For Release August 22, 2000

Water Conservation in the Yard and Garden

AGRI-VIEWS
by Chuck Otte, Geary County Extension Agent

With the hot dry weather continuing, the need for water conservation becomes even more critical. It is fairly well accepted that about 50% of summer water use, in a community, goes for outdoor landscape and turfgrass areas. With just a little bit of effort, and adjustment of your expectations, we can reduce quite a bit of water use in a hurry.

There are several things that you can do, in the long run, to conserve water in your home landscape. Unfortunately, items such as improving soil condition, and utilizing drought tolerant plants donít do us much good when itís already the middle of August. However, there are several things that we can do halfway through the season, or in this case, towards the end of the season.

First of all in the garden. Donít use a sprinkler. In general, sprinklers are very handy to use, but very inefficient, and often cause many other problems. In the garden, all water should be applied directly to the soil. I prefer a soaker hose. Soaker hoses are those black spongy hoses that drip water onto the ground. Soaker hoses are not the thin flat hoses that put a fine spray into the air. These are wasteful, useless and should be run over with the lawn mower as soon as possible. The other option, in gardens, is to use the old water down the furrow method. Regardless of the method used, you should water slowly, deeply and infrequently.

Landscape plants generally need less watering than gardens. New landscape plants should be watered every 2 to 3 weeks. Established landscape plants, more than five years planted, should get by on a deep soaking once every 4 to 6 weeks during dry weather. Evergreens are more susceptible to drought damage and less likely to show early stress. I would be inclined to water them once every 3 to 4 weeks in the absence of adequate rainfall. Once again, water slowly, water deeply (but not deeper than the rooting zone), and infrequently.

The one area where we waste a lot of water is in turf irrigation. When we have several weeks of high temperatures and no rain, our tall fescue and bluegrass lawns are going to try to go dormant no matter how much water you pour on them. Dormant is not dead. Dormant is okay. If you have been watering your yard, and it has turned brown, shut the water off. It has gone dormant and will get along like this just fine for several weeks without watering. If we donít have a good soaking rain of at least ĺ of an inch within a month, then turn on the sprinklers and give the yard one good deep soaking. This simply keeps the crowns from drying out and dying. Sure, your lawn will look brown and it may seem ugly to you, but just adjust your expectations. You wonít have to mow now and it will look like a lot of other lawns around town.

If you insist on continuing to water your lawn through all of this, then at least do it right. Water in the early morning only; 3 to 10 a.m. Water once or twice a week and water deep. This nonsense of watering every day with a little spritz of water has got to stop. It doesnít do any good, it wastes water, costs you money, and in the long run it hurts the lawn. As with the other landscape plants, lawns should be watered slowly, deeply and infrequently. I still think it would be better to let the lawn go dormant than to try to force it against itís natural way and stay green.

For more information on conserving water in the home landscape, stop by the Extension Office and pick up our bulletins on Water Conservation in the Home Landscape and Watering Your Lawn.

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