MONTROSE – If, like many Coloradans, you worry about wasting water, there are many ways to save, even if you want a lush lawn, according to local landscapers and the Colorado State University Extension.
CSU Extension posts helpful tips and information on its website, ext.colostate.edu, and under the Yard and Garden section, it states that as much as 50 percent of household water is used for the yard and garden. The Environmental Protection Agency puts the figure at more than 30 percent, but it’s still a lot of use for outdoor plants instead of human consumption.
One answer is xeriscaping, a landscaping concept that requires less water because vegetation is suited to soils and climate, or no water at all, as seen in rock and gravel landscapes. The term was coined by Denver Water in 1981 and is derived from the Greek work xeros, which means dry.
If you have a sprinkler system, it may not be reaching all the places it needs to and water may be wasted along fencelines, on steep slopes, corners and irregular shaped areas that don’t fit into most sprinkler patterns, or on hard surfaces like sidewalks and driveways.
A good way to check just where the water is landing is to place shallow containers, like plastic tubs or coffee cans, at various locations around the yard and measure water depth after 10 minutes. Adjust your sprinkler until the water in each is only about an inch deep.
Areas that are hard to water can be converted to perennials or ground covers that thrive on little water, according to the website.
It’s also a good idea to study the traffic in your yard, including play areas for children and pets. Those areas are best left in grass. Other areas can be converted to shrub borders, flower gardens and ground covers that use less water.
The best way to save water is to use plants that don’t need a lot, said Ramon Silva, owner of R&S Landscaping in Montrose. Silva said nursery owners can give good advice about what to buy.
“I try to send my customers to buy their plants or trees, and that way they can pick out whatever they like,” he said.
At Planet Earth Landscape Management in Cedaredge, owner Chris Clemens said most people over-water their lawns, but there are signs to tell when to water.
“It should have silverish tint or when you walk out on it, your footprints stay behind,” he said.
People often set their sprinkler clocks for the hottest time of the year, but don’t readjust them, which wastes water.
“It should only be at 60 percent right now and you should start increasing the percentage as it warms, up to 100 percent in July,” he said.
After the warmest part of the summer, people should taper off on the percentage of water to their system, he said.
You can also buy sophisticated sprinkler systems with a “smart controller” said Nathan King, manager at Rainmaker Irrigation Systems and Landscaping.
“Some are even connected to the Internet and get the vapo-transpiration rate from the National Weather Service,” he said. Some even have moisture sensors in the ground and some are like miniature weather stations, with temperature, rain and wind gauges, he added.
“We preach more water conservation rather than taking everything out,” he said.
According to the website www.cleanairgardening.com, aerating your lawn three to four inches deep to relieve soil compaction also saves water, as does watering early in the morning or late in the evening since more water evaporates in the heat of the day.
Another tip for conserving water is to leave grass clippings on your lawn to act as a natural mulch and retain moisture and return nutrients to the soil. Water absorbing polymer gels can also help save water by absorbing it and then releasing it slowly, and reducing the amount of water for landscaping and lawns by up to 50 percent.