The recent rain was a blessing to see after a very dry winter and spring. The average rainfall reports I have seen show about two inches of rain in much of Williamson County. I have not been able to bring myself to water my yard so early in the season, so it looks green and happy now after the rain.
Even with the rain, the majority of Williamson County is experiencing abnormally dry conditions or moderate drought. My social media newsfeed is full of Texas drought maps (further proof that I am a total nerd), and according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, 96% of Texas is in drought. Lake Georgetown provides water for a lot of residents in Williamson County, and it is currently 74% full. We all need to do our part to conserve water, especially as we head into the warm summer months.
Turfgrass in our lawns can be drought-tolerant, but it takes a little bit of a mental-shift for us as the lawn caretakers. Remember, our lawns do not have to look like a golf course. We can train our lawns to develop deeper roots and use less water. Here is a checklist of good habits to train your lawn to be water-wise.
- Mow at the upper end of the appropriate mowing height for your grass species. Taller grass means your grass will develop a deeper root system that allows the grass to access water deeper in the soil. You can find the mowing height for your grass species at http://aggieturf.tamu.edu/.
- Use the cycle and soak method to reduce runoff when you water the lawn. Set each zone for 4–6-minute cycles, pause for at least 30 minutes, then run the cycle again for 4-6 minutes. This allows the water to slowly filter into the soil.
- Follow the 1/3 rule. Mow frequently enough that you never remove more than 1/3 of the total grass. Cutting off too much of the grass will stress your grass. Stressed grass is less tolerant to heat and drought and more vulnerable to pests and diseases.
- Water deeply and infrequently. Try to water to a depth of approximately six inches each time you water. This means the water should penetrate six inches in the soil. Watering deeply encourages deeper, denser root growth.
- Wait to water until visual wilt occurs, and water late at night or early in the morning. Watering during the cool hours of early morning or late evening will reduce losses from evaporation and improve water-use efficiency.
- Monitor your irrigation equipment. Broken heads or pipes can waste water and create dry spots in your lawn. Replace broken heads and consider an irrigation audit by a licensed irrigator.
- Take advantage of rain. We have been blessed with rain, so save water by turning off your irrigation system until the lawn needs to be watered again.
For more information about lawncare or water use, contact Kate Whitney, Williamson County Extension Agent for Horticulture, at 512-943-3300.