By Ali Sahabi of Optimum Group, LLC
President, Building Industry Association (BIA) Baldy View Chapter
This spring, Californians breathed easier after 2017’s spring rains replenished reservoirs and snowpacks and brought some long-needed relief to a thirsty state. However, with summer upon us, it helps to remember that drought cycles such as the one we just experienced are a regular condition of living in Southern California and conserving our most precious resource – water – requires constant vigilance.
The good news is: because landscaping is generally the biggest consumer of water in Southern California, there are a lot of tried-and-true and innovative new ways for homeowners to conserve water and save money at the same time. So here are some ways to help maintain your home’s landscaping while saving on your water bills.
First of all, consider Xeriscaping – also known as ‘desertscaping’ - which is landscaping and gardening that reduces or eliminates the need for supplemental water from irrigation. Check your local water district’s website for recommendations on both xeriscaping and drought-resistant ground cover.
The next step in ensuring that your lawn is getting just the right amount of water is by visiting www.bewaterwise.com, an information site of the Metropolitan Water District and the Family of Southern California Water Agencies to consult their Watering Index and Calculator posted on the site. Then, visit www.saveourwater.com for information on how to adjust your sprinklers to avoid overwatering
To determine if your lawn is getting too much water, check your soil moisture. An easy way to do this is to just insert a screwdriver into the soil. If it penetrates the soil easily, it is moist. If not, the lawn is getting dry. Save your watering for the hours when the sun is not full strength, such as in the early morning or at dusk. Irrigating during the day wastes water, because much of the water evaporates in the heat. Remember, watering on alternate days can save 40 percent to 50 percent of the water you use.
Once you’ve done that, check the soil moisture regularly. You can then adjust your schedule to better meet your lawn’s needs. During the summer, consider watering half as much as usual. Lawns will stay mainly green if they receive one half to three quarters of an inch of water per week. Watering once or twice a week to apply this amount of water should be sufficient.
Take the time to aerate your lawn. Aeration creates small holes in the ground that allow water to soak deeper into the ground and promotes root growth.
Maintain your lawn care equipment. Sharpen mower blades because dull blades tear grass, forcing grass to use 40 percent to 60 percent more water while it struggles to recover from stress. Then, make sure you are mowing your lawn properly. A good rule of thumb for each mowing is to never remove more than one-third of the height of the grass. Mowing higher forces grass to develop deeper roots. After mowing, mulch your lawn by letting the clippings remain on the grass. Lawns tend to lose more water and nutrients through evaporation when you remove clippings.
Put off fertilizing until autumn: Over-fertilized and over-watered lawns don’t thrive under stress. This spells trouble during a drought because the lawn hasn’t developed a deep root system. Heavily fertilized lawns also require more water, so homeowners may want to wait until cooler weather to fertilize.
One of the best parts of homeownership is the ability to use landscaping to create an outdoor environment that enhances both your comfort and the value of home. And here in Southern California, water conservation is one of the most important aspects of creating and maintaining landscaping that enhances your home’s “curb appeal” and comfort while protecting our most precious resource.
Making water conservation a top priority means you can have the best possible landscape while saving money and our state’s most precious resource. For more information on landscaping and conserving water, visit our www.biabuild.com website.
And have a great Fourth of July.