Use Less Water On Your Lawn More Effectively
It’s that time of year again, when homeowners work to create the lawn and garden that make outdoor living so enjoyable, not to mention curb appeal. Having a lush green lawn, beautiful landscaping and colorful flowers doesn’t have to cost a fortune in water. Sprinkler and drip irrigation systems can be be used, along with some smart watering tips, to make the process much easier, and much more dependable, and help you use less water on your lawn.
Use an Irrigation System
To get the most out of any irrigation system, it’s better to plan a landscape design before installation. Knowing where lawn areas, shrubs, trees, flower beds and gardens will be planted can assure the best design for the sprinkler system.
But if you don’t have the ability to plan ahead, there are plenty of ways to retrofit today’s systems into your existing landscaping.
If you’re planning a landscape upgrade or putting in new features, it may be the perfect time to add an irrigation system.
Hydrozoning for Healthy Plants
Planning ahead allows for “hydrozoning,” the process of grouping plants with similar watering needs together. For example, planting shrubs (which need less water) near perennials (which typically need more water) can hamper the shrub’s growth. Mismatched plantings can also result in water waste.
A quick online search can provide all the information you need about plant needs. Any local garden shop will have information on the needs of various plants when it comes to water and sun. Many have gardening experts on hand to help you plan your landscaping.
The same sprinkler heads must be grouped together on the same valve to operate sprinklers most efficiently.
Different sprinkler head types put out vastly different amounts of water in the same time period. Mixed heads in the same zone will again result in over-watering of some plants and under-watering of others.
While there are many varieties of sprinkler heads, the three general categories are: spray, rotor, and drip heads.
- Spray heads either pop-up out of the ground or have a stationary head. They are most commonly used on small areas such as turf, shrubs or flower beds. Spray heads put out a lot of water in a short amount of time.
- Rotor heads are useful in covering large areas, and typically apply water more uniformly than spray heads. The slower output of a rotor head allows them to be used on all soil types with less cycling.
- Drip systems have become popular for irrigating flowers and gardens. A drip system usually consists of a special tube or hose with holes (emitters) along it. These emitters may cover uniformly, or be set up to randomly water only certain plants. Drip irrigation can save time and money when installed properly because it applies water directly to the soil, eliminating over-spray.
- Soaker hoses are a good option for watering lawns. By applying water directly to the ground, you don’t need to worry about runoff or evaporation. Soaker hoses are also more expensive than sprinklers, but they can be used in combination with sprinklers if you want some variety in your watering schedule.
Seasonal Adjustments to Irrigation Systems
To save the most water, sprinkler systems must be adjusted to the season. Landscapes need much less water during the spring and fall than during the summer.
A common problem with sprinkler systems is water pressure. Without correct pressure, sprinklers will not perform effectively. Pressures that are too high can damage nozzles and heads, sometimes even causing them to break off. If pressure is too high, pressure-reducing valves and heads can be installed or retrofitted. Manufacturer’s instructions and specifications will contain the information necessary to ensure proper water pressure.
Water the Lawn in the Morning
Watering your lawn in the morning is the best time to water. Watering in the early morning helps prevent water loss due to evaporation, which can be significant if you live in a dry climate or if there’s a lot of wind. It also helps prevent pests and diseases from spreading, as well as keeps grass from becoming too dry.
Avoid watering at night–and not just because it’s creepy! Nighttime temperatures are cooler than daytime temperatures, so if you’re trying to cool down a hot day by watering in the evening, there’s no point. It won’t help you use less water on your lawn.
Avoid Watering on Windy Days
Another thing to avoid is watering on windy days. Wind can blow water off course and waste a lot of it, which leads me to my next point: make sure your sprinkler’s nozzle is adjusted properly. The right setting will keep the spray pattern small enough that it doesn’t get blown away by strong gusts of wind or surface runoff from rainwater that has collected in puddles on your lawn.
Taller grass absorbs more heat, which means it can be mowed less often than shorter grass. Mowing at 3.5 inches or higher also reduces the amount of water your lawn needs and reduces the number of weed seeds being spread into other areas by wind or birds.
Mow less frequently. With a well-maintained mower blade, you don’t need to mow as often, which means fewer trips out in the hot sun.
Fertilize less frequently and at lower rates, especially in dry conditions when plants are stressed. Avoid fertilizing during dry periods. Water the lawn thoroughly before applying fertilizer, and then let it sit for a few days to allow the nutrients to be absorbed by the soil. Use slow-release fertilizers that break down gradually over time instead of quick-release products that release all their nutrients at once and can burn your grass when applied too frequently or at high concentrations.
If you’re going to be mulching, the best time to do it is in the fall. Mulch will reduce evaporation, helping you use less water on your lawn and plants. You can also apply a layer of organic material between grass clippings and soil to absorb water and reduce evaporation. This can be done at any time of year, but it works best when it’s cool outside because there won’t be as much decomposition of your materials in those conditions!
The depth of your mulch should be about 3 inches deep–this will allow enough space for microbes to thrive while still keeping them out from underfoot when walking around on top of them (which would cause them harm). As far as what kind of material goes into making up this layer goes…it doesn’t matter if it’s bark or hay or leaves–as long as whatever material you choose doesn’t decompose quickly (like fresh grass clippings) or attract insects like termites who might eat away at wood underneath our homes–the more variety available in terms of color/texture/smell etc.
Use Local Plants
Drought-tolerant plants are better for the environment because they don’t require as much water. They also save you money and time, since they require less maintenance. Finally, drought-tolerant plants are often more beautiful than non-drought tolerant ones because they often look healthier with less fuss, and their unique features make them a joy to behold!
For example: if you have a garden full of thirsty roses and hydrangeas that need to be watered twice daily (and maybe even three times during hot summer months), consider replacing those with native wildflowers like purple cone flowers or goldenrod instead–both of which will thrive without any additional watering!
Using plants and flowers that grow naturally in your local are will be the best way to insure that they stay healthy and beautiful, without a lot of extra care. You can find local plant suggestions from your state extension program, or from a master gardener in your area.
Saving Time and Money
If you’re looking for ways to save water in your garden, consider using drought-tolerant plants and smart watering techniques like these. They will help keep your lawn healthy and green while also saving you money on water bills!
If you’ve invested in landscaping around your home, then you’ll want to take care of that investment. Using an irrigation and sprinkling system makes it easier to properly take care of your plants and grass, and it can be programmed to do so, saving you time and money, as you use less water on your lawn and garden.
Although it may seem like an expense upfront, an irrigation system can make life much easier. You may find that having time to enjoy your outdoor rooms, as well as saving on water, far outweigh the initial expense.
Thanks to David Goldberg for an excellent and informational guest post!
David Goldberg – Home Inspector
Reliable Home Services, Inc.
ASHI Member #101584
MD License #29322
Chris and Karen Highland
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