With growing demands for water and drought conditions in parts of the country, many are looking for ways to reduce their water usage. Experts say there are several simple actions homeowners can take in the yard that can immediately save both water and money. You no longer need to choose between replacing your lawn and saving water.
“We often see sprinklers watering sidewalks and driveways, running during the rain, or sending water down the drain from leaky heads,” said Josh Friell, Ph. D, senior agronomist of The Toro Company’s Center for Advanced Turf Technology. “The good news is there are simple, cost-effective actions homeowners can take that can save up to 30% in outdoor water usage alone.”
Toro Recommends These 7 Lawn-Care Watering Tips:
1. Check your sprinkler operating system
Most timed sprinklers water in the early morning, without homeowner attention. At the beginning of the season, run each zone briefly during daylight hours to see how the system is operating. Look for broken lines or damaged sprinkler heads. Don’t forget to inspect spray patterns to ensure water isn’t being wasted.
2. Water in the early morning
Experts suggest watering deeply and infrequently. Doing so helps wet the entire root zone and encourages deeper root growth and makes turfgrass better able to tolerate mild to moderate drought. It is best to water in the early morning around 4 to 5 a.m. This gives the lawn time to absorb the moisture and prevents evaporation due to daytime heat.
3. Confirm how much you should water your grass
During summer months, your grass should receive between 1 to 1 ½ inches of water each week, including the natural precipitation it receives. Water requirements vary by turf variety, local weather conditions, and site conditions such as shade. Your local university extension office can be a good source of information to assist in understanding local conditions. The total water applied can be determined by placing a rain gauge or empty tuna cans around your yard prior to an irrigation cycle.
4. Prevent over-watering with a wireless soil moisture sensor
Another water-saving option is to install a wireless soil moisture sensor, like the Toro Precision Soil Sensor, which fits almost any controller and installs in minutes. This helps eliminate guesswork by continuously monitoring soil moisture levels to prevent the system from over watering.
5. Limit lawn water intake
Friell says a general rule to keep in mind is that turf-grass does better managed on the dry side rather than wet. When soil is constantly wet, the grass roots are deprived of oxygen and may become more susceptible to disease so you’ll want to limit water intake.
6. Avoid lawn mowing during heat and drought
Lawns under such stress from heat and drought are limited in their ability to recover from mowing and can be damaged even more. Instead, mow the grass after a rainfall or after an irrigation day. Finally, maintaining higher mowing heights will help turf tolerate the heat and drought of summer. Doing so also requires less frequent mowing, which means more time to enjoy your lawn!
7. Check for water rebates in your city
Many cities and water agencies across the U.S. offer water conservation and rebate programs to homeowners to encourage adoption of more efficient irrigation solutions.
WAYS TO SAVE WATER IN THE SUMMER HEAT WAVE
Throughout much of the country, the end of summer typically triggers the biggest heat wave of the year. At the height of a heat wave, everything can be impacted in some way − the air we breathe, the plants we grow, and the grass we walk on. Even our moods are affected. And, everywhere you turn, you’re told to mind your water usage. This only makes the extreme heat even harder to deal with.
Fortunately, there are several easy ways to save water in the summer heat without sacrificing your sanity. Water experts are correct when they advise you to practice common sense water usage by:
Turning Off Faucets
When brushing your teeth, for instance. This change in behavior can have a significant impact on the amount of water you use.
This is doble in a variety of ways. Water from children’s swimming pools, pet drinking water, and even cooled-down cooking water can water grass and plants. Repurposing water is one of the most frequently recommended ways to save water! This is especially true as more people look to adopt sustainable practices and conserve on the resources they use.
Use Leftover Ice
Instead of disposing of ice down the drain from your cooler or finished drink, use it to quench the thirst of your favorite plant – indoors or out.
Smarten Your Swamp Cooler
If your home or business uses an evaporative cooler, consider retrofitting or switching to a re-circulating system. Doing so can help you save on both water and electricity!
Water During Off-Peak Hours
Program your sprinklers to run before sunrise or after sunset. In fact, this has become a mandate in many cities throughout the western part of the U.S. Even if your city does not impose restrictions on when to water, it is a good practice for saving water as it helps prevent the evaporation of moisture due to the sun. In addition to these smart watering practices, consider the following Toro products to help you keep a summer-smart watering schedule:
Toro® landscape drip irrigation products deliver water directly to the roots, which is exactly where it counts. These drip systems range from simple hose-end systems for pots and flower boxes to sophisticated systems for your entire landscape or garden — including sub-surface drip irrigation for your turf grass. In fact, there are drip products designed specifically for every part of your yard, so you can save water even in a heat wave. Whether you need to water for 10 minutes, 2 hours or any length of time in between, you can program your landscape drip to operate for the time frame you choose. This is one of the best ways to save water in the summer.
Precision™ Series Spray Nozzles
Toro’s Precision™ Series Spray Nozzles feature proprietary H20 Chip Technology for ultimate efficiency. Designed to distribute a precipitation rate of one inch per hour, these nozzles help you manage water usage precisely and eliminate water-wasting runoff. Available in a wide variety of arcs and radii, making them ideal for small to medium lawns, they use up to 35% less water than a standard sprinkler nozzle without sacrificing results. They also easily install on your existing sprinklers, including non-Toro bodies. Simply unscrew the old inefficient nozzle, and screw on an efficient Precision™ Series Spray nozzle and start saving water immediately. These nozzles let you have your lawn and save water too, even in the summer heat.
EVOLUTION® Series Controller
If you want high-tech ways to save water in the summer, the EVOLUTION® controller is the way to go. This is what we recommend to all homeowners who want total programmability over their irrigation systems. It enables users to keep lawns lush and green with the touch of a button! The controller integrates seamlessly with Toro’s Smart Connect® receiver, wirelessly communicating with soil and rain sensors. This way, watering schedules and run times are automatically adjusted for your local weather conditions. High-tech irrigation lets you program your system and walk away. This way, you can enjoy the things that really matter and let your system do the watering without wasting water.
Combine the practical, common-sense solutions we recommend with any of the Toro products suggested here, you can survive the end-of-summer heat wave while saving water.
WAYS TO SAVE WATER: BEST PRACTICES FOR WATERING TREES
When it comes to trees, how do you balance saving water and keeping trees irrigated and healthy? Understanding the needs your tree will have based on its current life stage is the best place to start.
Watering Newly Planted Trees
When a tree is first planted, most of its roots are still located inside the original root ball. The tree should be watered in a way that encourages the roots to grow outside of the root ball. This way, the roots will become established in the soil. With a newly planted tree, watering the soil under the tree canopy will keep the root ball and its surrounding soil moist enough to boost healthy root growth.
In moderate climates, irrigation experts recommend doing this twice per week. When the weather is hot and dry, increase to three times per week. If a steady rain shower soaks the ground, it can be counted as one day of watering. A rain shower is one of the best ways to save water, while still ensuring the root ball gets the moisture it needs to grow.
Watering Established Trees
The growing season for trees is late spring to early summer. It can take up to two growing seasons for a tree to become established. Once the tree has become established, the recommended watering practices change. The tree will need less frequent watering. You’ll need to adjust the watering technique, as well.
For established trees, water in a circular motion around the dripline. The dripline is the wide band around the outer reaches of the tree’s canopy. Water an established tree several feet around its dripline. This ensures that the roots (which have grown past the dripline at this point) get all the water they need.
When it comes to ways to save water while irrigating established trees, here are three valuable tips:
1.) Soak the entire area under the canopy.
When it comes to watering trees, allowing water to soak deep into the soil near the roots is preferable to spraying the surface. Soaking the soil when watering trees will reduce the frequency of watering applications needed.
2.) Avoid watering the tree trunk.
Too much water on the trunk, or the area directly adjacent to the trunk, can increase the risks of tree rot and disease. Having a drip system installed can keep water deep in the soil where it belongs. It can deliver the preferred soaking method described above, too.
3.) Use technology designed to reduce water waste.
The right irrigation technology can measure soil moisture levels and indicate when watering is needed. For example, the Toro® Precision™ Soil Sensor can assess the moisture levels in any soil and tell the user (via a wireless receiver) when the soil requires watering.
Why Use Soil Sensor Technology?
Utilizing high-tech soil sensor technology like this is one of the best ways to save water while irrigating trees. The alternative to soil moisture testing is tedious; it requires digging, manually testing for moisture levels, and knowing the soil type. These processes increase the risk of human error, which can lead to over- or under-watering.
With the wireless Precision™ Soil Sensor, Toro offers a more accurate method of soil moisture testing that can save up to 30% on annual irrigation water use when used for turfgrass.
Additionally, the sensor is equipped with a freeze detection capability. This prevents the irrigation system from running when freezing conditions are approaching. Freeze detection is not only one of the best ways to save water; it is also one of the best ways to save trees. Tree experts caution against watering trees anytime temperatures drop below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, so avoiding irrigation when freezing conditions are present is important.
Other Tree Watering Technology
Technology that regulates tree watering practices doesn’t end with soil sensors. Another important practice in tree irrigation is preventing water runoff, and there is technology that can help accomplish that. The Toro® EVOLUTION® Series Controller with SmartConnect® is an irrigation controller that allows users to automatically program their watering schedules, including any drip systems that are being used to irrigate trees. Plus, the EVOLUTION controller enhances the capabilities of the Precision™ Soil Sensor by enabling the integration of up to three sensors on the property. That means you could use two for trees and one for the lawn. Or, if desired, you could swap one to instead include a weather sensor to prevent the irrigation system from running during rainfall.
Additionally, it is possible to have multiple schedules in the controller. This gives users the ability water the lawn at whatever frequency they desire, and then water the trees separately three days a week or another preferred schedule.
There are many ways to save water, while still keeping trees irrigated. Use these best practices for watering trees in order to improve the health and longevity of the trees on any residential or commercial property.