The Public and Media Relations staff have been posting and sharing landscaping and watering tips for months to benefit both your lawn and water bill this summer. We are sharing information from our own Water Conservation pages and Sustainable Landscape Series along with resources such Texas A & M AgriLife Extension and EPA Watersense. Apparently, we’ve been a little off track in some of the information we have shared recently!
Our in-house expert, Water Conservation Manager Gail Donaldson, noticed a few tips were not quite right for our grass, soil and climate here in North Texas. So, we wanted to get the right facts from the right person and asked Gail to give us her expert information. Here’s what she had to say:
Gail, you mentioned recent lawn watering tips we’ve shared from EPA Watersense were not relevant here in North Texas? What should residents know?
The tips on the EPA WaterSense website are more applicable to cool season grasses such as Ryegrass, Bluegrass, and Fescue. Here in Allen, we use warm season grasses, mostly Bermuda, St. Augustine, and some Zoysia.
Our summers here can be intense and our warm season grasses can survive this with moist soil. In the hot afternoon, many grasses and other plants may look wilted, so don’t judge water needs of any plant in the afternoon. Check soil moisture in the mornings only.
Mow grass to the proper height for the species and all are different. Bermuda and some Zoysia needs the shortest mowing at 1-2" in height, whereas St. Augustine is best at 3-4" in height. Palisades Zoysia is in the middle and prefers 2.5-3” in height. If you consistently water (in absence of rain) with just ½” of water per week on any lawn, it will survive even the 100-degree heat.
What is the best way to water your lawn during the hot summer months?
The best way to water your lawn a ½” per week is to water one day using the cycle soak method. Our clay soils will retain water; however, it absorbs very slowly, especially if dry. That is why the cycle soak method is best.
If that St. Augustine grass is in full sun, and you think it needs more water, then the second day of watering ½” will keep it at peak performance. Remember to follow your watering schedule.
Bermuda grass does not tolerate any shade, even that coming from your fence. It will manage on only one day of water even when the weather is 100 degrees.
St. Augustine and Zoysia may tolerate some shade; however, they need a minimum of 4 hours of sunlight on the grass blade to thrive.
Warm season grasses optimum growth temperatures are between 85-95 degrees. Above 95 and below 85 degrees the grass growth slows down, so on hot summer days – don’t fertilize, just let it rest.
If you water your lawn ½” one day a week for a month – what would this average landscape watering use be?
It varies by the square footage of the yard, but the average home lawn in Allen is 10,000 square feet. It takes 3,120 gallons of water to provide a 1/2" of water on the entire area of the average home lawn. That equates to using over 12,000 gallons of water in a month. Without any other water use for the household, the rate would be $4.32 per 1,000 gallons or 12 x 4.32 = $51.84. If you water ½” twice per week, you more than double that charge because some usage will be calculated in the next water use tier rate.
Some residents may not realize we have a tier rate price structure in Allen to encourage water conservation. If you have a large yard that you water more than ½ inch twice a week, landscape irrigation will get expensive.
July is Smart Irrigation Month – what’s the purpose of this public awareness campaign?
This is an initiative of the Irrigation Association to promote efficient outdoor watering with in-ground sprinkler systems. It’s designed to remind you to check your system and fix any break or leak in equipment, and make sure your controller and rain sensor are operating correctly. Irrigation systems and smart controller technology has come a long way in providing conservation-friendly landscape watering practices, but that efficiency is impacted by poorly maintained equipment and programming errors or issues.
I know from working with professional irrigation auditors and doing irrigation audits myself, broken sprinkler heads and unknown programming errors are almost always the cause of unsuspected over watering issues. This results in high water use and high water bills. Even if you correct the issues and water your yard significantly less following a high water bill, you don’t see the bill go down until you are in the next billing cycle 4-6 weeks later. That’s why it is so important to start maintenance early. Even so, July is one of our hottest months so if you have not checked your system yet – now is a good time to do so!
If you could give us only three tips on how to best manage landscapes to survive the summer months – what would they be?
First, let the rain do its job and don’t water on those weeks. When temperatures are over 95 degrees and we’ve had no rainfall:
1. Water lawns using the cycle-soak method to give 1/2" water on just one of your allowed watering days between midnight at 7 a.m.
2. Don’t use fertilizer when the weather gets hot, lawn growth naturally slows - give lawns a rest.
3. Mow at highest height allowed per species and variety once every 7-10 days early in the day.
Any other words of advice?
Most years you will have to supplement water for 14-16 weeks out of the year, but it changes each year. Sometimes it is within the months of June, July and August. Sometimes it is August, September, and October. Or, it could be scattered throughout the year in several months.
Just realize most years you will not have to water the other 36-38 weeks throughout the year. If you only use sprinkler systems when absolutely needed, you will save thousands of gallons of water each year.
Thanks to our inside expert, we have some great information for managing landscapes this summer. You can find even more great tips and ongoing news and information from the monthly Water Wisdom digital newsletter. Sign up now.
Editor’s note – During the summer months, our Utility Billing Division receives numerous calls and questions about high summer water bills. We have provided extensive information on summer water use here.