It’s no secret that the US is facing a serious drought. Nearly 57 percent of the country fell into moderate to extreme drought in July. With that in mind, managing your home water use is more important than ever – especially with more than 30 percent of household water being used outside.
Luckily, the fall is a great time to reassess your lawn and garden to make sure you’re making the most of the water you use in your yard. As the weather cools and plants get ready for winter temperatures, they’ll require less water and a little less maintenance. However, it’s important to know how water will affect your lawn during the fall and to conserve water effectively. Here are a few ways to ensure you do your part to conserve water without sacrificing the health of your lawn.
Reset Your Sprinklers
Over-irrigation is common in the early fall, especially September. The water needs of plants and grass decrease significantly in the fall, so now is the perfect time to reset your sprinklers from their summer schedule. Excessive watering can lead to plant disease by flooding the root system and choking off their oxygen. Try to water before 10 a.m., when temperatures and wind are low, and avoid watering in the evening as the season progresses: cold, damp plants can easily attract fungus.
Prioritize Your Watering Needs
Generally speaking, most lawns will require about an inch of water each week. With the cooler temperatures of fall and increased storms, many homeowners will be able to drastically reduce their watering. However, it’s a good idea to assess your lawn and garden watering needs and determine which plants, if any, need extra attention. Newly planted or young trees and grass will need the most attention, since they are still developing a root system, but your lawn can be surprisingly hardy without much water. It can be tough to watch your lawn turn brown, but it will cope well without the extra irrigation and bounce back quickly in springtime.
Capture and Recycle Rainwater
Fall brings a lot of seasonal rain, but much of that is lost to runoff and bypasses your yard. You can take advantage of these storms and lower your monthly water usage significantly by directing your gutter downspouts into rain barrels. A 1,000 sq. foot roof will collect more than 400 gallons of water for every inch of rainfall – which should help offset a decent chunk of your outdoor water use.
Mulch Where You Can
Mulch is an effective way to slow evaporation from your soil and helps protect soil and roots from harsh temperatures. Mulching around trees and flower beds will retain soil moisture and protect your more delicate landscaping. Using organic mulch will deliver nutrients to your plants and grass as it decomposes.
Use Water Retaining Gels
Applying a hydrogel soil conditioner to your lawn will help retain a lot of the water you might normally lose to runoff. These gel-like crystals hold up to 400 times their weight in water, which is slowly released directly to your lawn’s root system. These will help you make the most of seasonal storms and allow you to cut back on your weekly watering.
Replace Grass With Drought-Resistant Plants
A 5,000 sq. foot yard (roughly 1/10th of an acre) may need up to 6,000 gallons of water each week to stay green – an expensive and time-consuming task. If you’re willing to do a little bit of work, replacing portions of your lawn with drought-resistant ground cover plants can be a stylish way to conserve a lot of water. Ground covers like sweet woodruff or thyme can add color to your lawn and make it much more drought tolerant. If your front lawn is your pride and joy, consider using ground covers in your backyard to create a peaceful, more water-friendly area for you and your family.