Truckee Meadows Water Authority is asking residents to reduce their outdoor water use by 10 percent. What are some things you can do in your yard to accomplish this?
• Check your irrigation system regularly for breaks, split hoses or missing emitters all through the growing season. Make sure the emitters are still directed towards the intended plants. Make sure your sprinkler heads still are functioning properly and are aimed at your lawn, not the sidewalk or other paved surfaces.
• Check your hoses and hose couplings. Use washers at both ends of the hose to eliminate leaks. Use a spray nozzle at the hose end that provides a shut off. Do not let the hose run continuously while you are washing your car or hand-watering your plants.
• Don’t hose down paved or hard surfaces in your yard. If you must hose down hard surfaces, direct the wash water to your lawn or other plantings.
• If you don’t already have a drip irrigation system for your trees, shrubs, flower beds or vegetables, consider installing one. These systems can be automated with a timer to ensure adequate watering occurs and help prevent over watering.
• Direct your gutter downspouts to the landscaped portions of your yard, not a paved surface. Use what little rainwater we may get to water the plants in your landscape.
• Avoid watering your yard in the heat of the day, between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. and during windy conditions. Water your yard early in the morning or later in the evening. Water your lawn less often but deeply to encourage deep root growth. Sometimes, evening lawn watering can promote diseases that prefer high humidity. If you’ve had problems in the past, limit your lawn watering to early morning.
• Mow your lawn at the highest setting on your mower, ideally 3 inches or higher. Mowing high encourages deep root growth, which will help your grass tolerate heat and drought. Deep roots will enable your lawn to take up water from deeper in the soil. Mowing high also helps shade out weeds and reduces water losses from evaporation.
• Some people allow their lawns to go dormant in the heat. Lawns can survive on very little water, but when they go dormant, they turn straw colored or light brown. Some neighbors, homeowners associations and other entities don’t like to see brown lawns. But if it comes to making hard choices in your landscape, the trees and shrubs you have growing are a bigger investment than the lawn, so concentrate on watering them.
• Mulch can help reduce water losses from the soil and also reduce weeds. Apply mulch 2 inches to 4 inches thick around plants. Be careful not to pile up mulch around the stems of plants or trunks of trees and shrubs, as this can promote some insect pests and plant diseases.
• If you are designing a new landscape in your yard, this is not our first drought year and it won’t be our last. Your best bet is to design with drought in mind. Limit the turf areas. Group plants by their water needs and consider low-water use plants. Water deeply and less frequently. Install an automated irrigation system. Inspect and maintain your irrigation system regularly.
Author: Melody Hefner is the Urban IPM and Pesticide Safety program assistant for the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. Have a gardening question? Ask a Master Gardener at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Picture Credit to UNCE