Watering your landscape in the heat of summer can be an onerous task. But it doesn't have to be. 

With water-wise landscaping, you can have an attractive yard, cut down on watering chores and help conserve water, which is becoming one of the planet's most valuable commodities.

The Environmental Protection Agency has these key tips for watering smart:

Plan before you plant: Plants can help conserve water and improve water quality by slowing and collecting rainwater. Plants prevent soil from eroding into our waterways. They can also lessen flood damage and serve as natural filters to protect our streams, rivers and lakes. Trees alone can capture up to 50% of rainfall, thereby reducing storm-water runoff.

Select the right plant for the right place: Take into account the annual rainfall and average temperatures before you plant. To plan for minimum irrigation, choose plants that are adapted to low-water environments, such as native plants. On average, Louisiana has 88% daytime humidity and gets 60 inches of rain per year. Average low temperature is 56 degrees and average high is 77 degrees. Yearly, we average 81 days above 90 degrees and only 20 days below 32 degrees. 

Work with local nurseries and cooperative extension agents to help guide you to appropriate plant selections for your location.

Turf grass considerations: For the most water conservation, limit or eliminate grassy areas in your yard. This will conserve water and time and money spent on maintaining grass and mowing. Some grasses, such as centipede and zoysia, are more drought tolerant than others, like St. Augustine, Bermuda and carpet grass.

Group plants with similar water needs: This helps create hydrozones and reduces water use according to each zone — turf, bedding plants, shrubs and trees. Turf and bedding plants will require the most water, whereas well-established shrubs and trees with extensive and deep root systems require less.

Water wisely: Automatic irrigation systems can be a real time saver. Set them to water plants between 2 a.m. and 8 a.m. Watering during the heat of the day reduces efficiency because water is lost to evaporation. Watering in the evening can encourage fungal diseases when plants remain wet for extended periods. Schedule irrigation according to the needs of particular zones. Adequate irrigation also encourages deeper root growth, creating healthier plants that are more drought tolerant. Professionals can help get the most bang for your buck.

Use mulch: Mulch conserves water by preventing evaporation and preserving water at the roots while providing a source of organic matter to landscape beds. Mulch can also help prevent compaction and provide weed control. It’s also attractive.

Harvest rainwater: Rain is free and frequent in Louisiana, so collect it with barrels and cisterns to help supplement your irrigation program.

For information on water conservation, visit the LSU AgCenter online to see publication No. 3062, “Introduction to Landscape Irrigation in Louisiana,” at /bit.ly/LaIrrigation.

Email questions to gardennews@agcenter.lsu.edu.