Green Tips

Conserving Water Outdoors

Here in Chemeketa we need to conserve water in the summertime when our source water (the water we take from Moody Creek) begins to diminish.


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Water deeply and less often

  • Deep watering encourages deep roots, and roots that are encouraged to explore farther into the soil to find sustenance have better access to moisture when the area closer to the surface dries out. This upper layer always dries out first because soil at or near the surface warms faster and is subject to evaporation and the drying effects of wind.
  • When a gardener waters every day but only for brief periods, water rarely soaks deeply enough into the soil to encourage roots to grow there. In order for roots that are growing only near the surface to stay healthy and alive, continued frequent watering is required to provide them with sufficient moisture. The ‘pampered’ plants never have to develop and extensive root system reaching farther down to find water.

Source: Joe Lamp'l, The Green Gardener’s Guide

Water at the right time of day

  • The time of day that you water can have a significant effect on the water’s efficiency…The hotter it is, the more water is lost to evaporation. Add wind to the equation and even more water is vaporized in the atmosphere before it ever reaches the ground. Depending on your irrigation system and the timing of when you water, as much as half the water can be lost to drift and evaporation, especially when using overhead sprinklers.
  • By watering very early in the morning or at night rather than in the heat of the day, the average homeowner will reduce water usage by 25 percent…This translates to an average water savings of 11,000 gallons per year, per household.

Mulch, Mulch, Mulch!

  • Mulch is an important tool for a gardener in more ways than one. As a way to conserve water, it can’t be beat.
  • A three-to five-inch layer of mulch will provide and insulating blanket that greatly reduces surface evaporation, slows runoff, moderates soil temperatures on hot days, and lowers the moisture requirements of plants. It also dramatically cuts down weed production, lowering the demand and competition for nutrients and water.
  • In summer, just 2 inches of mulch cuts water loss by 20 percent and lowers temperature in the top 4 inches of soil by 10 degrees.

Source: Joe Lamp’l, The Green Gardener’s Guide

Fix leaky faucets and hoses

  • Drop by drop it all adds up. One drip per second equates to about 260 gallons a month! So it makes sense to stop the drops wherever we can. With the exception of an irrigation system, the biggest opportunity outdoors to do that come from the hose bib or spigot, or with the hose itself.
  • It seems that some amount of water leakage is the norm rather than the exception. But it doesn't have to be. Take time to inspect all your outdoor faucets and connections. Before calling a plumber, there are a few simple repairs you can make yourself, and all the parts are easy to find and inexpensive as well.
  • Start with the spigot. When you turn it on, does it leak? If so, is it from the handle? If you answered yes to that, simply remove the handle. It’s held in place by a screw or nut. Remove the packing nut and the rubber gasket or washer inside. Over time, these rubber parts become hard and brittle. When they crack, that’s when the leaks start to happen.
  • Take the parts with you to your neighborhood hardware store so you can purchase the appropriate replacements.

Source: Joe Lamp’l, The Green Gardener’s Guide

Controlling snails and slugs

Snails and slugs love the shade and garden plants in Chemeketa. Here are some ways to control slugs and snails without harming your pets and the birds that live in our forested community.

Check labels and stay away from snail and slug bait that contains metaldehyde or methiocarb. “These chemicals have killed countless thousands of domestic pets and birds over the years,” as well as beneficial insects and earthworms. “Metaldehyde is toxic to all creations that consume it, be it through direct ingestion or secondary poisoning from consuming poisoned prey.”

“Iron phosphate is considered a more environmentally friendly pesticide and according to the EPA, no toxicity has been seen in mammals, birds, fish, beetles and earthworms if applied per the manufacturer's instructions. Snails and slugs stop feeding and die within 3 to 6 days after consuming iron phosphate laced bait.”

Other ways to control snails and slugs without using commercial pesticides are:

  • Slug and snail hunts carried out late at night when slugs and snails are most active. Use a flashlight and put snails and slugs in a can with salt in it or soapy water (see below).
  • Create traps out of upside down pots and boards. Snail and slugs like to hide in these places. Check your traps every day.
  • Check for slugs under rocks and logs and thick vegetation in your garden. Slugs and snails like these places too. Remove the slugs and snails and the rocks and logs, if necessary.
  • Install cooper rings around delicate plants. Slugs and snails are repelled by the slime on their bodies and cooper.
  • Place crushed egg shells, pine needles or shredded bark around plants to create a slug/snail barrier.
  • Turn the soil over frequently in bare areas of your garden to help bring eggs to the surface where they'll be feasted upon by predators. Slugs also spend a good deal of their time below the surface, so turning over the soil helps to expose them to predators as well.
  • Consider planting "repellent" species in amongst your other plants. These include Lavender, Thyme, Sage, Geraniums and Mint.
  • Make snail and slug traps using beer. Snails and slugs love beer! Pour beer in a shallow dish and watch the slugs and snails collect.

If you don't have any animal helpers (ducks or chickens) to assist you in disposing of the snails and slugs; you'll need to crush them thoroughly. For the squeamish, they can be drowned in a bucket of soapy water (the soap prevents them climbing up the sides). Use an earth friendly soap or detergent so you can then bury the remains in your garden and help return nutrients to it.

Remember, if your neighbors use metaldehyde to kill snails, the snails you capture could have ingested the poison and, if fed to your animals, would poison them.


Last Modified: May 20, 2022 4:35am