Marianne Binetti

Marianne Binetti: 10 tips for happy plants with less water

August is coming! Here are the top 10 tips for conserving water in your garden and landscape:

1. Water in the dark. Water in the evening or morning so that you’ll lose less water to evaporation. Avoid run-off or letting water hit the sidewalk or driveway.

2. Right plant, right place. Use sedums, succulents, plants with gray leaves or small leaves (think lavender, potentilla and lamb’s ear) in the hot spots of your landscape, such as up against a west- or south-facing wall.

3. Mulch. You can use wood chips, compost, hay, leaves, or even marbles and seashells for a decorative look on top of your potted plants. A mulch will shade the soil to keep it cooler and seal in moisture so you will need to water less often.

4. Let your lawn “go golden.” This sounds more luxurious than saying you have allowed the lawn to go brown and dormant. Some gardeners even use a special lawn paint to dye the dormant golden lawn a shade of green. Don’t worry, once the rains return in the fall your lawn will green up again.

5. Recycle your kitchen water. Then use it to water your potted plants. This is the way most of Europe has watered their summer plants for centuries. Any rinse water or non-salted cooking water goes into a kitchen pitcher and at the end of the day instead of pouring your liquid assets down the drain, use the recycled water on the patio plants. Bonus: Some of the nutrients from cooking veggies will leach into the cooking water so you’ll get some free fertilizer.

6. Use a rain barrel. Collecting all the water that runs off the roof into one container means you can dip a watering can into the barrel and hand-water the potted or extra thirsty plants.

7. Try a system. Install a drip irrigation system to water vegetables and even potted plants. Sprinklers are not as efficient as drip lines. Bonus: When you target the water right at the root of a plant the rest of the soil will stay dry — and you’ll have fewer weeds.

8. Compost. Make compost or buy compost in bags and use this in planting holes, on top of new plants and as a topdressing for a thirsty lawn. Compost acts like a sponge to hold and store moisture.

9. Take a shower with some pots and pans. You will be surprised how much water you can collect before it runs down the drain. Use this sometimes soapy water (called “gray” water) to wash insects from roses or to soak the roots of thirsty hydrangeas and heucheras.

10. Existing drainage. Finally, my favorite tip for conserving water — position a thirsty shrub or potted plant right under the drainage hole of a hanging basket or window box. Now you’ll be recycling the drainage water from your hanging basket by letting it drip from one plant into the root zone of another.


The fourth week of July is when your roses and fuchsias need special attention to keep them blooming for the rest of the summer.

All roses appreciate more fertilize and extra water during the midsummer cycle, and if you deadhead or clip off the faded rose blooms you’ll be encouraging more roses to bloom through the fall season.

Fuchsias that dangle from hanging baskets or those with large blooms are the annual type of fuchsia, and those suffer in hot weather. To keep your fuchsia baskets in bloom keep pinching off any seed pods or “fuchsia berries” that form at the end of the stems once the faded flowers fall.

On hot days set ice cubes on top of the soil to pamper your hanging fuchsias and spray the foliage lightly with water. Fuchsia baskets do best in full shade. There are also hardy fuchsias that grow more like perennial shrubs with smaller blooms. The hardy fuchsias can handle more sun, but add a layer of mulch on top of the roots to keep them cool and conserve moisture.

Marianne Binetti has a degree in horticulture from Washington State University and is the author of several books. Reach her at