Tips and tools for waterwise gardening



Watering season in the Portland area is upon us. It unofficially starts July 5, just after the fireworks end and the skies clear for the next three months.
I try to wait as long as possible before using the sprinkler and I also try to hand water as much as time allows believing it allows me to target the water needs of each plant. It is also a relaxing activity and keeps me in touch with what’s going on in my garden. Many gardeners, myself included, are looking for new and better ways to save water while keeping their gardens green and healthy during dry summer months.
The Regional Water Providers Consortium—a group of more than 20 local water providers plus the regional government Metro—offers several no-cost resources to help.
1.       The Consortium will offer free outdoor watering gauge kits from July 1 – August 10, while supplies last (one per customer). Each kit includes a water gauge and timer to help measure your sprinkler’s water use and ensure that you’re giving your lawn and garden the right amount of water. Kits are available to metro-area residents who receive water service from one of the Consortium members (visit www.conserveh2o.org/about to confirm your provider). To receive a free kit, call 503-823-7528 or email RWPCinfo@portlandoregon.gov. Include your mailing address, water provider name and how you heard about the offer.
2.       The Consortium provides a “Weekly Watering Number” on their website, which you can sign up to have delivered to your e-mail address. The Weekly Watering Number is the amount of water in inches that your lawn will need that week.  You can also use the Weekly Watering Number for watering other types of plants, by using these general guidelines. 
  • Shrubs: 50% of the Weekly Watering Number
  • Perennials: 50% of the Weekly Watering Number
  • Vegetables: 75% of the Weekly Watering Number (new starts may require more water)
  • Trees: Newly planted trees need regular watering for up to the first couple of years, while established trees may need only a deep soak or two in summer.
The Consortium contracts with a weather forecasting service to provide a free weather forecast and Weekly Watering Number each Thursday (April – September). The Weekly Watering Number is based on historical data (evapotranspiration, rain fall, and other data points) from the previous week, but it is used to determine how much to water lawns and landscapes during the current week.
3.       The Consortium’s “Top Five” waterwise tips for your garden are:
·         Water lawns and gardens early in the morning (before 10 a.m.) or later in the evening (after 6 p.m.) when temperatures are cooler and evaporation is minimized.
·         Adjust your sprinklers so that they are watering your lawn and garden and not the street.
·         Water in several short sessions rather than one long session to allow for better absorption and to prevent run-off. [Editor’s note: Water deeply and allow soil to dry between watering to encourage deep root growth.]
·         Adjust your mower to a higher setting. A taller lawn (3-4 inches) provides shade to the roots and helps retain soil moisture, so your lawn requires less water. [Editor’s note: Leave clippings on the lawn to return nutrients to the soil.]
·         Group plants with similar watering needs together, as different plants require different amounts of water.
Share your water-saving tips with us. Happy summer!