How to Water Plants When Water Is Restricted


Most areas experience drought conditions every once in while and sometimes the local government issued mandatory water restrictions. Some people don't take water restrictions seriously and continue to use water as normal. However, if you are doing your part to help when water is restricted, this means you will need to water your plants in a different manner, especially garden plants where hose use may be completely off limits.

Step 1

Mulch around all your plants, including indoor plants. Mulch will help your soil retain the water your do use and any rain water that may occur. Use about three inches of mulch, such as pine needles or bark and cover the entire root area. It is best to do this in the spring, to help maintain soil temperatures starting early in the season, but it's never too late to add mulch.

Step 2

Collect gray water, which is simply wash water from your home. The ideal and easiest places to collect gray water is from the shower (put a bucket in with you), bathtub, and the bathroom sink. You can also collect gray water from your washing machine. Don't use detergents that contain boron or softeners, which can kill your plants. Use gray water on your ornamental flowers, trees and shrubs. You can also use gray water on some fruits and vegetables if necessary. However, never use it on food that is touching or grown in the ground such as carrots, lettuce and potatoes, since there are organisms in wash water that can harm humans if consumed. Do not use gray water on plants that prefer lots of acid, like azaleas and rhododendrons.

Step 3

Set a few buckets outside when it rains to catch the rain water, which is ideal water to use on your fruits and vegetables, especially the ones that touch the ground. After it stops raining, move the buckets underneath dripping trees to collect even more water. If you need to water your garden, barrels make good containers in which to catch water. You can even use a hose to siphon out the water. Manufactured rain barrels that come with a hose can be installed underneath your gutter downspouts to catch run off. It is a good idea to collect rain water at the beginning of each growing season to prepare for possible water restrictions.

Step 4

Water your plants in the evening, just before bed, or in the early morning hours with the water you collected. The sun is the strongest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., and you will lose some water through evaporation, even with mulch. This goes for indoors as well since many plants are kept near a sunny window. If your plants only need to be watered once a week, check the weather and choose an overcast day to water your plants.

Step 5

Install a drip irrigation kit (if you're permitted to in the water restriction), which is more efficient and uses less water than watering with a regular hose or sprinkler. A simple kit is available your local nursery and uses flexible vinyl or polyethylene pipe, similar to your hose. Anywhere you want along the pipes, you can install emitters, which is where the water comes out. There are many different configurations for drip irrigation systems and different kinds of emitters. For example, the pipes can lay on top of your ground with emitters that go directly into the root area or it can be set on risers to drip water from above. Drip irrigation systems use timers to release the water at specific flow rates and intervals and is usually hooked up to your outside spigot.

Tips and Warnings

  • Do not use gray water from the clothes washer that contained any cloth diapers or other clothes with human feces. Using gray water for long periods of time can cause sodium build up in your soil. If you do, spread gypsum (calcium sulfate) over your soil about once a month. Use about 2 pounds per 100 square.

Things You'll Need

  • Mulch
  • Buckets
  • Rain barrel
  • Drip irrigation kit


  • Conserving Water
  • Recycling Gray Water for Home Gardens
  • Drip Irrigation
Keywords: how to water plants when water is restricted, mulch around all your plants, water your plants in the evening

About this Author

Melissa Lewis is a former elementary classroom teacher and media specialist. She has also written for various online publications. Lewis holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the University of Maryland Baltimore County.