Outdoor Watering Tips
Let’s make conservation a grassroots effort!
Some people say we’re obsessed with our lawns in North Texas. That may or may not be true, but watering our lawns does account for half or more of all the water we use at home. And according to the experts, most lawns get twice as much water as they really need. Over watering is a habit that wastes millions of gallons of water each year. Just look around your neighborhood and you’ll see all the signs: water gushing down the curb; sprinkler heads that resemble geysers; sprinklers going full blast during a downpour. Now that’s a waste we really can’t afford. So let’s all make an effort to give our lawns as much water as they need – and no more.
Give the sprinkler a rest sometimes.
In Texas, we tend to water our lawns much too often for much too long. Leave your lawn alone once in a while and it will do fine—maybe even better.
Don’t water between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.
Up to 30 percent of the water sprayed on lawns during the heat of the day can be lost to evaporation. So it’s much cooler to water when it’s cooler.
Inch toward conservation.
Apply no more than an inch of water to your lawn per week during the summer. That will encourage deeper root systems and make for healthier grass.
Remember to cut back on your irrigation frequency in the fall and winter.
Lawns don’t need as much water during the cooler seasons. Applying about an inch every two weeks in the fall, and even less in the winter, should be plenty.
Cycle and soak to avoid runoff.
It takes a while for water to soak into our North Texas clay soils. Rather than running your spray heads for long periods of time, try running zones in shorter bursts, with one hour between cycles. That’ll give the water time to soak in instead of running off.
Be sensitive – use rain and freeze sensors.
They will trigger automatic sprinkler systems to shut off during downpours or when temperatures dip near freezing. And they could reduce your outdoor water use by 5 to 10 percent.
Turn your system off after a good rain.
Why duplicate what Mother Nature just provided for free? Even better—turn your sprinkler system off and water only as needed.
Install a “smart” controller:
that’s an irrigation clock that automatically adjusts run times in response to weather conditions.
Check your irrigation system regularly.
Fix leaks or damaged sprinkler heads and make sure they’re aimed at the landscape, not the street or sidewalk.
Don’t be a scalper.
Taller grass holds moisture better and slows down evaporation. Leaving lawn clippings on your lawn does the same and also returns valuable nutrients to the soil.
Tips for saving water on the lawn:
Tips for saving water around the yard:
Water by the drop using drip irrigation
for flowerbeds, ground cover, vegetable gardens and container plants. A drip system saves water by allowing you to target water at or near plant root zones. If you already have spray heads in place, you can use adapters to convert from spray to drip.
Replace that thirsty turf.
Replacing little-used areas of your lawn with other types of landscaping and water-stingy plants will lower your outdoor watering needs.
Add some mulch to the mix.
A three-to-four inch layer of mulch, like bark or wood chips, in flower beds or around trees and shrubs will help retain moisture and limit weed growth.
Native and adapted plants thrive on less water, can take the Texas heat and are easier to maintain. Find more information at www.txsmartscape.com.
Take your car to a car wash that uses a water recycling system.
If you do wash your car at home use a bucket of water and a hose with a nozzle on it, to stop the flow between rinsing.
Break out the broom.
Hosing down your driveway and sidewalk uses about five gallons of water a minute. Sweeping is much less wasteful, and who can’t use the exercise?
Cool Trick: Use your water meter to check for leaks.
Turn off all fixtures and note the meter reading. Keep the water off for a couple of hours, then check to see if the meter reading has changed. If it has, you have a leak. Common sources of leaks are toilets, dripping faucets and sprinkler systems.
Fundamentals Of Water Efficient Landscaping
Proper Planning and Design:
Developing a landscape plan is the first and most important step in creating a water-efficient landscape. This is your roadmap to establishing a beautiful low-maintenance landscape that needs less water to thrive. Key considerations include: mapping existing vegetation, topography and drainage, current uses vs. future uses, and grouping plants by their water needs. Separating native and adapted plants from thirsty ones will make irrigation easier and more water-efficient.
Soil Analysis and Improvements:
Have your soil tested by your county extension office (Tarrant County: 817-884-1944). They can analyze the pH levels; nutrient levels (nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium); and the sand, silt, clay, and organic matter content of your soil. They will suggest ways to improve your soil’s ability to support plants and retain water.
Many landscape problems can be avoided if an adequate amount of time is spent on soil preparation and conditioning. Improving your soil through the addition of compost/organic matter will help plants retain moisture and resist evaporation. Compacted soil should be aerated occasionally.
Appropriate Plant Selection:
Choose plants that are native or adapted to the North Central Texas climate. These drought-resistant plants will save you time on maintenance and save you money on water bills. Once established, native or adapted plants can thrive in the environment with little to no additional water beyond normal rainfall. Native plants commonly do not require the addition of fertilizers and are more pest and disease resistant. Remember to group plants into “hydrozones” according to their water requirements.
For information on selecting appropriate plants, visit Texas Smartscape, call your county extension office, or a local nursery.
Practical Turf Areas:
Keeping our lawns pretty and green takes a lot of water and generally greater maintenance than other vegetation. Limiting turf to areas used for recreation and other functional purposes will reduce your landscape water needs. Avoid using turfgrass in areas that are hard to water such as steep slopes, or odd-shaped and narrow spaces. Consider replacing little-used turf areas with other types of landscaping and water-stingy plants.
Remember to Mulch:
Mulching is one of the easiest and best things you can do in your landscape. Placing mulch around trees and plant beds will minimize evaporation, moderate soil temperatures, inhibit weed growth, and help control erosion. Organic mulches, like compost, shredded bark, and leaves, also improve soil conditions as they decompose.
Too much water can be as harmful to plants as not enough water. The goal of efficient irrigation is to reduce water losses by only using as much water as needed to keep your plants healthy. When irrigating take into consideration soil type, plant condition, season, and weather conditions – rather than watering on a fixed schedule.
Manual watering with a hand-held hose tends to be the most water-efficient method. According to the AWWA Research Foundation’s outdoor end use study, households that manually water with a hose tend to use 33 percent less water outdoors than the average household.
Even the most water-efficient irrigation system can waste water depending on how often and how long it is allowed to run. To make irrigation systems more efficient, install system controllers such as rain sensors or soil moisture sensors, which turn on sprinklers only when soil moisture levels drop below pre-programmed levels.
Remember to revise your watering schedule as the seasons change. Over-watering is a common occurrence in the fall when summer irrigation schedules haven’t been adjusted in response to cooler temperatures.
The best time to water is early in the morning or late in the evening (before 10 a.m. or after 6 p.m.) when it’s cooler. When you water during the heat of the day, up to 30 percent of your water can be lost to evaporation. Using soaker hoses and drip irrigation systems, which deliver water directly to the plant’s roots, will also help minimize evaporation losses.
Provide Regular Maintenance:
Using native and adapted plants will help you establish a low-maintenance landscape, not a “no-maintenance” landscape. A water-efficient landscape still requires regular pruning, weeding, fertilization, pest control and irrigation. However, the maintenance needs of a water-efficient landscape should decrease over time as plants mature.
Water and fertilize plants only as needed. Too much water promotes weak growth and increases pruning and mowing needs. Over-fertilizing can create excessive growth, increasing required maintenance and water needs.