and Landscaping Water Conservation Tips
is an especially important time to save water. Outdoor water use increases
residential consumption from 10% to 50% in June, July, August and September.
These tips will show you ways to use water more efficiently outdoors,
save money -- and help lower garden maintenance, too!
Test your soil for dryness by digging your finger below the surface of
the soil. Water only when the soil is dry to a depth of 1 1/2 inches.
When watering, check to see that water soaks down 3-4 inches. This encourages
deep root growth.
Watering mid-day will result in a high rate of evaporation and sunburned grass. Roots can maintain plenty of moisture even after several days without rain. Before watering, look for signs that it's needed: patchy areas, a general change in color or footprints that remain in the grass long after being made.
GIVE YOUR LAWN A REST
If your lawn "fades" in the summer, don't panic. Grass becomes naturally dormant during hot, dry periods. It will revive quickly after a good rainfall or when the weather turns cooler.
CHOOSE THE RIGHT AUTOMATIC SPRINKLER
Determine the best sprinkler system to fit your lawn size and configuration. Install good quality sprinkler heads that provide a low precipitation rate and keep them in good repair. Check the sprinkler heads frequently for proper direction and even spray pattern. Studies have shown that automatic sprinkler systems often use 20% - 30% more water than hand-held hose watering. Applying the right amount of water is possible with a well-designed in-ground sprinkler system but it requires careful management. Use the "controller" to manage efficient operation of the system. Here are a few important features to look for:
Effective watering will result in a healthy lawn that looks great and can withstand disease as well as seasonal and environmental stress. For more information, check out the following web sites:
Many new lawns require more water than they should because they are seeded on improperly prepared soil beds. Grass needs at least 3-6 inches of very good topsoil. Rich loam mixed with plenty of peat moss or composted leaves will hold moisture and allow for good, deep root development. The kind of grass you grow is a factor to consider. Lawns planted with fescue grasses do better than bluegrasses during periods of low rainfall and are slower to go dormant.
LANDSCAPE, GARDEN AND FLOWER CARE
The amount of water you use outdoors (and can save) depends on your watering technique as well as the size, type and location of your lawn, shrubs and gardens.
PLAN AND DESIGN YOUR GARDEN FOR EFFICIENT WATERING
Be aware of the various zones in your yard (hot/sunny, cool/shady, moist, dry, etc.) and plan your gardens and plantings accordingly. For example, if your have a hot, dry zone, carefully select plants that can endure hot, dry conditions.
CLUSTER PLANTS THAT NEED EXTRA CARE
If you choose shrubs, flowers or vegetables that need lots of sun and
moisture, place them near each other. You'll save time and water by watering
just one area of your yard.
USE LOW-WATER PLANTS
There are many varieties of low water use plants that can withstand dry
summers, and that actually thrive in drier soil. Here are a few of them:
MULCH TO KEEP ROOTS MOIST
Mulch can serve as a ground cover that reduces water evaporation from the soil and reduces the number of weeds that would otherwise compete with the plant for available soil moisture.
Mulch flowers, shrub beds and trees with pine bark mulch. In your vegetable beds, use salt marsh hay, newspaper (no color pages), black plastic, or better yet, landscape fabric - that allows water to penetrate the fabric but keeps down weed growth. On a sweltering 100° day, a 3-inch mulch can keep the soil underneath up to 25° cooler! Avoid white marble chips that can damage acid-loving plants like rhododendrons. Stones or pebbles are good on shady areas. They shouldnt be used near the house because they give off too much heat. Ground covers, such as ivy or pachysandra, also prevent evaporation around established shrubs and ornamental trees.
ORGANIC MATTER WILL HELP YOUR SOIL RETAIN MORE MOISTURE
Peat moss, composted leaves (leaf mold), composted manure, composted kitchen vegetable scraps and grass clippings will all improve soil structure and enhance moisture-retaining capabilities.
Incorporate organic matter into your flower and vegetable beds, preferably 12"-18" deep.
DRIP IRRIGATION AND SOAKER HOSES THE BEST WAYS TO WATER
Unfortunately, much of the water dispersed through sprinklers and hoses by enthusiastic gardeners evaporates before it ever reaches its intended source - thirsty roots.
Use a drip irrigation system or soaker hose in gardens that need the most water ("moisture-zoned" gardens) - vegetables, fruits, newly planted trees and shrubs, and some flower gardens.
Once a secret of professional gardeners, drip irrigation is excellent for home use. This highly efficient watering method consists of a system of nozzles that deliver small quantities of water at low pressure directly to where it does the most good - the root zones of plants.
Drip (or trickle) irrigation can save 30%-70% of the water used by overhead sprinkler systems.
A soaker hose is a canvas or rubber hose with perforations. It is most effective when it lies on top or slightly below soil level and mulch is placed over the soil and hose. You can install the hose in the spring and leave it in place all season.In general, use the drip (or trickle) irrigation or soaker hose methods until the soil is moist 3-4 inches below the surface.
If your garden is small, use a hose to apply water very slowly at the base of each plant - not on leaves and foliage.
Saucer-like basins around each plant help to concentrate water where it is most needed - at the plant's roots. Watering by hand is easy when there are saucers to fill up.
Place barrels or other large containers under downspouts to collect rain water to use for watering your garden. Use a lid, mesh fabric or several drops of baby oil on the surface of the water to prevent mosquitoes from breeding.
Rain barrels are particularly useful if your can locate plants or beds
that require moist soil nearby.