5 Ways to Conserve Water in Your Backyard

Get a lush, healthy landscape with less water. Our garden expert shares how to conserve water in your backyard, including how to use a rain barrel.

How to Use a Rain Barrel

How to Use a Rain Barrel

Collect water in a rain barrel to save money.


When it comes to conserving water, look to your own backyard. That’s where you can shore up some savings. Try these five easy tricks and you just might have a little extra money to drop in your rainy day fund.

Let it grow

Keep your grass between 2 1/2 and 3 inches tall. That’s the length that best holds moisture and shades the soil. It also keeps weeds at bay.

Lawns need only an inch of water per week to keep growing. If you have a common grass variety that goes dormant during hot summer months, stop watering it. The lawn will regrow and green up when rain and cooler weather return.

Pick proper plants

Drought-tolerant plants and native plants with long, wide-spreading roots should be grouped together in the garden. Drought-tolerant plants include stonecrop sedum, coneflower, lavender, Russian sage, yarrow, portulaca and herbs such as thyme, sage, parsley and rosemary.

Avoid thirsty vegetable crops, such as beans and sweet corn, and container gardens that require frequent watering.

Slow the flow

Water your lawn or garden less often and only during cooler parts of the day to reduce evaporation and promote deeper root growth. Make a slight indentation in the soil around the plant so water can pond and seep in slowly.

Also, switch from a sprinkler to a soaker hose system to cut water usage up to 50 percent.

Got mulch?

Apply a 3-inch mulch layer to your garden to decrease water evaporation, keep the soil cool and discourage weed growth.

Use a rain barrel

For every inch of rain that falls on 1,000 square feet of roof, you can collect about 600 gallons of water. Besides providing a water source, these eco-friendly barrels reduce the amount of runoff flowing into waterways. They also help prevent basement flooding by keeping water away from your home’s foundation.

Here’s how to build your own rain barrel—and make the most of it.

  1. Find ready-to-use rain barrels in garden centers, home improvement and hardware stores, and online.
  2. Make one out of something as simple as a 50-gallon plastic drum. Visit our friends at The Family Handyman for easy instructions.
  3. Avoid drinking rain barrel water or using it on edible plants due to potential leaching from roofing materials. (Rain barrels aren’t recommended for homes with tar-and-gravel roofs, asbestos shingles or treated cedar shakes.)
  4. Save water for lawns, woody plants and ornamentals, as well as for washing windows or your car.
  5. Check with your county extension office or local water conservation program for more helpful tips.


About Our Expert: Ann Wied is a consumer horticulture educator for the UW-Extension in Waukesha County, Wisconsin.

Photography: Pamuk/Shutterstock.com

Kate Kinman 1 April 17, 2015 at 1:52 pm

Re Rain barrels. Please advise to check local and state laws. In many locations it is against the law to use rain barrels.


TAUSEEF SHEHZAD 2 April 17, 2015 at 2:41 pm

Helpful information


Jessie 3 October 28, 2015 at 2:01 am

Yes, its true! Barrel helps a lot in saving water. As water is our basic need, we should ensure to collect water properly and save it properly.


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