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So, you’ve just put in new landscaping and now your neighborhood has been assigned water restrictions due to a drought. You’re worried about those new, young plants and the investment that you just made in your beautiful new home. Here are a few tips to help protect your new outdoor space — and to make the most of the water that you are allowed to use.
Focus on Trees First
Trees are one of the most important elements in your new landscape. They not only enhance the value of your property by adding beauty and curb appeal, over time they’ll help keep your home cooler. As they grow, trees protect other plants and help shield your home against damaging winds.
Most likely, your newly planted tree doesn’t have a root system that already extends into the new soil, so it will need the most care during a drought. Protect your trees by making sure they’re watered deeply. It’s especially important to make sure the root ball receives water, rather than the top of the tree. Do so by carefully drilling holes around the crown of your tree to allow water to penetrate. Make sure the tree is surrounded by mulch to help keep the soil moist and reduce evaporation after watering – but also make sure the mulch doesn’t touch the trunk of your tree because fungal diseases can develop.
Protect Your Lawn and Plants
To keep your lawn as healthy as possible, let your grass grow a little higher than you normally would so it can retain more moisture on hot days. When mowing, don’t cut grass too low to the ground. Allowing your lawn to grow higher, especially in the warmer months, will help your new lawn develop deeper roots and give it a better chance of surviving a drought and water restrictions. As a general rule, it’s a good idea not to not trim off more than one-third of the grass blade during a single mowing.
It’s also important not to prune your plants or apply fertilizer during a drought. Both encourage plant growth, which requires more water.
Maximize the Features of Your Irrigation System
During a drought, it’s important to get to know your new irrigation system and to set your controls for early morning watering to reduce evaporation. Running two cycles, one about an hour or two after the other, at half your normal run time will allow your landscape to absorb more water and minimize runoff.
If you’re only allowed to water one or two days a week, you can program your sprinklers to water three to four times a day with 30-minute intervals between cycles. However, remember to check whether your city or area sets specific watering times — and make sure you adhere to that schedule.
Some controllers have weather sensors, which if properly calibrated, will automatically adjust your watering schedule based on weather conditions. Even though your soil may look dry, it may still have plenty of moisture. If a six-inch screwdriver can be easily inserted into the soil, then you can wait to water.
Caution: Water Rates Can Vary Based on the Amount You Use
Many states and cities require homes to have water meters that log water use. In some cases, that can lead to higher prices if a homeowner uses more than allotted amounts of water. In addition, homeowners can receive fines or other penalties for overwatering.
Should you want help to learn about and comply with your area’s rules regarding water use, most licensed landscape professionals are well-versed in water restrictions in their area. A professional can also help you maximize your water allocation by recommending specific plant types for your area and climate. A licensed landscape professional can help you determine the most efficient watering program for your irrigation system, too.