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Published on June 3rd, 2008 | by Stephanie Evans

Water-Saving Garden Irrigation

Watering your garden effectively is all about knowing its needs. Over-watering is as harmful for plants as providing too little water.

Although on average plants need one inch of water per week, there is a great deal of variation depending on the specific plant, climate, soil, and a host of other factors.

Luckily there are a variety of techniques to reduce your water usage and still enjoy a thriving garden.

Use a Watering Can to Save Water in the Garden

The Basics

To keep all plants at their optimum soil moisture, those needing similar amounts of water should be placed together. Add manure or compost to the soil—richer soils trap water more effectively.

Always water your plants in the early morning when the cooler temperatures and lack of direct sunlight decreases evaporation. Midday sun evaporates leftover water collected on the foliage preventing mold or other diseases.

Remember, 40% of water used during the summer is used outdoors. By being aware of weather conditions and making a few simple changes, you can conserve previous resources and water your garden effectively.

Watering Techniques

Not everyone will be able to commit to the same level of money or responsibility to improve water efficiency, so choose the technique that is right for you. Hoses and sprinklers, two of the most common ways to water a garden are also two of the least efficient. If you choose to employ a hose, use a spray attachment to help prevent soil erosion and overwatering. If you’re using sprinklers, make sure each one is connected to a timer.

To maximize water saving, try one of the following techniques:

  • Watering Can

    Although old-fashioned, watering each plant by hand allows you to effectively target and evaluate individual patches of soil and the spout ensures the water goes straight to the roots.

  • Soaker Hose

    Soaker hoses are a great and inexpensive alternative for gardens. Made from recycled tires, they “sweat” water through millions of pores along the entire length of the hose. They allow almost no evaporation, can be hooked up to a timer, are easily buried under mulch, and require relatively little upkeep.

  • Drip Irrigation

    With over 90% efficiency, drip irrigation is the most effective of all watering systems. Drip irrigation consists of tubes with a release point next to each plant. If a plant no longer needs water for the rest of the season, a goof plug can be inserted to stop water flow to that area. This system can be set on a timer, uses a battery to regulate flow, and a backflow prevention device blocks the water from contaminating potable water.

Collecting Rainwater

Gutters make harvesting the rainfall simple. The larger your roof catchment area (the surface area of your roof), the more water you will collect. For every inch of rain on a 1,000 square foot rain catchment, you will collect 600 gallons of rainwater!

Simply attach a diverter onto your downspout to feeding into a collection container. Rain chains are also an easy way to capture and direct rainfall into a barrel or underground holding tank. Copper rain chains offer the benefits of being entirely recyclable and adding aesthetic value to your home.

Precautionary safety measures require that the container be covered at all times, and that water is harvested within 10 days of collection or mosquitoes will begin to breed. A rain barrel can easily feed your watering can, soaker hose, or drip irrigation as long as the barrel is higher than the ground to which it will travel.

Container Gardens

For those who do not have the time or land for a full garden, container gardens, which can be made out of almost any material, are a wonderful option. By far the most water efficient is the self-watering container garden.

With self-watering containers, a small recessed trough sits at the bottom and as the soil dries, water is drawn upwards, feeding the plant. The gardener need only ensure that the trough is filled and the plant will always have readily available water. Herbs, vegetables, fruits, and flowers all thrive in container gardens.

Remember, 40% of water used during the summer is used outdoors. By being aware of weather conditions and making a few simple changes, you can conserve previous resources and water your garden effectively.


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11 Responses to Water-Saving Garden Irrigation

  1. Guest says:

    Really useful tips..and we expect more and more such articles to help people preserve and protect our planet;keep it Green!..

  2. Person says:

    this is a great article! These tips are very useful and will help me live more sustainably!!!

  3. Greg says:

    Great green ideas and topics on sustainability! It is great when innovative leaders such as yourself encourage others to find ways to “green” up their lives while also investing in great new technologies. Cyber-Rain is a relatively new technology company that specializes in “smart” irrigation controllers, or smart sprinkler controllers. Lauded by a number of organizations, Cyber-Rain can save thousands of gallons of water per year, adjusting for temperature and humidity, among other considerations. There are many rebates available for those who buy the Cyber-Rain system, too, which makes it that much easier to invest in an excellent technology, without having to pay too much! We believe this is a great technology that may greatly benefit your readers, and would so appreciate if you could take a moment and take a look at what we are about, and what we have been up to. You can visit our webpage at and you can see our blog at The blog is a fun one, as every week, we highlight a water district (different every week) and how it is promoting water conservation and good environmental practices, in addition to any rebate programs offered to help green up homes. There are also weekly “book of the week” highlights where we pick a new book that is interesting and relevant to green landscaping and/or water conservation. I hope you enjoy what you see!

  4. Topaz says:

    The article states that soaker hoses and drip irrigation are beneficial for saving water. This is true but only if the hoses and drip irrigation circuits are turned on and off at the right intervals. For, example, leaving a soaker hose running for 4 hours because if was accidentally left running won’t save water! And running the circuits on an automatic timer into autumn at the same rate as that needed in summer won’t save water.

    If you have an automated sprinkler system and want affordable conservation optimized control, research into LawnCheck, (search: LawnCheck). This system lets you use your Internet browser to schedule and control your irrigation. (Of course, yes, you must have an Internect connection). If provides you with the flexibility to control soaker hoses and drip circuits, along with traditional rotors and popups.

    Water saving irrigation can actually save you money, and low cost systems like LawnCheck can even reduce complexity and give you easier access. LawnCheck is a low cost system so you don’t need to depend on government subsidies and handouts like you would if you used a more expensive system.

    Here’s how a conservation oriented control system can eliminate wasteful irrigation:

    happy gardening!

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  7. I love the ideas of a cistern or water catchment system.
    What a great way to save water have no waste.
    It is so easy to set-up, we should all use them.

    I’m all about the Green!

  8. Gideon says:

    The best water savings in irrigation is achieved by matching the water discharge rate to the plant uptake rate. Drain below the root zone is therefore prevented and the water/air balance in the soil is better for the plant. The method was developed in Israel and called “Micro-Drip Irrigation” and “Gravity Drip Irrigation” enables a discharge as low as one glass of water (250CC) per hour.
    Rain-Tal Ltd specializes in Low Volume and Micro-Drip Irrigation methods. For more details:

  9. John Van Bockern says:

    These are great ways to not only save water, but also save money. Unless you are capturing rain water, that water costs money (and even that has an initial investment of time and material costs). I am always on the search to promote more sustainable means of living, but it also has to make financial sense.
    If you are looking for drip tube irrigation to save water, think about where you are getting the materials to do so. offers the lowest prices of drip tube irrigation to accomplish exactly that.

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