ASK MARTHA: Water-Saving Tips For Your Garden

Martha shares her water-wise tips for your garden.

Question: Hi Martha, I know watering is the key to a lush garden. What can I do to save water? 

Martha: Whether it’s a vegetable, a flower, a shrub, or a tree - and whether it grows in a container or in the ground – every plant needs water.

For the home gardener, growing healthy plants and plush green grass is a beautiful goal. But to create a flourishing garden requires water—lots of it. 

How, then do you cultivate the garden of your dreams while reducing your water consumption?

Read on and I will share some water-wise tips to reduce your landscaping needs.

Water Early

When you turn on your hose (or schedule your sprinklers) can make a big difference in the amount of water you use. 

The cooler temperatures in the early morning are ideal for watering. It’s best to avoid the full sun and high temperatures it brings to ensure the water soaks into your soil before it evaporates. When you water your yard infrequently, but deeply, for at least 30 minutes, the moisture soaks into the roots and encourages them to grow downward rather than staying near the surface, where they're more susceptible to heat and drought. 

Upgrade Your Sprinkler System

If your sprinklers are years old, it might be time to investigate more sustainable upgrades, like water-efficient heads that are pressure regulated. There are various types and pressures available that will help save water and can be used in flower beds and yard areas. Also, think about installing a Wi-Fi timer on your sprinkler system. It is a very useful tool to manage water usage so that your sprinklers to turn on when needed and not when it's raining!

Add Mulch

In addition to having grass in your yard, adding other textural elements lends personality to your yard, and conserves water, too. Experienced gardeners know that a blanket of mulch is one of the most effective ways to suppress weed growth. But that’s only one reason for mulching the garden. By blocking the evaporation of water off the soil surface, mulch is a great aid to water conservation, especially when used with a water-conserving system such as drip hoses. In arid climates, mulching can reduce your garden's water needs by as much as half. Try Miracle-Gro Organic™ All Natural Mulch. For best results, lay three to four inches of mulch on the surface around plants.

Use a Moisture Meter

Using a moisture meter to measure your soil’s moisture can reduce water waste and help understand other factors in your soil, such as pH.

Plant Ground Covers

Ground covers – plants with mat-like growing habits - control erosion, choke out weeds, and require little upkeep. They are appropriate in high-traffic areas and require less water.

Add Drought-Tolerant Native Perennials

Look for plants that grow naturally in your area. They are generally well suited to your climate and once established, don’t need additional water and fertilizer. Talk to gardening friends and neighbors to see what they are growing. Check out local native plant sales and your local garden centers.

Plant Succulents in Pots

Succulents add interest and color to your gardens. Typically, container plants require more water than those grown in the ground because the soil dries out faster, but drought-tolerant succulents, like agave, are a good option. Hens and Chicks are also a good starter plant. They are easy to grow and develop new plants as they mature. Use Miracle-Gro® Cactus, Palm & Citrus Potting Mix and Miracle-Gro® Succulent Plant Food for a healthy start!

Consider Xeriscaping

Xeriscaping is a garden system that is focused on water conservation and requires little to no supplemental irrigation.

If you live in an area where droughts are common, or if you're looking to reduce your landscape's watering needs, consider turning to xeriscaping. Adopting this system also means less work for you: The style of gardening typically includes plants that are drought tolerant and can withstand infrequent maintenance.

While there is a common misconception that all xeriscapes must feature succulents, this isn't always the case. No matter the region, all xeriscapes face the same imperative: to use plants that thrive naturally within the region.

Plants like drought-tolerant native perennials, Mediterranean plants often seen in countries like Italy, France and Spain such as olive trees, rosemary, lavender, and oregano are all examples of plants that survive well in xeriscaped environments.

There are many low-water plants available in all regions of the country for every type of garden. Check out these suggestions, from left to right:

  • Hens and Chicks
  • Mullein
  • Eryngium
  • Thyme
  • Gaura
  • Catmint
  • Artemisia
  • Agastache

Article by Martha Stewart, as part of the Growing with Martha Stewart partnership.