Waste Not... Want Not!

September 23, 2016 1:28 am

We have always taken our water resources for granted, but now that we are making the transition to surface water in compliance with the Harris-Galveston Subsidence District’s mandates to reduce our dependence on groundwater, people are becoming more interested in using water more efficiently to control costs, too.

When and how we use water in the yard and garden can make a tremendous difference in how much is used. For example, if your water your yard only when it needs it, you could save between 750 and 1,500 gallons of water a month.

Here are some simple tips to help you put a realistic, cost-effective water efficiency plan into effect outside your home.

  • Use native plant and shrubs whenever possible in landscaping your yard. They tend to be more drought tolerant, require watering less frequently, and are often low maintenance, too.
  • Different varieties of grasses, plants and soils use different amounts of water. When original landscape planning is an option, “zone” plants according to their water requirements. Experts suggest that grass be watered separately from flower beds and landscaped areas.
  • In Houston, St. Augustine grass has a high “thirst” requirement. When possible, consider converting some of the grassy areas in your yard to native plant zones.
  • As a general rule, proper watering for most Taxas lawns means applying 1 to 1.5 inches of water per week during the growing season. To figure out how long you’ll need to run your sprinkler, place at least three 1 inch deep cans (e.g., empty cat food or tuna cans) throughout the area the sprinkler covers. Water the length of time you think is correct. Each can should have the same amount of water. If there’s less than an inch of water in the cans, you need to water longer. If the cans have an uneven amount of water, the distribution of the sprinkler needs adjustment. The goal is to apply enough water to wet the soil to the depth of 4-6 inches.
  • Avoid cutting the grass too short. Longer blades of grass will reduce evaporation and root stress since shaded soil will not dry out as quickly. Also, be sure to control any insects that attack your lawn–quickly and completely.
  • Apply fertilizer sparingly to develop the root system and to help keep the lawn healthy. Too much fertilizer, however, will lead to excessive growth…which will then require more watering. Many experts recommend leaving the grass clippings on the lawn, which will minimize the need for additional fertilizer.
  • Stormwater runoff can carry fertilizer directly to streams and rivers, where it can seriously harm water quality. Take care to keep any fertilizer you use on the grass and not on concrete driveways or streets.
  • Water lawns in the early morning hours when evaporation loss will be leww. Early morning waterings are betted that dusk since it helps prevent the growth of fungus.
  • Use a sprinkler that emits large drops of water that remain close to the ground instead of one that sprays a fine mist into the air. Don’t water on windy days; this can waste up to 300 gallons in just one watering! Set the sprinkler so that the lawn is watered…not sidewalks and driveways.
  • If you have a sprinkler system, add a rain sensor. There’s no point in wasting water if Mother Nature has watered the lawn for you.
  • Raising the lawn mower blades just one notch higher can save between 500 and 1,500 gallons a month.
  • For any small areas of grass, consider using a hose to water by hand to keep waste to a minimum.
  • Use plenty of mulch in the planting areas. Not only does this provide a nice, “manicured” look, but the mulch helps keep the ground from overheating, holds moisture that would otherwise evaporate, and helps to discourage weed growth. A good mulch layer can save up to 1,500 gallons of water a month.
  • Use the kind of watering equipment to suit your “target”. Use sprinklers for the lawn areas, and soaker hoses or drip irrigation systems for trees, shrubs, and flower beds.
  • Use drip or trickle irrigation–the slow, frequent application of small amounts of water to the soil area directly surrounding the plant roots–to take care of gardens and landscaped areas. Drip irrigation can save up to 60 percent of water delivered by other systems.
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