We received an e-mail for the California Landscape Contractors' Association, filled with good advice for saving water:
The California Landscape Contractors Association (CLCA) is pleased to offer some recommendations to help you make smart choices and protect the environment using your area’s mandated water reductions. This advice can help your landscape survive this year’s drought and help you prepare for predicted future water shortages.
Water Trees First. If trees are lost, it increases the surrounding temperature making everything hotter. They are also expensive to replace. Many surrounding plants depend on them, because trees offer shade and protection for some lawns and other plants that may not survive the hot sun without them. In addition, they are often homes, shelter and/or food to birds and animals, which could possibly die if the trees perish.
Some Ways to Maximize Water and Help Protect Your Trees
• Drill several 4" wide holes about 24”-30” deep around the base of the tree being careful not to damage large roots. Fill the holes with compost, which will allow the water to reach the roots of the tree.
• Another option is to put your garden hose on a timed, low drip and get the water down deep. You can also install a temporary drip system tied into a hose bib or use a soaker hose on the surface to slowly water the base of the tree.
What Can I Do Now to Prepare for the Drought?
• Mulch heavily all flower and soil beds. Mulch helps keep water in the soil. Do not use rocks/gravel because they add heat to the soil and moisture evaporates faster.
• Mow grass (Fescue, Rye, Kentucky Blue Grass) higher – 3”-3.5” to promote deeper root growth and hold more moisture.
• Aerate the lawn and fill the holes with compost so the water can infiltrate deeper.
• If you intend to prune, do so before April or don’t prune. Pruning stimulates growth, which needs more water. Existing growth will also provide additional shade to the soil, helping to retain moisture.
• Do not use high nitrogen fertilizers during a drought. They encourage growth but the plants will need more water.
• Fix or replace any broken sprinklers and repair leaks.
• Keep your lawn as healthy as possible. A healthy lawn will survive better. Many lawns can go very dry and still come back.
• Attach a water efficient spray nozzle to your hose and use it to mist your lawn to build up humidity for a few minutes at the end of the day. (Drop by CCWD's Main Office at 1331 Concord Ave in Concord between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. and we'll give one to your fore free!)
How to Maximize Landscape Watering During A Drought
• Start watering earlier and finish before 9 a.m.
• Set your spray irrigation timer to run half the normal time and run a second cycle at least half an hour later. This will dramatically reduce runoff. Clay and other soils will only absorb so much water and anything beyond that point is wasted water. Average time should be five minutes or less per cycle on a level site.
• Consider a smart controller, which monitors the weather and adjusts watering accordingly. (CCWD has rebates on these, though they work best on large yards. You can get info here.)
• Soil may look dry, but may still have plenty of moisture. If a 6-inch screwdriver goes easily into the soil then wait to water.
What if I Can Only Water One or Two Days a Week?
• Program your sprinkler time for multiple start times with run cycles about 5 minutes each. Repeat the cycles 3-4 times at least 30 minutes apart. If runoff occurs reduce minutes per cycle. (CCWD recommends doing this in the morning before sunrise)
• Mow lawns higher and less frequently. Do not take off more than 25% when mowing.
• Help your trees get more water as mentioned above.
How Can I Maximize My Landscape Water Savings?
• Check regularly for leaks and then fix them immediately.
• Incorporate existing water saving technology into your irrigation system. New sprinkler heads and smart controllers maximize water savings.
• If you have a water meter, learn to read your meter. It will help you determine if you have a leak. (CCWD has a page with a video and a calculator to make it as easy as possible.)
• Turn on each sprinkler zone and see how much time it takes to start generating runoff for each zone. Round sprinkler time down to the nearest minute and set that time as your maximum run time for each station. Program your controller for multiple run cycles.
• Runoff means wasted water. No runoff means the water is being absorbed by the soil.
How Can I Prepare for a Drier Future?
• Make sure your irrigation system is efficient, pressure regulated and consistently up to date with the latest water saving technology.
• Examine the long-term survivability of your current landscape and consider incorporating climate appropriate plants. (Sign up for a free CCWD on finding plants that thrive in Contra Costa County).
• Study your environment, the animals that exist within the landscape and your long term needs to help you make good ecological choices.
For more information, look for the association's web site.