Phyllis Webster earned a degree in journalism before embarking on a long career in public relations and marketing. A Granbury resident since 1998, she has been deeply involved in the community. She is an award-winning writer and photographer, as well as a Master Gardener. She has authored Garden Patch since 2001.
Begin Waterwise Practices
In summer, people dread getting a water bill. They’re scared to see how much their bills have increased. Given that there is little anyone can do to combat utility prices, conservation is the only remedy.
Texas water utilities often charge higher rates in summer or increase rates incrementally based on use. Adopting waterwise conservation practices can reduce what you pay. Most homeowners realize the greatest savings by cutting back on outdoor watering. Why? Some people over water. Others water at inappropriate times. Many have wasteful irrigation systems. And still more install inappropriate landscape plants or too much turfgrass.
To conserve outdoors, first determine how much water your landscape plants need to live and remain healthy. This could mean allowing some species to go dormant during drought, such as spring/early summer blooming perennials. Next, adopt water-efficient landscape practices; mow grass at proper heights, use drought tolerant plants, mulch landscape beds and remove water hungry plantings or limit their numbers. Also, reduce containerized plantings since most need daily watering.
Achieve a more water efficient landscape by using mostly native or well-adapted trees, shrubs, and perennials. These plants better tolerate the area’s climate. Remember, plants should be native/adapted to the specific conditions in which they are planted and not simply Texas natives. For example, a Houston native plant is not a good choice for North Central Texas.
Water only when needed. One inch of water once a week will keep most Texas lawns healthy. Durable plants also thrive on limited water once established. Proper watering helps grass, trees, and shrubs to develop deep roots. Overwatered plants develop short root systems, which cannot survive drought. If you’ve overwatered, help your plants to adjust to longer periods without water by gradually increasing the days between irrigating.
Irrigate only during late evening to early morning hours. Otherwise, about 60 percent of the water may be wasted due to evaporation. Adjust sprinkler heads to water vegetation only; do not allow water to run off onto pavement. Also, limit evaporation by turning off fountains on windy days and during drought and covering pools and spas when not in use.
Keep organic mulch, such as shredded hardwood, in your landscape beds to insulate plant roots, retain moisture and “feed” your plants as it breaks down. Let grass clippings remain on lawns to feed/insulate turf. Substitute groundcovers and other plantings to reduce lawn size.
Conduct an audit of your irrigation system and do needed repairs. Update older systems with “smart” controllers and adjustable spray heads. For greater savings, convert to drip irrigation. Drip irrigation has the added benefit of minimizing plant diseases because water droplets do not sit on flowers or foliage.
Other savings tips: Harvest rainwater for later use. Sweep debris rather than washing it away. And minimize or eliminate fertilizer during drought. You’ll need more water to support new growth. Also, fertilizer can burn roots in dry soil.
For answers to your horticulture questions, please call the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, Hood County at 817-579-3280 or go online to visit lakegranburymastergardeners.org