More than 13 states are currently experiencing severe drought in the southern part of the US. Here in Texas, we are experiencing the third worse drought ever on record. With state-wide burn bans, lakes at record lows, and the Department of Agriculture declaring our state a federal disaster area, it easy to understand why people are a bit nervous about their water usage. It feels wrong to waste water on your lawn when farmers are in dire straits, cattlemen are forced to sell off livestock, and our lakes are bone dry.
Thankfully, there are a number of simple strategies you can employ to keep your lawn healthy (and even green!) this summer, without using copious amount of water or contributing to the drought.
When you water, water deep.
Watering your lawn a little bit everyday might seem like the right thing to do but it’s really just wasteful and ineffective. The water evaporates away too quickly, without really quenching your lawn's thirst. A better strategy is to give your lawn lots of water at once. This tactic allows the water to seep deeper into the ground. Water that lies deep within the soil is less likely to evaporate and also encourages grass to grow deeper roots, making your lawn heartier and more effective at absorbing the water it needs. If you soak your lawn, you can also space out your waterings to be more infrequent. This is a tactic that you should employ with your lawn even when there is no drought. It’s just an all-round good practice.
Avoid fertilizers, but Improve Soil Quality
Avoid lawn fertilizers during droughts as they encourage leaf and shoot growth which will drastically increase the amount of water your lawn will require to remain healthy. It is best to stop fertilizer treatments in mid to late spring and allow your lawn to transition into natural dormancy (i.e. slower growth in summer) in order to maintain its green hue with less water. Rather than fertilizer, add a microbial inoculant like EM·1® to the soil whenever you water. This will support the growth of beneficial organisms in the soil, improve the soil structure, drainage, and root water retention. A healthy micro-environment will also guard the lawn against disease during the extreme heat which can lower your lawn's natural defenses.
Make Sure Your Mower is Drought Ready
Sharpen your lawn mower blade, as a dull blade will shred the grass and shredded grass requires up to 60% more water to remain healthy. Likewise, raise the cutting height of your lawn mower. By allowing the grass to grow slightly higher, you are encouraging deeper root growth. As mentioned earlier, this will make your lawn resilient and more efficient at absorbing and retaining water and moisture. Finally, cut your lawn less frequently. Space out your trims to once a month or more.
Gather Water Naturally
Here in Texas rain barrels have always been popular, but with the recent green movement, they can also be attractive additions to your yard. Simply stand an empty barrel (or two or three) in your yard and let the rain clouds do the rest. Be sure to choose a spot that allows for maximum collection. For example, under a rooftop drainage system is ideal. Take advantage of rain from the roof and set barrels underneath gutter spouts to collect the rain water. This water can be used to water plants instead of using tap water.