Top Ten Ways to Conserve Water in Your Yard

1. Select water-efficient plants that grow well in your climate 

Use Sunset® climate zones for detailed local information, or the USDA zones for cold hardiness (see RESOURCES).

2. Place plants with similar water needs together and irrigate them accordingly

This is called “hydrozoning.” In other words, don’t water your lawn and shrubs with the same valve. They have different water needs.

3. Make sure your irrigation system is functioning optimally

Are the sprinklers all working properly, and are they spaced the proper distance apart? Are drip emitters clogged? Are weeds growing around pop-up heads keeping them from working?   

4. For plants that have been in your yard a season or more, Water them less frequently than newly planted ones

Water them to a depth of slightly below the root zone to encourage extended root growth. Water newly planted plants as often as needed to keep them from wilting; which, in some cases, may be every day. Use the “feel test” described in the soils chapter to determine when it is time to water again. 

5. Avoid summer planting

Converting a thirsty yard to a drought-tolerant one should be done in autumn (preferably) or spring rather than during the heat of summer. New transplants need frequent and shallow irrigation until roots extend into native soil.

6. If you no longer enjoy or use your lawn, consider replacing your lawn with more water-efficient plants

If you decide to keep your lawn, water it based on the UC Lawn Watering Guide specific for your locale (see RESOURCES). For you scientists out there, the ET used in the watering guide charts is 0.8 for cool-season grasses, and 0.6 for warm-season grasses.

7. Spread and maintain a 2 –3" layer of mulch on top of soil around garden plants and trees

Use wood chips, pebbles, etc. Keep it away from tree trunks though!

8. Water early in the morning

Evaporation is low and it is less likely to be windy.

9. Control weeds

They are just waiting to compete with your plants for all the water they can get!

10. Fertilize ornamentals only if you notice symptoms of nutrient deficiency

Adding too much fertilizer, particularly nitrogen, creates weak growth and requires more water. Surely a vicious cycle to avoid!

Image courtesy of the Theodore Payne Foundation.

Image courtesy of the Theodore Payne Foundation.