While the state of California has eased its restrictions on water use in response to a moderately wet winter, the drought isn’t over yet, and there are simple ways you can continue to save water around your home. Residents should be aware of the options available to reduce outdoor water use, while preserving beautiful outdoor landscapes, including lawns.
The good news is that you can take steps to save significant amounts of water, and it does not have to be a death sentence to your landscaping. Here are a few tips to help you keep your landscape “water positive” while still saving precious water supplies:
[if !supportLists]1. [endif]Plant the right grass. Planting warm-season varieties of grasses, such as bermudagrass, buffalograss, St. Augustine or zoysiagrass can save a considerable amount of water, approximately
20-30%, more than the cool-season grasses like Kentucky bluegrass, tall fescue, or ryegrass. Many of these varieties require little water in the winter and much less water in the summer, while still staying green. Be sure to research to make sure you are planting the right grass for your climate, as some may not do well in shade or with excessive cold temperatures. Another way to maximize water savings is to mow your grass at the correct height: bermudagrass: 1”, zoysiagrass 2”-3”, St. Augustine, Kentucky bluegrass, ryegrass and fescue at 3”- 4”. To see grass varieties, visit http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/TOOLS/TURF/TURFSPECIES/index.html.
[if !supportLists]2. [endif]Utilize “water smart” technologies. There are new water smart technologies such as soil moisture sensors that connect homeowners to their yards electronically. High-tech water sensors and water-smart irrigation systems connect the yard to the homeowner via web-based applications and smart devices. These mobile based applications can help you set goals for your garden and landscapes and give you step-by-step instructions on how to achieve them based on your location, local weather reports and data received from internet-connected sensors. These electronic apps can check the health of your plants and more importantly, help you avoid overwatering. Additionally, using products such as soil surfactants can help your landscape use water more efficiently.
[if !supportLists]3. [endif]Change watering habits. You can conserve by simply changing the way you water your yard without drastically changing landscapes or ripping out lawns. The time for “set it and forget it” irrigation systems has long passed. Set your irrigation patterns based on the changing seasons and weather and ensure you only irrigate when temperatures are cooler such as early mornings or late evenings. Residents can also use the UC Center for Landscape and Urban Horticulture’s calculator to estimate landscape water needs at http://ucanr.edu/sites/UrbanHort/Water_Use_of_Turfgrass_and_Landscape_Plant_Materials/Easy_Calculators_for_Estimating_Landscape_Water_Needs/. Check your system periodically for leaks and defective sprinkler heads. Make sure sprinklers do not spray the pavement, and adjust, add or move them so that spray patterns overlap one another.
Outdoor landscapes offer so much value to the environment and to our health. Experts have cited many benefits that lawns and green spaces offer, such as the ability to capture rain instead of allowing it to flow into storm drains and out to sea, reduce water runoff, filter air pollutants, reduce fire danger, and provide recreational space for families and communities. If a lawn is fed well, it will remove twice as much carbon from the air as a tree during the year. Green vegetation also reduces air temperature up to 30 degrees compared to bare soil, concrete, and especially artificial turf. Trees provide shade and energy savings, and flowers and lawns help maintain biodiversity as they are a wildlife habitat for birds, insects and small mammals.
Recognizing that water is essential to gardening and to all plant life, we are working with the State of California and other partners across the state, as well as the nation, to help homeowners find even more simple and actionable ways to use water more efficiently and responsibly – ways that we are calling Water Positive.
My advice is to choose the right landscaping that works for your budget and lifestyle; there are plenty of options available that enable you to do your part to save water permanently around your home.
Mark Slavens is Vice President of Environmental Affairs for ScottsMiracle-Gro – he completed his Ph.D. in Horticulture Biology with an emphasis in Turfgrass Management at Cornell University. Mark has focused his entire scientific career focused on mechanisms to reduce plant water use and improve water quality in the urban environment.