wood mulch chips

No. 2: Mix in mulch

Mulch and soaker hoses are the peanut butter and jelly of gardening. They complement each other perfectly and make a whole greater than the sum of the parts.

Not only does mulch help keep moisture in the soil, it helps control the soil temperature to protect delicate feeder roots from roasting on especially toasty days. As an extra bonus, as it breaks down it enriches the soil just like compost. When I take my dahlia bulbs out of their bed for splitting every two years, I till in the old mulch before replanting.

Hardwood mulches are the best, although pine needles are the choice of many landscapers because of their cheaper price and attractiveness. You can also get "permanent" mulch made from things like shredded used tires. It's excellent, but best used in places where you have no plans to swap out plantings frequently.

Last but by no means least, let's talk about your biggest water-user, your yard ...

grass lawn closeup

No. 1: Choose the right grass

Sure, you want the lush, vibrant, aggressively green grass you see at the golf course and conference center. I want a unicorn. We both need to come to terms with reality.

That grass you envy is a water-sucking monster that requires near-daily soaking to keep its luster.

Unless you plan on selling a kidney to pay your water bill, you need to go with a grass that is more drought-tolerant such as Zoysia, centipede or other hybrids. There are even Kentucky bluegrass hybrids now that will stand dry weather better than their more lush cousins.

Will you have a lawn that will stop traffic? Maybe not.

But if you're that obsessed with your grass, you probably need a hobby anyway. Whittle some nice yard statuary to salve your ego.