Lawn Problems

white_patchTF2_ltc

White Patch disease

Happy Summer!  Now that the rains have slightly slowed down, and the sun is out (and the wonderful humidity is here), I’ve been seeing more people watering their yards and also hearing questions like “why is my grass brown?

Before we dive into that, I want to fully acknowledge that I’m not a plant disease expert and I can’t diagnose many problems…but I can pick out a few!  So, I wanted to point you to some good resources that may help you determine what type of lawn problem you’re having and offer solutions on how to fix it.

I also want to point out that a lot of plant problems come from having too much water (cough, rain, over irrigating, cough) and look surprisingly similar to problems with not enough water.  Too much water do just as much damage as not enough water (like drowning a plant, keeping the roots too wet, fungal and rotting disease); so the answer isn’t always to throw more water on the yard.  Especially with the continued rains, the soil still isn’t dried out enough to really need additional water yet.

summer-patch-21

Summer Patch disease

The turf and disease experts in the state are undoubtedly the Aggies.  When I last checked, their AggieTurf website was undergoing updates and expected to be up and running by July 2015.  However, the old site is still there and has some great information and some decent pictures of turf disease.  The Texas A&M turf researchers tend to be very analytical and formal with their responses, which makes some of their site not so easy reading.  They are also quick to provide information on which chemicals to use, which I hope are always used as a last resort.

The City ogrow_green_program_banner_9f Austin’s Grow Green program has a much easier to understand format, by using a chart that you basically answer simple questions to find the type of lawn disease you have.  Their worksheet also tells you what is causing the issue and how to solve it, in a more friendly way.  The Grow Green program offers a variety of methods—from organic, to so quite as organic!

Good luck keeping those lawns green!

Watering in the Rain

Lots of rain happening of late, thanks to El Nino! It has delayed any watering in rain resizedoutdoor watering so far this year, which is great. If you happened to turn your irrigation system controller on before the rains came, hopefully you have a rain sensor (a.k.a. rain shut-off device) or other weather system that will prevent your sprinkler system from actually running while it’s raining. You don’t want to water in the rain! Let’s be honest, besides it being a waste of water, it really makes you look silly.

The Water Conservation program has been offering a rebate for rain sensors, freeze sensors, and other weather technology as part of our efficient irrigation rebate program for several years now. If you don’t have a rain sensor on your irrigation system, now’s the time to get one!

Now, a rain sensor like the one pictured, doesn’t predict when it’s going to rain. What it does is sense when rain is actually falling and stop the sprinklers from running if they are currently running, rain shut-offOR prevent them from turning on if they are scheduled to turn on shortly after the rain happens. Once the sensor dries out, it will allow the sprinklers to continue to operate according to its normal schedule.

There are sensors on the market that do predict, using live weather data, if it’s going to rain in our area, and prevent the sprinkler system from turning on. Those are slightly more expensive then the little one pictured above, but may be worth it to you. They use live weather data and your location (usually a zip code, address or GPS coordinates) to see if rain is expected for you and doesn’t allow the system to run if the chance of rain is greater than X percent. That X is usually a number you can adjust — like 30 percent. The irrigation rebate applies to this technology too.

So, install those rain shut-offs and let Mother Nature water the yard for you!

For more on rain sensors, watch my video!

 

Lake Georgetown: Go See!

wildflowers at Lake Georgetown April 2015

wildflowers

The weather has been hit or miss so far this spring for getting a little spring cleaning yard work done, but I’m not going to complain about the wet weekends!!  The wildflowers have been gorgeous (check out my pictures) AND the rain has meant we haven’t had to turn on our sprinklers yet this year, which is great.

Even though we’ve had some pretty consistent rain, the lake levels haven’t come up too much.  Lake Georgetown (Round Rock’s main water source) is holding pretty steady at 64% full.  It’s a little higher than it was last year at this time, but still, not full!  Lake Stillhouse Hollow has come up a little with the recent rain, is at 67% full.

If you haven’t been to Lake Georgetown in a while, I encourage you to go.  It’s not too far, I drove over to take these pictures for this article. (What can I say, it was a nice day and I needed a current picture!)  Simply take IH-35 north tLake Georgetown flower pico the HWY 29 exit in Georgetown, head west (turn left at light).  Turn Right onto DB Woods road and follow the signs to the scenic overlook or one of the many parks in the area.  It’s great to actually see your drinking water source in person AND the area has a lot to offer recreation-wise!

On the picture that actually shows the lake, the portion I’ve circled is a screen on an intake pipe.  This is basically like the City’s straws that are in the lake, sucking the water up and transporting it to our water treatment plant.  The screen is what keeps out fish, trash, and other large debris from entering into the treatment plant.  This is supposed to be underwater!  That gives you an idea how low it is.

Lake Georgetown edited April 2015

City water intakes at Lake Georgetown

Because of the continuing low lakes levels, the Brazos River Authority has asked that all users of these lakes reduce their water use, so that’s why Round Rock and Georgetown have enacted their Drought Contingency Plans for the last year and a half.  We are still under Stage 1 watering restrictions.  This means if and when you water your yard, it can only happen on your assigned water days:

  • For odd addresses, that’s Wednesday and Saturday.
  • For even addresses, that’s Thursday and Sunday.
  • No automatic irrigation is permitted between 10am – 7pm on any day.
  • Watering by hand allowed any day, at any time.
skink at LG

skink

Remember, when setting your sprinkler controller for the spring, it’s best to start low and slow; watering once per week or less is plenty for this time for year.  When it starts to actually get hot, then increase the times.

Need more detailed information about the water restrictions?  Visit the City website: www.roundrocktexas.gov/departments/utilities-and-environmental-services/water/drought-restrictions/

NEW Lawn Aeration Rebate!

All the late winter rains have been great, and I can’t wait to see all of the wildflowers that should soon be blooming! aeration Hopefully, most of the rain did some good on your property, rather than just runoff.  One way to keep water on your lawn and help you have a stronger, healthier yard, is aeration.  I know I’ve spoken about aeration before, but will do it again!  It’s just so good for the soil!

Lawn aeration is a great way to help your lawn stay viable and healthy, it encourages deep root growth of the grass by providing space for the roots to grow, which helps with drought tolerance.  With more space, the water that is applied to the lawn (either rain or sprinklers) will now go down further into the soil, rather than running off.  I highly encourage everyone to have their lawn aerated annually to promote the root growth, help erase some of the compaction issues that some of our lawns face (I know I walk on the same trail in my backyard all the time, which only adds to compaction), and help with some thatch issues.  This all boils down to the fact that you won’t have to water as much, which is a huge benefit too…we ARE still in a drought.

The picture to the right shows the soil cores that are removed from a lawn during the aeration process.

To make getting your lawn aerated a little more lucrative, the Water Conservation Program is introducing a new rebate program for a limited time this spring/summer–a lawn aeration rebate!  The rebate is up to $50 rebated back to you, after you have your lawn aerated.  You can rent a machine and do it yourself (but they are pretty heavy!) or hire someone or a lawn company to do it for you.  Simply fill out the application and submit it along with a copy of the paid invoice for the service.

The rebate is only a pilot, to see how much interest there is in it, so no applications will be accepted after August 30, 2015.

Fix a Leak Week

The week of March 16-20, marks the EPA’s WaterSense program’s Fix a Leak Week to encourage families to check for water leak and drips in their bathrooms, kitchens, and yards–and fix them!

Check out this cute video on how to accomplish this:

 

An easy way to determine if you may have a leak, is to go look at your water water meter and see if the hand on the meter is moving when no water is being used in your house.  You can also look at your water bill usage (look at the gallons, not just the dollars).  If you’re using more than 2,000 gallons per person, per month, in the home, then usage is higher than average and you may want to check for leaks.

Good luck!

Groundwater Awareness Week

Tnatl groundwater awareness week logohis week marks National Groundwater Awareness week, so I wanted to talk about groundwater in general, and some groundwater facts for Round Rock.

Generally speaking:

  1. Groundwater is the water that soaks into the soil from rain or other precipitation and moves downward to fill cracks and other openings in beds of rocks and sand. It is, therefore, a renewable resource, although renewal rates vary greatly according to environmental conditions.
  2. It also is an abundant natural resource.
  3. Of all the freshwater in the world (excluding polar ice caps), 95 percent is groundwater. Surface water (lakes and rivers) only make up three percent of our freshwater.

Round Rock specific:

  • We take groundwater from northern Edwards Aquifer.  This is the same Edwards Aquifer that the City of San Antonio relies on.
  • The City currently has 3 active wells and 3 in reserve;
  • The current water level is 25-ft below the surface, or 175-ft above our pump. Thanks to recent rains, levels have held pretty steady this winter.
  • The City used 688,340,000 gallons of groundwater in 2014 which was 10.69% of the total water produced.
  • On average, we use between 1 and 3 millions gallons per day of groundwater, so a pretty small portion of our daily water use.

You can help recharge the aquifer, by keeping water on your property during rain storms and allowing it to soak into the ground, rather than runoff your property.  This can be accomplished by creating rain gardens, which capture the rain in a low area in your yard and should all soak into the ground within 48-hours.  You can also capture the water in barrels or tanks and then slowly release the water on your yard or landscape a few days after the rain happened.  The whole point is to keep the rain on the yard and not let it run off into the storm sewer.  The rain becomes groundwater, which will penetrate down to the aquifer.

 

It’s Baaack!

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50-gallon Spring Saver

By “It”, I mean another rain barrel sale!  The Cities of Round Rock & Hutto are working together to promote a rain barrel sale!  It’s by preorder, so you place the order for the barrels online, then come pick them up on a specific day.  There is no limit on the quantity of barrels you may order, and sale isn’t limited to Round Rock or Hutto residents.  Anyone can purchase one; however the last day to order is April 24, 2015. 

Three sizes of rain barrels are being offered, as well as a diverter to make it easier to get the water from your gutter downspout into the barrel:

  • 50-gallon Spring Saver, 6 color choices, $64.99
  • 54-gallon Rain Saver, 3 color choices, $84.99
  • Classic 100-gallon, 28 colors, $208.65
  • Water diverter kits for $15.99 or $21
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54-gallon Rain Saver

The Barrel distribution will happen on Saturday, May 2nd at the Dell Diamond.  Once you make your purchase, you’ll be emailed all the relevant pick-up information.

To pre-order and full details:  www.cityrainbarrelprogram.org

A very limited selection of barrels will be available for sale on May 2nd, so plan ahead and purchase yours today to ensure you get the colors you want! 

Why collect rainwater??  I’ve talked about it in previous posts, and condense the “whys” here:

  1. Rainwater is much better for plants than the municipal water supply (it’s generally higher in nitrogen and it’s softer water), which probably is THE main reason people collect it.
    classic rainbarrel_9-9-14

    100-gallon Classic

  2. However, an often overlooked, and just as good reason is for erosion control. You don’t have to actually “use” the water collected, but if you could at least slow it down on your property; that would aid in reducing the amount of erosion your property is subjected to.  You can collect the water and then just release it, slowly, over your yard a few days after the rain event. Then the barrel(s) is empty and ready to collect the next rain event and you don’t have any worries about mosquitos!
  3. It’s free, and
  4. Tax-exempt! The water falling from the sky is free, and the purchase of collection containers has been tax-exempt in Texas since 2001.  To assist you with collecting this precious resource, the City of Round Rock has a rebate for installing water collection tanks or barrels. (This rebate is available for direct City of Round Rock water customers only.)

Bottled vs. Tap

bottled waterSo I just rummaged around my office’s recycle bin to find any type of water bottle for this blog, and surfaced with three different brands of water.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t too surprised, but have to wonder:  Why would my colleagues be drinking bottled water, when Round Rock has excellent tap water?

Probably for the same reason many people do…

  • It’s easy to buy
  • It’s seems cleaner
  • It’s convenient to carry around a closable bottle
  • It’s healthy
  • It doesn’t taste or smell funny
  • … just guessing here, but I’m sure there are more reasons!

I really just want to address one part of this long-time debate between bottled water versus tap water today, and that’s related to the cost of both of these products.   The more I got into this topic, I think this will turn into a multi-part series on the bottle vs. tap debate!

So looking at purely the purchase price, the cost, what are you getting for the $1.09 that you spend to buy the bottled water?  All three of the bottled waters in my recycle bin are 500mL, which is the same as 16.9 fluid ounces, or approximately 13% of one gallon of water…plus a plastic bottle.  That’s a little pricey for 13% of 1-gallon and a plastic bottle.

When the City (or your water provider) delivers water underground through water mains, directly to your house and out all of your faucets, you are paying $2.42 for 1,000 gallons of water!!!!  That’s $0.002 per gallon of clean water delivered to your property, every day.  Cheap!!dollar_sign_water_bottle

Let’s compare this to other things:

  • $2.05 for 1 gallon of gasoline (maybe not for long!)
  • $16.99 for the cheapest ink cartridge for my printer
  • $14.99 for a 12-pack of Shiner, which is about a gallon of beer
  • $62.00 for 1.7 oz of Calvin Klein Eternity perfume, which is way less than a gallon!

So you can see where I’m going here.  Tap water is an immense valve, priced by the thousands of gallons!  We haven’t even talked about the safety of it and the fact that it doesn’t create the solid waste challenge that the bottled drink industry has.

I encourage you to drink tap water, carry your own bottles, mugs, cups, and refill them!  To find out more about the  bottled vs. tap debate, go to drinktap.org, which is an educational website run by the American Water Works Association, the largest nonprofit, scientific and educational association dedicated to managing and treating water, the world’s most important resource.

A 3rd Grader Got It!

So I spent a morning recently helping judge science fair projescience fair for blogcts at Double File Elementary School, which I love to do, and noticed a particularity relevant project.  As an aside, it’s always really interesting to me to see all the different experiments and how many have to do with popcorn, nail polish, or cokes!  (Too many!)  Anyway, one of the 3rd grade experiments was absolutely amazing!  It was titled “Growing Grass in Drought Conditions.”  I read on, my eagerly wanting to see what the conclusion of the experiment was.

What the project determined was that when watered daily for 4-weeks, grass (started from seed), didn’t grow as tall or as well as grass only watered once per week.  The conclusion, verbatim, was “I discovered that the grass watered once per week grew taller than the grass watered daily.  Based on my experiment, the local watering restrictions of once a week are an ideal amount for the growth of the grass.”

While I was very happy and impressed reading that, I wasn’t surprised.  Watering less frequently, IS much, much better for the lawn than watering daily, or every other day, or every 3 days… The soil needs to dry out between watering events, otherwise the amount of oxygen is greatly reduced in the soil, and in fact, the grass (or other plant) can simply be drown!  Most plants die of too much water, rather than not enough.  Also, if grass, or any other landscape material, is watered daily, or even every other day, it becomes highly dependent on that regular watering and doesn’t bother to grow deep or strong roots.  What’s the point, when water is delivered to it on a regular schedule?  The problem with that is, then, when, restrictions are imposed, the grass or plant gets immediately stressed out because it is now NOT getting that daily water, and of course, it looks horrible and probably dies.  It’s needs to go through routine stress to get those roots to grow, in order to have a strong, drought tolerant plant and can easily survive infrequent watering.

So, when you start watering your lawn again in the spring, I encourage you to just water once per week, if that’s even needed, and wait, watch, and see how your yard responds, before just watering it just because it’s your watering day.  A 3rd grader figured out that was enough water, I bet you will too!

New Year’s Water-lution!

It’s that time of year when we make resolutions about how to improve our lives for thLogo-we're for watere upcoming 12 months!  This year, how about a Water-lution?!  Resolve to save water–it may be easier than losing those “last” 5 pounds!  There are easy ways to save, especially when the WaterSense program can help identify appliances that are water efficient and will maintain their water savings over the years.  Sounds good, right?

When purchasing and installing products with the WaterSense label, you know you’ll get the water savings…unlike all that working out and dieting!  Is that 5 pounds ever going to go away?!?

WaterSense labeled products are backed by independent third party certification and meet EPA’s specifications for water efficiency and performance. So, when you use WaterSense labeled products in your home or business, you can be confident you’ll be saving water without sacrifice.

Also, the City’s toilet replacement program only rebates WaterSense labeled toilets.  Another good reason to look for WaterSense.

By clicking on the We’re for Water logo, you can take a pledge to save water and there’s great tips to get you saving.  It’s easy!  And there’s a money-back guarantee!  Just kidding…this is a free pledge.  (Though you could save money by fixing leaks.)

Happy New Year!