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Earth Friendly: Practice water-conscious lawn maintenance

By Victoria Advocate
June 2, 2010 at 1:02 a.m.


By Meridith Byrd

I am so excited that summer is just around the corner. Those who know me, know that I have little use for seasons or for months when shorts and sandals have to stay in the closet.

Now that the weather is heating up, I see many people around town watering their lawns, so it seems like the perfect time for a refresher on how to water your lawn for the most benefit, while still being mindful of your water usage.

According to the office of the state climatologist, Victoria received above average amounts of rainfall in January and February, but below average amounts for March and April. Numbers for May have not been posted yet.

It should come as no surprise that Victoria's average yearly rainfall is not enough to sustain most of the lawns around town. St. Augustine grass, also known as carpet grass, is a popular choice for turf grass because of its ability to sustain high temperatures. St. Augustine requires about an inch of water per week, or 52 inches per year, to keep looking its best. Victoria averages 40 inches of rain per year. In short, supplemental watering is necessary for St. Augustine grass to thrive.

How do you keep a healthy-looking lawn without wasting water? First, remember that slow watering is best. About an inch per week promotes deep root growth that is an advantage during droughts. Shallow root systems, caused when watering occurs in short, frequent bursts, do not serve the grass well when rainfall is hard to come by.

To figure out how long it takes for an inch of water to be distributed across your lawn, find a container, such as a coffee can, and mark one inch above the bottom with a permanent marker. Place the can on the lawn while you water and calculate the amount of time it takes for one inch of water to accumulate in the can. Overwatering can encourage disease, so it is important to know how much time equals one inch of water.

Choosing the right sprinkler is important, as well. Look for a sprinkler that releases large drops of water rather than one that produces a mist. This will reduce the amount of water lost to evaporation, which means more water for your lawn.

Make sure you are actually watering the lawn and not your sidewalk or driveway. Position the sprinkler accordingly and adjust the range, if possible.

Lastly, but perhaps most importantly, do not water during the heat of the day or on windy days. So much of the water is lost to evaporation that you are not doing your lawn any favors. The best option is to water early in the morning, when winds are calm and the sun is not yet at its hottest. Another option is to do your watering early in the evening, once the weather has cooled off a bit.

It is feasible to maintain a healthy lawn while being conscious about water. Choosing the right sprinkler, time of day, and watering schedule can result in a great-looking lawn, while keeping your water usage to a minimum.

Meridith Byrd is a marine biologist and invites readers to contact her at meridith.byrd@gmail.com.

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