smart landscaping

A water-wise Logan home landscape

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Utah is particularly dry this summer, so many Cache Valley residents are working hard to conserve water. Thirsty lawns and plants, however, can make conservation difficult, especially if sprinkling and irrigation systems are inefficient.

Making a few water-wise changes to a landscape can make saving a few gallons in the yard more manageable, said Roslynn Brain, the sustainable communities extension specialist at Utah State University’s Moab regional campus.

Water-conscious landscaping could save a lot of water over time, which is espically important in a state like Utah, which is the second more arid in the nation.

“We are looking at a hotter, drier future for the state of Utah,” Brain said. “As a result, anything we can do to conserve water now will have positive ramifications down the road.”

In addition to saving water, a yard filled with water-conscious plants can be beautiful, add variety and invite pollinators, Brain said.

“I would much rather look at a diverse, pollinator-attracting landscape than a mono-planted lawn,” she said. “Utah, the beehive state, has approximately 900 native bee species. Wouldn’t it be fun to see the diversity of pollinators that could interact with your own property?”

Below are a few tips from Brain and USU's Center for Water-Efficient Landscaping that will help you create a landscape that is kinder to the planet.

• Utilize Rainwater

Rainwater that drains from the roof can be re-purposed into the landscape, so it should be utilized, not pushed away down the gutters, Brain said. Water can be directed into areas that will soak it into the ground or kept in cisterns as large as 2,500 gallons, the legal amount of rainwater a landowner can store in Utah. 

• Use wood mulch or rock-lined swales to soak water into the ground

Wood mulch is “an amazing, low-effort way” of infiltrating water into a landscape, Brain said. She said rock-lined swales can also help “slow, sink and spread” water into the ground. Directing rainwater into these areas can reduce the amount of municipal water needed in a landscape.

• Use water-wise plants

Some plants, including Nanking cherries, golden currants and service berries, are more water-wise than others. Including these in a landscape, depending on the location, could mean less watering and greater water conservation.

USU Extension offers free water checks to help homeowners better utilize water in their yards and improve their sprinkling systems. For more information, visit  

• Sprinkle smart

Check that your sprinklers create a uniform, even pattern. To do so, place containers in a grid pattern around your lawn and run your sprinklers for 10 minutes. Then measure the water depth in each container — the goal is to have the same depth. If you don’t, adjust sprinkler heads, sprinkler types and directions to get even coverage.

• Visit a water-wise demonstration garden

Need inspiration? Utah has a number of water-wise gardens that prove xeriscaping can be just as beautiful as a convenstional landscape. Check out the USU Botanical Center, Red Butte Gardens at the University of Utah, Weber Basin Water Conservation Learning Garden or the Salt Lake City Water Conservation Gardens.

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