Simple Tips to Avoid
Water on Lawn and Garden…
In the Houston area, the
heat just seems to last longer each year.
With summer showers few and far between, there has been alarmingly
little rain to give the ground a really good soaking. By Labor Day, many
homeowners had given up trying to revive wilting plants so grass, plants
and shrubs look peaked and stressed – or even worse, have actually
According to the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB), as much as half
of our outdoor use of water in the warmer months is wasted because of
poor watering practices. This can take quite a toll on the water bill
since 50 to 80 percent of our water consumption during those months is
used outside. It makes good common sense to learn to use this valuable
resource more efficiency to save both water and money.
is a good time to take a realistic look at the way you use water for
lawn and garden. When do you water the lawn? For how long at a time?
Does the sprinkler hit the driveway, sidewalks or street? If you have a
sprinkler system, is it set to turn off if it rains? Do you wait for the
plants or grass to look wilted before watering, or do you water on a
regular basis? When you set the sprinkler out, do you just place it at
random? Or do you have a “plan” for distributing the water over a
We have taken our water resources for granted for so long that some
wasteful habits die hard. But with the Harris Galveston Coastal
Subsidence District mandate to reduce our dependency on groundwater,
everyone is paying more attention to using water more efficiently in an
effort to control costs, as well. Here are some simple tips to help you
put a realistic, cost-effective water efficiency plan into effect
outside your home.
At the top of the list is the recommendation to use native plants and
shrubs whenever possible in landscaping your yard. They generally
require watering less frequently, and are often low-maintenance, too.
The TWBD and the Texas Department of Agriculture County Extension
Service point out that different varieties of grasses, plants and soils
require different amounts of water. In Houston, for example, Buffalo
grass has a low water needs compared to Bermuda (moderate) and St.
Augustine's high "thirst" requirement. Experts suggest that
grass should be watered separately from flowerbeds and landscaped areas.
When original landscape planning is an option, be sure to
"zone" plants according to their water requirements.
Use the kind of watering equipment that best suits your “target.”
Use sprinklers – ones that broadcast large drops are best – for the
lawn areas, and soaker hoses or drip irrigation systems for trees,
shrubs and flower beds.
generally absorb the greatest amount of outdoor residential water use,
and studies have shown that folks may inadvertently water twice as much
as necessary to keep a healthy lawn. This is easily remedied by knowing
when to water. Look for signs of stress – limp or curled, dull green
blades of grass, or footprints left behind after walking across the lawn
– or use a moisture gauge. In the Houston area, experts recommend
watering every five days to apply .75 to 1 inch of water (subtracting
any rainfall) during summer months. This amount will wet the soil to a
depth of 4-6 inches. Water during early morning or evening hours when
evaporation losses will be less than during the heat of the day. Avoid
watering in high winds that might send the droplets to places they are
not needed – like your neighbor’s lawn or driveway.
If you want to know how much water it takes to deliver the right amount
of moisture to your grass, place some empty cans or jars in strategic
places around the lawn, turn on the sprinkler and let it run for half an
hour. Add the total inches of water captured in all the receptacles and
then divide by the number of cans to get the average. Simply multiply by
two if you want to know how much water is “sprinkled” in an hour.
It will also help if you don’t cut the grass too short. Longer
blades will help reduce evaporation and shade the soil. Maintaining this
slightly deeper carpet of grass will help prevent the lawn from turning
yellow or brownish, as well.
Use a good mulch layer in flower beds and landscape areas. This covers
the soil, helps to hold down the weed growth that can siphon off water
from your plants, and helps retain the moisture in the soil. Remember
that “zoning” plants according to their water requirements in the
landscape plan can also help you water more efficiently.
use drip or trickle irrigation – the slow, frequent application of
very 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. This can be done quite well and cost-effectively by the
strategic placement of soaker hoses – porous tubes that continuously
By using our water supplies efficiently, we can hold down our water
bills, which can minimize the long-term impact on our pocketbooks as
this valuable resource becomes more costly in the years ahead.