Sustainable Landscaping

intro to the basics
1   choose the right plant for the right spot
2   recycle your yard waste
3   use fertilizers and pesticides responsibly
4   water wisely
5   reduce runoff from your yard and increase groundwater recharge
6   reduce soil erosion. keep it planted and mulched
7   pick up after your pets
8   use and dispose of fuels and hazardous products properly


The key to proper watering is to apply only the amount needed at the best time using the best methods possible to minimize water losses and adverse impacts to plants. Consider planting drought tolerant and/or native plants.

URI CE Botanical Gardens

Most lawns require about one inch of water each week to remain actively growing during summer months. Vegetable crops require about one to two inches each week depending on root depth, growth stage, and soil type. This represents a lot of water.

When there is a lack of weekly rainfall, it is crucial that irrigators pay close attention to the weather and water wisely. Not only does improper irrigation waste valuable water, but excess irrigation water can also carry fertilizers, pesticides and other pollutants to ground and surface waters.

Use a rain gauge to measure weekly rainfall and apply only the amount of supplemental water needed.
Avoid frequent watering, it encourages shallow root depths and can weaken plants. One thorough watering event each week is best.
Use low pressure/low volume watering systems such as soaker hoses and drip irrigation for gardens and beds. This reduces water losses due to evaporation, and the low flow rates minimize the potential for water leaching below the root zone or running off the surface. Water is also applied at or near the root zone where the plant needs it.

When using sprinklers:
Avoid irrigating during hot, windy parts of the day to reduce evaporation loss--early morning is best as wet plant foliage during evening hours can increase susceptibility to disease.
Be sure that automatic sprinklers have a manual control option– irrigate according to weekly rainfall amounts and not a set, automatic schedule.

The Glen Demonstration Site

Consider installing a conservation controller (evaluates weather data), soil moisture sensors or other "smart" technology to properly schedule irrigation events.
Avoid irrigating paved surfaces, roads and driveways.
Use shallow cans or a rain gauge to measure the amount of water being applied.
Adjust the flow rate to the sprinklers to avoid surface runoff.

Other important tips:
Consider planting drought tolerant plants – especially in those spots where the soil is already very dry and sandy. Soils differ in the amount of water they can hold, so save moisture-loving plants for areas with finer, heavier soils.

During a serious, prolonged drought consider allowing lawns to go naturally dormant, because watering can actually stress the grass more by forcing it to grow under such adverse conditions.

Use rain barrels or cisterns to collect and store rainwater.

Smith's Castle Demonstration Site

Use mulch to conserve soil moisture in beds and gardens. Increase soil organic matter (and soil moisture holding capacity) through mulching and adding compost or other organic soil amendments.

View our Healthy Lawn Care page for more information on maintaining an attractive lawn with minimal inputs.

For more information about proper irrigation and drought tolerant plants

Rain Gauges--Your Most Important Garden Tool

Drip Irrigation for the Home Garden

Rain Barrels and Cisterns

Water Conservation In and Around the Home

Healthy Landscapes Demonstration Sites

The Irrigation Association

URI Master Gardener Hotline: 1 (800) 448-1011

Other community programs for water conservation:

Saving Water Partnership - Seattle, WA

Town of Cary, North Carolina - comprehensive water conservation program