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Wise Tips For Water Conservation

by Ryan Wright

Growing a healthy lawn or garden requires water, but in some locales water is a very precious and limited resource. Practicing good water saving habits is vital to the continued availability of water. The following tips can help you grow healthy outdoor plants while also conserving water.

Tip #1: Install a Drip System

Drip systems used to only be suitable for garden beds. This is because the most basic systems consisted of a series of hoses, called drip tape, that ran water to the plants. These hoses were placed on top of the soil. There are now newer systems that are placed beneath the sod, so they "drip" water to grass roots. This method works well for both lawns and perennial garden beds, where the permanently installed drip tapes won't be disturbed. Both above-ground and underground systems conserve water because very little is lost due to evaporation. Learn more here.

Tip #2: Make Use of Mulch

Mulch is a vital part of any water conservation system. Plastic or fabric mulch is typically used in above-ground drip systems. This is because it covers and protects the drip tape while further preventing evaporative moisture loss. Bark mulches won't work in this instance because they can clog the drip emitters. You can apply a decorative mulch on top of plastic, though, since the plastic forms a barrier between bark and emitter. In areas with underground systems or no drip irrigation, cover the soil with a layer of bark, wood chips, or pine straw to protect against moisture loss.

Tip #3: Leave It Long

Grass benefits from mulch, too, but you don't want to spread wood chips over the entire lawn. Instead, try leaving the lawn a half-inch or so longer than usual. The longer grass helps shade the roots and soil, preventing moisture loss. You may also consider purchasing a lawnmower that has a mulching function. These mowers chop up the cut grass finely and redistribute it evenly over the lawn. The grass then settles on top of the soil, creating a thin layer of protective mulch that also decomposes and puts nutrients back into the soil.

Tip #4: Skip Automatic Cycles

If you still use overhead watering, skip the automatic sprinkler cycles. Instead, operate your system manually. Generally, you want to water later in the evening or early in the morning so a minimal amount of water is lost to evaporation. Water only when the top inch or so of soil feels dry when you stick your finger into it. One way to accurately monitor soil moisture levels so you only water when needed and supply the minimum necessary is to invest in a moisture meter. Simply insert the meter into the soil to get an accurate reading.

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