With summer just around the corner, many people have already started planning or watering their gardens and preparing for lawn maintenance. It comes as no surprise that summertime is the peak watering season for many states, where water consumption in the average American home can spike to as much as 1,000 per day (compared to the off-peak season average of only 260 gallons per day). Not only does this increase in water usage put a strain on the local water supply, it also makes a serious impact on the size of your water bill.

Gardening and lawn upkeep are some of the highlights of the summer season; don’t let water use bring you down! There are plenty of ways to conserve water while still keeping up beautiful flowers and grass. To save water and keep money in your pocket, keep these water conservation tips for summer gardening in mind:

Choose the right tool.

The commonly used tool, a garden hose and nozzle, is actually the least efficient way to water plants. A large amount of water is lost as mist, evaporation, and runoff. Instead, use a soaker hose or sprinkler wand.

Don’t waste water.

Try not to water outside a plant’s root zone (about 1-3 times the diameter of its canopy) or its foliage, which doesn’t give it any benefits. Keeping the water inside the root zone will allow it to soak down to where the plant’s roots can reach it. If you see puddling or runoff, stop and wait for the water to soak in before you continue watering. The same applies to your lawn – water that runs off onto the pavement or side of the house is doing your plants no good.

Avoid over-watering.

For most lawns, a good rule of thumb is 1 inch of water weekly, and 1-2 inches for perennial plants and shrubs. For annuals, consult the plant tag that comes with it for the best watering advice. In especially hot temperatures, watch for wilting and water if you see signs of it. If you have any doubts, keep the soil moist and see how the plants do. Over-watering can lead to root rot and soil compaction that depleats the soil of air.

Water in the morning or late evening.

Watering when the temperature is coolest will allow the most water to soak in before evaporating. The best time to water is early morning, so the plants can take up the water throughout the day. Watering in the evening is fine, but it comes with the risk of fungus formation.

Focus on the front.

If curb appeal and value is a concern, you are dealing with water restrictions, or you just want to conserve water, focus your watering on the front of the house and save the rest of the lawn for another time.

Keep an eye on mulch.

Mulch is excellent for holding in moisture and keeping the base of plants cool. However, too thick a layer can create a crust that prevents water from soaking in. Break up any crusted mulch to allow water back in.

Water smartly – the environment will thank you.