Since we’re on the subject of lawns, and keeping them looking green and not brown, let’s talk about water.
Water is a bit of a hot topic these days, especially here in the Western US where many states have been experiencing a drought for the last few years. The “Super El Niño” didn’t turn out to be quite as super as people were hoping, but here in Utah, it at least brought us back up to “normal”.
But this is one reason why I’ve been disappointed lately to hear reports of people here in Utah already watering their lawns. Now, maybe in other, more southern, (hotter and drier) climes you do actually need to be watering already. But definitely not in northern Utah. And actually, not anywhere in Utah currently.
And why not? Well, the simple answer is that it’s spring. And this year spring means the temps are still fairly cool and luckily we keep seeing rain in the forecast.
A more in depth answer would also explain that because it’s spring the soil moisture levels (thanks to the snow from earlier this year and the rain that comes in springtime) are quite adequate for growth and it’s actually better for your grass to not receive extra water. By being forced to work a little harder for their water, and sending down deeper roots, it will actually help your lawn need fewer waterings during the hotter months, while still looking nice.
And of course we should also talk about how we live in a desert and so we should be very sensitive to water use in general. Here in Utah our water situation is looking pretty good so far thanks to both a “normal” water year (the water year measures precipitation that occurs from October-April) and past conservation efforts by individuals and organizations around the state. But there’s always more we can be doing.
Like not watering our lawns yet.
There’s a campaign in Utah called Slow the Flow (save H20) which has been going on for the past few years, with the goal educating Utah citizens to be more water-wise. On their website you can find all sorts of useful tips from watering recommendations (as seen in the photo above), to lists of water-wise (also known as drought tolerant) plants, to surveys that help you asses your own water usage.
One really great resource offered through the Slow the Flow campaign is the free water checks. If you live in Cache, Davis, Iron, Morgan, Salt Lake, Summit, Washington, or Weber counties you can request and schedule a free water check. The water check will analyze the efficiency of your automated watering system and you will receive a customized watering schedule.
If you don’t live in any of these counties (or even if you do), there are still some steps you can take to conserve water and still have a beautiful, healthy lawn.
1- Only water when needed, and when you do water, do it deeply, infrequently and not during the hottest or windiest part of the day. Deep, infrequent waterings promote deeper root growth which leads to healthier plants, and watering during cooler and calmer hours decreases loss from evaporation.
2- Raise your lawn mower to a taller height. Again, this will promote deeper roots and it won’t lose as much water from evapotranspiration as quickly. There’s no need to keep your lawn to a putting green standards. Leaving the lawn clippings in your lawn, rather than bagging and removing them, can also act as a mulch to reduce water loss from the soil surface.
3- Evaluate how you use the lawn. If the only time you walk on the grass is to mow it, there might be a better (and more water efficient) use of the space. This doesn’t mean you have to rip it up and replace it with gravel, but selecting attractive water-wise plants, using the area for a vegetable garden (and watering the area with a drip-irrigation system or a soaker hose), or replacing the existing grass with a more drought-tolerant variety are all options.
If you’d like more information on how to have a more water-efficient landscape, USU’s Center for Water Efficient Landscaping is full of resources and examples.