Water Saving Tips
Watch for moisture- stress symptoms and let plants tell you when they need water. Wilting or an abnormal graygreen foliage color are good indicators of moisture stress. Certain shrubs, like azaleas, hydrangeas, viburnums and forsythia, are among the first plants to show moisture stress during periods of limited rainfall. Confirm this by digging a small hole to see if the soil is wet, moist or dry.
Timing is everything
To minimize evaporative water loss, irrigating at night or during the early morning is best. The Water Stewardship Act of 2010, passed by the Georgia legislature, provides guidance to local communities by suggesting that outdoor irrigation can only occur between the hours of 4 p.m. and 10 a.m. (evening, night and early morning). Your local water provider can provide details on any additional local restrictions on outdoor irrigation, or you click here to download more information.
Keep it low
Use low rates of fertilizer and target fertilizer to specific plants that need a nutrient boost, not the entire landscape. Fertilizer applied at high rates can injure the leaves and roots of plants and can become an environmental pollutant when it runs off the property into storm drains and nearby waterways. Also, high fertilizer rates lead to more succulent growth that will require more water to support it.
Keep the mulch coming
Maintain a mulch layer 2 to 4 inches deep around plants. Mulching is one of the best water conservation practices in the Southeast where summer temperatures are hot and evaporative water loss from the soil is high.
Keep your turfgrass tough
When properly planted and managed, turfgrass is more resilient to periodic drought conditions than many people assume. Regardless of drought conditions, allow the grass to dry and become stressed before irrigating. This actually causes the roots to explore deeper soil depths for moisture and nutrients. It is best not to irrigate based on a set schedule, but rather to guide irrigation based on plant needs. Cultural practices like aeration, mowing and fertilization can affect the root depth. Periodically aerify (as infrequent as every other growing season) to improve water and air entry into the soil. To encourage deep rooting during periods of heat or drought stress, raise the mowing height to the upper limits of recommend mowing heights. Similarly, during periods of stress use the lower end of nitrogen fertility recommendations and be sure other nutrients, like phosphorus and potassium, are adequate for turfgrass growth. Visit www.georgiaturf.com for more information.
Where is that water going?
To avoid wasting water, use a hand-held hose, soaker hose or drip irrigation to water trees, shrubs and flowers, especially those planted on slopes. To minimize foliar diseases, water only the soil, not the leaves and flowers. To avoid runoff, apply water gently and slowly at a rate the soil can absorb. When using sprinklers, make sure that the water reaches your lawn and plants but not the house, sidewalk, driveway, street or other hardscape structure. Retrofit your irrigation system with low volume emitters and a rain sensor that will prevent it from running during rainfall. Use a broom or blower instead of a water hose to clean your driveway or sidewalk.
Remember, the water we save today is an investment in our future!
For additional water-saving tips and a detailed discussion on water-saving practices for the landscape, see University of Georgia Extension Bulletin 1329, “Best Management Practices for Landscape Water Conservation.”
Source: University of Georgia Extension Service