Conserving Water in the Landscape

By Trisha Gedon, Oklahoma State University

First posted on 04-11-2014

Now that spring is in the air, gardeners all across the state are preparing soil, starting seeds or shopping for plants in preparation for a great gardening season.

As the weather begins to warm up, gardening enthusiasts will start to see an increase in outdoor water usage, said Justin Moss, assistant professor of turfgrass in Oklahoma State University’s Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture.

“It’s no secret a successful garden and landscape will require proper irrigation, especially if Oklahoma continues to see drought conditions,” Moss said. “However, there are a number of steps gardeners can take in an effort to help conserve outdoor water usage.”

For those who have an irrigation system, now is a great time to conduct a system checkup. Look for leaks, broken pipes and clogged or broken sprinkler heads.

Moss suggests conducting an irrigation audit to determine uniformity and to make sure the system is not overwatering or watering streets or sidewalks.

“It’s always a good idea to have a rain sensor to turn off your irrigation system during a rain event,” he said. “You also might want to consider upgrading to a ‘smart’ controller. Soil moisture or weather-based controllers automatically adjust the irrigation schedule to provide the correct amount of water for your landscaping and gardening needs.”

The best times of day to water are early morning or evening when the Oklahoma winds are not sweeping down the plains. This will help reduce water loss from evaporation. In addition, allowing the soil to dry between watering allows plants to develop strong, deep roots.

Mulch is another way to help conserve moisture. Mulch also prevent weeds, reduces soil erosion and can help improve soil quality as it decomposes.

“It’s best to maintain a 2- to 3-inch layer around established trees, shrubs and bedding plans,” Moss said. “Be careful to avoid piling too much mulch around the base of trees since it can hold moisture and encourage trunk rot.”

Another method of conserving water is to put in a drought-resistant garden and landscape. This type of landscape contains drought tolerant native or introduced plants and can be low maintenance and requires less water.