Would you like to help save the earth - and a little money while you're at it?  Then it's time to rethink your garden.  A traditional landscape, though beautiful, is always hungry for water which can take a toll on the environment and your pocketbook.  On the other hand, a water wise garden requires much less time, effort and cash to maintain.  Your garden can easily be as sustainable as it is beautiful if you follow these five steps

Remove your lawn

Grass lawns are the biggest users of water in your entire garden by a wide margin.  You can use up to four times as much water on your lawn as you would if you simply replaced it with other green plants.  If you've been considering replacing that lawn with something a little more low maintenance, there is no better time than now.  Even removing part of your lawn and planting drought-resistant native plants will take a big bite out of your water bill

Save rainwater

Rain barrels are great for collecting rain water that would otherwise just go down the drain.  Many cities even offer rain barrels for purchase to encourage this practice.  Place the barrels at the bottom of each of the downspouts on your home.  You'll keep the water from going directly into the sewers, and you can use it to fill watering cans to water your plants.  Many rain barrels even have a spigot so you can attach a garden hose for irrigation.  Easy!

Rethink your watering routine

One of the biggest places where homeowners waste water in garden care is from run-off and evaporation.  For most plants, it is better for the health of the plant to water deeply and infrequently.  Watering frequently for short periods of time encourages roots to grow near the surface of the soil, which dries out much more quickly.  Encourage deep root growth by watering only once or twice weekly, but for a longer period of time

Evaporation is caused when watering while the sun is full and shining.  Instead, water early in the morning or at dusk when water is less likely to evaporate.  Your plants will thank you

Amend the soil

Adding enhancements such as compost, manure or even shredded leaves to your soil improves its ability to hold water without affecting drainage.  Instead of throwing those leaves in the trash, spread them on your flowers beds.  Adding two inches of mulch to existing beds will also save water.  The mulch keeps the soil moist by prohibiting evaporation

Go with native plants

Ornamental grasses, native flowers and shrubs are much more drought resistant because they are indigenous to your area and growing conditions.  You'll use much less water planting native varieties than those that have been imported from another region.  And they'll look just as pretty

Take these five steps, and you'll be well on your way to a water wise garden.  You'll conserve water by creating an environmentally sustainable landscape, and you'll be able to use the money savings for other home improvement projects!