Best Ways to Save & Drought Tips
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Lawn Best Ways to Save and Drought Tips

Train your lawn
If you water your lawn every day, you are encouraging shallow roots. By spreading out your watering you can help your lawn to establish deeper roots that will help it survive drought periods. Generally watering deeper, less days per week will encourage deeper root growth and a more healthy lawn.

Remove only one third of the grass length at each mowing. Try to mow weekly in spring – cutting too much at once stresses the grass. Leave the clippings on the lawn. "Grasscycling" provides free fertilizer (at least ¼ of your lawn’s needs), helps lawns grow greener and denser, and doesn’t cause thatch buildup. You can grasscycle with your existing mower. For best results, keep the blade sharp, mow when the grass is dry, and mow a little more often in the spring. Clippings left scattered on the surface will break down quickly - if there are clumps mow again to break them up.

Using proper soil preparation and lawn maintenance practices will help to build healthy soil and vigorous, deep-rooted lawns. These lawns are more resistant to disease, tolerate some insect and drought damage, and will out-compete many weeds.

Water At Night
Make sure you only water when the sun is down to reduce evaporation losses. Many irrigation experts feel the best time to water is between midnight and 6 a.m. because evaporation in kept to a minimum.

Repair All Leaks
Check your automatic irrigation system for leaks. To detect a leak in your irrigation system, you must shut down all water use inside your home and be fairly certain that there is no leakage occurring indoors. Once you have done this, you can use your water meter to see if any water continues to flow into your system. To do this, follow the instructions detailed in the water meter page.

Drought Response

The name of the game for lawn care under a drought is "low maintenance." In general: Fertilize less, mow taller and water smarter. During a drought emergency you may be asked to substantially restrict your outdoor watering. Drought response plans vary from place to place, but they all include irrigation restrictions. Complying with drought restrictions will almost certainly require you to reprogram your irrigation controller (if you have one) and substantially cut back or even eliminate outdoor watering. Below are some tips for making the most of restricted irrigation during a drought emergency.

First, minimize fertilization. Lush lawns look great, but heavily fertilized lawns use more water and are more susceptible to drought stress. Most commercial lawn fertilizers call for multiple steps, including a second application of fertilizer about six weeks after the first one. During a drought this is too much. Remember, fall is the most critical time to fertilize a lawn.

Set your mower at a higher level than usual. Cutting your lawn short requires additional water to make it grow. You may not have that water to use on your lawn. Leave it shaggier than usual.

Water smarter using some of the suggestions below.

Alternating Day Watering

In the early stages of a drought, many response plans restrict irrigation to every other day or three days a week often based upon your address. To comply with these restrictions you must reprogram your irrigation controller so that it only waters on the specified days or restrict your manual watering.

Severe Drought Actions

In a severe drought that stretches over several years lawn irrigation with an automatic system may be banned completely and hose irrigation severely restricted. We hope this day will never come, but if it does we must all chip in and do our part. This means shutting down your sprinkler system. Remember, human beings throughout history have survived terrible droughts. It won’t be pleasant. It will be inconvenient. You will make it through. The actions you take will determine how much of your landscape will make it through.

OK, you no longer have an operating sprinkler system and your outdoor hose watering is all but eliminated. What do you do?

Prioritize Plants in Your Landscape
The first thing to do in this situation is to prioritize your landscape into three categories: 1) High value/must save; 2) Moderate value/try to save; and 3) Low value/save if possible.

High value plants usually include valuable trees and shrubs that have taken years to establish that will die without water. Moderate value plants might include certain perennials, newer shrubs that can be replaced, and drought tolerant Xeriscape type plants that will require little water anyway. Low value plants usually includes turf grass (which can often bounce back successfully from a complete dry out) and annuals.

The old saying is still true, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. If there is a drought forecast for your area – plant more drought resistant plants. See the Xeriscape section of this site for some suggestions.

Tap into Graywater Irrigation Water Sources
It’s time for drastic measures. It’s time to get creative. The more water you can capture from your faucets, shower, bathtub, and clothes washer the more plants you can probably help survive the drought. You don’t need to have an elaborate graywater collection and treatment system (although you might consider this option). Place basins in your kitchen and bathroom sinks to capture water that can then be put on plants outside. If you take a bath, don’t drain the water! Use buckets to haul the bath water outside for your thirsty plants. You can also keep a bucket in the shower with you to capture water. Capturing and reusing the clothes washer water may be more difficult, but it is certainly possible to do. If you do this, be sure to use laundry detergent that won’t harm your plants.

Place rain barrels at the bottom of your roof downspouts. If any rain does fall you’ll be able to use the water more effectively on the plants that really need it.

Ration Water Across Your Landscape
Use your ration of hose water to water your high value plants and trees first. If nothing else, you want to make it through the drought with those plants alive. If there is sufficient water, move on to the moderate value plants, etc. If you do not have further water from the hose, use your graywater on the moderate value plants and then finally the low value plants.

Keep your moderate and low value plants on a starvation diet. Contact local hortaculturalists and plant experts to determine the minimum amount of water required to keep your plants alive. Some plants can survive (not flourish, but survive) on a small amount of water delivered once per week.

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