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 died.
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.
This 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 specific area?
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,
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
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
Lawns 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.
Finally, 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 “leak” water.
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.
Courtesy of Northwest Harris
County MUD 36