Save Water And Still Win the Best Yard Award

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One of the challenges of living in the drought-prone Silicon Valley area, and the accompanying water rationing, is that it really puts a crimp in the friendly neighborhood yard competitions!

All joking aside, home owners take pride in their homes, which often include their yards. Unfortunately, maintaining beautiful flower gardens and enviable green lawns is extremely difficult when it’s necessary to conserve water. Thankfully, there are things you can do to minimize your water usage while also enjoying your outdoor space.

Minimize the Grass

Did you know that a grass lawn is the biggest water hog outside the home? The problem is, keeping grass green requires a lot of water resources during long stretches with no rain, which is why there are often restrictions on watering lawns. So, instead of living with brown grass, or secretly watering and risking fines, you can rethink how much grass you actually need. A backyard playground area might be a good candidate for grass, as a cushion underneath playground equipment (although there are a lot of other options). But your whole yard does not need to be grass.

See Also:
Pros and Cons of Turf Lawns
Grass that Doesn’t Need Watering

As an alternative to grass, decorative rock, mulch, or even artificial turf are options that can be beautiful, functional, and use virtually no water. There are also grass varieties that need less water than others, so do your homework and sow plant seeds that are not going to be water hogs.

Keep Your Sprinklers in Good Working Order

When you are able to water your lawn, you want to make sure that you aren’t losing precious water to leaky, misdirected, or malfunctioning sprinkler heads and water lines. Do a visual inspection of your sprinkler heads, and adjust or make repairs as needed. If you notice soggy spots in your lawn (or spots that are greener than others that are NOT caused by a pet), or if your water bill is higher than you think it should be based on the amount of watering you do, then you may have a leak in a water line. You’ll want to get a contractor to find and repair the leak, or do it yourself, if you are handy. If repairing the leak is cost prohibitive, then make sure you shut off the water to the system, so that more water doesn’t leak out.

Plant Wisely

Planting a garden can be an immensely satisfying endeavor, and the results can add a lot of beauty to your yard. However, if your goal is beauty AND water conservation, then a little planning is in order. Group together plants that have similar water needs. That way, you don’t over-water plants that don’t need it, in order deliver water to those that need more.

Water Smart

When you water lightly, it encourages roots to stay shallow in the soil, rather than digging in deep in search of ground sources of moisture. When this happens, plants and grass need more frequent watering and end up using more water. So, when you are allowed to water, water deeply. Then let the soil dry before watering again. Also, plan your watering during the early morning, which will minimize evaporation of the water and ensure that more actually makes it to the plants.

This is also where a watering system that is in good repair is essential (see above). If you have misdirected watering heads, then water lands in the street, on the sidewalk, or on the house and is wasted. Drip irrigation systems are best for flower beds and vegetable gardens, rather than sprinkler systems, because the water isn’t sprayed into the air. Rather, it drips directly into the soil, where it is most effective and less prone to evaporation.

Mulch Liberally

Mulch in flower beds looks pretty and creates a canvas that makes the colors of your flowers and greenery really pop. However, it has a more essential purpose. Mulch keeps down weeds, which compete for water resources, and it also helps preserve moisture in the soil. Organic mulches (such as cypress mulch and wood chips) also break down and provide much needed nutrients to the soil. Mulch is essential to ensuring that when you do water your garden (or much needed rain arrives), the water stays where it’s needed…in the soil.

Reuse Rainwater and Cooking Water

Rain barrels attached to the downspouts on your home will collect rainwater, which provides a source of water without using the city water resources. You can use a watering can to dispense water to your flower pots, or rig up a hose to a spigot on the side of the barrel, using gravity to get water to the needed plants.

You can also reuse water from your home to water plants. For instance, the water in that vase of flowers? Don’t throw it down the drain…use it to water plants outside when the blooms inside fade. Did you steam some vegetables or boil some eggs? Let the water cool, then use it to water your plants. There is no reason to let that vitamin rich water go to waste!

Let my team at Keystone Realtors® meet all your real estate needs. Paul Phangureh has over 16 years of experience in buying and selling in the Santa Clara and San Mateo County areas, specializing in the high-end, luxury market, as well as commercial and multi-use real estate. We can help you navigate the process of getting started with real estate investment. Visit our website at for listings and information. You can contact Paul at 650-924-2544, or email at