There's no better way to green up your landscape than by saving water. Besides helping to retain moisture by composting and mulching, you need to develop a green irrigation system. One way is to work a rain garden into your landscape. These are areas specifically designed to soak up water runoff from your driveway, roof or lawn. Once it's collected, it's allowed to soak back into the ground slowly. This can help you retain 30 percent more rainwater than your average lawn [source: EPA]. It also helps to reduce soil erosion and prevent fertilizer and nutrients from finding their way into local water sources.
You can also save water in how you distribute it to your plants. Drip irrigation systems and soaker hoses are a great way to reduce water waste for plant beds. Soaker hoses have tiny holes that allow small amounts of water to soak into the soil, preventing evaporation and runoff. Drip irrigation is a system that uses a slow trickle to water the soil to allow for deep root penetration. There are many varieties of drip systems, but they all involve a network of hoses or plastic pipes with slow-release drip valves positioned exactly where you need them -- near the base of the plant. Watering the root system itself leads to a stronger plant that's more resistant to drought.
Another way you can conserve and collect water is by using rain barrels. These are large plastic or wooden containers that are attached to the downspout of your gutter system. The rainwater from your roof flows through the downspout and directly into your barrel. You're literally collecting rainwater for use on your lawn and garden. You can purchase rain barrels at most hardware stores these days or make your own from a large plastic trash can. Simply cut an opening in the lid of the can large enough to fit the gutter downspout. When it's full, dip your watering can for your irrigation needs. Pre-made rain barrels cost a bit more, but come with spigots for easy filling.
Here are some other green watering tips:
- Water deeply and less often -- let plants partially dry out between watering.
- Make sure your sprinklers aren't watering the sidewalk.
- If water puddles, allow it to soak in before you continue.
- Water in the early morning to prevent evaporation.
- During heavy drought, let an established lawn go dormant -- it will brown, but won't die.
- Established trees and shrubs can usually live on rainwater alone.