Summertime, with its reduced rainfall, warmer temperatures and landscaping
emphasis is the prime time to conserve water. During a Northwest
summer, water usage is at an all-time high while water supplies
are at their lowest. Summer water use can increase a typical family’s
consumption by 50 to 100% or more!
Believing in water conservation doesn’t mean you have to
forsake a nice looking yard. Here are some tips to help you save water and have a beautiful, healthy, sustainable yard.
1. Water your yard (AT MOST) an inch
a week, gardens less
A brown lawn is not a dead lawn. Grass naturally goes dormant in the summer and will green up again in the fall when the rain begins to fall. If you must water don't over-water. Over-watering not only wastes
water but carries toxic fertilizers and pesticides into our rivers,
lakes and streams. Your grass needs at most an inch of water a week
and established gardens usually require less. It’s best to
water your lawn separately from gardens and shrubs. You can measure
your watering using inexpensive rain gauges or tuna cans placed
randomly around the yard. If you don’t have an automatic sprinkler
system or timer on your sprinkler, use a kitchen timer to remind
yourself to turn off the water. The best watering practices for
your lawn are to water infrequently but deeply (at most
one inch per week!) That encourages deep root growth and keeps the
soil moist. Soaker hoses and drip irrigation are great for watering your plants because
they deliver water slowly and evenly to the roots, decreasing loss
to evaporation and saving up to 60 to 70% over hose watering.
2. Water according to the weather
Pay attention to the weather. One inch per week includes rainfall.
Decrease watering time during cool or humid conditions. If it’s
rained moderately that week you won’t need to! A good downpour
can eliminate the need to water for several weeks. If you have automatic
sprinklers be sure to turn them off if rainfall has been sufficient
for your yard’s needs. If you have a "smart" controller it will do this for you.
3. Water in the morning or in the evening
Watering in the early morning hours is best because that’s
when temperatures and wind speed are the lowest. This reduces loss
from evaporation and the possibility of disease. If you can’t
water in the morning, watering in the evening is the next best thing.
Don’t water during the heat of the day.
4. Fix broken sprinkler heads & use a "Smart" Controller
Regularly check your irrigation system to make sure it is operating
correctly. Broken sprinkler heads don’t put the water where
it’s needed and can waste hundreds of gallons of water. Make
sure you use the proper sprinkler heads for your watering needs.
A well-designed system that is properly maintained and regularly
monitored by you will provide your lawn with the water it needs,
while conserving water.
Consider installing a Smart Controller. Unlike regular controllers that turn on to a fixed schedule, Smart (also known as weather-based or ET - evapotransporation) controllers adjust your water schedule to the needs of the plants in your yard. For more information on smart controllers visit the Irrigation Associations Smart Water Application Technologies Website.
5. Don’t water pavement
Streets, driveways and sidewalks don’t need to be watered.
Position your sprinkler or sprinkler heads so that water lands on
the lawn and shrubs. Don’t use water to clean off driveways
or sidewalks. Use a broom instead. Don't wash your car - car washes are more efficient and recycle their water. Using a hose on your sidewalk or car can waste hundreds
of gallons of water.
Smart watering is just one of five steps to a healthy and natural
Northwest yard. There are five steps to Natural Yard Care. If you
use all five of these steps you will reduce water consumption and
have a healthier yard.
Build healthy soil with compost and mulch. Building healthy
soil helps plants develop deeper roots and reduces pest and weed
problems. Mulching is also a great way to hold water in the soil,
meaning you can water less!
Plant right for your site. Choose plants that are right
for the location in which you are planting them. Talk to your nursery
professional when selecting plants. Consider the amount of sun and
water they will receive and the soil conditions. When possible consider
choosing native plants or plants that require less water.
Practice smart watering. As we have discussed above, watering
in moderation is best for most plants. Water only what your plants
need. Watering slowly and deeply will encourage deeper roots and
less need for watering.
Think twice before using pesticides. Keeping your plants
healthy will eliminate the need for many pesticides. You can also
encourage natural pest killers, like ladybugs, to eliminate unwanted
Practice natural lawn care. Use a mulch mower to leave
clippings on the lawn and provide moisture and nutrients. Mow high
and less often. Grass naturally goes dormant in periods of drought
but will green up again when water becomes available. Reduce fertilizer
For more information on natural lawn & garden care call the Garden Hotline at (206) 633-0224. Click here to go to our Water Conservation
Resource Library for links to other sites for more in-depth
information and for more great water saving ideas for your yard.