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Water-Wise Gardening

Increasing droughts require us to scrutinize our garden more closely.

Does your garden pass the conservation test?

By Carol Brock

According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, people in the Mountain West and Southwest should prepare for more frequent and severe droughts. A warming world and our semiarid climate means Coloradans must take drought seriously, and a water-wise garden is a great first step. These dozen tips from the Colorado State University Extension will get your garden in water-efficiency mode.

For other suggestions, visit https://extension.colostate.edu/

1Plant in blocks, rather than rows.

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This creates shade for roots and reduces evaporation.
 

2Use windbreaks

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to protect plants and soil from wind and reduce evaporation.

3Water at night or early morning

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to avoid evaporation loss and set sprinklers to hit the landscape only, not sidewalks, driveways or walkways.

4Control weeds,

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which compete with vegetables for water.

5Aerate lawn

image by The Lawn Institute
in spring and fall for better water penetration through the soil.

6Group plants

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with similar water needs in the same area for easy irrigation. For example, cucumber, zucchini and squash require similar water applications.

7Check soil moisture before watering

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Insert a 6-inch screwdriver into the soil; if it easily inserts, don’t water.

8Watch for footprints on the lawn

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Water when footprints or mower tracks are easily visible.

9Check sprinklers

for broken heads and clogged nozzles, and learn how to manually operate your system so you can shut it off during rainy or cool periods.

10Add soil amendments

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like compost to improve aeration and water penetration in clay and lightly sandy soils. Mulching controls weeds and keeps soil moister, which reduces irrigation needs.

11Set mower blade to the highest level—

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2.5 to 3 inches—and make sure it’s sharp. This reduces stress on grass and improves its drought and heat tolerance. Leave grass clippings on the lawn.

12Plant drought-tolerant native species

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like purple desert four o’clock, orange butterfly milkweed, silver prairie sage and pink swamp milkweed.