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Create Your Better Yard & Save Water


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Yard work can be hard work, especially in the summer heat. Yards come in all shapes and sizes, but likely you hope to water less and keep everything growing well! During the summer, we typically see an approximate 20% increase in water usage that is primarily the result of outdoor water use!

Here are five tips that will help everyone save water outside this summer.

How to Save Water This Summer

  1. Maximize Rainwater: Take advantage of natural rainfall by installing a rain barrel to collect water for your plants and grass later when they need it.  Don’t forget about the City’s $30 Rain Barrel Rebate!
  2. Water Early: Early mornings are typically when heat and wind are lowest, which means water is less likely to evaporate before your plants can soak it up!
  3. Water Wisely: Most grass varieties in Virginia only need about 1 inch of water per week in the summer. If the grass springs back after you step on it, it doesn’t need to be watered. 
  4. Fix Outdoor Leaks: Did you know a broken sprinkler can waste 25,000 gallons of water in six months! Stop water loss by checking your sprinklers and hose bibs for leaks regularly. 
  5. Plant Natives: By selecting drought-tolerant plants that are native to Virginia, you will likely have to do little to no additional watering as these plants thrive in our Virginia climate!

Did you know that as much as 50% of the water we use outdoors is wasted from inefficient watering methods and systems?

Different Landscape Types

Are you looking to save water while maintaining a beautiful landscape this summer? Whether you are a master gardener or have little patience for lawncare, you can make your yard more attractive and functional while also saving water. Enhance your landscapes with water-saving techniques and technologies that fit your lifestyle and yard type.

Check out these eight different landscape types and see which one matches your yard and lifestyle!

Backyard Beauty 

Are you a master gardener with a variety of annuals, perennials, and vegetables in your yard? Is your landscape lush, and do you require efficient irrigation performance under a variety of conditions? If you’re going for Backyard Beauty, consider these tips for your better yard:

  • Plant flowers that are native to your region and don’t require much watering beyond normal rainfall.
  • Group plants in zones by watering needs (hydrozones). 
  • Consider installing a microirrigation system that delivers water slowly and over a longer period of time like with a soaker hose or drip irrigation.
  • Use a WaterSense labeled weather-based irrigation controller that will tailor your landscapes watering schedule based on our local weather and landscape conditions.
  • Hire a WaterSense certified landscape irrigation professional to conduct an audit of your irrigation system to help you find ways to improve efficiency.

Dog Digging Dilemma

Are you a tech-savvy pet owner who thinks your phone isn’t the only thing that should be smart? Do you want flower beds kept safe from digging paws? Is your irrigation system controlled with a clock timer? Solve your Dog Digging Dilemma with your better yard:

  • Replace some of your lawn with hardy plants that can withstand pets.
  • If you are a technology lover, install a WaterSense labeled weather-based irrigation controller that can connect to your smartphone and water only when needed. 
  • Conduct a sprinkler spruce-up every spring to find any sprinkler components that need repair. Replace any broken spray sprinkler bodies with WaterSense labeled models.

Playdate Priorities

Is your yard packed with playground equipment and kids over for playdates, leaving little free time? Focus on your Playdate Priorities instead of lawn maintenance with your better yard:

  • Replace grass with mulch in high-traffic play areas.
  • Incorporate drought-tolerant plants to reduce maintenance and watering needs.
  • If high water pressure is an issue, install an irrigation system with WaterSense labeled spray sprinkler bodies that reduce misting and uneven coverage.
  • Install a WaterSense labeled weather-based irrigation controller to do the thinking for you in terms of when and how much to water.

Landscape Luxury

Do you love to entertain outdoors, but also like to travel and leave the lawn maintenance to someone else? Are you in the market for a landscape or irrigation system redesign? Your better yard can have Landscape Luxury and use less water:

  • Hire an irrigation designer certified by a WaterSense labeled program to maximize system efficiency.
  • Organize plants in zones by watering needs (hydrozones).
  • Install a mircoirrigation system that delivers water right to the roots and reduces evaporation and runoff with drip irrigation or a soaker hose.
  • Incorporate WaterSense labeled spray sprinkler bodies and a weather-based irrigation controller into your new system.

Family Fun

Do you like to practice sports with the kids in the backyard? Is your lawn the envy of the neighborhood? Are you picky about what you plant and when to water? Focus on Family Fun and not on lawn care in your better yard:

  • Install WaterSense labeled spray sprinkler bodies to ensure even coverage even under high water pressure.
  • Add soil moisture sensors that can override scheduled irrigation when plants don’t need water.
  • Conduct a sprinkler spruce-up every spring to find leaks and broken components.
  • Enlist a professional irrigation auditor certified by a WaterSense labeled program to help.

Low-Maintenance Living

Are you a busy working parent who wants to spend more time with the kids or the pets than your lawn? Instead of an in-ground sprinkler system, do you water with a hose hooked up to a sprinkler? Stop mowing and start Low-Maintenance Living with your better yard:

  • Replace some lawn with drought-tolerant plants native to Virginia. 
  • Place plants in zones based on their watering needs (hydrozones).
  • Consider some type of drip irrigation technology, such as a soaker hose.
  • Water smarter by following water-wise tips, such as avoiding mid-day sun.

Urban Oasis

Does your home only support a little outdoor space? Do you have a desire to make the world a better place? Do you grow your own vegetables and flowers in your backyard or balcony? Are you the do-it-yourself type, or at least willing to learn by watching a YouTube video? Turn your Urban Oasis into your better yard:

  • Plant drought-tolerant flowers that are native to Virginia and that will require little supplemental watering beyond normal rainfall.
  • Plant flowers in zones based on their watering requirements (hydrozones).
  • Add mulch around plants to reduce evaporation and maintain healthy soil.
  • Install drip irrigation hooked to a hose bibb with a soil moisture sensor or weather-based irrigation controller.

Community Plot

Are you an avid community gardener? Are you teaching kids how to plant and grow food? Is the garden next to a school or building with plenty of precipitation? Are you building raised beds to grow flowers and vegetables? Turn a Community Plot into your better yard:

  • Fill the garden with plants that are native to Virginia.
  • Arrange beds in zones to simplify watering (hydrozones). 
  • Teach kids about water conservation by using a rain barrel to collect water from a nearby roof to use for irrigation.
  • Install a drip irrigation system to deliver water slowly and over a longer period of time.

If one of these lifestyles doesn’t seem to fit just right, you can always pick and choose from all the tips to make your own water smart landscape. 

How to Get Kids Involved in Landscaping

Families, are you looking for a fun way to get the kids involved with gardening and helping outside? You can show them what plants look like when they need water and how they change after they have been watered. What differences do they notice? Also, try installing a rain gauge that collects rainwater. You can have them check the rain gauge after each storm and report back (and even track) rainfall at your home. Then you can discuss how much rainwater you got, if the rain gauge collected over 1 inch of rain, and if you need to plan to water anything in your yard for that week. If you have a rain barrel, use the collected rainwater to water your plants with the help of your kids.

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JILL GREINER is the City of Charlottesville’s Water Efficiency Program Coordinator and helps the community save water one drop at a time. She identifies with the Low-Maintenance Living lifestyle for her home in the City as she juggles work and running after her toddler., a collection of local resources including a popular calendar of events, family services guides and features on education, health and family day trips for parents and teachers in Charlottesville, as well as Virginia Wine & Country Life, a semi-annual life & style magazine, and Wine & Country Weddings, an annual art book celebrating elegant Virginia weddings.