Water Wise planting is a systematic approach to water conservation in the semi-arid Rocky Mountain West that promotes creative landscaping while using 30% to 50% less water.
The following are the seven basic principles that will take you from the important first step of planning to the final implementation.
Low water use plant and zoning of plants
All landscaping requires a certain amount of maintenance. The amount of time and money spent on maintenance can be significantly reduced through low water use landscaping without sacrificing beauty or function.
Core aeration relieves soil compaction and allows water, air, and fertilizer to penetrate the soil surface. Less water will run off during irrigation. Core aerate once in the spring and again in the fall during cooler periods. The ground should not be dry when you aerate.
Set your mower to a higher level (2 1/2 - 3"). Mow when the grass is about 1" longer than cutting height. Use a mulching mower to recycle moisture and nutrients back into the lawn.
If you have brown spots in the lawn, check the soil in that area for dryness. Don't assume all brown spots are due to lack of water. There could be disease or other factors. Brown spots that are dry from may occur in areas that receive additional sun or wind. They may occur where sprinkler systems miss or apply less water. Hand water brown spots in the lawn instead of increasing the frequency of water on all the turf. Learn to tolerate a less than perfect lawn.
Fertilize in the spring and fall. If you apply a slow-release fertilizer in the spring, you won't need to fertilize in the heat of the summer.
Flower and Vegetable Garden Maintenance
There are many flowers that use less water. Group them together keeping in mind plant heights, colors, and sunlight requirements.
Space plants appropriately. Allow room for the plants to grow and so each plant will have adequate water available in the hot days of summer.
Remove weeds when small, they are water thieves.
Apply mulch. Mini Nuggets Bark Mulch will reduce evaporation, retain moisture, and control weeds. It has the advantage of being able to be mixed into the soil at the end of the season and amends the soil for the following season.
Newly planted flowers and vegetable plants require that you check them daily for water needs. All of their roots are in the soil they came with and it takes a couple weeks for them to get fully rooted into the garden soil. As the roots move out, they require less frequent watering. You can speed this process by loosening some of the roots from the soil ball as you plant. Water with Ferti-lome Root Stimulator after you plant.
Add Soil Moist crystals to patio pots and hanging baskets so they will hold and then release more water.
Drip irrigation is more efficient than overhead spraying especially in perennial flower and vegetable areas.
Tree and Shrub Maintenance
Tree roots can extend out to over 3 times the height of the tree. Soaking the ground next to the tree trunk is a waste of water. General landscape watering around the tree is best. They obtain water best when the water soaks deep into the soil near the feeder roots which can be far from the tree.
Newly planted trees can be permanently damaged by lack of water. Apply a 3" layer of mulch at least 2 feet wide around the trunk. Keep the mulch 2" away from the trunk. Check the moisture level in the original root ball under the mulch. Don't let this soil to get too dry.
The best time is in the early morning hours (Finish before 9 a.m.) Watering should also be adjusted for seasons and weather changes. Use a rain gauge. You can measure how much water you are applying and if you get more than 1/2" of rain, you can delay watering for at least a couple more days. On cooler stretches of days or in shady areas, you can water less frequently
Check the coverage of your sprinkler system. Watch for broken heads or broken lines. Clogged nozzles will result in uneven spray patterns. Fix sprinkler heads that have tipped sideways or have twisted away from the direction they were intended to cover.
Put a shutoff nozzle on the end of your hose so you don't waste water while moving across the garden. Adjust the nozzle to a coarse spray.
Click on this link to calculate your most efficient watering times based on your sprinkler system, type of plants, the days you are allowed to water, and time of year.