Water-Wise Tips for Lawn and Garden Care During the California Drought

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Water-Wise Gardening

Smart gardeners can conserve water and still have beautiful gardens and lawns, even in the middle of a California drought. These water-wise tips are key to minimizing your yard’s water needs and avoiding overwatering.

Minimizing Outside Water Needs During the California Drought

Whether you have an existing yard or a new home that needs landscaping, there are measures you can take to reduce the amount of water needed for a beautiful lawn and garden during the California drought.

For established lawns and gardens …

o   When mowing your lawn, let the grass clippings stay on the lawn to recycle the nutrients.

o   Redesign your yard to reduce the amount of lawn and increase the amount of garden. This doesn’t need to break the bank because Landscape Conversion Rebates are available to most customers. Be sure to complete a pre-inspection and submit an application for approval before beginning any work.  

o   Increase the ability of your garden soil to hold moisture by adding compost and applying mulch. When adding compost, apply it 3 inches deep and mix it to a depth of 6 inches. Adding compost and mulch can save 20 to 30 gallons of water per 1,000 square feet.

For new lawns or gardens:

o   Planting a new lawn during the drought is not recommended because lawns require large amounts of water to establish and maintain.

o   Design your new garden to use drought-tolerant plants that will not require water more than twice per week. The San Jose Water Company (SJWC) Waterwise Gardening website includes information on plant choices.

Choosing Water Efficiency During the California Drought

You can use water wisely in your yard by following these smart tips for watering lawns and gardens during the California drought.

o   Use alternative sources of water such as rainwater, stormwater or gray water.

Rainwater can be safely used on vegetable gardens as well as landscaping, and can be easily captured from roofs using systems such as rain barrels and cisterns.

Stormwater comes from both rain and snowmelt that flow over land or impervious or paved surfaces without soaking into the ground. The runoff picks up pollutants like oil and chemicals as well as dirt and sediment that can harm rivers, streams, lakes and coastal waters. Stormwater can be captured for use on landscaping or to minimize flooding and pollutant transport, but should not be used for vegetable gardens or fruit trees if it has been in contact with roads or parking lots.

Graywater is wastewater from domestic sources like washing machines, bathroom sinks, tubs or showers. It does not include water from toilets or rinsing diapers. In California, it does not include wastewater from kitchen sinks. Graywater contains laundry products, soap and shampoo and should only be used for ornamental plants and trees (not for edible crops). Be sure to check California plumbing codes and permitting requirements before installing a graywater system.

o   Water early or late in the day to minimize evaporation.

o   Maintain your sprinkler or irrigation system by adjusting sprinkler heads and promptly fixing all leaks. Fixing leaks saves 12 to 15 gallons each time you water. A leak the size of a ballpoint pen tip can waste some 6,300 gallons of water per month!

o   If your yard does not yet have one, add a drip irrigation system with a smart controller. This can save 15 gallons every time you water and more than 24 gallons per day.

o   Set up a custom watering schedule using the SJWC website’s Water Calculator.

o   Use a broom to sweep hard surfaces rather than hosing them down. This saves 8 to 18 gallons a minute.

Need help designing a garden that is beautiful, meets your lifestyle and doesn’t drive your water usage up? Download the eBook, “5 Types of California Drought-Savvy Garden Designs.”

5 Types of California Drought-Savvy Garden Designs