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Design for Water Needs


  • Keep irrigation in mind from the start. Integrate stormwater management, rain garden, water catchment, swales, permeable surfaces, xeriscaping, etc.

  • Incorporate Xeriscape design elements to reduce your need for water and take into consideration frequent drought conditions: improve your soil, plant in the right place (locate unthirsty plants where they’ll get the sun or shade and soil drainage they need and group plants that have similar water needs so none gets too little or too much; shrink your grassy areas; control weeds that steal water from your plants; upgrade your irrigation system or incorporate a drip irrigation system to make precision watering easier; water deeply so established plants send roots downward and are buffered from the water cycle of the upper soil area; irrigate efficiently by using devises that are efficient and water plants only when needed not by the calendar or clock, water at night when evaporation is lower and the air calmer, tighten faucets so they don’t leak and avoid runoff and wasteful over-spray; mulch. Use permeable paving and plants that don’t need a lot of water. Examples of easy to find, low-water plants are rosemary, sage and thyme, catmint and patio roses. Plant in the early fall so they will be established by the following summer. Manage your thirsty plants wisely.

  • Choose plants that don’t require a lot of water: African daisies, California poppies, celosia, creeping zinnia, cosmos, dwarf morning glories, gaillardia, marigolds, nicotiana (poisonous so use with discretion), petunias, portulaca, salvia, snow on the mountain, verbena, vinca.

  • Plant for visual impact: limit plantings to areas where they’ll bee seen up close such as entry ways, and around patios and decks.

  • Start with small plants or sow seeds. These develop more extensive roots systems than larger plants, use less water over the long haul.

  • Plant in part shade. 

  • Plant when the weather is ideal for quick establishment such as the fall.

  • Group plants close enough that mature plants shade the soil.

Vegetables & water

  • Start from seed. They develop stronger and deeper roots.

  • Buy small transplants and avoid seedlings that are obviously root bound.

  • Plant in furrows. Dig furrows 6-8 inches deep, then sow or plant in the bottom of the trench.

  • Build basins around vegetables that need wide spacing: squash, melons, and tomatoes.

  • Plant tomato seedlings deep. Leave just the top two leaves exposed so plants will develop better root systems.

  • Plant close together. Space plants so the foliage will eventually touch so it will shade the soil and discourage weeds; not too close or you may prevent air circulation and create a mold/mildew problem.

  • Plant early ripening varieties. These need less irrigation.


Roses & Water

  • Plant bare root in the winter when their roots have more time to get established before hot weather. Cut back on watering after spring bloom.

  • Buy established roses that require little water.

  • Mulch heavily. Use at least 3 inches and replenish often.

  • Wait until the next winter to prune and don’t deadhead.

  • Let hips develop to suppress growth.


Water storage

  • Incorporate water storage into your design:

    • rain chains capture water from roofs/gutters and direct water into a basin in the ground that you can filter with river rocks 

    • a rain garden captures water and keeps it in the ground 

    • rain barrels and cisterns hold water captured from roofs

  • A rain barrel can hold 50-60 gallons, which is enough to irrigate houseplants or pots on the deck.

    • An inch of rain puts about 600 gallons of water on top of a 1,000 square foot house.

  • Rain gutters capture water and from a downspout, direct it into a cistern.

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