Even the most drought tolerant garden still needs water. And as things heat up this summer (especially in the drier Southwestern states), it's important to give thirsty plants what they need with an eye toward water conservation.
If you have a larger garden or one that gets a lot of sun you'll want to curb your water spending not only for the environment but for that nasty water bill at the end of the month. You can go ahead and buy, or pay someone, to set up a fancy drip watering system for you, or you can keep it simple and follow some of these tips:
• If you have a container garden, you may not gain much by drip watering, but you can still save water. Clay pots leech moisture out of the soil and allow it to evaporate quickly. Re-use plastic pots (you can hide them inside the prettier terra cotta ones if you'd like) and always make sure you're using saucers to catch the excess water.
• Use mulch. You can buy bags of it at Home Depot or any garden store. Putting down mulch is akin to insulating a house, but for moisture. It will help the soil keep moisture in once you water it (this works for container gardens and regular gardens).
• One of the best way to use less water is to have plants that need less water. If you haven't done so already, check out the Theodore Paine nursery in Sunland for ideas on a native california garden.
• Water plants at dusk, this limits the amount of evaporation and optimizes the amount of water that plants take up, since they do most of their maintenance at night.
• Having a lawn isn't great for water conservation since we essentially live in a desert, but If you have a rental or have decided that you must have a lawn (or run a golf course or slip n slide park) make sure your sprinklers are coming on at dusk or early morning. And adjust them so that they angle less into the air and more into the dirt.
• Drip watering can be one of the most effective ways to curb water usage: For larger shrubs and trees, put the hose next to the base of the plant and allow the tiniest stream of water out, you can even keep it so low that it just drips. Then set your timer and leave it on the plant for 15-45 minutes depending on the size of it (so if it's a tree give it 45 minutes or longer if it's really big). This allows water to get down to the roots and saturate the soil without losing much to evaporation. If possible do this in the evening or early morning.
• Buy one of these soaker hoses for flower beds or larger areas that you need to water. You hook it up like a regular hose, but instead of the water coming out of the end of the hose, it looks like it's sweating on the plants. This slow release of water is perfect for watering plants at dusk that would otherwise take forever if you kept having to move the end of the hose to drip them.
• Avoid planting new plants until the Fall. New plants, no matter how drought tolerant need a little extra water to help them to root and grow in their new home, so hold off if you can!
• When dripping, don't overwater! If you overdo it you'll end up with root rot, so find that sweet spot where the plants thrive and don't look tired or start getting spots on their leaves (this is from too much water). Also remember to always set a timer when dripping since it can be very easy to forget and leave it on all night (oops!).