With or without water restrictions, Virginia Beach residents can have attractive landscaping and conserve water. Just choose plants
that require less water and use stones, bricks, or cement to create interesting walkways.
The best time to plant is during cooler weather
when nature can take care of plants' needs. Plants that are established in the fall, winter, and early spring develop strong root systems that enable them to successfully perform even in the summer. During cool seasons, less evaporation occurs and the plants require less water.
When you are ready to plant, follow these steps for water-wise landscaping:
1. Planning and Design
Whether you plan your own design or use a landscape professional this is the most important step. Assess your landscape for opportunities. Zone your garden into areas of high moisture use and drought-tolerant use.
2. Soil Preparation
Soil preparation is critical to a successful landscape. Mixing in a 2" to 4" layer of organic matter such as peat moss, compost, or manures will improve your soil's water and air holding capacities. Additionally, soil analysis can determine your lime and fertilizer needs.
3. Practical Turf Areas
Remember, grass is beautiful, but it requires more water and maintenance than any other part of the landscape. If you choose to have grass, use it sparingly. Replace some grassy areas with mulched beds, groundcovers, or other low water users. Select a turf grass that is adapted to the site and drought resistant. Ask your cooperative extension or garden center which varieties are best for your lawn. You can pick up a soil testing kit at the Virginia Beach Cooperative Extension Office or at any Virginia Beach Public Library. Click here
for more information about soil testing and the Virginia Beach Cooperative Extension.
4. Appropriate Plant Selection
Select plants that fit the site and the environmental stresses. Create zones according to water needs. Take growth rates, mature size, and temperature tolerances into consideration. Click here
for a list of some recommended plants, trees, and shrubs.
5. Use of Mulches
Mulches hold in moisture while reducing weeds, cooling the soil, slowing erosion, and providing landscape interest. Replacing turf with mulched plant beds is a great way to lower your water use. Use organic, non-matting mulches such as pine straw, bark mulch, shredded hardwood bark, or cypress mulch.
6. Appropriate Maintenance
Keep your plants healthy. Avoid plant stress by mowing properly, thinning shrubs, and controlling weeds and pests.
Use these tips to help reduce your plants' water demands:
By choosing a low water-use grass and by mowing high, you can grow healthy grass with a strong root system that will:
- Reduce the number of high water using plants in your landscape.
- Refrain from over-fertilizing in late spring and summer. It encourages growth and increases water demand.
- Control weeds. They compete with your plants for water.
- Plant groundcovers to reduce water demand and help absorb fertilizer runoff from beds and lawns.
- Reduce moisture loss by mulching around plants.
- Prune only when necessary. Shearing promotes water-demanding new growth.
- Reduce thirsty turf grass areas by using low water demand groundcovers and mulched beds. During the summer, never cut more than one-third of the height of your grass. Not sure? Set your mower to its highest setting. Taller grass cools the soil, encourages deep roots, and reduces stress. If you mow your grass too short, root growth slows down, making the grass more susceptible to heat and drought. Also, leave grass clippings on the lawn to return nutrients to the earth and encourage growth.
- Survive dry and drought conditions
- Resist disease, insects, and weeds on its own
- Use less water and be easier to maintain