Texas’ temperatures are increasing and those who live in the state know all too well what that means. Low rainfall and heat are a recipe for drought, and with the peak of summer approaching, it’s time to get prepared. No one wants to see the flowers and plants in their front or back lawns not surviving the season. Hear how Valerie Depew, member of the Ask a Master Gardener Committee at Texas A&M, recommends setting your home landscape up for success.
1. Manage Lawn Irrigation
There are many areas of our landscape that we can focus on to better manage water resources. The first, and the one that relies on the greatest amount of water, is the lawn. Here are some of Valerie’s tips to tackle this area of your landscape like a pro:
- If you have an irrigation system in place, audit it yearly to ensure it’s working properly. Clear clogs and adjust the settings as the year goes on. Plants require less water in cooler months and more in warmer weather, so there should be a difference in your settings each season.
- Fun fact: “Between 25% – 60% of the water homeowners try to apply to their lawns actually meets the target,” says Depew. To increase this percentage, ensure your lawn is watered in the morning to reduce loss to evaporation and the chances of moisture latching onto grass at night. Also, avoid watering when there’s high winds — this can blow sprinklers off which is a big water waster, in addition to runoff.
- “Water less frequently, but more deeply,” says Depew. A watering method known as Cycle and Soak will water your lawn for a longer duration so that the roots receive moisture. “More frequent, shorter watering leads to shallow roots and unhealthy turf.”
- Cut your grass taller. “Shorter blades don’t have enough surface to retain water and they’ll suffer more from the drought and heat,” says Depew. “The optimum height for mowing with water conservation in mind is 3 inches.”
2. Don’t Discount the Power of Mulch
Apply a thick 2 – 3 inch layer of mulch to all ornamental flower beds in the spring and fall to retain moisture and keep plant roots cooler. Which should you purchase? According to Depew, “native hardwood mulch is preferable, although pine straw is also effective.” If you like the look of dark mulch, there are naturally-aged hardwood mulches that are still healthy for your lawn, but just stay away from dyed mulches as they may contain harmful chemicals.
3. Be Selective About the Plants You Choose
Choosing the right plants that thrive in unpredictable weather conditions is one of the most important steps to landscaping. Depew recommends becoming familiar with the Texas Superstar plant program from Texas A&M — an online resource of plants that are chosen, trialed and tested in rigorous growing conditions. The website includes information on each plant and a Texas Superstar plant database to help homeowners evaluate which plants are best suited to their landscape, climate and needs.
There are many ways to reduce our use of water and drought-proof our landscapes. Using these methods will result in thousands of gallons saved and better plant choices for our home landscapes.
Water My Yard: A great resource for Texans, this site offers lawn watering advice based on location, size and yard type.
Earth Kind Landscaping: The Earth Kind program from Texas A & M offers guidance for the home landscape.
Texas Superstar: Get tips and tricks related to planting, fertilizers, disease management, and watering.
SodLawn: This beginner’s guide to lawn care is the only resource you need. It covers the do’s and don’ts for the spring and summer months.
Next, get our beginners guide for gardening in Texas and learn why biophilic design is good for your health and home.