Summer is just around the corner! The warm weather brings about family picnics, beach days, and backyard barbecues. Last year at this time, Governor Jerry Brown declared that the drought was over in California and subsequently reduced the water restrictions that were imposed upon California residents. Many of the stringent water policies were repealed and residents were more liberal in their daily water usage.
Unfortunately, California is close to experiencing another drought. Snowpack – which accounts for almost 30% of California’s water supply – is less than a third of normal levels for this time during the year. Statistics from the National Integrated Drought Information System indicate that 76% of California residents are currently experiencing abnormal dryness or drought conditions.
Given these circumstances, water conservation should be a priority for SAMLARC residents this summer. In Orange County specifically, outdoor watering accounts for 40-70% of total water used, making the management of this facet of water use an incredibly important element of water conservation strategy.
SAMLARC has compiled the following tips to help you maintain your landscape in an efficient and cost-effective manner:
Mow correctly! Cutting your grass too short forces it to put all of its energy into new growth, rather than into developing deep roots that help it get water and nutrients. It also exposes more of the grass blades to the sun, increasing evaporation. To grow a healthy lawn that requires less water, raise the blade on your lawn mower so that you remove less than one-third of each blade of grass when you cut it. Experts say the ideal grass height is two to three inches for tall fescue, two to two-and-half inches for bluegrass, and one inch for warm season grasses such as Bermuda and zoysia.
Use mulch! Adding two to three inches of mulch or compost around the base of trees and other plants reduces evaporation and cools the soil, so you need less water. It also helps prevent weeds and keeps the soil healthy. According to Save Our Water, for every 1,000 square feet of garden that you add mulch to, you can save 20 to 30 gallons each time you water. When mulching trees, be careful to keep the mulch a few inches away from the trunk to prevent rot.
Use a smart controller! If you have your irrigation system on a timer, you have to remember to turn it off when it rains so you aren’t watering wet ground. However, a WaterSense-labeled irrigation controller can sense how much water is in the soil and switch on automatically when it’s needed. You can use this type of controller for both sprinklers and drip systems, and should be able to find one on sale for less than $100.
Water smarter, not harder! Water thoroughly and less frequently to develop a more robust root system. Plants that have larger root systems are more effective at accessing water and need to be watered less frequently. Many established landscapes and lawns need to be watered one or two times per week. Newer plantings, vegetables, and potted plants may need more frequent watering. Creating a watering schedule will help ensure that your plants get the right amount of water each week.
Learn about Xeriscaping! ! If the plants in your yard use more water than you’d like, you can replace some or all of them with plants that have lower water needs. This practice, called xeriscaping, can reduce your yard’s water needs by 30 to 60 gallons per watering for every 1,000 square feet, according to Save Our Water. The EPA site provides tools for designing a water-conserving landscape, including the Water Budget Tool and a list of plants appropriate for different regions.
Water conservation won’t just help preserve California’s vital water supplies, it will also save you money and ultimately improve the health and look of your landscape. Be sure to check out our Mediterranean landscape design article to learn more about approved landscape practices in SAMLARC!