NDSU Extension Service - Stark & Billings County


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Conserve Water in the Landscape

A guide to using less water in the yard and garden

This summer has been a dry one! Here are some tips to cope with dry times:

  • Irrigate in the Morning

This reduces loss of water from evaporation. Avoid windy days and hot afternoons.

  • Mulch Everything

Exposed soil can lose twice as much moisture as mulched soil. Use organic mulches (shredded bark, wood chips) around trees, shrubs and flowers. Rock mulches are less effective. Use straw/hay or plastic mulch in veggie gardens.

  • Prioritize Your Watering

New trees and shrubs have damaged root systems and are most vulnerable to drought stress; give them the first drink. Garden plants get the next drink. Lawns can go dormant; watering is optional. Mature trees rarely need irrigation.

  • Watering Tips

Lawns are turning yellow and going dormant. That’s perfectly all right. But if you want your lawn to stay green and growing, it needs water. It needs about one inch per week from you, rainfall or a combination of both.
Set a group of flat-bottomed cups at 5- to 10-foot intervals from the base of your sprinkler to the edge of its reach. Measure the time it takes for an inch of water to fall in the cups. Use this as your base time. Roots grow where the water is.
Irrigate deeply to develop a deep root system. If water runs off before one inch is applied, split the watering into two or more applications. Irrigate in the morning to minimize loss from evaporation. Avoid windy days and hot afternoons.

  • Adjust sprinklers

Adjust sprinkler heads to avoid irrigating sidewalks and driveways. If runoff is a problem (for example, on a sloped lawn), split your applications into two or more sessions to allow time for the water to soak in.

  • Mowing Tips

Mow TALL and let clippings FALL. Put your mower on a flat surface and set the blade so it cuts at the highest height you can accept (at least 2.5 inches). Taller lawns develop deeper root systems, smother emerging weeds and keep the soil cool.
Lawns with frayed tips were mowed with a dull blade. Sharpen or replace blades annually..

  • Mulch Clippings

Don’t bag clippings. They keep the soil cooler and reduce drought stress.

  • Use Xeric Plants

Learn about xeriscaping (landscaping to conserve water). Once established, xeric plants can grow with minimal watering.

  • Use Rain Barrels

During a 1-inch rainfall, 0.6 gallons of water falls on each square foot of your roof. That’s over 1,000 gallons for an average roof (1,700 sq. ft.). That’s a lot of water we can use to irrigate our flowers, trees and shrubs.

  • Avoid Overhead Sprinklers

You can lose 25% or more of water to evaporation before it hits the ground. Use a watering wand, soaker hose or a drip irrigation system.

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