10 Smart Ways to Save Water in Your Garden

  • 01 of 12

    Drought-Tolerant Ways to Landscape

    desert garden
    Waterwise landscaping with cacti and succulents. Jerry Pavia/Getty Images

    Whether you live in a region that is a desert, has a Mediterranean climate, or is seriously affected by drought, it's a smart idea to practice water-wise gardening. A practical design should use native plants, requires less maintenance, and will lower your water bills.

    Reasons for using less water in your yard vary: the region in which you live is experiencing a drought, it's an especially hot summer, you want to trim bills, or conserve precious resources. Discover ways to water more...MORE wisely and sparingly—some of which you may be familiar, and a few that might help you save both water and money.

    We share 10 important landscape features or practices that will help serve as a blueprint for reassessing your front and back yards. you might want to redesign all or part of your landscaping and rethink the existing hardscape and softscape (living, growing plants) areas of your property. 

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  • 02 of 12

    Get Rid of the Lawn

    Sprinklers on lawn. Getty Images

    First things first: take a look at your front yard, that thing that helps give your house its curb appeal. The water-guzzling plot of grass is there out of habit; just because it's always been there and you don't know what else to do with it. Do you children really spend hours on it playing football, volleyball and croquet? Does your family picnic on the lawn? Didn't think so. Consider replacing the grass with a drought tolerant ground cover, woody shrubs, native ornamentals,...MORE succulents, hardscape, or a mix of any or all.

    It's a well-known fact that turf grass requires lots of water—something that is obviously scarce in drought-stricken regions. Dig it up, or have a pro tackle the chore, and replace it with some drought-tolerant turf alternatives.

    Path and Paving Materials in Water Conservation Landscaping

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  • 03 of 12

    Group Plants With Similar Needs Together

    woman planting in garden
    A woman planting in her garden. Shannon Fagan/Getty Images

    When landscaping, do your research and try to combine plants that have similar water needs. This way, you will avoid over- or under-watering. Working on your own or with a landscaping pro, it's best to design any garden to use water as efficiently as possible. For example, group drought-tolerant plants together, shade lovers together, sun lovers together, etc.


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  • 04 of 12

    Choose the Right Plants for Your Region

    woman at nursery
    Woman shopping at nursery. Geri Lavrov/Getty Images

    Did you know that the best time to plant natives is in the fall or early spring? Native trees, shrubs, vines, perennials, annuals, ornamental grasses, and succulents will be available at local nurseries, garden centers, botanical gardens, or through university botanical programs. When choosing a plant, consider its ultimate height and width, preference for shade or sun, and watering needs. 

    15 Top Water-wise Plants

    Gardening with Cacti

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  • 05 of 12

    Improve the Soil

    digging up lawn, dig
    Tiling soil in front yard. Getty Images

    Some of us enjoy rolling up our sleeves, putting on a pair of gloves, and really digging in the dirt—adding amendments to soil to get the right balance of nutrients and consistency for growing perennials, trees, shrubs and vines. That love affair with the soil on your property, doesn't have to end when you practice water-conservation in your landscape. Regularly cultivating it and adding organic matter will increase the soil's ability to conserve water.

    Zones and Maps for Gardens and Drought

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  • 06 of 12

    Get Smart About Irrigation

    drip irrigation
    Drip irrigation system. Getty Images

    If it's been a long time since you have taken a good, hard look at your garden's irrigation system, it may be time to assess and change-out a few things or behaviors. Like, are you one of those people who waters a thirsty lawn and the sidewalk every other night (or more)? 

    A well-designed and -planned irrigation system can help you avoid overwatering. Besides wasting precious water, it can cause plants to become diseased or kill them. Take a look at efficient systems your local water...MORE supply company or gardening center recommend—likely something with a drip irrigation, moisture sensor, or irrigation controller. In the long run, investing in a better irrigation system will save you money.

    Try Root Irrigation

    Root irrigation works well for paved areas with shrubs and trees in which their drip lines can't be watered. How it works: the needlelike probe at the end of this irrigator injects water into the root zone of the plant to a depth of 1½ feet. They work in concentric circles around the drip line of the canopy.

    50 Tips for Saving Water Outdoors

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  • 07 of 12

    Add Mulch

    mulch with lavender
    Lavandula angustifolia 'Hidcote' (Hidcote lavender), lavender plants along the edge of a garden path. Peter Anderson/Getty Images

    Adding organic or mineral materials on top of soil will help reduce moisture loss that occurs through evaporation. Mulches will also cut back on unwanted weeds and can assist in slowing erosion.

    Besides being good for the soil and environment, mulches can add interest to a landscape. Good organic ones to consider are shredded bark, peat moss, and prepared composts. Inorganic mulches include pea gravel and rocks.

    Both organic and inorganic mulches will keep the soil cool and reduce water from...MORE evaporating. In a cultivated garden, mulch not only improves the soil, it makes the landscape look well-kept, discourages weeds, keeps soil temperatures down, and keeps clay soil from crusting.


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  • 08 of 12

    Regular Maintenance

    planting garden
    A woman transplants a fig tree in her garden. Kathrin Ziegler/Getty Images

    Careless maintenance or neglect in your garden can result in the loss of millions of gallons of water per year. 

    Maybe it's time to get smart. A few possible ways include:

    • Checking outdoor faucets regularly for drips.
    • Weeds require water to grow; pulling them by hand to include roots will help. Apply mulch to keep them from coming back.
    • Fertilizing and pruning plants for health and better appearance.
    • Transplanting specimens that have outgrown their containers into the garden so that roots...MORE won't dry out.

    Checking Outdoors for Leaks


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  • 09 of 12

    Create Basins, Mounds and Swales

    planting a tree
    Dirt mound surrounds a tree that is being planted. Aluxium/Getty Images

    Dig a "moat" around shrubs, trees, or new transplants in your landscape. To create a basin, build a doughnut-shaped ridge of soil several inches high around the plant's drip line. Then fill the basin with water from the hose several times to make sure it penetrates deeply. However, don't allow water to stay in a pool around the plant's crown.

    By raising a planting mound, you create a depression, or swale, into which water will flow and pool. There, it collects and irrigates nearby plants.

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  • 10 of 12

    Eliminate Waste Water

    broken faucet
    Broken water faucet in yard. ideeone/Getty Images

    Things like faulty-working sprinklers, broken hoses, and loose faucet hardware all contribute to wasting water, so keep them maintained or replace them when necessary. Slopes and improperly designed swales may direct water away from your garden. Prevent runoff by installing a drip irrigation system on slopes. 

    Conduct a Test

    To witness just how moisture moves through the soil in your garden, water for about 30 minutes, then wait 24 hours. Simply dig a hole or use a soil-sampling probe to assess if...MORE the water has moved beyond the first few inches of soil. If is has not, you can probably conclude that your property has poorly draining soil. Consult a landscaping professional to install a drip irrigation system

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  • 11 of 12

    Create Shade

    umbrella in garden
    Garden shaded by umbrella. Fotosearch/Getty Images

    The sun beating down on your garden all day can quickly evaporate water. Patio or gazebo roofs, overhead arbors, outdoor structures, and trees all help block the sun's harsh rays. While it's standard to shelter outdoor areas like patios and decks or structures like gazebos and pergolas, also look for ways to create shade over areas in the garden that might need it, such as water features, trees and shrubs, climbing vines, or vegetables and herbs—especially during the hottest months of the year.

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  • 12 of 12

    Learn More About Water-Wise Landscaping

    succulents in yard
    Drought-tolerant landascaping with succulent.s. Getty Images

    Learn more about water-wise gardens and dealing with the drought.

    The Drought and What You Can do About it

    20 Surprising Facts About Water Use at Home

    Succulent Garden Design Ideas: A Gallery

    Get Paid for Saving Water: Rebates and Smart Irrigation Programs