Hot, dry weather is tough on plants. Here’s how to conserve water while maintaining your landscape.

By Heather Kirk-Ballard

LSU AgCenter Horticulturist

The high temperatures and heat stress we’ve experienced this summer is not only difficult for us. Our plants feel that heat, too. As we face changing weather patterns and, in some places, increasing water scarcity, it becomes crucial for individuals to play their part in conserving one of our most precious resources: water.

Gardeners and homeowners undoubtedly face challenges in the landscape with rising temperatures. Just as we cool off by sweating, plants let off heat through a similar process called transpiration. This is the process by which plants release water vapor from their leaves into the atmosphere. Water evaporates from the leaves through small pores called stomata. This evaporation process cools down the plant, similar to how sweating cools our skin.

Plants will need more water and a little more attention this time of year, especially when rain is scarce. This is especially true for plants that are not adapted to drought conditions. As we plan landscapes, it is important to select the right plants. Selecting plants that are drought tolerant, such as sedums and succulents, is a good place to start. Many ornamental plants these days are being bred for this quality.

In addition to choosing the right plants, we can also significantly contribute to water conservation by adopting sustainable practices in our landscapes. A well-designed home landscape not only enhances the beauty of the property but also can promote environmental responsibility.

When planning the layout of a home landscape, grouping plants with similar water requirements together can conserve water. Some plants thrive in moist conditions while others prefer drier soil. By arranging plants based on their water needs, homeowners can avoid overwatering or underwatering certain areas, encouraging healthier growth and saving water in the process.

Applying a layer of organic mulch around plants and in garden beds is an excellent water conservation strategy. Mulch helps retain soil moisture by reducing evaporation, regulating soil temperature and suppressing weed growth. This in turn decreases the frequency of watering, saving significant amounts of water over time.

Xeriscaping is a landscaping technique that focuses on using drought-resistant, native plants that require minimal water. By selecting plants adapted to the local climate, homeowners can significantly reduce water consumption while maintaining an attractive, functional landscape. Xeriscaping also reduces the need for fertilizers and pesticides, benefiting the environment as a whole.

One of the primary sources of water waste in home landscapes is inefficient irrigation systems. Traditional overhead sprinklers often lead to excessive water loss due to evaporation, wind drift and overwatering. A better alternative is to use drip irrigation or soaker hoses that deliver water directly to plant roots, minimizing evaporation and ensuring targeted watering. Additionally, installing a smart irrigation system with weather sensors and programmable timers can further optimize water usage by adjusting watering schedules based on weather conditions and plant needs.

Lawns can be major water consumers in home landscapes, especially if not maintained correctly. To reduce water usage in lawn care, raise the mower blade height to promote deeper root growth and water retention. Additionally, allowing the grass to grow slightly longer during hot seasons can help shade the soil and reduce evaporation. Consider replacing parts of the lawn with low-maintenance groundcovers or native grasses to further conserve water.

Capturing rainwater also can be an eco-friendly and economical way to supplement irrigation needs in home landscapes. Installing rain barrels or cisterns to collect rainwater from rooftops and gutters allows homeowners to store water for later use during dry periods. Rainwater harvesting not only reduces dependence on municipal water supplies but also helps prevent stormwater runoff and soil erosion.

Water conservation in home landscapes is a responsibility that falls on us all. By implementing efficient irrigation systems, practicing xeriscaping, using mulch, harvesting rainwater, grouping plants according to water needs and maintaining lawns wisely, homeowners can significantly reduce their water footprint.

Embracing these sustainable practices not only helps preserve water resources but also contributes to the overall health of the environment. Let's work together to create lush and beautiful landscapes that thrive on responsible water usage, ensuring a greener future for generations to come.

Flower bed.

Group plants together with similar water needs to help conserve more water. Photo by Heather Kirk-Ballard/LSU AgCenter

Pink flowers.

Select plants with heat and drought tolerance for summer landscapes. Photo by Heather Kirk-Ballard/LSU AgCenter

A soaker hose lies in a garden bed.

Reduce the use of overhead water sprinklers that experience elevated water losses due to evaporation. Photo by Heather Kirk-Ballard/LSU AgCenter

8/2/2023 6:53:23 PM
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