Face it; we Texans love a lush green lawn, as well as home-grown vegetables from the garden. If you’ve tried to have either then you probably are aware that those water bills can sure get costly during the summer months. But did you know there are some simple steps you can take to ensure you water efficiently to reduce waste and expense?

July is national Smart Irrigation Month and it is a great time to take stock of the methods we use to keep our outdoor plants alive. The event, sponsored by the Irrigation Association, is timed to coincide with the peak water use month across the country.

With that in mind, here are some suggestions to tune up your irrigation system to help you keep a healthy lawn, landscape and garden without wasting water and breaking the bank:

  • Make sure your watering system is appropriate for the task. Rotary, oscillating or any other type of sprinklers that sprays water into the air to spread over a wide area is appropriate when trying to cover a lawn, but can be wasteful for landscaping and gardens. For these tasks, one should focus the water where it will do the most good, atop the root system immediately around the plant. You might consider a drip irrigation system. This allows one to slowly release water at specific sites. Connecting the system to a timer, one can carefully regulate how much water the plants get. For more on drip irrigation, please click this link.
  • Check your irrigation system for leaks, other issues. Like anything, these devices can break down over time. Make sure there is a good seal where the hose connects to your home’s water supply. Also, check for malfunctioning sprinkler heads and make sure they are pointing the right direction to put water where you want it and not on the street or driveway.
  • Make sure you are watering the right amount The Texas AgriLife Extension Service has an online calculator to help people apply within a 10th of an inch the amount of water their turf grass needs. The calculator allows people to plug in specific weather information about their area, the type of grass, amount of sunlight it gets and other factors, before determining the amount of water needed to sustain a lawn. You can find the calculator here. Once you get the recommended watering amount, the next step is to determine your sprinkler’s watering rate. There is a simple, low-tech way to do this. Put out one or more empty tuna cans in the yard and turn on the sprinkler for 30 minutes. Then, get a ruler and measure the water’s depth in each can. Double that amount and you get how many inches of water your sprinkler puts on the lawn in an hour.
  • Go native. You can also cut down on the amount of watering needed by using native or drought tolerant plants and turf. There are many varieties of colorful and lush plants that can make your yard a beautiful place while using little water. While it may be appealing to plant many traditional flowerbed favorites used by our northern neighbors, often they are not well suited for Texas heat and drought conditions. For more information about appropriate plants for your situation, please click here.
  • Planning your garden well can also help keep from wasting water and the plants will likely benefit. Some plants have shallower roots that require more frequent watering. These plants include broccoli, cabbage, celery, sweet corn, lettuce, potatoes and radishes. Other plants with deeper roots, such as tomato, cantaloupe, watermelon and okra typically require longer, but less frequent watering. Design your garden so these types are kept apart to get optimal moisture. If you’d like some more ideas for using your watering system wisely, check out the Irrigation Association’s Smart Irrigation Month website, here.