Water-Wise Garden Tips

In spite of our rainy reputation, it’s not unusual for western Washington to see very little rainfall in mid to late summer, even in “wet years.” And as our population grows, so does the demand on our limited water resources. So conserving water through choice of plants, soil preparation and watering techniques is the wise thing to do!

The following tips and list of our other “Water-Wise” information sheets can help you plan for a successful water-wise garden.

What’s the Difference Between “Drought Tolerant” and “Low Water Use” Plants?

Drought Tolerant: will survive extended periods without additional water after being established with regular water and fertilizer for two seasons. They may, however, look marginal and neglected without some supplemental watering during dry periods in later years.

Low Water Use: will need periodic watering after being established, but can be minimized with the careful management of watering habits (outlined below).

ABC’s of Water-Wise Gardening

Exposure: Sunnier sites naturally dry out more quickly and need more frequent watering.

Right Plant, Right Place: Always select the appropriate plant for the site, i.e., plants requiring partial shade will be more stressed and require more water when planted in full sun.

Water to Establish New Plants: All new plantings (including most drought tolerant plants) require more frequent watering until roots are established (typically through the first two summers), as compared to established plantings which usually need less frequent watering.

Soil Type / Amendments: Identify your soil type for each part of the garden. Soils high in sand or clay content will usually dry out more severely. Working in 4 to 6 inches of organic matter (typically as compost) will insure a higher level of soil moisture retention.

Mulching: New and established plantings is the best way to prevent evaporation and retain moisture in the root zone. We recommend 2 to 3 inches of compost around plants (except right against the trunks).

Deeper Watering, Less Often: Will ensure better established root systems. More frequent, shallow watering develops surface roots which are weaker and dry out faster.

Timing Your Watering: Watering before 10:00 a.m. can reduce evaporation.

Soaker Hoses and Drip Irrigation: An easy and cost-effective watering option. Slow application prevents wasteful runoff and evaporation caused by overhead sprinklers, as well as allowing water to penetrate the root zone more deeply.

Fertilizers, Microbes & Fungi: Organic fertilizers, beneficial bacteria and mychorrhizal fungi promote healthy plant growth and essentially make plants more efficient in their uptake of water and nutrients.

Website Resources on Water-Wise Gardening:
Drought Advisory (Washington State University Cooperative Extension)

King County Saving Water Partnership https://www.savingwater.org/lawn-garden/

King County Northwest Natural Yard and Garden https://www.kingcounty.gov/services/environment/stewardship/nw-yard-and-garden.aspx