7 Ways to Conserve Water in the Garden

Follow these steps to use water smartly and still keep your plants happy and healthy.

Every product is independently selected by our editors. If you buy something through our links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Daisy flowers with raindropsCourtesy Ashley Brawner

It’s possible to reduce outdoor water use by 20 to 50 percent with a few easy changes. To keep your water bill low and plants looking perky, try these tips from the National Garden Bureau and Gardener’s Supply Company.

Improve the Soil

Use organic matter, such as compost, chopped-up leaves or composted manure, to supplement your soil. These organic materials increase the water-holding capacity of soil. A good rule of thumb is to add 1 inch of compost per year.

Water Deeply

Give your plants a solid soak. While sprinklers get the job done, a soaker hose is even better. It applies the water directly to the soil by the roots, so up to 90 percent is actually available to plants.

Just Add Mulch

Spread mulch. It prevents weeds from growing and soaking up all of the water you add to the planting area. A layer of mulch provides the most bang for your buck. Organic mulches are best; try grass clippings free of weedkillers, evergreen needles and shredded leaves.

Save Rainwater

Be extra frugal and capture all of the free water you can. Place rain barrels or a cistern at your downspouts. A 1,000-square-foot roof collects about 625 gallons of water from just 1 inch of rain. Learn how to plant a rain garden.

Prepare the Garden Site

Know the characteristics of your planting site, such as the amount of sun and shade it receives, soil type and wind conditions. Make a plan to group plants with similar needs, like these drought-tolerant flowers.

Read Plant Tags

Shop with drought-tolerance in mind. Some plants get all the water they need from rain, so once established, they require less attention. If you’re looking for perennials suited for drought conditions, your best bet is usually native plants that are adapted to your climate and soil type. Check out these drought-tolerant ground cover plants.

Remove the Competition

Keep up with garden chores. Healthy plants mean less work! When you stay on top of tasks such as weeding, thinning and pruning, you add to the health of your plants and, in turn, need to water less frequently.