Tips for Conserving Water Outside of Your Home
- Laying new seed or sod?
In Stage 1 from May 1 until Sept 30, by special permit, establishing lawn for the first time whether new sod or seed may be watered outside of permitted days but within designated lawn watering hours. To obtain a special permit, call the CRD Water Conservation Information Line at 250.474.9684. Please note: the permit application is not available online.
- How much water?
Lawns need only 25 millimeters (1 inch) of water per week, including rain. Longer, infrequent watering will help to develop deeper, healthier roots. Keep your grass two to two and half inches high and you will help the soil retain moisture and reduce evaporation from sunlight and wind. Over watering your lawn also washes away beneficial nutrients your lawn needs to grow strong and healthy. Call the CRD Water Conservation Information Line to receive your free lawn watering gauge at 250.474.9684.
- Aerate your lawn
Aerating promotes grass roots to absorb all the natural moisture that is available. Aerating also lets air flow into the soil and provides the grass roots with oxygen. You can aerate simply by puncturing the lawn with a gardening fork or by renting a powered aerator. Check with your tool rental equipment dealers or aerating service companies for further information.
- De-thatch your lawn
Thatch is the layer of organic matter that forms between the blades of grass and the soil. A thin layer of thatch can be beneficial, preventing evaporation of water from the topsoil. Too much thatch can be harmful and can rob the roots of the oxygen and water needed for healthy growth. Remove the thatch from your lawn at least once a year, using a rake, a thatching attachment on your mower or a thatching machine.
A well-balanced soil that is properly watered should not need fertilizer. Don’t give your lawn too much fertilizer, as it might outgrow its soil limitations and watering regime.
- Lawn Alternatives
Consider replacing some areas of lawn with low-growing ground covers or herbs. Another alternative is to cover parts of your garden with hardscape made from natural or synthetic materials, such as flat rocks, flagstones, concrete asphalt or compact gravel.
Mulching around plants reduces the number of weeds (which compete for water) and conserves soil moisture, moderates soil temperatures and adds benefical nutrients back into the soil as it decomposes. The recommended depth for mulches is 2 to 4 inches (5 to 10 cm). Good mulches are straw, leaf, bark, gravel or wood chips.
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- Keep mower blades sharp to avoid tearing the grass.
- Don’t cut wet grass.
- Set mower height to leave 50 to 65 mm (two to two and half inches).
- Leave grass clippings to decompose; they act as mini-mulch to reduce evaporation.
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Flower and Vegetable Gardens
- About 70 to 80% of all plant problems are directly related to incorrect watering.
- Water around the base of plants slowly and deeply - moistening the top 4 to 6 inches of soil - at least once a week. Light, frequent watering is harmful because it encourages shallow root growth and enhances germination of weed seeds. You can check the soil wetting depth with a screwdriver or stake.
- Water plants early in the morning to avoid evaporation from the sun and wind. Watering in the middle of the day increases the amount of water lost to evaporation by as much as 40 percent. Conversely, watering in late evening lets droplets remain on leaves, which can promote plant diseases.
- Consider installing drought-tolerant native plantings. A drought-tolerant plant can survive with very little, if any, artificial watering or irrigation once established. Natural rainfall is usually enough for these plants, if they’re growing in the right habitat (i.e. one similar to their natural habitat), and they can usually survive weeks of dry weather.
- Plants with grey, fuzzy, waxy or finely divided leaves are also considered drought-tolerant. Perennials like daylilies, flax, pinks, bellflowers and peonies thrive under dry conditions. Annuals like cosmos, sage, mallow and California poppies are also drought-tolerant and provide season-long colour in your garden. Check with your garden centre for further suggestions.
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Trees and Shrubs
- When watering trees and large shrubs, water around the drip-line of the tree (area below the branches where water drips from the leaves) - not at the trunk. A great way to water trees is to use milk or water jugs. Fill with water and poke small holes about 8 in the bottom of each. Place these around the drip line of each tree. The water seeps out slowly into soil near the roots, where the tree needs water the most.
- Avoid heavy direct watering by hose, which can wash away soil, exposing the roots to pests and disease, and making shrubs and small trees more susceptible to blow down.
- Keep turf at least two feet from the trunks of young or newly planted trees as it will compete with the trees for water. Consider applying mulch in this area.
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General Outdoor Water Saving Tips
- Weed regularly. Weeds compete with your plantings for moisture.
- Consider installing a Micro/Drip irrigation system. Micro/Drip irrigation systems use low-water-volume irrigation components (under 20 gallons per hour), at low pressure (under 25 psi) to deliver a precise amount of water to the root zone of plants. These systems can be tailored effectively to individual plant and garden needs. During even the most stringent water conservation measures, micro and drip irrigation systems can be used to water flowers, trees, shrubs and vegetables.
- Make sure hoses are in perfect condition. A hose delivers 27 litres of water per minute so a leaking hose or coupling can add up to significant water waste.
- Use nonporous containers like glazed pots, as they are more efficient at retaining water. Also, use larger containers (pots 10 inches (25 cm) in diameter and larger) as the larger the volume of soil, the slower it dries. Nest smaller pots inside larger ones and insulate the space between the pots with potting soil. This will keep the roots cool and will slow down evaporation.
- Consider collecting and recycling water by installing rain barrels outside of your home. The average house roof in our region can collect 272 litres of rain (60 gallons) on each nine square metres of roof, for every 1 inch of rain. Installing rain barrels at the downspouts of your eaves troughs is a great way to collect rainwater to use on your lawn or in the garden during our dry summer months. Make sure it has a secured lid to prevent children gaining access; this also will discourage breeding mosquitoes, prevent contamination and keep out wildlife. You will also need an overflow attachment and hose attachment for watering. Please visit our section on rain water harvesting for more information on where you can purchase a rain barrel.
- Wash your car or boat with a bucket of water and soap and then rinse it using a hose with a shut off device. Do not leave a hose running or left unattended. If possible, wash your vehicle on the lawn, with chemical-free soap, and irrigate your lawn at the same time!
- Clean your sidewalks and driveways with a brush or broom. If it is necessary to use a hose, make sure it is equipped with a shut-off device.
- Adjust irrigation systems and/or sprinklers so that water does not run down the driveway, sidewalks or street, and be sure to regularly check sprinkler heads to ensure they are in good working condition and pointing in the right direction. This is considered a waste of water and is in direct violation of the Water Conservation Bylaw 4099.
- If water is needed for a restricted use, consider a bulk purchase from a supplier who uses a well or water from outside the Greater Victoria Drinking Water supply system.
- Cover the swimming pool. An uncovered swimming pool loses one inch of water per week. Also, check regularly for cracks and leaks, and backwash only when necessary.
- Do not water on windy, cool, overcast or rainy days. Consider making your irrigation system more water efficient by installing a rain shut-off device that will automatically turn your system off when it is raining.
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For more water efficiency information and materials, contact the CRD Water Conservation Information Line at 250.474.9684