Save Water and Time in Your Yard

Annie was so inspired by this good synopsis of water-saving techniques that she is planning to try two this summer: To shrink her lawn and to start collecting rain in a rain barrel. She loves the idea of making her yard and garden as eco-friendly and self-nurturing as possible. Here is a good reminder that water conservation may require small changes in habit, but it is an easy way to make a difference.

Most of us can find at least one technique we can use in these seven ways for water-saving:

Plant native or climate-appropriate plants that don’t require excessive irrigation. In very dry climates or places that experience frequent water shortages, use drought-tolerant plants.

Collect graywater for irrigating your yard. Graywater is the relatively clean wastewater from sinks, showers, and washing machine (not the so-called “blackwater” from toilets). With a typical graywater system, pipes carry the graywater from the house through a filtering medium, and then to a tank where it is stored for later use. To minimize health risks, it’s usually used for below-surface irrigation of non-edible plants.

Harvest rainwater for irrigation. Rainwater harvesting systems typically direct rainwater runoff from the roof through gutters and downspouts to an aboveground or underground cistern, from which the water can then be pumped to irrigate a yard or garden.

Shrink your lawn. If you want a grass lawn, consider limiting its size. You’ll spend less time mowing the lawn, and you’ll use less water too. To reduce the amount of storm water that runs off your property, consider planting more trees and shrubs. They do a better job of absorbing rainwater than turf does.

Go organic. Organic gardening means gardening in cooperation with nature: relying on environmentally friendly techniques and substances such as compost, mulch, and manure to build healthy soils, manage pests, and encourage plants to flourish.

Reduce storm water runoff from your property. Rapidly draining storm water can contaminate streams, lakes, and oceans with oil and other pollutants picked up from parking lots and roads. Reduce the amount of impervious paving on our property. Instead of a concrete patio, for example, consider paving blocks, bricks, or flagstones laid in sand (not cemented together). Consider gravel or decomposed granite for walkways.

Grow a green roof. Also called living roofs or grass roofs, green roofs are specially engineered flat roofs with a layer of soil or other growing medium on top of a waterproof membrane. Green roofs are often planted with native grasses, wildflowers, and other climate-appropriate groundcover. They help slow the flow of storm water off the roof, keep surrounding outside air temperatures cooler, offer some insulating and sound-absorbing qualities, and may even help protect the roof from deterioration.

Adapted from Good Green Homes, by Jennifer Roberts (Gibbs Smith, Publisher, 2003). Copyright (c) 2003 by Jennifer Roberts. Reprinted by permission of Gibbs Smith, Publisher.
Adapted from Good Green Homes, by Jennifer Roberts (Gibbs Smith, Publisher, 2003).


Howard C.
Howard Crosse6 years ago

I think that the idea of using grey water is a brilliant idea, I'm not sure how much it would cost to retro fit a system though - could be too expensive.

Monica D.
Monica D8 years ago

Growing climate-appropriate and native plants, and mulching are good ideas to save time and have a more environmentally friendly garden.

Gideon R.
Gideon R.8 years ago

Best water saving in garden irrigation is achieved by using only Low Volume Irrigation water spreaders and/or Micro-Drip methods.
For more details of the agrotechnical advantages (including saving in fertilizers) use this link:

Denise G. Yerkey
Denise Yerkey9 years ago

Please make sure you check with your county or city government. Collecting rainwater where I live is illegal. It is supposed to go back into the soil.

Candy Gatehouse
Candy Gatehouse10 years ago

everything helps.....will do all I can

Jeanne Moulton
Jeanne Moulton10 years ago

In my part of the country, most people are concerned with the West Nile Virus and Triple E. Standing water is a breeding area for mosquitoes throughout the summer months. Please care and be aware.

Belinda Velasquez
Belinda Velasquez10 years ago

You would be amazed at how fast a fifty gallon barrel fills up during the rain. My flowers appreciate it when the weather again turns dry.

Doranna Mcclendon
Doranna Mcclendon10 years ago

Buy the natural spring water which is the water that is good for your health,& stop drinking the tap water as it is bad for your health as lead,mercury & other poisons are in there.Get & drink the ethos water at starbucks coffee as the proceeds helps children drink clean water & drink other natural bottled water.And when the bottle is empty after you have drank it boil water from the tap & when the water cools put that in that bottle & you cal also put the boiled water in an empty gallon water jug.Your health will be better,therefore you will feel better God put the natural water here for you to drink.

Jo Q.
Joanne Q10 years ago

I would love to try a living roof but flat roofs and Wisconsin snow just don't go together. We have only watered our lawn once and that was to green it for a daughter's wedding there about 5 years ago. Only watered that specific area, too. If it turns brown, I don't have to spend 4 hours mowing it! I have been trying to talk the company I work at into trying a living roof. It's almost all flat and they have so many problems with leakage that it sure couldn't hjurt to try it.

Von D.
AAAAA B10 years ago

I seen my first green roof about 25 years ago in Illinois. I have also seen homes completely in the ground but the face of it. Illinois seems to have a lot of these types of homes. Must be good idea.