Many homeowners who irrigated three or four days a week before the drought have told me how pleased they are that their landscapes did so well under the twice-weekly restrictions and that they saved so much on their water bill. Many homeowners say they will not go back to watering three or four days a week. I have received more positive e-mails and calls than negative ones. So now is the time to decide what schedule your landscape requires this summer. If your landscape looked good last summer with two days of watering a week, keep that schedule. If your landscape did not do well, take some time to figure out why.
First, check your irrigation system for common, easy-to-fix problems or have a licensed irrigator do so. Turn it on and check each sprinkler head for water spraying onto the road, sidewalk or driveway; spraying an incorrect pattern; or leaking at the sprinkler head or at the valve. Also check for grass that's too tall or a head that's not popping up or is too low. If the pressure is too high, the water will come out as a mist instead of a spray; if it's too low, the spray will not cover the area well. All these problems waste water and create landscape problems by keeping the soil too wet or too dry. Check the irrigation schedule to make sure the system runs between 6 p.m. and 10 a.m. Add a rain and freeze sensor if you do not have one. For greater savings, replace spray nozzles with more efficient multistream nozzles. For even more, convert to drip irrigation, the most efficient method.
If the lawn suffered, check for compacted soil, a result of traffic, mowing, irrigation and rainfall. Aerate the soil and spread about a half-inch of compost over the lawn to allow the water to enter the soil more efficiently. Aeration is not required often, but you can add compost several times to build up a lawn area. When you mow, allow the grass clippings to stay on the ground to decompose. Mulch is an organic layer that reduces water evaporation from the soil root zone and decomposes into nutrients for the soil and plants.
This happens naturally in nature, and our landscapes can benefit the same way. Mulch increases the capacity to absorb and hold water, reduces erosion, helps control weeds, moderates soil temperature year-round and eventually breaks down into nutrients that plants need.
Plant native and adapted plants that require less water, fertilizer and pesticides. A good resource for landscape plant selection with pictures is Texas SmartScape, www.txsmartscape.com. The site also provides other water-conservation information.
-- Dotty Woodson,
Special to the Star-Telegram