Written by Sarah Witman, Communications Intern
Lawn watering is draining your pocketbook. Each year, 50 to 80 percent of what people spend on water during the summer goes toward lawn care, and all we have to show for it at the end of the day is an abundance of grass stains that need to be laundered out.
Let’s look at a few ways to do the earth, and ourselves, a big favor.
1. Water only when your lawn needs it. You’re off the hook from this chore if it has rained in the last week or if it is likely to rain in the coming days. At most, lawns need a deep watering (an inch) once a week, no more. They can actually survive on much less (a quarter of an inch per month). Lawn grasses need very little supplemental water to survive, and they turn brown naturally when they’re low on water. Brown grass is not dead grass, but brown grass does save water, energy, and the environment. Brown is green.
2. When you do water grass and plants, do it in the early morning instead of the middle of the day. The best time to water your lawn is before 8 a.m. During the day, you lose precious water to evaporation. And watering at night can lead to disease in your grass, because the water will sit stagnant on top of the grass for hours without drying. The added benefit of early morning watering is that demand on your community’s water supply is lower in the morning that in the evening. By the way, it’s best to mow in the evening, not the heat of the day.
3. Consider replacing some or all of your lawn with beautiful, natural landscaping. Xeriscaping refers to landscaping with drought-tolerant plants, mulch, landscaping rock, or other alternatives to the typical, all-grass lawn. Plants that are native to your area are typically suited to the natural rainfall — they shouldn’t require watering at all. Xeriscaping is relatively simple to do, it’s low maintenance, and is a great way to (cost-effectively) add variety, color and depth to your yard. Plus, it reduces the amount of lawn you need to water and fertilize (and mow!). Protecting our water resources is a huge added bonus.
Photo from USA Today
4. Use lake-safe fertilizers. There are plenty of things that go into a lawn that we don’t even think about: aeration, porosity, water retention, and even stress tolerance! Fertilizers that are healthful for the grass in your lawn are usually also the ones that are better for our lakes and our health.
Fertilizers made from compost or other organic wastes are a good option, but make sure you are not buying a supposed “organic” product that contains something called synthetic urea, which inhibits plant growth. No matter what you decide to use, make sure to follow the proper handling instructions.
5. Prepare for battle! Having a squirt gun or water balloon fight might be more fun than the first four tips, but it’s by no means a lesser method of water conservation. If you have kids (or a group of energetic friends), opt out of the sprinkler for a week and let one of these fun activities provide lasting hydration for your lawn.
As a nation, we use about 346,000 million gallons of fresh water each day. Following these tips is just one way Wisconsinites can help our rivers, lakes, and wetlands and all of the fish and wildlife that call them home. We can all do our part to reduce that number while dialing down the chore factor and dialing up the fun factor … and if you buy biodegradable water balloons (latex, not mylar) no cleanup is required!