7 Ways to Save Water in Your Yard

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California Drought Water Fines
Associated PressReplacing some of your grass with drought-tolerant landscaping and native plants is one way to save water.

By Jennifer Gravely

Brown grass, dead shrubs, puny gardens -- they're an eyesore for sure. But keeping your yard in pristine shape can be quite a burden, especially in the summer heat, when drought conditions are rampant.

Here are seven tips to keep your yard looking its best, without wasting water.

1. Be sprinkler savvy.

Your automatic sprinkler can be a huge help when it comes to keeping your yard looking its best, but it can also be a huge water -- and money -- waster.

First, make sure your sprinklers are watering your lawn, not the driveway or road, and frequently check the system for leaks. Consider installing rain and/or moisture sensors that will turn sprinklers off if it's raining or if the ground is already saturated.

2. Water when it matters.

Water your lawn only in the morning. In the heat of the day, that water will touch the surface and then quickly evaporate -- leaving you with less than ideal results.

A rain gauge can help you track how much water your yard is getting — about an inch of water per week is all it really needs. During especially dry times, it's best to just leave the yard alone. Yes, it will brown, but it will be dormant and bounce back once it gets cooler, saving loads and loads of water.

3. Use a drip system.

For the ease of a sprinkler system but with far less waste, opt for a drip-irrigation system. With this type of system, a hose riddled with tiny holes is placed throughout your yard, allowing small amounts of water to seep directly into the ground over long periods -- exactly what your yard needs to thrive.

4. Collect rainwater.

Stock up on water when you can to use around your yard and garden. Turn gutters into your own personal watering system by directing them into much-needed areas in your yard. Or, install a rain barrel to collect the runoff from your gutters.

Check local laws first, as there may be restrictions on water collection.

5. Adjust your lawn mower.

No matter how unruly your yard looks, don't mow it down as low as it will go. Set your lawn mower blade a bit higher than usual, or at least 3 inches. Longer blades of grass shade each other, reducing some evaporation. Longer blades also mean longer roots, so the grass can reach water deeper than it normally would.

6. Use mulch.

A fresh layer of mulch around shrubs and trees will hold nutrients and moisture much longer than plain old dirt. Go green and make a compost of food and lawn waste to add to the mix. You'll see that your trees and plants will need less water than before.

7. Opt for natural beauty.

Cut out the need for watering outdoors altogether by removing your grass. You can replace most of it with porous paving stones, which allow water to soak through to the ground.

You will want some plants in your yard to help absorb the rain and prevent runoff, however. The best plants to choose, as well as the easiest to care for, are those native to the region. If you live in a dry, drought-prone area, a xeriscaped yard might include desert shrubs and cactuses, but there are many colorful drought-tolerant plants. You'll find that these plants will thrive without excessive watering.

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