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Water Saving Techniques for the Yard & Garden

We all would love to save money and time right? Right. So for many of us, watering in the hot months of central Virginia could take hours on any given day. I don’t own much land, but I drag hoses and sprinklers around my yard for at least 3 hours if it hasn’t rained in a while. Here are some tips from the experts here at Colesville and the online community that might shave a little time off your watering schedule and save you a little money in the wallet or water in the well.

1. Water Pots in the Afternoon and your Garden in the morning – research shows that the timing of WHEN you water container gardens can have a significant effect on plant growth. This is true for those that use a pine bark based potting mixture which is pretty common in the nursery industry, but also the home gardener. Watering these pots in the afternoon will give the plants the water they need and stay wet a little longer than daytime watering. The research shows that watering plants after 12 noon and during the, significantly outperformed plants grown with early morning irrigation.

For homeowners, at Colesville, we recommend an actual potting soil mixture called Baccto Lite that definitely has a longer water retention than the pine bark mixture. However, even with this type of potting soil, afternoon watering for containers will still benefit from more growth and possibly healthier plants.

According to the Virginia Tech Extension, the optimal watering time for the rest of the garden and landscaping beds is in the early morning before the day’s temperatures begin to rise. This is because the winds are usually lower and there is less evaporation since the sun isn’t quite up yet.

Avoid evening watering on foliage since night time temps are often not warm enough to dry the moisture on the leaves which can encourage fungus to establish. One thing to remember is that if your plant or landscape is showing drought stress – water them. Waiting to do so might be too late.

2. Save and reuse water whenever you can.

  • Install a rain barrel (or several). Rather than wasting rainwater, to maximize roof runoff and redirect it for use on your garden.
  • Save your cooking water – cooking water is full of nutrients and is a free fertilizer for your plants.
  • Start composting – Even micro gardeners can make compost no matter how small a space4 you might have. Compost holds moisture in your soil and help retains nutrients where needed.

3. Choose your plant containers carefully – Different materials heat up quickly or loose moisture easily. For example, metal or black pots will heat up quickly and loose water faster than others. Unglazed terracotta pots also loose moisture pretty quickly. Ceramic and glazed pottery will be the best for water retention.


Up to 70% of water can evaporate from the soil on a hot day if you don’t have mulch as a protective layer on top. Mulch is one of the best moisture holding strategies you can use. It will prevent evaporation from the surface and suppresses weeds from growing and many mulches add vital nutrients to the soil at the same time. Double or triple shredded hardwood or pine bark holds water really well.

5. Choose plants with lower watering needs. These include:

  • natives
  • slower growers
  • smaller plants (max height & width)
  • gray/silver foliage
  • leathery, hairy, or curled leaves typically require less moisture

6. Avoid Overwatering. Overwatering is a bad habit…it increases your water bill, leaches valuable nutrients from the soil (which costs you money to replace plants when they don’t make it), causes loss of oxygen in the soil pore spaces increasing the chance of root rot and other diseases from suffocation and wastes a precious resource.

In general, we get a lot of questions about watering. We really do love to educate our customers and want to help with any questions you have. If in doubt and need some help – please call or email us! or 804.798.5472 ex. 2!

Until next time….