Recipes and Tips for Healthier Living and Smarter Budgeting

Friday, August 9, 2013

Lawn Watering

I am a product of the desert, so water is precious to me and never to be taken for granted. It's one of those things I'm constantly trying not to waste--and trying to teach my children not to. Like my grandfather before me, on road trips I always notice where the trees are grouped together across the desert landscape, because I know that indicates an ancient stream bed or spring. The two years I lived in the upper midwest, I never got tired of seeing all the vegetation, the many colors of miraculous green, or experiencing all the rainfall.

I love green lawns as much most people do, but as one who values water for its scarcity and wants to use it wisely for environmental as well as budgeting reasons, I cringe (and sometimes quietly seethe) at the waste I see nearly everywhere I go in my state. Please don't waste our most precious resource, regardless of where you live!

1. Don't water in the heat of the day! "On a hot, windy day, the amount of water that never reaches your grass can be substantial. To reduce loss to evaporation, water sometime between 4 A.M. and 9 A.M., when the air is still cool and the wind is usually at its calmest." (link) For those who live in particularly hot summer climates (I now fit into this category), the above time suggestion should be moved back a few hours to, say, 2 A.M. to 7 A.M, since it gets so hot so early.

2. Make sure your sprinklers are watering your actual lawn, not the driveway, sidewalk, etc. I know this can be difficult, particularly without an automatic sprinkling system, and I haven't been perfect at it either, but I know a lot of water is wasted when this isn't monitored.

3. Know how much water your soil can absorb during watering. This is so important! Twelve years ago, when my parents first moved to the hot desert, my mom learned from a local master gardener that the soil here can only absorb 7 minutes' worth of watering. So for lawns here, it is actually best to water a couple times a day, for 7 minutes at a time. Therefore, my parents' sprinkling system is set to water a couple times in the early morning, a couple hours apart. Find out what soil type you have and how much water it can absorb, then water accordingly. This article teaches you how to figure this out, if you can't consult with a master gardener in your area.

Here are a few more pointers I found interesting in my research:
  • Grass that is overwatered will often exhibit some of the same symptoms as grass that needs water. If you notice the symptoms but the soil is damp, hold off on watering.
  • While deep watering will help your grass become more drought resistant, watering enough to moisten the soil below the root zone is unnecessary and wasteful, as the grass won't be able to access moisture deeper than its roots.
  • Particularly in climates that are mild and wet in winter, consider having a "sleeping lawn." The following statistics may be motivating (I found them quite shocking): "The average lawn size in the U.S. is about 1/5 of an acre, or a little less than 9,000 square feet, and it takes at least 624 gallons of water to apply 1 inch of water on 1,000 square feet of lawn. It thus takes a total of more than 67,000 gallons to apply 1 inch of water per week to an average lawn for three months during one summer. Even if you only halve that amount by allowing your lawn to go dormant, you're still conserving a tremendous amount of water--enough water to supply a family of three's drinking water requirements for 61 years." (link) !!!

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