Care for Your SoilThe way you look after your soil can determine the success of your garden and lawn. Conduct a pH test to determine the quality of soil at the beginning of the season. Add organic matter such as bark clippings, ground-up leaves, pine needles, and grass clippings to help retain moisture. Adding mulch to the base of your flower bed, shrubs, and trees in spring can help your plants retain moisture and prevent evaporation during dry periods.
Water AppropriatelyResearch has shown that when you water your plants can have a significant impact on plant growth. The best time to water your garden is early in the morning before temperatures rise. Winds tend to be lower and there is much less evaporation occurring in the atmosphere. It is also a good rule of thumb to water plants whenever they show signs of distress, which can be at any time of the day. Avoid evening watering as it can encourage fungal growth. For potted plants in your garden, water them in the afternoon. Container plants often have rates of lower moisture retention, meaning they dry out more quickly.
Don’t Waste WaterSave and reuse water when you can. Use a big barrel or rainwater system in your garden to harvest rainwater and roof runoff. (Learn more about how to develop a rainwater system here.) Even saving cooled water that you have used for cooking or water that was used in a fish tank can help prevent waste and give additional nutrients to your plants.
When you do water your plants, don’t focus on watering the foliage as that doesn’t contribute much to the growth of the plant. Focus on watering within the root zone, which is approximately 1 to 3 times the diameter of the canopy of the plant. Stop if the water is pooling, and allow the roots to soak up the water before resuming. There is such a thing as over watering a plant, so don’t drown your plant as it robs the roots of air and causes root rot and soil compaction.
The most important way to prevent water waste is to water mindfully; use your sprinkler deliberately because water won’t help your driveway, sidewalks, or patio.
Choose Your Plants WiselyWhat you choose to plant in your garden will make a big difference in how much effort you will have to put into your garden. Look into growing native plants. Native plants will be able to quickly adapt to your garden and will require minimal care on your part. Pick appropriately-sized plants and give them plenty of room to grow. Don’t opt for a bush that grows up to 10 feet if you only need a five-foot shrub in your front yard. Overcrowding plants can impede the growth of your garden, as well.
Consider the time you add plants to your garden as well. Adding plants to your garden at the end of fall or in the beginning of spring when it’s still cool will help those plants grow and establish a healthy root system.
Watering mindfully can save thousands of gallons of water a year, reduce water use by 50%, and shave hundreds of dollars off your water bill. Take a few of these tips to heart this season, and you’ll have a green thumb and a greener wallet.