Plan For a Water Smart Garden

Our rainy weather is getting more intense - and so are our droughts. For this reason, we should be planning our landscapes for weather extremes.


Gardens enlighten our senses and bring peace and joy.  They can also be used for keeping our waterways clean, as they filter out pollutants that wash off roadways and parking lots.

Plan Your Garden to Conserve Water

Take Inventory Before Shopping

Before heading out to the garden store or nursery, take stock of the zones in your yard and make sure to choose plants that will tolerate the various conditions: hot/sunny, cool/shady, moist, dry, etc.

Wherever possible, choose plants that are drought tolerant and native to our area, to reduce water use by up to 50%.

With just a little research, you can have a vibrant, colorful garden all season long, while conserving water at the same time.

Check out this list of drought tolerant plants for Massachusetts landscapes.

Use Compost & Mulch!

  • Before planting, add compost to the dirt to help with soil water retention.
  • Once plants are in the ground, make sure to spread mulch around the base to help retain moisture.

Try Different Irrigation Methods
Rather than using a conventional garden hose or sprinkler, consider these methods:

  • Redirect your downspouts toward your plants or shrubs. Use flexible downspouts, found at most home improvement stores, for a more controlled flow of water.
  • Place a rain barrel under your downspouts and collect the water for future use.  Place the rain barrel on cinder blocks (about 2-3ft up) so that it’s easier to get a watering can underneath the spigot, and to create some water pressure.  Multiple rain barrels can be connected together for maximum water saving.  Most rain barrels hold 65 gallons of water.
  • Use drip irrigation for shrubs, gardens, and plant beds, in order to apply water directly to the roots, where it’s needed most.  Setting up drip lines takes a little bit of time, but once completed, one turn of a spigot is all it takes to water numerous plants fro an entire season.
  • Place ice cubes in hanging baskets, planters and pots to give your plants a cool drink of water and help eliminate water overflow.
  • Water your plants deeply but less frequently to create healthier and stronger landscapes.

For more information:

The WaterSense Water-Smart Landscapes guide

Prevent Water Pollution – Plant a Rain Garden!

The opposite of a drought is too much rain, which can also be troublesome.

If you tend to have a lot of water that collects in your yard or roadway during a rainstorm, you may want to consider redirecting it toward a rain garden, which will help to divert the water into the soil, allowing it to slowly filter into the ground rather than flow directly into storm drains, ponds or lakes.

Learn more about rain gardens.

The reason for diverting rainwater into a rain garden is to help prevent water pollution.

When rainwater from the street flows directly into storm drains, it carries the pollutants that are on the road into our waterways – untreated. (Pollutants include motor oil, gasoline, fertilizer, pesticides, dog waste,  etc.) This dirty runoff can cause water pollution in our local streams and ponds.  Rain gardens are a great way to intercept and filter that polluted water!


It’s important to factor potential summer drought into your garden planning.  For the latest news on drought, check out the U.S. Drought Monitor, a website managed by the University of Nebraska.  (Check out the map below of the drought of Oct. 2016, when much of MA was in severe to extreme drought.)

Always follow your town’s outdoor water restrictions. While a green lawn and colorful garden are nice, water must be conserved for public health and safety.


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