Water Conservation

By Master Gardener Peter Coppola

Burlington Garden Club member

What can we do to reduce water consumption – Plenty!


  • Become familiar with your soil – Know what you are working with before you plant anything.

  • Plant more herbaceous and deciduous perennials - Evergreens transpire (draw water) during winter months.

  • Go native - use regionally appropriate plants to create a water–smart landscape that is both beautiful and efficient to achieve the curb appeal you desire. Once established, native plants require little water beyond normal rainfall.

  • Purchase zone appropriate plants and seeds – Select healthy-looking leaves and strong stems, avoiding sickly-looking plants, and removing flower buds on seedlings to promote root development in the planting bed no longer ensures success. Plant varieties that have historically performed well are failing. Seek out plant varieties that have done well the past few years.

  • Check all things mechanical - Outdoor faucets are notorious for leaking, sprinkler heads point in the wrong direction, automatic timers forget the time.

  • Add organic matter - Before you plant and transplant anything augment the soil with as much cow manure, compost and peat moss as you can. Mix it well with the soil, all of that decomposed material will absorb water and give it up freely to the plants.

  • Reduce evaporation - Mulch reduces water loss through evaporation; spread it no more than three inches thick. Too much mulch will absorb moisture before it gets to the plant roots and almost all that moisture will evaporate. (see chart below)

  • Maintain proper spacing - Crowding plants weakens them, reducing air circulation and creating a moist humid environment favorable for pest infestation and disease development. The one-inch of water per week rule of thumb is directly related to spacing; bedding plants closer together requires more watering.

  • Eliminate competition – Grass does not grow under trees, it cannot compete with something that drinks hundreds of gallons of water a day. Pull your weeds. They take water away from the plants you want.

  • Shrink the lawn - A square foot of lawn contains 1,440 grass plants that need ¾-gallons of water per week.

  • Reduce runoff - Level the planting beds and berm the edge of your yard to reduce water runoff into the catch basins, it may only cost pennies per gallon but it is still water down the storm drain.

  • Purchase a moisture meter Don’t guess, know when it is time to water and how much to water.

  • Redirect wastewater – If it is allowed:

      • Install rain barrels on your downspouts

      • Take outdoor showers

      • Redirect your washing machine drain hose

  • Optimize watering - Water early in the morning or late afternoon to maximize absorption which will minimize water loss to evaporation. Never water in the evening; wet plants in the A.M. cause no mayhem, wet plants at night are a disease delight.

      • One heavy watering that saturates the soil is better than several watering events that only wet the surface.

      • Water the soil, not the plants. Water is needed for photosynthesis and it enters the plant through the roots. Watering the leaves just cleans off the dust

      • Leaves direct rainwater to the feeder roots, they tell you where to water. Leaves that tilt outward have feeder roots are along the drip line; leaves leaning inward have a roots around the crown

  • Install rain barrels – Use the collected water on your container plants

  • Use a wetting agent – Add liquid dish detergent in a hose end sprayer when watering. The detergent is a wetting agent that will assist in absorption and minimize runoff.

Water-wise Mulch Coverage


Published March 2022

By Master Gardener Peter Coppola

Burlington Garden Club member