Autumn is nearly here, bringing cooler weather and, hopefully, some rain to ease the drought that has stressed Texas lawns and gardens.

But that doesn’t mean Texans should give up on water conservation. There are several ways we can stay water wise in the fall and help our greenery outdoors thrive.

Lower temperatures mean slower evaporation rates and Texans will need to water their lawns and gardens less than in the late spring and summer to achieve the same results. In fact, garden plants will probably do much better with less frequent watering, said Ila Jean Carothers, a McLennan County master gardener.

Frequent watering encourages growth of shallow roots near the surface. And those roots will require frequent watering to keep the plants from wilting. Less frequent, but deeper watering, promotes deep root growth. Those roots are better able to maintain plants while needing less water.

You might also consider harvesting rainwater as a means of reducing your drain on the public water supply. Though much of Texas has been in a drought the last two years, predictions of a possibly wetter fall and winter might make rainwater collection a viable option.

Because rainwater is free of salts, minerals and other contaminants, it is ideal for watering lawns and gardens, and with proper treatment, drinking. Professional harvesting and storage containers are available on the market, ranging in size from small buckets to tanks that can hold thousands of gallons.

Autumn brings falling leaves, and they are excellent to use as mulch. Instead of bagging those leaves and sending them to take up landfill space, consider putting them around garden and landscape plants as mulch. This protective layer helps keep moisture from evaporating, which in turn reduces the frequency of watering.

Any leftover leaves can be set aside to compost to use as mulch in spring gardens.

A little planning for garden design can also help save water, not only in the fall, but year round. Try to group plants together based on their water needs so you don’t have to water as heavily in all parts of the garden.

Elsewhere around the yard, using grasses and landscaping plants that are adapted to drier climates might also cut down that water bill.

With cooler temperatures, the fall is also a good time to get outside and take a good look at your garden or lawn’s irrigation system. Don Wilkerson, a horticultural specialist with the Texas AgriLife Extension Service recommends doing an audit of your system to make sure you are not wasting water – and money.

Look for leaks and make sure the water is going where you want it and not running off into the street or a neighbor’s yard. It may also be a good time to consider whether you should change your watering system altogether. Sprinklers that spray water into the air might be cheaper but they are much less efficient than a drip irrigation system.

“Irrigation systems don’t waste water, people waste water,” Wilkerson said.

For more water saving suggestions click here or see AgriLife Extension’s Earth-Kind site, at http://earthkind.tamu.edu/.