Water-wise Gardening and Yard Care

Outdoor water usage can drive up your water bills in the hot and dry summer months. Here are some ideas for making sure your plants get the water they need without breaking the bank.

How to Irrigate Efficiently

Take these steps to make sure you're watering wisely.

Step 1: Look for Leaks

Inspect your irrigation system for leaks regularly during the irrigation season. Check for broken spray heads, nozzles, and lines. Damp areas or pools of water on your property could indicate a leak.

Check your hose and spray nozzle connection points for leaks, including a fine spray of water. A leak at these points could be the result of a missing or damaged washer or O-ring at the connection. New washers are cheap and easy to install.
Outdoor Water 
Conservation Kit
The City offers a free outdoor
water conservation kit, which comes with a hose nozzle, watering gauge, and soil moisture reader. Find out how to get your kit. 

Step 2: Time It Right

Irrigate in the early morning or evening. Less water is lost to evaporation when irrigation occurs near dawn and dusk. If it's windy, wait to water—too much water will be blown away.

Step 3: Adjust Your Sprinklers

Aim sprinklers low to the ground. If your sprinklers are watering the sidewalk or driveway, make adjustments as necessary.

Step 4: Upgrade Your Tools

If you have a built-in irrigation system, consider using some of the following:

  • High-efficiency rotating sprinkler heads to evenly distribute water on your lawn.
  • A smart irrigation controller to adjust the irrigation schedule based on weather conditions.
  • A soil moisture sensor to prevent over watering by irrigating only when the soil really needs it.
  • A rain sensor to turn off the irrigation system if rainfall is detected.

If you don't have an irrigation system, you have other options:

  • Soaker hoses slowly drip water through tiny holes. They have a maximum length of 100 feet, so they are best for gardens or in smaller areas of the yard. Seattle Public Utilities offers great tips for using soaker hoses.
  • Drip Irrigation applies water directly to the root zone of plants to minimize evaporation. Here are instructions for installing a drip irrigation system.
  • Hose timers let you set watering times, and on some models, watering days. When connected to a soaker hose or drip irrigation system, a timer can help you avoid over watering and can automate the watering process!

Make Your Landscape More Water-efficient

The best way to cut down on outdoor water usage is to design a landscape that requires a minimal amount of irrigation. Consider rearranging your lawn and garden to optimize water usage and to support local wildlife. Here are two approaches to making your landscape more water efficient: 

Backyard Habitat Certification Program 
This is a program to help you restore native wildlife habitat in your backyard by providing assistance and incentives for landscaping with native plants. These plants are adapted to the local climate and require less irrigation than many non-native plants commonly used in landscaping. To learn more and apply to participate, visit the Backyard Habitat Certification Program webpage.

Redesign Your Landscape
Here are general steps for redesigning your landscape:

  1. Design – Draw the major features of your property, including fences, large trees and rocks, slopes, and existing vegetation that you want to keep. Indicate the light conditions (shady, partially shady, and sunny). Draw in features that you would like to add to your landscape. Consider replacing grass with low-water use plants, mulch, or stone features to drastically reduce the amount of water your landscape needs during the dry months.
  2. Select Native and Low-Water Use Plants – In our climate, we have many options for beautiful plants that can thrive with less water. As you select plants, pay attention to their light and watering requirements, and then plan to group plants with similar light and water requirements together. Helpful resources: Gardening with Oregon Native Plants West of the Cascades & Water-efficient Plants for the Willamette Valley
  3. Prepare the Soil, Plant, and Mulch – Break up compacted soil and incorporate organic matter, such as compost. Choose locations for your plants that have the right light conditions, and group by watering needs. After planting, add mulch. This will help your soil retain moisture, reducing the amount of water needed to maintain your landscape.

For more detailed landscape design tips, check out the Water Use It Wisely xeriscape planning and design guide.