The drought continues in South Carolina, which makes it is more important than ever to conserve water. Not only does it protect a limited resource, it saves you money and can even save the life of your plants and trees. One source I found says that up to 70% of household water use is outdoors. That gives us all a lot of room to improve. Here are some tips on how to cut back: – Mulch, Mulch, Mulch! Adding a layer of mulch will help planting beds retain water, and reduce run off and splashing. – Don’t water between the hours of 10am and 4pm, or on windy days to reduce water loss through evaporation. – Walk across your lawn. If you can’t see your footprints, you don’t need to water. – Does a screwdriver push into your lawn easily? If so, it has plenty of water. – Mow your grass to the right height. The higher the grass, the more extensive the root system becomes. – Invest in a rain gauge and if you have an irrigation system connect an automatic rain shut off device. – Water deeply so you can avoid watering frequently. Water that goes deeper promotes deep roots. – Invest in a rain barrel to collect water from your roof. – Only water if the top 2-3 inches of soil are dry. – Ice cubes in hanging baskets prevent water overflow. – Time your irrigation system to see when it reaches the point of run off. Take off 5 minutes from the run time. – Chose shrubs and groundcovers for sloped areas of your property. It helps control run off. – Chose native plants and trees for your landscape. They will typically tolerate our hot summer weather better. – When planting new plants and trees, look for a low water use tag at the nursery. Consider plants and trees on how heat and drought tolerant they are and how insect and disease resistant. – Don’t overplant your beds. Leave room for shrubs and trees to grow by finding out their mature size. – Plant new trees and shrubs in the fall when conditions are cooler and more rainfall is expected. – Group plants according to their watering needs to avoid over or under watering. – Remember that more plants die from overwatering than under watering.