Skill Builder: Four Ways to Save Water
Keep plants green while conserving our most precious commodity.
By Stephanie M. Salinas
With the summer heat beating down on yards around the state, Texans are looking for water- conscious conservation techniques to keep landscaping green and thriving.
Two public education campaigns, Texas Water Smart and Take Care of Texas, are providing Texans with lots of great tips to help conserve water in the coming months. We’ve highlighted a few of our favorites here; you can find many more on their websites: www.texaswatersmart.com and www.takecareoftexas.org/water-conservation.
1. Water plants in the morning or evening.
Watering in the early morning or late evening when temperatures are cooler will help minimize evaporation and give plants time to soak up as much water as possible. For gardens, using a drip irrigation system and adding a layer of mulch on the surface of your planting beds will maximize the amount of retained moisture as well as suppress the growth of water-sucking weeds.
2. Fix leaks.
Periodically check for leaks. Leaky faucets can waste up to 3,000 gallons of water a year but can be fixed easily. For sprinklers, adjust the angle of the stream so only the lawn is being watered and not the house, sidewalk or street. A leaky toilet can waste up to 200 gallons per day. By checking your toilet with a leak-detection dye tablet, leaks that are typically hard to find can be discovered and fixed in a timely fashion.
3. Use rainwater to water plants.
Collecting rainwater for your landscape use is great for your plants and can save both time and money. Rain barrels or buckets to catch rainwater from downspouts are a good investment. When it rains, that means your plants are getting water, so it’s a good idea to install a rain sensor for your irrigation system to keep it from running when it is raining.
4. Maximize water conservation.
Adjusting your lawn mower up at least one notch can help your grass retain water because a taller lawn holds moisture better. Water your lawn thoroughly, but only as needed (and allowed by local authorities); grass usually needs no more than an inch of water per watering. Using a drip irrigation system or soaker hose for shrubs and trees minimizes evaporation while the water is applied directly to the roots, where it is needed. Weeding your lawn is beneficial as well because weeds are notorious water stealers.
Also, nourishing grass with fertilizer will help it recover from drought stress.
For your garden, water your plants only when they look as if they need it. Most plants die from being overwatered, not underwatered. By watering plants deeply, but less frequently, root growth is encouraged and the plants will have a stronger drought tolerance. Also, using a watering can for smaller patio plants instead of a hose can save water. For hanging baskets, plants and pots, placing ice cubes under the moss or dirt can help eliminate water runoff.