Here in the Pacific Northwest, we’re blessed to have abundant rainfall, even throughout the summer at times. However, we still need to water our yards. Summer days might begin with a sprinkle but the long days and lingering light can ultimately result in a dried out yard and parched plants. Learning how to “water smart” is the key to a healthy garden in areas like Tacoma, Bremerton, Port Orchard, Gig Harbor and Bainbridge Island, each possessing their own unique microclimate.
Watering smart doesn’t mean only utilizing plants that need little to no water. While hardscaping can prove an attractive option, you might prefer plants in your yard. If this is the case, you, the smart Northwest gardener, needs to make use of good watering principles and practices. Here are a few tips:
- The biggest water hog in the Northwest and beyond, is usually the lawn. By replacing a segment of your lawn with a hardscape, pavers, or ground cover, you’ve already taken a big step toward water savings. If a lawn is a must in your yard, try planting Perennial Ryegrass or Fescue. Both of these grasses require much less water than Bentgrass or Bluegrass.
- Mow your lawn to the proper height. Setting the mower to a 3” – 4” cut will keep the soil cooler. Additionally, a longer lawn in the Pacific Northwest creates a cushy platform on which to walk or recline on picnic days.
- After mowing, leave the grass clippings in place. Clippings break down quickly and replace nutrients in the soil. Mow often so you don’t shock the grass by removing too much of the grass blade at once. Additionally, if you only mow once in a while, the clumps of clippings can smother your lawn.
- Our summer climate generally remains in the 70s or 80s. At these temps, your lawn will need about an inch of water per week. Try staggering your watering to a half inch two to three times a week. Or, try waiting until the lawn becomes dull green in color or begins to wilt.
- An Eco-lawn can provide a pleasing solution to a grass lawn. Eco-lawns consist of a mixture of grasses, clovers, and flowering plants, such as, English Daisies, Roman Chamomile, Sweet Allysum and Yarrow. They look pretty and use far less water than a grass lawn. Seed mixtures can be found at most nurseries as well as online. Make sure and choose a seed mix for our region, such as the Northern Ecology Mix for the Puget Sound area, which includes colonial bent grass; strawberry and Dutch white clover (Trifolium species); the flowering perennials English daisy (Bellis perennis), Roman chamomile (Anthemis nobilis) and yarrow (Achillea millefolium); and an annual, baby blue eyes (Nemophila menziesii).
- Clover also works as an easy-care alternative to grass lawns. Clover is a nitrogen fixer and provides nutrients for the other plants, which means less fertilizer application.
- Try interspersing a hardscape into your yard. Again, by reducing the amount of lawn in your garden, you effectively reduce the amount of water you need. We’ve got some great ideas for hardscapes. Take a look at this article to get your creative juices flowing.
- Feed your lawn and garden at regular intervals. A healthy lawn stands a better chance at crowding out weeds. It also helps the lawn deal with the stresses of heat and drought.
- Lastly, if you can stand it, let your lawn go in the summer. Mother Nature generally provides enough rain to produce a healthy lawn. In the summer, you can let your lawn go dormant. Grasses are amazingly resilient and can last up to two months if left alone. When the rains return, your lawn will bounce back and return to its green lushness.
By employing any or all of these techniques, you’ll no doubt find your water bill dropping significantly.
If you need help with any aspects of your yard, give us a call at (360) 265-5231. We can design a water reducing hardscape or paver patio, plant a new lawn or install a sprinkler system.
You’ve got a great lawn. A fancy flowerbed. You fertilize, tend and weed. But what type of watering system should you use in order to make efficient use of water? Do you use a spray head or a rotor? A nozzle?
Traditionally, there are two basic types of sprinkler systems — spray heads and rotor heads. Here are a few suggestions on making the most of each, as well as some of the more recent hybrids.
- Spray heads emit a spray of water, much like a shower nozzle. Interchangeable nozzles alter the spray, making a ½ circle pattern, a 360-degree pattern, or a fraction thereof. Spray head nozzles systems are best used for residential yards. They allow you to control water placement.
- Pop-up spray nozzles are often found in sprinkler systems.
- Rotor heads yield single or multiple streams of water.
- Impact rotor head distribute water in an arc pattern ranging anywhere from 40 to 360 degrees—basically, they are rotating streams of water back and forth or in circles over the landscape. Covering a larger area than a pop-up spray head, the rotor sprinklers are best used for large lawns or gardens. Impact rotors are reliable workhorses. Although the metal kind are more expensive than the plastic ones, they last significantly longer.
- Gear driven rotor heads are often used in sprinkler systems. They’re relatively low-cost, quiet and more versatile than impact rotors. This type of rotor is best suited in small commercial sites or large residential areas. If you have areas in your yard with slopes or clay, this is the best type or sprinkler head to use–their lower precipitation rate increases water absorption.
- Large fields and commercial landscapes generally make use of large turf rotors.
- In recent years, a new type of miniature rotor has been introduced. Called rotary nozzles or rotator nozzles, they are a very small rotor that is the same size as the standard nozzle on a spray-type sprinkler. They produce less mist than a regular rotor and said to reduce water use.
Things to consider when choosing a sprinkler system:
- Consider using sprays or rotary nozzles if your water pressure is less than 40 PSI static.
- Look into rotary nozzles if the area long and narrow, between 12-28′ wide.
- If the area you want to water is greater than 30′ x 30′ in dimensions, go for a rotor system.
- If the edge of your garden or lawn area has sharp curves (less than 20′ radius), consider a smaller rotary nozzle or spray-type sprinkler.
At Levy’s Lawns and Landscape, we install sprinkler systems. If you would like a sprinkler system installed in your yard, give us a call.
While your yard’s water needs are generally well-met by an abundance of rainfall in winter months, you might re-think your strategy for spring and summer. Most often, residents of the Pacific Northwest tend to overwater their lawn or garden. By following these tips, you can make much more efficient use of your water, keeping your water costs low, year-round.
- Water when it’s cooler. Before 10 am or after 6 pm is best.
- Established landscapes only need deep watering twice a week. New plantings require more frequent watering. Water thoroughly, allowing the water to penetrate to the roots.
- Water your lawn about an inch a week – slightly more during our infrequent long, hot, dry spells and less during the cooler spring and fall. (An automated sprinkler system can save you money in the long run. If you want more information on sprinkler systems, give us a call.)
- Northwest soils tend towards clay or sandy loam. These soil types generally take longer for the water to penetrate. You might try a “cycle and soak” system, applying the water in several sessions throughout the day. With an automatic sprinkler set-up, you can simply program it and forget it.
- Installing a drip system around shrubs, smaller plants, or vegetables, can be one of the most efficient watering systems. There are many kinds to choose from, including drippers, bubblers, soakers (inline emitters), and micro-sprayers. You can install them yourself, but if you want more information, or would like to discuss a custom install, please contact us. We’re here to help.