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Seven Steps of Water-wise Gardening

It rains a lot here in Hillsboro – except in the summer when we really need it. As tighter requirements make it harder to increase supply and costs for water continue to rise, it’s a good time to implement wise water habits. Water-efficient landscaping is a great way to just that! It is possible to cut summer water consumption and still maintain an attractive landscape and garden. How is that possible? It only takes seven steps!

Picture of compost bin 

 Compost Bins


1) Start with a Plan

Create a master plan for your landscape. Divide the landscape into Use Zones and Watering Zones. Use zones determine if the area will be public (highly visible, such as your front entry), private (activity area – usually the backyard), or a service area (dog run, air conditioner housing, etc.). Watering zones are determined by plants with high, moderate or low watering needs. Planning before planting allows implementation and modification to occur in stages - without costly mistakes. 

2) Compost and Cultivate

Soils in Hillsboro are predominately clay. Clay absorbs so slowly that water will run off the surface instead of soaking in. Compost will improve the soil’s ability to absorb water and will also provide nutrients to plants. 

3) Grass and Ground Cover

Evaluate your lawn to see if grass is functional. Turf requires more water, maintenance and nutrients than most other plants. If the grass is not needed for kids, pets or badminton, consider converting the area into something less burdensome, such as hardscape or a natural area with natives and ground cover.

4) Every Plant has its Place

 Different plants need different amounts of water to survive. Group plants with similar water needs together. Try to minimize high water use plants and maximize the low water use ones to keep water use low.


Picture of Rain Gauge

Measure water application


5) Water Wisely

The Greatest waste of water is watering too much, too often. Adjust your watering schedule to take advantage of rains or cool temperatures. Make sure your automatic system has a rain gauge to shut off the system in wet weather. Established lawn needs only about one inch of water per week, unless the weather is extremely hot and dry. Watering thoroughly, but infrequently, produces a deep-rooted lawn, which is more water-efficient and drought-tolerant. Use Smart water application technology, such as Evapotranspiration Controllers for automatic systems, soaker hoses and drip systems, for maximizing the amount of water that reaches the roots of your plants. Remember – if the water applied doesn’t reach your plants’ roots, it is useless to the landscape and you’ve wasted water and money!

6) Use Mulches

Mulches can be organic (barkdust) or inorganic (rock). Organic mulches increase the soil’s ability to store water by covering and cooling the soil, which minimizes evaporation. Inorganic mulches discourage weed growth, but can actually increase water loss from plants, so should be used more in hardscape areas instead of plant beds.

7) Keep up the Maintenance

 Even water-wise landscapes need some care and attention. Proper pruning and pest control will keep plants healthy. Weeds compete with plants for nutrients, light and water, so weed frequently. Check your irrigation system regularly to ensure that it is providing the right amount of water at the right place, at the right time. 


By following these seven steps you can have a beautiful landscape and still Make Every Drop Count!

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