The Norman Transcript

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February 16, 2013

How to effectively water during a drought

(Continued)

NORMAN —

Lawns are the biggest water waster in the landscape. Stick to the 1-inch rule or, better yet, let your Bermudagrass go dormant during the summer. In addition, leave the grass longer as the season warms.

Grass is a living mulch and provides some of the same benefits as traditional mulches. I encourage those with fescue lawns to let them go.

It is counterproductive to baby a cool-season, water-hogging lawn through 100-degree temperatures in a drought. Use a mulch layer under shade trees instead. You may consider minimizing some large turf areas and replacing them with low-water-use flower beds.

When you do decide to water, handwater as little as possible and water early in the day.

This ensures less water is lost to evapotranspiration. Any type of above-ground sprayers or sprinklers are very inefficient, so use soaker or drip hoses wherever you can.

In addition, know how to operate your sprinklers and change them with the season.

I’ve seen way too many frozen sprinkler heads and sprinklers running during a rainstorm. Sensors are available to prevent watering during a rain. Draining ponds and using well water carelessly is no excuse.

Fertilizer and herbicide applications shouldn’t be applied to drought-stressed plants. But, if think you just have to fertilize, do it right before applying your 1-inch of water.

This will limit the amount lost to runoff when timed with rain events. After mowing, don’t hose off cement or other areas. Instead use a broom or leaf blower.

Soil improvements can be made to help improve water infiltration and retention. Don’t till if you can help it. Tilling breaks down the soil profile and decreases pore space where air and water reside.

In addition, add organic matter, in the form of compost, to the soil. Adding compost is the best way to improve clay soils and increase pore space. Use 1 to 2 inches of compost as a mulch or underneath a thin layer of bark mulch. You must mulch any plants you want to keep; this is essential.

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