Water Saving Tips—Lawns and Gardens

Use these tips to save water on your lawn. For tips to save water in more places, visit Water Saving Tips.

  • Remove no more than 1/3 the height of the grass for any one mowing. For most cool-season lawns, a height of between 3" to 3 1/2" is considered adequate. Keeping the grass slightly higher will increase shade on the soil, encourage deeper rooting and reduce evaporation.
  • Water thoroughly but infrequently to encourage deeper rooting, increase soil moisture reservoir and to reduce the number of weeds. 1" to 1 1/2" per week is sufficient to adequately maintain the grass. Letting the grass be “thirsty” encourages deeper rooting. To avoid over-watering, monitor precipitation amounts from rain events to adjust accordingly. Water only when necessary. If footprints remain in the grass for an extended period after walking on grass—watering is required.
  • Water early in the morning to reduce evaporation (reduces water usage up to 40%).
  • If possible, use soak irrigation lines instead of pop-up heads. These can reduce water consumption up to 60%.
  • If using pop-up heads, align heads to avoid paved surfaces or other non-targeted objects. Regularly check for leaks and install a rain gauge to prevent activation of system during and just after a rainfall.
  • Fertilize only two times a year—mid April and late August. Always use a slow release organic fertilizer. Excess fertilizer applications increase water consumption.
  • Water only every 5–7 days (if no rain). A soaking rain can extend that period up to 10–4 days. Most people apply two times the amount of water needed.
  • Tall Fescues use approximately half the amount of water per week as Bluegrasses. Tall Fescue uses about 10 gallons per square foot.
  • Mow in the morning or early evening and not midday—to avoid burning grass.
  • Cool-season grasses stop growing at temperatures above 90° F. Fertilizer applications will NOT re-start growth. Cooler temperatures in late summer and early fall will promote growth.
  • If possible, in larger areas, plant native warm-season grasses, wildflowers, trees and shrubs—once established (usually two years) they do not need supplemental watering or fertilizer applications.
  • Do not water lawn on windy days (increases transpiration and evaporation rates).

Seven Steps to a Water-Saving Garden

Xeriscaping, from the Greek word ‘xeros’ for ‘dry,’ is the creation of a garden that uses less water than traditional landscaping. You can do this by choosing plants that are drought-tolerant and by using horticultural techniques that use water most efficiently. Taking these steps will reduce your outdoor water use while creating a colorful, natural, yard or garden that is easier and cheaper to maintain.

  1. Planning & design: Consider soil and light conditions, drainage, which existing plants you plan to keep, maintenance level desired, plant and color preferences, and your budget.
  2. Soil improvements: Mix compost or peat moss into the soil before planting to help the soil retain water. If your yard is sloped, reduce water run-off with terraces and retaining walls.
  3. Practical lawns: Limit the amount of area devoted to grass. Plant groundcovers or add hard surface areas like patios, decks or walkways. When replanting lawn areas, use drought-tolerant grass seed mixes.
  4. Plant selection: Choose from among the many types of low-water-using trees, shrubs, flowers and groundcovers. Many need watering only in the first year or two after planting.
  5. Efficient irrigation: Install drip or trickle irrigation systems for those areas that need watering. These systems use water efficiently and are available from commercial garden centers.
  6. Effective use of mulches: Use mulches like pine needles or shredded bark or leaves in a layer 3 inches deep. This keeps soil moist, smothers weeds and prevents erosion.
  7. Regular maintenance: Properly timed pruning, fertilizing, pest control and weeding will preserve your landscape's beauty and water efficiency.