Summer is officially here, and the heat can be rough on lawns, landscaping, and your utility bill. Responsible watering methods will help protect your investment, keep your water bill under control and help preserve a precious resource. You can take several steps to keep your yard looking nice without wasting water or breaking the bank.
It can be tempting to buy the multitudes of brightly colored plants at your local garden center, but the best plants to buy are those native to the Mid-Atlantic Region. Native plants and grasses grow best in the climate, require less water and are more sustainable. Visit the Virginia Cooperative Extension website at www.ext.vt.edu for more information on native plants. Organic mulches, such as aged manure, compost, bark or woodchips, can help retain moisture and minimize evaporation.
An average lawn needs only one inch of water a week; too much water is more harmful than helpful. Over-watering your grass can drown the roots, causing them to rot. Deep and infrequent watering thoroughly soaks the root zone to a four-inch depth, maintains a healthy root system and reduces weed infestation. Thatch and aerate your lawn for better water filtration. Overwatering plants can also be detrimental.
When purchasing an automatic sprinkler, install a timer on the faucet. Carefully position your sprinkler, so it does not water the sidewalk, driveway or street. Money can also be saved on your utility bill when rainwater is used for landscaping instead of drinking (potable) water. One way to do this is to position your downspout so that it drains onto the lawn and garden areas rather than sidewalks or the driveway. Rain barrels can also be installed at the ends of or near downspouts to collect rainwater runoff from your roof. The collected rainwater is then easily accessible for watering your lawn and garden.
The best time to water is early morning when evaporation loss and the impact of the wind are lowest. You can also water in the evenings. However, this keeps leaves and grass wet for hours, making them more susceptible to fungal diseases. You can find these tips and more water conservation tips at www.staffordcountyva.gov/utilities. If you have questions, please call the Utilities Department at (540) 658-8616.