outdoor watering

It’s Smart Irrigation Month!

It’s that time of year again! Smart irrigation month promotes the social, economic, and environmental benefits of efficient irrigation technologies, products and services in landscape, turf, and agricultural irrigation. We are trying to get the word out to everyone this month to participate and do their part and conserve water this summer! Participating in Smart Irrigation Month will help you reduce your water bill, which everyone loves! Not only does participating reduce your bill, and it also helps conserve the most important natural resource- water!

As Texans, we take water conservation seriously. We experience drought quite often during the summer months. As you can see on the Texas drought map, Williamson County is already facing abnormally dry conditions. As temperatures rise and rainfall ceases to exist, July is typically the month that water consumption skyrockets due to irrigation. This is the time to make some smart changes to your irrigation practices if you haven’t already. Click on the picture for more drought info.

The smartest thing you can do to save water is to follow the tips on the smart irrigation page and schedule a FREE irrigation evaluation with us! Only direct water customers contact Jessica Woods via email or at 512-671-2872

If you are a direct Round Rock water customer, the Water Conservation staff can create an efficient watering schedule that is tailored to your unique landscape and environmental factors.

We take many factors that often go unnoticed into consideration when creating a great schedule for you. We determine how much time a certain zone needs to run according to plant material and shade. We determine how many start times you need according to the slope or soil in your landscape. We also determine how many times a week you should irrigate based many of these factors combined. We will also calculate the amount of water (in gallons) used in your current watering schedule. There might be a chance that we find something wrong with your system, like broken sprinkler heads or incorrect nozzles for a particular area, so we can recommend what to do in those situations. Many issues can go unnoticed for a long time since most irrigation schedules run in the middle of the night when everyone is asleep.              

 Please note staff will not make repairs

You can also participate in smart irrigation month by visiting us on each Wednesday for the next month to learn smart ways to help save water this summer—and year-round. We will have awesome free items that help you save water outdoors and indoors! (Staff will be practicing social distancing and wearing masks to be safe and help stop the spread of Covid-19)

Visit with us at the following locations:

  • Prete Plaza, Wednesday, July 8thfrom 2-4pm
  • Meadow Lake Park, Wednesday, July 15thfrom 9-11am
  • Chandler Creek Park, Wednesday, July 22ndfrom 9-11am

Remember, you do not have to have an irrigation system to participate in smart irrigation month! This includes people who water their lawns by hand or use garden hose sprinklers. There are always ways to reduce water!

Don’t forget to visit irrigation.org/swat for more tips!

Please read the blog post from last year’s Smart Irrigation Month! This blog goes in depth on ways to irrigate smart. It has great information about sunlight, sprinkler head type, and plant type.

Smart Irrigation Month Outreach booth

Summer is here! And July is designated as Smart Irrigation Month, since it’s one of the highest water using months of the year. 

City of Round Rock Water Conservation and Stormwater staff want to help you keep water use (and your bills) low this summer.  Come out and visit with us on June 24th and July 1st to learn smart ways to help save water this summer—and year-round.

We will:

  • Provide lawn watering recommendations;
  • Schedule free irrigation evaluations (if qualified);
  • Give out tools to help find and fix leaks at your house, such as toilet leak tablets, plumbers tape, and faucet aerators;
  • Have examples of smart irrigation technologies;
  • Answer your water use questions;
  • And more!

 

Freeman Park on Wednesday, June 24th from 9 – 11am

Round Rock West Park on Wednesday, July 1st from 9 – 11am

Spring Clean Your Yard

We already know that springtime or really, the end of winter, is a great time to clean out landscaping beds and cut away dead branches and plants to prep for the new spring growth.  In addition to cleaning gutters and planting beds, checking out your irrigation system is another great maintenance tip to get the yard ready for spring.

To get started, follow these simple steps:

  • Inspect Irrigation
    1. Check your system for clogged, broken, missing, or sprinkler heads that have been covered over by grass.  Better yet, go with a pro—find a TCEQ licensed irrigation professional to do the work for you.
    2. If water is pooling in your landscape or you have large soggy areas, you could have a leak in your system.  A leak as small as the tip of a ballpoint pen (1/32 of an inch) can waste about 6,300 gallons of water per month.
    3. Are you watering the driveway, house, or sidewalk instead of your yard? Redirect sprinklers to apply water only to the landscape.
    4. If there are areas with no landscaping, but ARE getting irrigated, consider capping those heads to save the water.  There’s no point in watering what doesn’t need the water (i.e. narrow side yards, around trash cans and air conditioner units, dirt).
  • Watch Your Water
    1. Check water pressure. Low or high pressure can seriously affect sprinkler performance; choose sprinklers based on the water pressure on your site.  High water pressure looks like mist, or fogging, coming out of the sprinkler heads.  This can be reduced with pressure reducing heads, nozzles, or valves.
    2. View your water use online on the City customer portal, www.RRTXwater.com  Here you can see daily and hourly water use and can monitor your use for unexpected spikes and usage.

 

  • Select Smart
    1. An improperly scheduled irrigation controller can waste a lot of water and money. Update your system’s schedule with the seasons; when you do turn the system on (it’s still too early!), don’t water more than once per week.
    2. Replace the battery in your controller (common with Hunter and Rainbird brand controllers). The 9-volt battery will help save the program in the event of an extended power outage.
    3. If you select a WaterSense labeled controller to take the guesswork out of scheduling. The city provides a rebate on them too. 
    4. Other “smart” controls that can help adjust watering based on real, “live” conditions are soil moisture meters, rain and freeze sensors, weather stations, and water flow meters.

 

  • Mulch is Magic
    1. Mulch prevents weed growth, retains water, and insulates the soil and plant during cooler months, which all means less irrigation is needed.
    2. Use mulch wherever possible around trees, in shrub beds, even potted plants, mulching to a depth of 3-6″. However, you do not want to mulch to be mounded next to the trunk of the plant, often called “volcano mulching.”  It should be more saucer shaped so water will not run off or away from the plant.  A flat mat of mulch allows the water to sink in.
    3. Since mulch breaks down, it should be applied annually. The City of Round Rock provides free mulch to our water customers as our Brush Recycling Center.

Taking a little time now could help prevent unexpected yard problems as the year progresses. Learn more about maintaining a water-smart yard by visiting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s WaterSense website at www.epa.gov/watersense/outdoors.  Happy Spring!

2020 Water Conservation New Year’s Resolution

A new year means new opportunities to change the way we live and to make a better version of ourselves. Every year, everyone comes up with a new list of resolutions. Whether its to go to the gym or save more money, we all want goals that will have a positive impact on our lives. This year, we should all make our New Year’s Resolution list an environmentally sustainable one! This should not be difficult or expensive. In fact, some of these tips will help you save money and make your life a little easier!

Be conscious

Find the Value in Water

Every time you turn on the faucet, think about where that water comes from. Do you know where it comes from? How does it get to your home? Try learning a little more about the city’s municipal water processes. Think about how many activities you use water for in one day, maybe even make a list. Try to find the value in water by picturing your morning routines and day to day activities without water. The first step in saving more water is to investigate your household water usage. It’s helpful to see which activities use the most water. One excellent way to see how much water your household uses, is to sign in to RRTXWATER.com

Here are some simple tips to help you get started with your water conservation journey.

The best way to achieve a new goal is to start small and at home.

Kitchen

  1. Rinse fruits and veggies in a container filled with water instead of running them under the tap. Use the collected water to water house plants.
  2. Don’t use water for defrosting. Instead, leave frozen foods in the fridge to defrost.
  3. Collect the running water while waiting for the temperature to change. Use this water to drink or cook.
  4. When washing dishes by hand, don’t let the water run the whole time. Be mindful of when you need to use water. The dishwasher uses less water than washing dishes by hand! Wash dishes in the dishwasher if there are a lot. Just scrape off food into the trash bin, no need to prewash them. ALSO, when in the market for a new washer, be sure to look for an Energy Star model to reduce energy costs.

Bathroom

  1. Be a leak detective. Check all shower heads, toilets, and sinks in every bathroom for leaks. Lean how to check for leaks here: Find Leaks (of course, this isn’t only for bathrooms)
  2. Collect running water in a bucket while waiting for temperature to change before showering. Use this water to wash dishes or water plants.
  3. Use water saving shower heads, toilets, and faucet aerators. These products should have a Water Sense Label
  4. Use body and shampoo soap bars instead of shower gels. Gels need more water to rise out.
  5. Avoid using the toilet as a waste basket! Do not throw tissues, paper towels, or wipes into the toilet.

Laundry Room

  1. Only fill up water to cover clothing. Match the water level to the size of the load!
  2. Use washer for full loads only or change load setting if possible.
  3. Try re-using towels and clothes more than once.
  4. Skip the extra rinse cycle.
  5. When in the market for a new washer, there is a rebate for the purchase of high efficiency clothes washers. By replacing older washers with new, efficient models, water use can be reduced up to 40%! Clothes Washer Rebate

Outside

  1. Collect rainwater. Use rainwater to water plants, wash cars, and clean! Rainwater Collection Rebate
  2. Do not water more than twice per week. This is crucial to keep your lawn and landscape drought tolerant.
  3. Plant native shrubs, flowers, and trees. Native plants are well adapted to the climate here in central Texas, they need less water. Aggie Horticulture provides a host of expertise on landscape plants, ornamentals, turf-grass, and gardens.
  4. Spruce up your irrigation system. System maintenance can help save you a lot of money and water! Cracks in pipes can lead to costly leaks, and broken sprinkler heads can waste water and money.
  5. Be aware of the weather! Don’t water plants or grass if weather forecasts predict rain. Change your irrigation system settings to match the seasons weather.

These easy steps to conserving water is an excellent way to start your environmentally friendly goals! If you just start implementing one tip from this list a day, you will help conserve water and you will start to save money as well! The easiest step to starting a new goal is to just be mindful about how much water you and your family use. Learn about the importance of water this year and you will learn more about your habits. Inform family and friends about your new goals and try to get them on board!

Happy New Year!

Decem-Burr!

Winter is on its way in Central Texas, and that means it’s time to prepare and protect your plants and pipes!

Some might think, “well if it doesn’t rain, it won’t freeze.” Frost develops on clear nights, and the rule of thumb is anytime temperatures are expected to be 32 degrees or below, you should prepare for a freeze.

So, what should you do?

  1. Turn off your sprinklers

In our region, the most valuable adjustment you can make is to reduce the watering schedule or simply turn off the irrigation controller during the winter months.  Because the temperatures are cooler, less water is lost to evaporation and transpiration and plants simply do not need as much to replenish what is lost. In addition to cooler temperatures, winter is typically our rainy season too, so it’s best to take advantage of the free, nitrogen-rich rainfall. During normal winter conditions, the irrigation doesn’t need to be turned on more than once per month, if at all.

  1. Protect your outdoor plants

If weather is expected to hit 32 degrees or lower, protect your plants! Our first freeze occurred the morning after Halloween 2019, and for some people, it came as a surprise when they walked outside to see ice frost everywhere. Some people, like myself, were saddened to see that some plants have died due to the freezing temperatures.

  • Bring potted plants inside but be careful not to leave these plants too close to a heater vent because they can dry out.
  • The best way to protect outdoor plants from freezing is to cover them with a material that acts as an insulation and allows moisture to escape. There are different plant protecting products on the market, but the easiest and cheapest thing to use is a bed sheet. The best time to cover plants is before it gets dark so that the stored heat doesn’t escape. Make sure that the entire plant is covered, and the cover reaches the soil.
  • Compost and mulch outdoor plants thoroughly.  These two layers will help insulate the plant’s root zones while supplying the plant with needed nutrients.  Two inches of mulch is ideal, and remember, not too close to the trunk of trees or shrubs.  Mulch should be about two finger widths away from the truck.
  • Water, but avoid moisture on the plant leaves and stems–this means hand-water. When freezing temperatures are expected, watering can benefit plants. Water acts as an insulator, and water also helps retain heat so moist soil will stay warmer than dry soil.

Some people, including myself ask if Texas really needs to worry about pipes freezing. Well it doesn’t freeze that often in Central Texas, but there are still chances for pipes to freeze.

Pipe Protection

Some apartment complexes and neighborhoods will post signs along roads warning resident to drip their faucets for the freezing weather to come. If your area does not post warnings, you should always check the weather and news for freeze warnings.

What should you do to protect your pipes?

Insulate and Drip!

  1. Drip outside faucets 

When water freezes, it expands and can put pressure on any pipe material. Freezing temperatures even in Texas can cause pipes to break. The places where pipes are at risk of freezing are exposed and outdoors, unheated areas, and pipes that run against exterior walls that have no insulation.

Water is much more likely to freeze when stationary, so it’s good to let water moving through your pipes.

  • Drip outside faucets 24 hours a day to help prevent your pipes from freezing. This is not necessary unless temperatures are expected to be 28 degrees or below for at least 4 hours. (Be sure to turn off the faucets after the threat of freezing weather.)
  • To save water, use a bucket to catch the water dripping and use it to brush your teeth, cook, or water plants.
  • Open the kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. Be sure to move any harmful cleaners and household chemicals out of the reach of children. Keep the garage doors closed if there are water lines in the garage.

   2.Insulate

  • Wrap all exposed pipes located outside or in unheated areas of the home.
  • Remove garden hoses from outside faucets. Insulate outside faucets with Styrofoam cover, rags or paper.

Like I said before, the threat of pipes freezing where we live is not common, but when winter weather comes, you don’t want to be caught by surprise with broken pipes. On the other hand, plants freezing is more common. So be prepared to protect your plants and pipes this winter. Make sure you take precautions and check weather daily in the winter.

Stay Warm

Happy Winter!

Time for a Sprinkler Spruce Up

Spring is arriving here in Central Texas, the flowers are blooming!  The onset of warmer weather can get you itching to turn the water on outdoors. 

Before you ramp up your watering, be sure to spruce up your irrigation system. System maintenance can help save you a lot of money and water! Cracks in pipes can lead to costly leaks, and broken sprinkler heads can waste water and money. You could be losing up to 25,000 gallons of water and more than $90 over a six-month irrigation season!

Now is the perfect time to spruce up your irrigation system. To get started, follow these four simple steps—inspect, connect, direct, and select:

Inspect. Check your system for clogged, broken, or missing sprinkler heads. Better yet, find an irrigation professional licensed by the Texas Commission on Environmental Qualify (TCEQ) to do the work for you. You can apply for a rebate from the City by having your system checked by a licensed irrigator.

Connect. Examine points where the sprinkler heads connect to pipes/hoses. If water is pooling in your landscape or you have large soggy areas, you could have a leak in your system. A leak as small as the tip of a ballpoint pen (1/32 of an inch) can waste about 6,300 gallons of water per month.  You can also sign up on the City’s water portal to receive leak alerts and to view your monthly, weekly, and daily water use at www.RRTXwater.com .

Direct. Are you watering the driveway, house, or sidewalk instead of your yard? Redirect sprinklers to apply water only to the landscape.

Select. An improperly scheduled irrigation controller can waste a lot of water and money. Update your system’s schedule with the seasons, or select a WaterSense labeled controller to take the guesswork out of scheduling. WaterSense labeled controllers also qualify for the City’s Efficient Irrigation Upgrade Rebate.

Don’t forget to add “sprinkler spruce-up” to your spring cleaning list this year. Learn more about maintaining a water-smart yard by visiting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s WaterSense website at www.epa.gov/watersense/outdoor.

Find the City’s water conservation rebate details and application at www.roundrocktexas.gov/conservation.

Spruce Up Your Sprinkler System and Save

Spring has arrived! The onset of warmer weather can lead to an increase in landscape irrigation. Before you ramp up your watering, be sure to spruce up your irrigation system. System maintenance can help save you a lot of money and water! Cracks in pipes can lead to costly leaks, and broken sprinkler heads can waste water and money. You could be losing up to 25,000 gallons of water and more than $90 over a six-month irrigation season!

Now is the perfect time to spruce up your irrigation system. To get started, follow these four simple steps—inspect, connect, direct, and select:

Inspect. Check your system for clogged, broken, or missing sprinkler heads. Better yet, find an irrigation professional licensed by the Texas Commission on Environmental Qualify (TCEQ) to do the work for you. You can apply for a rebate from the City by having your system checked by a licensed irrigator.

Connect. Examine points where the sprinkler heads connect to pipes/hoses. If water is pooling in your landscape or you have large soggy areas, you could have a leak in your system. A leak as small as the tip of a ballpoint pen (1/32 of an inch) can waste about 6,300 gallons of water per month.

Direct. Are you watering the driveway, house, or sidewalk instead of your yard? Redirect sprinklers to apply water only to the landscape.

Select. An improperly scheduled irrigation controller can waste a lot of water and money. Update your system’s schedule with the seasons, or select a WaterSense labeled controller to take the guesswork out of scheduling. WaterSense labeled controllers also qualify for the City’s Efficient Irrigation Upgrade Rebate.

Don’t forget to add “sprinkler spruce-up” to your spring cleaning list this year. Learn more about maintaining a water-smart yard by visiting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s WaterSense website at www.epa.gov/watersense/outdoor.

Find the City’s water conservation rebate details and application at www.roundrocktexas.gov/conservation.

5 Signs You’re Watering Too Much

A high water bill may be your first clue that something is terribly amiss. But there are a few other signs that signal you may be overwatering your landscape.

 

Sometimes the biggest water waste happens in perfectly manicured lawns, watering on the correct time and day, with no signs of broken sprinklers or anything wrong.  In such a case, a high water bill may be the customer’s first clue that something’s terrible amiss in the water department. But here are a few signs to watch for — usually in summer, but any time of year if you’re overwatering:

  1.  Cockroaches:If you see cockroaches wandering around shrubs, pots, grasses and the yard in general, you’ve got a perfect habitat for cockroaches — and that means your yard is as wet as the inside of a sewer pipe. Sound gross?

Cockroaches thrive on decomposing plant material. So remember, all that extra water is probably building up as thatch and rotting your grass from below. Other insects that benefit from too much water: pillbugs, millipedes and especially fire ants.

2. Dollarweed:  Dollarweed is one of those plants so tenacious it’s created an industry of big-box weed killers for homeowners trying to get rid of it. Hint: dollarweed requires even more water to look good than grass — so if your grass is drowning in dollarweed, put down the weedkiller and pick up the sprinkler instruction.

3.  Fungus:

Has it been raining? Then look for mushrooms. But if there are still mushrooms in dry, warm winter weather, your lawn is probably staying wet and poorly drained; not a good idea, since in addition to mushrooms, some of the most common fungal turf diseases include take-all patch and brown patch.

4.  Wet walls, fences, and cans:  It’s not just the amount of water you use, it’s where you put it. By some estimates, about one-fifth of summer irrigation water is spent watering side yards, AC condensers, toolsheds and garbage cans — and that’s way too much.  Heads in the side yard can be capped or turned off to reduce watering items that do not need the extra water.

5.  Runoff:  Pools of water are a sure sign the run times are too long on your sprinkler system. If the yard is too steep to hold much water, cycle and soak (watering shorter length of time, but multiple times in a row) may be a better method. Remember, your bedding plants typically need less water than grass.

So remember, use common sense when it comes to your outdoor use.  If things feel or look too wet, reduce the time by 2 minutes to see how it helps the problems.  Wait at least a week before making more changes.

Irrigation Rebates can Help you Reduce this Summer

Can you believe it’s July already?  July marks Smart Irrigation Month, and as I have in years past, I’m going to focus on providing you some tips to reduce your water use, or at least help you not waste water this July.  And, ideally, we’ll get some rain, which will help in reducing water use too!!

July is generally one of the hottest months of the year, which means, it’s one of the highest water use months of the year, which is why the Irrigation Association has designated this month as Smart Irrigation Month.

I’m going to focus on the two rebate programs that the City’s Water Conservation Program is offering for those of you with automatic irrigation (sprinkler) systems that are also direct water customers of the City.  You can take advantage of both to help you get that sprinkler system into top notch working order this year!

The first is a brand-new pilot program (being offered until September or until funds run out) for having your system checked out by a licensed irrigation company or irrigator.  This is essentially a “Spring Tune-Up” for your system (yes, even though it’s summer!).  If you hire a licensed company to come do a complete check up of the system and fix anything that needs to be fixed–broken heads, heads pointed the wrong way or are clogged, check the controller settings and whatever else is needed to get the system in tip-top shape, then you would be eligible for the rebate.  You can find the application and details for the Irrigation Check-Up program on the conservation rebate page.

Licensed companies can be found on the TCEQ’s website at this link.  You can also just check that the company has an LI number on their business card or website, or advertisement.  That LI stands for licensed irrigator, which by state law, a person must be to work on an irrigation system.

The second rebate program is the Irrigation Upgrade Rebate.  This rebate has been offered for several years now, but has undergone some recent changes to take advantage of newer technologies.  This program features rebates for the following type of changes, or upgrades, to your system:

  • reducing the water pressure on a system with high pressure by either installing a main pressure reducing valve (prv), or adjusting pressure at the zone valves, or replacing heads or nozzles with pressure reducing technology;
  • installing new technology in the form of weather sensors, such as rain, freeze, or soil moisture sensors;

    multi-stream nozzle

  • installing a new controller that is a WaterSense labeled controller (many new weather-based controllers qualify for this).  Look for the WaterSense label when purchasing at a store or online;
  • converting areas from traditional spray irrigation to drip irrigation;
  • capping off or permanently disabling a zone or zones;
  • converting traditional spray heads to more efficient multi-stream nozzles, or pressure reducing heads or nozzles; and
  • installing check valves on the lowest heads of your system that always look like they are leaking after the system turns off.  This is actually very normal and not a leak, it’s the low head drainage where the “extra” water in the pipe drains out after the system has turned off.  It can be prevented with sprinkler heads that have built-in check valves or installing a check valve in the existing head.

Of course, see the applications for complete details.  Neither of the programs are for the installation of a new system, only for the improvement of existing systems.  You can find those applications here or at www.roundrocktexas.gov/conservation under the rebate section.

Happy July and keep those landscapes water smart!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Light, Type of Heads, and Beds, Oh My!

Today’s blog talks about what is the most important aspects of irrigation, but probably the most overlooked. SmartIrrMonth I’m referring to efficient scheduling of the irrigation system, based on the amount of sunlight in your yard, the sprinkler head type, and to a lesser degree, the plant types in your yard.

These three items require some consideration when entering in how many minutes you are setting each station for—there’s no point in having specialized heads, a shady yard, and native plants if everything is going to run for 20 minutes no matter what it is.  Unfortunately, I see that happen a lot.  Then folks wonder why areas are brown or plants are dying.  (There’s also the consideration of soil type and soil depth; we’re not going to get into that here, but it certainly does play a huge role in irrigation amounts.)

grass st augustine

shade means less water needed

Amount of Light

It may seem obvious, but I’m going to come out and say it anyway—shady areas require less water than sunny areas.  If you have good tree coverage and areas of the yard receive less than 6 hours of direct sunlight daily, that’s considered a shady yard.  The narrow, sides of our houses qualify for this designation.  Full sun areas need more water, usually; this is dependent on what the plant type is here.   So, when entering time into your controller, you know that the times should be higher for the sunny spots and lower for the shady ones.

Head Type

As I’ve talked about in an earlier blog, there are two main sprinkler head typesrotor and spray.  There is also drip irrigation, which technically has no head at all!  Rotor heads, if you remember, rotate, so they are not watering the same area the entire time they are running, therefore, they need to run for a longer period of time than spray heads.  The minimum I typically recommend running them for is 15 minutes, and that’s in a shady area.  Usually between 25-35 minutes is a good time for sunnier areas with turfgrass.

Since spray heads are stationary, they pop-up and stay watering the same spot the entire time, they can run for a shorter amount of time than rotors.  I usually recommend between 6 -15 minutes for those stations, depending on the plant material and amount of sunlight, with the 15 minutes being for areas in full sun and turfgrass.

Drip irrigation is different.  Drip typically emits water very slowly, very minimally, so it oftentimes needs to run for longer periods—30 minutes at minimum or much longer in many cases.  I caution you to know how many gallons per minute your drip is using before you just set it for an hour.  I’ve seen drip that was using 20 gallons per minute, which is just as much as “traditional” spray zones!  Unfortunately it caused very high water usage at the property before it was discovered.

3110 Carnousty St6

rocks and native plants mean less water

Plant Material

Landscape material is the last component of the irrigation scheduling trifecta.  Landscape could include turfgrass, trees, shrubs, groundcovers, perennials, flower beds, annuals, natural areas (like tree motts), bare ground, rocks, and I’m sure many other things.  It may be obvious as well, but it does need to be said—areas with no vegetation really don’t need to be watered.  The bare ground will just be muddy.  Same goes for rocky paths, they don’t grow.  Mulched areas don’t grow.  Driveways, sidewalks, patios, and decks don’t grow.  Pools don’t need to be filled by the sprinklers (I’ve seen plenty of sprinkler heads spraying directly into pools!).  Trees have usually been growing there longer than you’ve lived there, so they typically don’t need the extra water.

Native plants, established shrubs, or other established perennials do not, I repeat, do not need the same amount of water as the grass.  That’s why you’ve planted them—they are native!  They are made for our climate and weather conditions.  They will survive without being irrigated twice per week.  I can’t count how many times I see native plants being watered more than the grass.  It’s counter intuitive to the reason for using natives.  So, turn those stations off completely and just water when they look completely stressed out.  (I’ll get down from my soapbox now.)

IMG_1106

natural areas don’t need extra water

I like to recommend that people put the stations that are shrubs or plants on a different program than the grass stations and set them to water once every other week (if needed; if there’s been no rain).  If you want to keep the shrub stations on the same program as the rest of the yard, reduce the time on those stations.  I recommended between 6-8 minutes regardless of if it’s sun or shade.  They really just don’t need it.  Many natives do best in dry, hot conditions and die with too wet soil.

Turfgrass is a little tricky too.  A lot of Bermuda grass gets planted here, yet is watered just as much as any other grass (namely, St Augustine).  What I said about native plants is true about Bermuda too, you’re growing it because it’s drought tolerant: it doesn’t need to be watered as much.  Bermuda grass that’s overwatered tends to get a lot of weeds growing in it.  If you have Bermuda, I recommend cutting back the watering time to once per week.  Let it perform.  Yes, Bermuda goes dormant in times of drought, but it’s not dead.  It will green up when it rains or receives irrigation.  It looks better with rainwater though.  Also, Bermuda is not going to survive in shady areas, it will thin out and eventually die.  It requires full sun to really thrive.

St Augustine grass has such a bad reputation as a water hog, but I don’t buy into it.  It’s not setting the controller, the yard owners are!  St Augustine does great in areas with partial sun or partial shade.  I’ve seen it look really good in full sun too, with less water than you may think.  It will also thin out in full shade areas, but does better than most grasses.  Ideally, St Augustine should be kept at 3-4” tall when it’s being cut to keep the soil from drying out.  I water my St Augustine yard with rotor heads for 20 minutes and it’s looking great.

You may have picked up that there’s no exact time that works for every station or even every yard!  Irrigation systems unfortunately aren’t just a turn it on and forget it device.  It will take a little tweaking to determine how many minutes the yard will perform well on, and it may need to be changed every year as the trees grow and give out more shade.

I have some specific recommendations on runtimes; you can access it here.  It’s a good place to start, when setting your controller runtimes, then make changes from there if areas may need more or less water.

Let’s keep using our water smartly!