How to Conserve Soil & Water

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In any landscape situation, paying attention to conserving soil and water provides benefits to the plants and the overall environment. Plan the landscape to protect the soil and spare water to reduce erosion. Select native plants for a less labor- and water-intensive landscape. The Water Conservation Garden at Cuyamaca College offers a brochure of plants for water conserving landscapes. Follow basic guidelines and make some landscape changes to make the most of any terrain and create a soil- and water-conserving landscape.

Things You'll Need

  • Notebook
  • Pen
  • Drought-tolerant plants
  • Ground cover plants
  • Mulch
  • Rocks, bricks or other edging material
  • Boulders
  • Shovel
  • Garden hose
  • Hose nozzle with variable settings
  • Walk through the property and note the current landscape features and their condition. For example: flowerbed on south side of the house with full sun requires a lot of water; front lawn requires frequent watering and is in poor condition; back corner shade garden doing well; north side of house needs landscaping; rear hillside eroding.

  • Remove or relocate water-wasting features. For example, turn a flowerbed in a full-sun location into a rock garden and move a pond or fountain to a shaded area to reduce evaporation. The Native Again Landscape website recommends replacing a lawn with native plants to save water.

  • Plant drought-tolerant ground covers. Plants add color and texture to the landscape for less water and labor than a lawn. Add ground cover to flower beds and under trees to help conserve moisture and reduce weeds.

  • Select drought-tolerant plants for any new plantings on the property. Succulents and cacti make effective choices for a water-conserving garden.

  • Relocate plants that require a lot of water to group them together. Select an area with partial shade if the plants will tolerate it. You'll save water by watering them together. Add mulch to the thirsty plants to help the soil retain moisture and reduce evaporation.

  • Create rock gardens to add landscaping interest. Rocks help to hold soil in place and make effective focal points for hillsides, terraces, barren areas and any difficult-to-plant areas.

  • Add boulders and large rocks to hillsides by digging a hole 1/3 the height of the rock and placing the boulder in the hole. This provides stability to reduce the risk of rock slide and makes the boulder look like part of the original landscape. Place smaller rocks randomly between larger ones, and plant some bushes to help hold the soil together with their root systems.

  • Spread a layer of small decorative rocks such as lava rocks or gravel on planting areas and flowerbeds to hold in moisture and soil. The layer of rock helps to conserve the soil during heavy rains and runoff when combined with borders. Place rocks in a row around the edge of the planting area, or put bricks lengthwise end to end for inexpensive and effective borders.

  • Water in the early morning or evening to reduce water loss from evaporation. Evening watering allows the moisture to soak in overnight without being evaporated by the sun, so the plants get the most benefit from the least amount of water. Watering during the sunny part of the day wastes water.

  • Calculate watering time to prevent runoff. If you use a sprinkler or irrigation system, time the watering so that you can set the timer or turn off the water before runoff occurs.

Tips & Warnings

  • Create container gardens of herbs, vegetables and flowers. Growing only what you need saves water and these gardens are easier for seniors, wheelchair users and anyone with difficulty bending to tend.

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References

  • Photo Credit garden image by memorialphoto from Fotolia.com
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