yards.

Help your landscape curb its water habit and regain its vibrant, healthy life with this 10-step guide to backyard rehab.

1. Understand what’s at stake

The truth is that more plants die from over-watering than from under-watering. Plants and plant roots definitely need water to survive in the desert, but roots also need oxygen to function properly. Overwatering can also cause plant roots to rot and die.

TIP: Be sure to water deeply, and then let the soil dry out between watering. Use our watering guidelines and you can check when your soil is drying out by using a long screwdriver.

2. Recognize the tell-tale signs

You can help your landscape curb its water habit by looking for clues in your yard. Are plant leaves turning light green or yellow? Do you notice algae or mushrooms growing? Do you water your lawn or garden on a set schedule regardless of the weather?  If so, you just might be giving your plants too much water.

Tip: Do not water every day. We’ve got a great landscape watering guide to help homeowners apply just the right amount of water to keep their landscapes healthy and beautiful.

3.  Cut out all the bad influences

There are lots of ways that we might be using water inefficiently. These bad influences could include weeds, which compete with your good plants for nutrients, light and water. Don’t forget to remove weeds from your lawn and garden frequently.

Tip: Get out and weed after a good rain. Once the soil is moist, it’s easier to hand pull them and get the roots and all. And, speaking of rain, check your yard a few weeks after a good rain. If you see small weed seedlings emerging, they are easier to remove when they’re small.

4. Take inventory of your tools, and when broken, fix them

Besides rakes or pruners, one of the best ‘tools’ that we use in our landscapes is the watering system. Leaky irrigation system parts or malfunctioning sprinklers or drip emitters can be very wasteful.

Tip: Turn your system on and evaluate your entire irrigation system from the valves to the emission points to check for leaks, misdirected or broken spray heads or other problems, and make repairs as needed. Don’t forget your goof plugs in case you need to cut off an emitter and plug the spaghetti tube if a plant has died and no longer needs to be watered.




5. Practice moderation in all things

One of the most common ways people waste water is by not changing their irrigation timer through the seasons. Plants need three to five times more water in the summer than the winter months.

Tip:  Adjust your timer about four times a year as water needs change, depending on the season. Be sure to adjust the irrigation timer so that it is watering deeply but infrequently, or get a SMART controller that will adjust automatically.

6. Limit your excesses

A Xeriscape landscape design doesn’t mean giving up all the fun elements and living spaces in your backyard. Water features can be a great addition to a landscape, but it is best to avoid waterfall or spray-type fountains to minimize water waste.

Tip: Choose trickling or cascading water features for your yard. These lose less water to evaporation and to overspray waste. They can also be very beneficial for wildlife and can help to attract birds to your yard.

7. Learn to let go

You may not know this, but you don’t have to over-seed your Bermuda with winter rye grass. You can allow your lawn to go dormant for the winter and your dormant grass needs watering only once every three to four weeks, and that’s IF we don’t get winter rains. You can water even less frequently if we get a good storm.

Tip: If you don’t overseed with winter rye, it’s a lot less work; it’s also better for your summer Bermuda lawn, and just think of how much money you’ll save on your water bill.

8. Seek assistance from above

You may have thought to do this in other areas of your life, but for your landscape? Well, did you know that just an inch of rain on a 1,000 square foot roof would shed 600 gallons of water that you can channel into your landscape? We don’t get a lot of rain in the desert but we get enough to help cut our water bills by directing rainwater from our roof and driveways to the plants and trees in our yards.

Tip: Learn easy steps you can take to harvest rainwater by visiting our website. You’ll learn how a little yard grading can help you slow, spread and sink beneficial rainwater into your landscape.

9. Find the right balance

There are lots of reasons why plants may use more water than they need to, but one reason is how we maintain them. When we over prune, plants use more water. When we apply too much fertilizer, plants need more water. Make sure you are following recommendations but don’t overdo the maintenance.

Tip: Allow plant branches to grow low to the ground and leave plant litter, like dropped leaves, in place under the plant. It’s a great way to mulch your plants naturally and will save you water, too.

10. Call on a powerful source for knowledge

As mentioned earlier, 70 percent of household water use is outdoors. But before you get started changing your landscape’s habits, consider educating yourself. That’s what Water – Use It Wisely is all about. We’re not selling anything but ways to save water.

Tip: Consider visiting our website for ideas and links to all the best resources we could find. Visit our event calendar to see classes offered to learn more.

Want to learn how you can transform your own landscape into a Xeriscape wonderland?  We can help. Visit our Drab to Fab page to see our 10-part video series that will take you step-by-step through the process of creating your own low water use landscape that looks great and saves water.

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