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Water Efficient Practices for Saving Your Landscape - Texas A&M


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Water Efficient Practices for Saving Your Landscape - Texas A&M

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Water Efficient Practices for Saving Your Landscape - Texas A&M

  1. 1. WATER EFFICIENT PRACTICES FORSAVING YOUR LANDSCAPE file:///D|/Training/story1.htm Water Efficient Practices for Saving Your Landscape: What is Xeriscape? Recent drought conditions have not only affected area farmers and ranchers, but also homeowners. Many homeowners are seeing their landscapes wither due to lack of rainfall and summer heat. Some homeowners are seeing their water bills skyrocket and several communities have asked homeowners to conserve water through water rationing. To help alleviate landscape water problems this summer and in the future, civic leaders in several Texas cities are promoting Xeriscape landscaping. Xeriscape, a term coined in Denver, Colorado, is quality landscaping that conserves water and protects the environment. Xeriscape, which comes from the Greek word Xeros, meaning dry, is considered a viable alternative to the conventional high water requirement landscapes. For the past several years, residential and commercial landscapes have utilized more than 25 percent of the total water consumption in urban areas of Texas. This percentage can be reduced to extend the water supplies of Texas. By incorporating Xeriscape principles into home or commercial landscapes, it is estimated that water usage can be cut in half. Xeriscape landscapes are not cactus and rock gardens. They can be cool, green landscapes full of beautiful plants which are maintained with water efficient practices. The same green, Texas style landscapes which we are accustomed to can be achieved and still conserve water. Xeriscape landscaping incorporates seven basic principles which lead to water savings: Planning and design Soil analysis and improvement Appropriate plant selection Practical turf areas Efficient irrigation Use of mulches Appropriate maintenance By using these seven principles, you can help preserve our most precious natural resource - water. Lawns Dont Waste Water, People Do! In recent years, much attention and controversy has surrounded the water requirement of the lawn. Misinformation and hidden agendas have fueled this controversy. However, there are some well documented facts about the American lawn. The lawn is an integral component of the landscape. The lawn is certainly the best recreational surface for children and athletes. The lawn has a tremendous mitigating effect on the environment, reducing heat loads and noise, plus water and air pollution. A lawn is second only to a virgin forest in the ability to harvest water and recharge groundwater resources. And as a design component, the lawn provides landscape unity and simplicity while inviting participation in the landscape. The lawn has become a focus in reducing landscape water use because of the tremendous opportunity for abusive use of1 of 2 5/11/99 8:39 AM
  2. 2. WATER EFFICIENT PRACTICES FORSAVING YOUR LANDSCAPE file:///D|/Training/story1.htm irrigation water in the name of maintaining the lawn. Within the traditional landscape, the lawn has received the major portion of the total landscape irrigation. Lawn irrigation can be reduced, while the homeowner continues to derive the many benefits of turfgrass. Specific strategies to reduce lawn irrigation include: Place lawn areas into landscape irrigation zones based on water requirements, so that lawns can be watered separately from other landscape plantings Select adapted, lower-water demand turf species and varieties Use irrigated lawn areas only in areas which provide function (i.e., recreational, aesthetic, food traffic, dust and noise abatement, glare reduction, temperature mitigation) Use non-irrigated lawn areas where appropriate Irrigate properly based on the lawns true water needs Increase mowing heights to decrease lawn water use and stress Decrease fertilizer rates and properly schedule fertilizations By implementing these strategies, homeowners can reduce lawn irrigation requirements and still reap the many benefits of a cool, green lawn. Landscape Maintenance Practices Save Water Proper maintenance is a key principle in reducing irrigation requirements in the landscape. Maintenance practices, such as mulching, mowing and fertilizing greatly impact the water efficiency of any landscape, as well as the landscapes ability to survive a drought. Research at Texas A&M University has shown that unmulched soil may lose twice as much water to evaporation as mulched soil. Mulch is a layer of material covering the soil surface around plants. Mulches can be organic materials, such as shredded bark, compost and wood chips; or inorganic materials, such as lava rock, limestone and woven plastic. Use a mulch wherever possible. A good mulch preserves soil moisture, prevents soil compaction, keeps soil temperatures more moderate and reduces weed populations. In case weeds do get a start, they are much easier to pull if a mulch has been used. Organic mulches will decompose and sometimes wash away, so make checks regularly and replacements when necessary. In addition to mulching, other maintenance practices help save water in the landscape. Mowing turfgrass at the proper height helps conserve moisture. For example, the optimum height to mow St. Augustine grass for water conservation is three inches. The typical mowing height is two to two and one-half inches. However, the taller height promotes a deeper, more water efficient root system. Taller grass acts like a living mulch, shading the ground, thus reducing moisture evaporation from the soil. Also, grass that is allowed to grow taller grows slower; therefore, needing less water and mowing. Another maintenance practice that adds to the efficient use of water by plants is proper fertilization. Applying fertilizer to the lawn at the proper time and in the proper amount can save time, effort and money through reduced mowing and watering. Fertilizers can also be a major source of pollution of streams and groundwater if excessive amounts are applied. Fertilize the lawn once in spring and again in fall to produce a beautiful turf without excess growth which demands frequent watering. Use a slow-release form of nitrogen in spring and a quick release form in fall. Apply only one pound of actual nitrogen fertilizer per 1,000 square feet of lawn at one time. By using this fertilizer schedule, no other fertilizer is needed for most shrubs and trees in the lawn area. Other cultural practices that add to the efficient use of water by plants are periodic checks of the irrigation system, properly-timed insect and disease control and elimination of water demanding weeds.2 of 2 5/11/99 8:39 AM