Water-wise Gardening

Water is a precious resource. Climate change will bring hotter summers, more droughts and wild weather swings and events. Water will become even more precious. The good news is that we can conserve water through sound landscape practices. Conserving water and reducing storm runoff is helped by the following practices:

  • Plant Native Plants. Native plants, trees and shrubs do not need as much water as exotic species. Native plant roots run deep and this helps them weather dry spells. Their deep root system also stabilizes the soil and makes it more absorbent, reducing storm runoff.

  • Plant Native Trees and Shrubs. Tree roots reduce storm runoff. Trees absorb an enormous amount of water, and they also provide us with oxygen, cool shade and sequester carbon from the air. Native trees and shrubs are tough and rarely require watering once established.

  • Build Your Soil. Soil that is high in organic matter absorbs and retains lots of water and prevents runoff. Don't treat your soil like dirt! Soil is a valuable natural resource and a living system that needs to be cared for and nourished. Feed your soil organic matter like compost and shredded leaves and you will be rewarded with black, absorbent, moist, living soil. Soil also sequesters carbon for us.

  • Use Mulch. Mulch will prevent water evaporation from the soil and is a water-wise solution in your garden. Keep mulch away from plant stems to prevent rot. Don't use mulch in your meadow, else your meadow plants will find it difficult to reseed.

  • Capture and Reuse Water. Don't let water go down the drain - capture and reuse it. Have gutters feed rain barrels and then use that water for your plants. After taking a bath, use the bathwater in your garden.

  • Irrigate Efficiently. If you must water, do so in the early morning to prevent evaporation and maximize the water you are using. Don't water in the heat of the day - you'll lose a lot of water through evaporation. Drip irrigation is water efficient as is using a water can. Only water when the plants really need it. In a native landscape that should be infrequently.

  • Reduce Your Lawn. Lawns are water hungry and need lots of irrigation to stay green and not go dormant. Reduce your lawn area and consider planting a meadow or native garden instead. You'll save lots of water, have less to do, help pollinators, and enjoy your outdoor space so much more. For the lawn that remains, mow high to retain moisture in the ground.

  • Use Permeable Surfaces. Allow water to be absorbed into the ground rather than run off into the storm water system or elsewhere. Instead of concrete, consider pavers, stone or gravel. It looks nicer and allows water to be absorbed. Permeable asphalt is also an option.

  • Use the Right Plant in the Right Place. Choose your plants for the conditions you will offer them. If you do this you will have carefree plants that will need no to little water or attention from you. Easy!

  • Consider Tough Plants That Withstand Drought. There are some really tough natives out there! Consider some of these from the EPA WaterSense website or this list from NYC Parks.