7 Tips on How to Conserve Water in the Garden

Updated: Aug. 25, 2023

Follow these steps to use water smartly and still keep your plants happy and healthy.

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In some parts of the country, water is nothing to take for granted. Still, that doesn’t mean if you live in an arid climate, you have to forgo a garden and landscaping completely. It just means that you’ve got to be extra careful about how you use this precious resource.

With a few easy changes, you can reduce your outdoor water use by 20 to 50 percent.. Not only will that help keep your water bill low, making these simple adaptations will also keep your plants looking perky. And even if you don’t live in the desert, these tips will help your garden survive a drought.

Try these tips from the National Garden Bureau and Gardener’s Supply Company.

Improve the Soil

Supplement your soil with compost, chopped-up leaves or composted manure. These organic materials increase soil’s water-holding capacity. A good rule of thumb is to add one inch of compost per year.  

Water Deeply

Give your plants a solid soak. While sprinklers do the job, a soaker hose works even better. It applies the water directly to the soil by the roots, so up to 90 percent is actually available to plants.

Just Add Mulch

Spread mulch. It prevents weeds from growing and soaking up all the water you add to the planting area. A layer of mulch provides the most bang for your buck. Organic mulches are best; try grass clippings free of weedkillers, evergreen needles and shredded leaves.

Save Rainwater

Be extra frugal and capture all the free water you can. Place rain barrels or a cistern at your downspouts. A 1,000-square-foot roof collects about 625 gallons of water from just one inch of rain. Learn how to plant a rain garden, which will give you a beautiful flower bed that also conserves water.

Prepare the Garden Site

Know the characteristics of your planting site, such as the amount of sun and shade it receives, soil type and wind conditions. Make a plan to group plants with similar needs, like these drought-tolerant flowers.

Read Plant Tags

Shop with drought-tolerance in mind. Some plants get all the water they need from rain, so once established they require less attention. If you’re looking for perennials suited for drought conditions, your best bet is usually native plants that are adapted to your climate and soil type.

Remove the Competition

Keep up with garden chores. Healthy plants mean less work! When you stay on top of tasks such as weeding, thinning and pruning, you add to the health of your plants and in turn need to water less frequently.