As temperatures rise throughout the summer, conserving water isn’t just something good you can do for the environment-it’s often a necessity, especially in areas prone to drought and municipalities that draw water from aquifers. It’s easy to see why so many municipalities impose lawn-watering restrictions.
Mow, rake, water, water, fertilize, water, water, water, mow, rake . . . It seems North Americans are in a never-ending loop of lawn maintenance, and we use an awful lot of water doing it. About 30 percent of the average American family’s water use is for outdoor purposes, but when you consider how little we use outdoors during the winter months, about half of the water we use in the summer is for outdoor purposes. And if that’s the bad news, here’s the worse: your efforts may actually be doing more harm than good.
At Naturally Savvy, we’re big advocates of replacing large areas of lawn with gardens or a meadow, but if you like having a lawn, there are a few things you can do to save water-and a whole lot of your time.
Let it Grow
A lawn that is mowed too often or too short requires far more water than one that is allowed to grow a tad longer. According to Cornell University’s Department of Agriculture, your lawn mower should be set to mow the grass to a height of at least three inches. Why? Well the roots generally grow the same length as the grass aboveground, so the shorter the grass, the shorter the root-and shorter roots mean the grass isn’t as stable and isn’t able to absorb as much water from the ground.
Water your lawn too often is a common mistake. Water can damage the roots of grass, which is counterintuitive to a healthy lawn. Most lawns only need to be watered once or twice a week in the summer, yet many people water daily or every other day.
Water in the Morning
Watering your lawn in the early morning is a must. When you water in the morning, the ground is still cool, so less of that water will be evaporated. Additionally, there is typically less wind in the morning, which also means a slower rate of evaporation.
Skip the Fertilizer
Water-soluble nitrogen in fertilizers can soak up a lot of water, which is why many homeowners end up over-watering their lawns. The truth is, many (dare we say most?) lawns will do just fine without fertilizer. Instead, leave grass clippings on the lawn, and if your lawn requires a nitrogen boost, sprinkle nitrogen-rich coffee grounds on your lawn late in the fall.
Grow the Right Grass
If your lawn needs a lot of work or has seen better days, consider re-seeding with a drought-resistant grass, or a native grass if you live in an area that gets a lot of precipitation. Both options will require less water and therefore less maintenance.
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