When correctly designed, installed, and maintained, an irrigation system can help minimize the amount of water used while still keeping a lawn looking healthy. These water conservation tips can keep you from wasting water and losing money.
Don’t Drown – Avoid over-watering lawns and gardens, as much of the water is never absorbed anyway. Some water is lost to runoff when applied too rapidly, and some water evaporates from exposed, un-mulched soil. But the greatest waste of water comes from applying too much, too often.
Watch the Clock – Watering in the evening isn’t a good idea because leaf surfaces will remain wet overnight – this is an open invitation for fungal diseases. Midday watering is better for plants, but bad for water bills because of water loss through evaporation. Try to water between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m., when the sun is low, winds are calm and temperatures are cool. Under these conditions, leaf surfaces have a chance to dry out during the day, reducing the chance of fungal diseases and conserving water because of reduced evaporation. Use low-angle nozzles in areas where wind is a factor.
You Can Never Have Too Much Mulch – Mulch, a layer of non-living material covering the soil surface around plants, conserves water by significantly reducing moisture evaporation from the soil. Mulch also reduces weed population, prevents soil compaction, and keeps soil temperatures more moderate. Mulches can be organic materials such as pine, bark, compost and woodchips; or inorganic materials, such as lava rock, limestone or permeable plastic, but not sheet plastic because soil needs to breathe. Never pile mulch directly against the plants stems; Leave an open area for breathing.
Play the Zone – The goal of any irrigation system is to give plants a sufficient amount of water without waste. Divide the property into irrigation zones so grass can be watered separately and more frequently than groundcovers, shrubs and trees. Both sprinkler and drip irrigation can be incorporated to achieve efficient use of water.
Raise the Blade – Trim grass at a higher mower setting to shade roots from sunlight and encourage deeper roots. St. Augustine grass should be mowed at a height of 3 1/2 — 4 inches.
Water Only Things That Grow – If the property has an underground sprinkler system, make sure the sprinkler heads are adjusted properly to avoid watering sidewalks and driveways. Also, a properly adjusted sprinkler head should spray large droplets of water instead of a fine mist, which is more susceptible to evaporation and wind drift.
Be Rain Smart – Adjust the irrigation system as the seasons and weather change. Or better yet, install a shut-off device that automatically detects rain. They are inexpensive and enable property owners to take advantage of rain water without paying for it.
Consider Dripping – When it comes to watering individual trees, flowerbeds, potted containers or other non-grassy areas, consider direct application of water to roots using low volume “drip” emitters. By applying water slowly to soil, drip irrigation is an efficient way to water. The water flows under low pressure through emitters, bubblers or spray heads placed at each plant. Water applied by drip irrigation has little chance of waste through evaporation or runoff and will prevent unwanted weeds from growing.
Get Your Heads Checked – Since lawns should be watered in the early morning hours, a problem may not be discovered until it is too late. Once a month, turn on the irrigation system and make sure everything is working properly. A clogged head or torn line can wreak havoc on a landscape and it’s accompanying water bill.