Paul Simon, landscape horticulturist with the National Gardening Association has put together a video to help viewers understand how to conserve water in their gardens.
Mulch is your friend
Mulch and soil polymers can be very useful in helping gardeners retain and save moisture in their gardens. How do they work? Well, mulch has a lot of roles in conserving water in your garden. First of all, mulch helps smooth out soil temperatures from the sun, so that there aren’t hot and cold places in your garden.
And secondly, mulch can provide a blanket of protection to the soil itself. What this blanket does is reduces water loss by evaporation. And, in addition, it suppresses weed growth: mulch reduces the number of weeds that will be in competition with your plants for moisture.
Finally, mulch will help you control against water runoff, which helps improve water infiltration, keeping the water where you want it to be for your landscape plantings.
What are soil polymers? Most people don’t know; they’re also called water crystals. Here it is: soil polymers are small, jelly-like spongy substances that are mixed into the soil. They take out moisture. Then they release it back slowly into the soil. The role of soil polymers is to effectively help your plant bed retain moisture for longer periods of time.
It’s not just soil polymers that will help your plant bed retain moisture. One of the best ways you can conserve water in your garden is to plant drought-tolerant species. This varies widely, depending on where you live in the country, and you’ll need to consult a chart or, better still, a horticulturalist. You can also check with your local Cooperative Extension Service, Master Gardeners Program, local nurseries, or garden centers for a list of suggested plant varieties. However you figure it out, what your goal is here is to select varieties of plants that will do well with less irrigation… and thereby conserve water.
Placement is key
You need to think about irrigation as you plan your garden. Look at your plants in terms of which ones have similar water needs, and group them together. Put ones that need more water in areas with more rainwater. Also pay attention to these plants, understanding that they need more water, so you can focus your attention exactly where it’s needed. This way, each plant will receive just the right amount of water that it needs to thrive. This also saves time, if you know going in where you need to water more and where you need to water less.
Areas like roadways, parking areas, rooftops, and walkways have solid surfaces. These surfaces let water flow across and collect debris, contaminants, and pollutants—stuff that you don’t want in your garden!
If you want to protect sensitive areas from these pollutants, you can create a rain garden, which will give you a place to discharge storm water and let it filter all the pollutants.
A standard rain garden is about 12 to 18 inches deep and contains a lot of different shrubs and herbaceous plants that can withstand saturated soil conditions from time to time.
Instead of having solid surfaces that attract all those pollutants, consider using permeable pavers. They allow water to infiltrate and soak into the soil.