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Are you water-wise? A mid-summer’s check-up

Drought-tolerant plants, like this young Lavatera, need deep and infrequent watering in the summer.
Drought-tolerant plants, like this young Lavatera, need deep and infrequent watering in the summer. UC Master Gardener

Your garden is flourishing and your water bill is skyrocketing. Take stock of your water usage. There may be ways to keep water use under control and still live in a beautiful environment that provides fresh produce for your family. How “waterwise” are you?

Test soil for moisture content in various areas of your garden by digging down 6 inches. Soil should be moist at the depth of 3 inches.

Mulch the soil surface to reduce water loss due to evaporation. Apply mulches 2 to 4 inches deep around shrubs, trees, in flowerbeds, vegetable gardens and containers. Keep mulch away from trunks and stems.

Group plants with similar needs. Many native, Mediterranean, and Australian plants need less water to survive. Water them infrequently and deeply in the summer.

Move container plants to a shady or semi-shady area in the summer and protect them from wind.

Water early in the day to reduce evaporation. Water less often for a longer period of time to encourage deep root growth.

A drip irrigation system may reduce water usage. Depending on the layout and features of your garden, slow drip and deep root watering systems can save approximately 50 percent of irrigation needs.

Spike or aerate lawns to ensure maximum water penetration.

Check sprinklers to be sure that water is not wasted by run-off into gutters and streets. Check drip emitters for clogs.

Adjust length of time of watering as days shorten. Being water-wise does not require that you give up a beautiful garden. For more information, “Water Conservation Tips for the Home Lawn and Garden,” UC’s ANR publication No. 8036, can be downloaded from anrcatalog.ucdavis.edu free of charge.

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