How To Manage Your Lawn During A Drought
We're going to be facing serious drought issues this year. What can you do about it? Here are 10 tips to help you manage your lawn without wasting water.
10 Tips to Manage Your Lawn and Your Water Bill
We haven’t even hit summer yet and already we’re getting drought warnings all over the country. Here in Utah, we’ve already got almost half the state experiencing extreme drought conditions. I don’t imagine things look great elsewhere in the US either. This brings up a lot of questions about water use. Some of you might be wondering about how you’re going to manage your lawn. Well, at least on that front, our friends at CV Lawn King have some suggestions. Here’s a list of tips they’ve compiled to manage your lawn while conserving water.
1. Water Efficiently
Not pictured here: efficient water use
While lawns will need water to survive, it never needs as much as you think it does. Most people don’t water efficiently, causing a lot of water to go to waste.
First, you should never water during the day. If you water during the day, most of the water will simply evaporate. The best time to water is between 3-6 AM.
Secondly, when you do water, you should water hard and fast for 60 minutes in each area of your lawn. If you do this, you can get away with watering less often. Watch for puddling and run-off, though. If water is forming puddles or running into the gutters, that means you’re using more water than the soil can absorb and all that extra is going to waste. If you see this happening, reduce the amount of water you’re using.
2. Mow Correctly
How you mow your lawn can have a big impact on how much water it needs. During the summer, you want your grass to be taller, about 2.5-3 inches tall. Taller grass will provide shade to the lawn so the water will be less likely to evaporate. This will also reduce how often you mow the lawn, so the grass is less stressed and grows stronger. To make sure your grass is even healthier, make sure you keep the blades on your mower sharp, as cleaner cuts stresses the grass less.
3. Avoid Fertilizer/Pesticide During Summer
You want to lay down fertilizer and pesticides in early spring. The fertilizer will help the grass recover from the long cold of winter and the pesticides will help get rid of weeds and insects that hurt it. Once summer comes, however, you should stop. Growing takes a lot of energy and your grass won’t be able to handle a strong growth period in the heat. As for pesticides, even the very best will stress the grass, so it’s better to use them in the spring and rely on manual weed removal for the summer.
4. Keep Weeds Out
While you don't want to use pesticides during the summer, you do still need to get rid of weeds. Weeds are water hogs and will suck up as much moisture as they can from your other plants. If your yard gets overrun with weeds, you’ll need to water more just to get the same results.
5. Stay Off The Grass
Don't do this
The more your grass gets damaged, the harder time it has growing. Walking on your lawn a lot during the summer will stress it out, making it harder to keep strong. If you want to use parts of your lawn, it’s better to have dirt paths leading to these areas so you don’t walk on the grass as much.
6. Use Mulch
Wherever you can, it’s a good idea to use mulch instead of grass. Mulch holds a lot of moisture and prevents evaporation. If you place a lot of mulch around your trees and shrubs, you won’t have to water as much to keep them going. The mulch will hold in more water and your plants can keep drawing from it longer.
7. Try Washing Pets Outside
If you’ve got a pet, you’re going to have to wash it at some point. Instead of using your indoor tub, or taking it to someone else, make the wash water pull double duty. Identify a spot in your lawn that needs more water and wash your pet there. That way, the water you use to wash your pet will also water your lawn.
8. Get Automated
There are a lot of innovations in irrigation technology that can make your watering more effective. Moisture sensors can read the amount of water in the soil and keep your sprinklers from turning on when it rains. Drip irrigation systems can combine with moisture sensors to make sure your gardens get only as much water as they need. Timers ensure that you never forget and leave your sprinklers running for too long. All these tools can help make sure you get the most efficient watering system for your yard.
9. Get used To Brown
While we all think of a nice, green lawn as healthy, it’s not always viable. Just remember that brown grass isn’t dead grass. Grass turns brown when it goes into a dormant phase. If there isn’t enough water to sustain its growth, it stops producing chlorophyll to conserve water and energy. It isn’t dead, it’s just waiting for better water conditions to resume growing. Drought resistant grasses – which you absolutely should be using – can survive for several months without being regularly watered because of this dormant phase. Letting it go brown won’t hurt the grass long term, but it will save you a lot of water.
10. Consider Alternatives
Alternatives to grass can look just as good.
While we all think of a big, green lawn as the default, it’s hardly the only option. There are many ways you can design your lawn that don’t use water-hogging grasses and plants. We’ve mentioned Xeriscaping before. Xeriscaping, the practice of minimizing grasses and using native plants, is the most effective way to minimize water use. Places that implement the practice see as much as a 60% reduction in water use in addition to the other benefits.
Water Conservation is a Necessity
Water conservation has always been an issue we talk about. Even going back to my grade school years, we would have to watch government sponsored videos on the subject. I confess, as a kid I didn’t put any thought into it. As an adult, especially as we’re seeing record-breaking heat in our summers, it’s become more apparent that water conservation is not just a good idea, but an essential practice.
With our lawns being where cities see the most water use going, looking for ways to minimize that use is going to be a big part of water conservation. These ten tips will help you make the best use of your water while still maintaining a healthy yard. All it takes is a little rethinking of our habits.