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How to plan a waterwise garden

Follow these six steps to balance beauty with water conservation.

1. What do you want?

It’s a big question. To find the answer, try asking yourself this series of smaller questions. What are your conservation goals? How will you use your garden? How much time can you spend?

2. What do you have?

Make a map to scale for your site including buildings, plants, pavements, and water sources. Note the following features on the layout of what you have: surrounding influences, plants soils, soil types and current water usage.

3. How will your garden lay out?

Place tracing paper on the top on your map of the site conditions and draw overlays to outline the areas for the variety of uses you identified in step 1. Refer to local building codes and regulations for setbacks, height limits, and building permit requirements.

4. How much water will different areas need?

On your tracing paper, outline zones of high and low water use. Remember, annual beds and lawns will require frequent watering, while shrubs and perennials are more drought tolerant.

5. How can you structure your garden most wisely?

Arrange planting areas into a year-round structure that defines use areas, moderates sun and wind and screens unwanted views. Using a variety of plants, develop layers that tie areas together and create a lush feeling. Follow these basic guidelines:

  • Trees can be used to provide a sense of enclosure, create shade and make accents or focal points and define edges and gateways.
  • Shrubs also help define and enclose areas.  They add low-maintenance, year round interest with attractive flowers, foliage, fruits and colorful stems.
  • Use evergreen shrubs, trees and grasses to create barriers and provide screens, structure and texture all year round.

6. Which plants will do well in these areas?

Now it’s time to select specific plants for the areas you have outlined. To identify plants that meet these needs, refer to a garden reference book, talk to the experts at your favorite nursery or call the Snohomish County Master Gardeners at 425-357-6010 or the WSU Master Gardener Hotline at 206-296-3440.

And of course, use drought tolerant plants whenever possible!