Help Your Plants Beat the Sweltering Heat With These Water Sense Tips

By Diane MacEachern
NABBW’s Going Green Expert

This summer’s heat wave is expected to result in a serious spike in the amount of water being used outdoors this year.

Late July and early August are usually when outdoor water use soars in most of the U.S., but some regions report that they see people in their communities overwatering well into the fall.

City and county managers worry because, if people and businesses don\’t use water more efficiently, communities will find it very tough to manage droughts and freshwater resources.

Why should YOU care?

Depending on where you live, you might use between 30 and 70 percent of your water outdoors.

Experts estimate that 50 percent of the water we use outdoors gets wasted due to evaporation, wind, or runoff due to overwatering.

The average American home uses about 260 gallons of water per day. During hotter months, homes can use about 1,000 gallons of water a day. Some use as much as 3,000 gallons per day, or the equivalent of leaving a garden hose running for nearly eight hours!

No matter how much or how little water you use, it will save you and money and time to use less water. Here\’s how!

Top 10 Tips for Saving Water Outdoors

1. Xeriscape: Plant perennials, annuals, bushes and trees that do not need more water than normally falls in your region. If rainfall is scarce, skip hydrangeas, which require frequent watering to thrive and bloom. You can find a good list of plants and the amount of watering they require here.

2. Replace grassy lawns: Did you ever notice that grassy lawns don\’t exist anywhere naturally? That\’s because they\’re a “monocrop,” and Mother Nature prefers to mix things up (it\’s called “bio diversity”) by encouraging a variety of plants to grow together. Even in regions that benefit from a lot of rain, you won\’t find a lawn growing naturally. Follow Mother Nature\’s lead. Replace your thirsty lawn with a diverse array of groundcovers that are more suited to the actual climate in which you live. While you\’re at it, use decorative stones and garden statuary to add interest to your landscape. You\’ll water less – and mow a lot less, too.

3. Plant in “watering zones”: When planting, assign areas of your landscape to different hydrozones depending on sun/shade exposure, soil and plant types, and type of sprinklers you plan to use. Then, adjust your irrigation system or watering schedule based on those zones’ specific needs. With this simple system in place, you\’ll avoid overwatering some areas or underwatering others.

4. Tune up your system: Inspect irrigation systems and check for leaks and broken or clogged sprinkler heads. Fix sprinkler heads that are broken or spraying on the sidewalk, street, or driveway. Repair or replace hoses that have holes.

5. Water when it makes sense. Know how much water your landscape actually needs before you set your sprinkler. Your local utility or garden center can recommend how much water certain plants need in your region and best times to water. It’s best to water lawns and landscapes in the early morning and late evening because large amounts of water can be lost due to evaporation during the heat of the day.

6. Use a WaterSense timer. WaterSense is a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency program that helps people save water with a product label and tips for saving water around the house. Products carrying the WaterSense label perform well, help save money, and encourage innovation in manufacturing. Clock timers you attach to your faucet can be set to turn off automatically, saving you water and time. WaterSense labeled irrigation controllers act like a thermostat for your lawn, using local weather data to determine when and how much to water, which reduces waste and improves plant health! Learn more here.

7. Get some help: Contractors certified through a WaterSense labeled program can audit, install, or maintain home irrigation systems to ensure water isn’t wasted. Make sure you ask for credentials.

8. Use a soil moisture sensor: Grass doesn’t always need water just because it’s hot out. Step on the lawn, and if the grass springs back, it doesn’t need water. An inexpensive soil moisture sensor can also show the amount of moisture at the plant’s roots and discourage overwatering.

9. Cut back on mowing. Longer grass promotes deeper root growth, resulting in a more drought-resistant lawn, reduced evaporation, and fewer weeds. So raise your lawn mower blade to leave the grass longer when you cut it.

10. Give your hose a break: Sweep driveways, sidewalks, and steps rather than hosing them off. And don’t forget to check for leaks at your spigot connection and tighten as necessary.

Diane MacEachern, the author of Big Green Purse: Use Your Spending Power to Create a Cleaner, Greener World, is passionate about empowering women to use their marketplace clout to protect the environment.

A best-selling author, successful entrepreneur, sought-after public speaker, and long-time conservationist, Diane encourages women to green the marketplace by choosing products whose use or manufacture offer the greatest environmental benefit. Through her new book, as well as her articles and speeches, she hopes to motivate women to take actions that will make a difference. She helps environmental organizations engage more women as members, activists, and donors. She also encourages companies to green their products to appeal to more women consumers.

Big Green Purse website was named “2007 Best Green Website” by FutureNow. The site offers eco-lifestyle tips and shopping suggestions, as well as opportunities to join One in a Million, a campaign to encourage one million women to shift $1,000 of their household budgets to eco-friendly products and services. This article was previously published on Diane\’s website.

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Diane MacEachern, the author of Big Green Purse: Use Your Spending Power to Create a Cleaner, Greener World, is passionate about empowering women to use their marketplace clout to protect the environment.