Written by Katinka Lennemann, Data Evaluation Intern

It’s Earth Month, so let’s talk about one way you can make your garden more sustainable: through how you water your plants! This article will introduce you to five tips on saving water, starting from easiest to implement, then going to ones that perhaps need more investment. 

1. Water your plants earlier rather than later. Watering during the midday sun when temperatures are high results in more water wasted through evaporation, so when you can, try watering your plants in the morning. This often protects plants against heat stress during hot summer days as well.  [1]

2. Watering your plants directly at the roots also is another way to save water. The roots are the only part of the plant that absorb water, so delivering water directly to the soil is an easy way to save water. Avoiding the leaves also prevents plants from developing various fungal diseases that thrive in wetter environments. [2]

3. Add mulch to your garden. Mulch can be made out of a variety of materials too, such as straw, grass clippings, or bark chips. This extra layer over the soil has numerous benefits beyond preventing water from evaporating: it also prevents weeds from popping up around your plants, adds to the nutrition of the soil as it breaks down, and regulates soil temperatures. [3]

4. Furthermore, you can conserve water by setting up a rain barrel. These rain barrels work by catching rainwater runoff from your gutter system through the downspouts. Because this water is untreated, it’s not advisable to drink, but the water collected can be used to water your garden instead.

These systems are especially effective if you live in a place that gets a lot of rainfall, but depending on the size of your roof and how much water you get, you can still catch a lot of water! For instance, a report from the EPA states that a 600 square foot roof will generate more than 90 gallons of water from a 0.25-inch rainfall event [4]. Note that suitability of rain barrels for your edible plants can depend on your building materials because rain water may collect pollutants as it flows over roof and gutter surfaces. [5]

5. Finally, drip irrigation systems are a form of irrigation that drips water directly to a plant’s roots through a system of tubes, valves, and emitters. Using drip irrigation is a great way to save water because it avoids the high evaporation rates of regular surface irrigation and may penetrate deeper in the soil [5]. Many kits for home growers include a timer as well so you can set up what time you want your drip irrigation to turn on and when your plants are watered. Overall, drip irrigation systems require the most initial set up costs, but they can result in a lot of saved time, effort, and water in the long run because they can automate your irrigation systems entirely. 

In essence, there are many ways you can save money and conserve water through the way you water your plants! Rain barrels and drip irrigation systems especially may need more research to install properly, but they have a corresponding huge impact on making your garden more sustainable. We at Each Green Corner use many of these methods in our garden sites, and they are great ways to save water in your own garden too. 


[1] Rodriguez, Amy. “Should You Water Plants in the Evening?” SFGate, 9 December, 2018, https://homeguides.sfgate.com/should-water-plants-evening-69049.html. Accessed 27 March, 2023. 

[2] MacKenzie, Jill. “Watering the vegetable garden.” University of Michigan Extension, 2018, https://extension.umn.edu/water-wisely-start-your-own-backyard/watering-vegetable-garden#too-much-water-869314.

[3]  “Mulch.” USDA, https://www.usda.gov/peoples-garden/soil-health/mulch

[4] “Soak Up the Rain: Rain Barrels.” EPA, 24 March 2023, https://www.epa.gov/soakuptherain/soak-rain-rain-barrels.

[4] “The Importance of Operation and Maintenance for Long-Term Success of Green Infrastructure.” EPA Office of Water, March 2013, https://nepis.epa.gov/Exe/ZyPDF.cgi/P100MF66.PDF?Dockey=P100MF66.PDF.

[5] Oker, T.E., Kisekka, I., Sheshukov, A.Y. et al. “Evaluation of dynamic uniformity and application efficiency of mobile drip irrigation.” Irrig Sci 38, 17–35 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00271-019-00648-0


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