Water conservation is no joke here in San Antonio, Texas. It’s feast or famine in our neck of the woods. Conserving water might not be on our minds when we have a spring that is so wet and cloudy we struggle to get our tomatoes to blossom and fruit. On the other hand, an extra dry spring that turns into a scorcher of a summer and results in city water restrictions can have us wishing we had thought of water conservation much earlier. The time to think about conserving water is now, not when it is too late!

Implementing one or a combination of a number of the following water conservation techniques can have you skipping the panic and stress of trying to figure out how you are going to keep the plants in your garden alive. Conserving water really doesn’t have to be huge undertaking. A few adjustments to your watering habits and/or some tweaks to your landscape set up can have you conserving more water than you realize. Here are a few of our water conservation suggestions.

Rain barrels are a great tool for water conservation.
Drip irrigation is a great tool for water conservation.

Water Conservation Techniques for San Antonio

1. Drip Irrigation

This watering system does exactly what its name states. Drip irrigation slowly releases water drip by drip into the soil. Drip irrigation helps with water conservation by directing water straight to the roots of your plants as opposed to sprinklers, which spray water over plants. Overhead sprinklers end up watering foliage, watering weeds, resulting in runoff, and wasted in spaces between plants where it is not needed.

Hardware stores carry all types of drip irrigation systems, from beginner kits, to individual pieces. If you buy a beginner kit, make sure to also purchase a filter, pressure regulator, and a timer (sometimes not included in kits). Choose a kit that you can add on to in case you end up expanding your garden. Figure out where you want your main hoses (or pipes) to run to and from, measuring the distance, so you know how much tubing you need to purchase. You’ll need to calculate how many emitters that you need for each plant. Not only will you be conserving water, you will find that your plants grow quicker and produce better with drip irrigation too. Inconsistent watering is the cause of many plant issues like blossom end rot, cracking of fruits, etc… Drip irrigation allows plants to get consistent water at their roots.

2. Rain Barrels to Conserve Water

Rain barrels are a wonderful way to implement water conservation. During those “feast” days, when the rain is falling freely from the sky, you can conserve rainwater in your rain barrels for the “famine” days when the rain refuses to fall. Rain barrels are usually situated under downspouts from roofs or gutters, capturing water that would normally be wasted running down the driveway. Rain barrels usually have a hose connection attached to the barrel for ease of expressing the water (if not, they are easy to attach). Water in rain barrels is non-potable and unsafe to drink, but your plants, lawns, and veggies will love it. Just remember to wash your vegetables in clean drinking water thoroughly before consuming.

3. Conserve Water by Adjusting Watering Times

During dry spells, SAWS encourages water conservation by setting restrictions on when you are allowed to use your sprinkler system and water your lawn. There is good science behind this. Even during times water restrictions are not enforced, you should think about adjusting your watering schedule. Watering in earlier morning hours offers your plants the best opportunity to retain their moisture. You do the opposite of conserving water if you water during the heat of the day. A lot of that water evaporates, leaving your plants thirsty.

Along with what time you water, you should also take care to pay attention to how you water. Plants desire a deep drink of water delivered directly to their roots. Dribbling water on top of their foliage does nothing but encourage disease. Frequent shallow watering is also no good. Deep, infrequent watering allows plants to go longer between water, resulting in water conservation in the long run.

4. Shift Plants Around to Conserve Water.

Potted plants need more water than plants in the ground. Their confined roots are not able to search through the soil for moisture. They rely on you to give them the water they need. Good news is that your potted plants can be moved around to help you conserve water. Springtime plants that enjoyed full sun can be moved in the summertime to where they can receive morning/early afternoon sun and afternoon shade. They won’t need as much water and you may find they thrive in their new location. Grouping pots of different heights together where taller potted plants can provide some shade for the shorter plants is another way to conserve water. Remember the variety of pots you choose can make a difference with how they conserve and retain water.

5. Mulch for Water Conservation

Mulch is one of the easiest water conservation tools. Mulch provides a barrier on the soil that prevents water from evaporating, keeps soil cooler, and also helps to eliminate risk of disease from the soil borne pathogens splashing onto the foliage of your plants. You can use mulch to build a watering berm around your newly planted trees and shrubs (see how here), mulch your veggie and annual/perennial gardens, and even add mulch to your pots to help conserve water. Bonus: if you choose an organic mulch like pine bark, the mulch will slowly break down and add nutrients to your soil.

6. Plant Xeriscape/Native Plants for Water Conservation:

Lastly, but maybe should be firstly, choose native or xeriscape plants that don’t need as much water in the first place! Rainbow Gardens has a huge selection of xeriscape and drought tolerant, native plants. You can have a beautiful, colorful landscape and feel good about doing your part to conserve water. 

 Water conservation is easy, and as plant lovers, it’s really our duty. Will you join us and make plans to conserve water this year? Mother Nature will thank you!

The Happy Gardener, Lisa Mulroy