Volumes have been written about lawn care, but turf grass is injured by too much water more often than by not enough water.

There is a parallel between the human race and grass. Most of us will take the easy way out; the same applies to our lawns. If you water every other day, the grass thinks, “I will drink again tomorrow. Why bother to make long, thick roots and work hard?” On the other hand, if you water less frequently but apply more, the grass will produce a deeper, healthy root system, and your water bill will decrease. So everyone wins.

The consensus is that you should apply one inch of water about every week in the summer. But how do you measure one inch of water? The solution was pointed out to me recently, and it is so simple that is upsetting that I hadn’t thought of it myself: place several containers throughout your yard and turn on your hose/sprinkler system, set a timer, and watch the water. At the one-inch level, you will know how long you must water to apply one inch of water to your grass. This is also a good way to determine how to schedule your sprinklers in case you have run-off before one inch is applied.

Reni Brown, former Smith County Master Gardener
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service


Pride of home ownership is often exhibited by beautiful lush green turf as the outstanding feature of the residential landscape. All residential turf grasses need fundamental elements of food, water, and sunshine to produce quality lawn grass along with proper mowing and maintenance.

Soil testing takes most of the guesswork out of feeding the lawn with the proper amount and ratio of fertilizer. In our part of Texas, sunshine is available in abundance with long days of spring and summer. The east Texas weather typically has abundant rainfall averaging 45″ annually, but you cannot count on the weather to provide natural water throughout the year in a timely manner.

Fertilizer and water are two components that the homeowner has complete control over in regard to turf management. With soil testing taking the guesswork out of proper fertilization, the remaining component of water management to provide the best environment possible for the turf is up to the owner.

The amount and frequency of lawn irrigation not only depends on the natural weather occurrences but also the type of grass being watered as well as the soil type in the lawn.

Many planned residential developments have irrigation systems installed with control boxes that come on at predetermined times and cycles. As water becomes scarcer with exploding populations, judicious use of water will become more critical. Watering the home lawn is basic, but is most often done incorrectly, wasting a precious resource and not providing turfs with their optimum needs.

Turf lawn irrigation should follow the general rule of less frequent, but deeper watering to promote deep root development. Shallow and frequent watering encourages shallow root growth. Most turf grasses will tell you when it needs water, just by close observation. Leaves may begin to fold or wilt, “foot printing” can be exhibited as one walks across a thirsty lawn and the grass may also turn a bluish-grey color.

Correctly watering turf lawns takes more than setting the control box to come on twice a week for fifteen minutes and forgetting about it. By watering deeply at the frequency dictated by the type grass and soil, the homeowner can establish and maintain superior turf lawns while conserving water resources, and making the turf maintenance efficient, resulting in the best possible lawn.

John G. Meadows, former Smith County Master Gardner
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service


Here we are getting ready for another summer of trying to have a lush lawn and garden while keeping our water bills manageable. And cost isn’t the only concern. Dr. Gene Taylor from Texas A&M shared some thought-provoking statistics on water at a turf-care conference earlier this year.

  • By the year 2035, Texas will have available only about 85 percent of the water it will require.
  • About 35 percent of the water we now use in the summer goes to landscape.
  • The population of Texas is projected to double in the next 50 years.

All of the above reinforce our need to conserve water. And there are more short-term benefits to being frugal with water, too.

  • Lower water bills.
  • Decreased incidence of turf disease.
  • Deeper roots, which help turf better withstand drought stress.
  • Overall better turf quality; more problems are caused by over-watering than under-watering.

Over-watering is a common problem that can easily be remedied to the benefit of your lawn and checkbook. Here are some water conservation tips.

  • Check your sprinkler system frequently for damaged heads, or heads that are watering the street, sidewalk, etc.
  • Evaluate performance by knowing how long it takes your system to provide one inch of water to the grass.
  • Irrigate based on the weather rather than by automatic timer. Don’t water if it has rained enough to give the grass one inch of water in the last week.

Cynthia Branch Mills, former Smith County Master Gardener
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service


In the urban areas of Texas, between 40 and 60 per cent of the water supply is used for landscape
and garden watering.

Here are seven simple steps to landscape water conservation, a concept called xeriscape

1. Planning and design are the foundation of any water wise landscape.

2. Soil analysis will determine the soil’s moisture holding ability.

3. Plant practical turf areas.

4. Appropriate plant selection keeps the landscape in tune with the natural environment.

5. Efficient irrigation can instantly save 30-50 per cent on your water bill.

6. Mulch planting beds to increase water penetration and prevent evaporation.

7. Appropriate maintenance saves water.

There are many plant varieties, some of them natives, that provide attractive alternatives to
traditional landscape plants that are not as well suited to our region.

Jackie Hope, former Smith County Master Gardener
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service


Enhance your landscape with the addition of a water garden.

There are many variations to consider due to increased availability of water gardening supplies and plant varieties.

Sizing and shaping your water garden has been simplified with the development of long life rubber liners.

You can dig your pond to any depth, and shape it to any form that will fit your landscape.

If digging is not possible, you can purchase a per-formed fiberglass pond that can be placed anywhere in your garden.

For balcony or deck, you can use old iron pots, fiberglass tubs, etc. Miniature
plants for these smaller containers are now available.

Water lilies will bloom from early spring until frost.

There are several water lily varieties (hardy and tropical) that perform well in our area. The color selection is nearly unlimited.

Some flowers float on the water, while others stand above on tall stems. Many
bloom during the day, while others bloom at night.

Grasses, reeds, and other complementary vegetation will add to your garden.

A word of caution – if you get hooked, your pond will never be large enough.

Paul Ferguson, former Smith County Master Gardener
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service


Watering is absolutely necessary for your lawn. After all your turf grass is made of living organisms. Experts say that watering the home lawn is a practice most often done incorrectly! As a general rule, it is better to irrigate less frequently and more deeply.
What time of day should you water your lawn? Early morning is best. If you water at night, water remains on the plants all night. Diseases grow at night! Winds are usually light in the morning, and the temperature is lower. Evaporation rates are very low.

The next question is how do I know how often to irrigate? There are two signs of moisture stress: folded leaf blades. (This occurs because the stomates are closed); and foot impressions remain. If you see these 2 signs before noon, you need to water your lawn. Remember you don’t want to over-water because with excess watering, the root system will not have sufficient oxygen. If plants are stressed by over or under watering, then plants become susceptible to disease.

Does my soil type affect how much I should water? Yes!! When you water, soil should be wetted to a depth of 4 to 6 inches. If your soil is high in sand content, you should only need about Ā½ inch of water to reach the correct depth. However, if your soil is mostly clay, you will need about an inch of water.

Nancy H. Nelson, former Smith County Master Gardener
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service


For newly planted trees or bushes or those planted in a dry environment, there is an easy way to water them effectively through direct watering of the root ball with minimum water loss from evaporation. When you dig the hole for the new tree or plant, dig some additional space next to it and put a section of 3- or 4-inch PVC pipe into it, so that the bottom of the pipe is at the same depth as the bottom of the regular hole. The top of it should extend several inches above the soil when the soil is replaced.

When the tree or plant has been placed into the hole and the dirt placed around it,
you will be able to place a hose into the pipe and fill it with water, which will slowly release by the bottom of the root ball. In this way, the roots will grow downward into the soil where there is moisture rather than towards the top to get at moisture released from above by surface watering. You can fill the pipe as full or as often as needed, and it will slowly release. You can also drill holes into the bottom portion of the pipe, facing the root ball, to release water more quickly.

Connie Bartley, former Smith County Master Gardener
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service


With triple digit temperatures starting in May and very little rain, we are sure to have a long, hot summer. After all the hard work you’ve put into your yard, not to mention the money, how do you keep things alive in this drought?

  • Mulch, Mulch, Mulch – This helps to conserve water and keep soil temperature down. Use 2 to 6 inches. You can use pine or cypress bark, pine needles or straw. Grass clippings can be used after they have dried.
  • Water Wisely – Use soaker hoses or drip irrigation in flower and shrub beds to put water at the roots. They can reduce the amount of water used for irrigation by 20 to 50 percent. Water in the early morning hours.
  • Lawn Care – Cut grass on a slightly higher setting (but just as frequently) and leave the clippings on the lawn to help mulch and fertilize the lawn. Water when grass shows signs of wilt. Water early morning or late evening and on non-windy days. Adjust sprinklers so they don’t water streets and sidewalks.

Carol Runnels, former Smith County Master Gardener
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service


As we enter the spring growing season, we do not usually hear much about water conservation here in East Texas. Because of a shortage of rainfall in recent years, our water supplies are beginning to get low. As gardeners, we should always be aware of how we use our water and make the most efficient use of our water.

Around most households, our largest usage of water is on our lawns. In fact, the people who monitor such activities say that 35% of our water bills is our lawn watering. So how can we conserve water when our lawns are so expensive? For sure we don’t want to lose our lawns. How many people water every day? How often do our sprinklers come on after a rain or during a rain?

On most of our soils in East Texas, one or two inches of water every two weeks in the spring and fall, one or two inches per week in the summer, and one or two inches per month in the winter will be sufficient.

So why do we not turn our sprinkler systems to manual and water only when our lawns tell us they watering? If we do this, we will save water and money also.

Remember that these experts say that in fifty years, our demand for water will exceed our supply. If you need any help to decide the best way to conserve at your home, you can call the Texas Cooperative Extension office for more information.

Bill Rash, former Smith County Master Gardener
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service


Summer is here with its heat and humidity, but no rain. Lawns and gardens are suffering; so, what should we do? Water? How often? Is that all? The lawn and garden should be considered separately.

Watering lawns depends on the type of grass and sun exposure. Bermuda grass, which grows best in full sun, will require frequent watering to maintain lush growth and good color. However, it is very drought tolerant and will recover quickly when neglected. St. Augustine grass tolerates more shade than Bermuda, requires consistent watering, and is more likely to decline if neglected.

In either case, raise your mowing height during the summer and don’t bag the clippings. They will act as a mulch, keeping the ground cooler. Water deeply and only when needed. To reduce the possibility of fungal problems, water in the early morning.

In the garden, the type of plants you have chosen and their exposure to the sun will determine how often you should water. The best thing you can ; do is mulch, mulch, mulch. Apply a loose mulch (pine needles are excellent because they don’t compact) two to three inches deep. The best investment you can make in a garden is to enhance the condition of your soil. By enriching your garden soil and mulching properly, you can reduce your time spent watering.

Paul Ferguson, former Smith County Master Gardener
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service


The rains from this spring and fall have been a welcome, optimistic sight after the long drought in 2011. But long-term weather patterns don’t necessarily bode well for the state, and especially for East Texas.

State Climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon, who confirmed the 2011 yearlong drought was the state’s most prolific since consistent record-keeping began, asserted in media reports last spring that Texas could be headed into a multi-year drought, thanks in large part to a potential repeat of La Nina, a periodic weather pattern that can throw off the normal course of rain events and lead to unusually dry winters.

Regardless of short term weather conditions, everyone should be trying to save as much water as you can. One way is by getting your sprinkler system up to date by installing a rain/freeze sensor to stop excess watering when it rains. Conduct an audit of your sprinkler system to make sure your system is working correctly. Also adjust your spray heads to only water the grass and not have over spray hitting the roadway. One way to stop over spray is by installing surface or subsurface drip irrigation.

New developments in technology have resulted in products manufactured by several companies that protect the tiny emitters from root intrusion, creating a long-lasting, low maintenance drip irrigation system for use under turf grass, shrub and ground cover areas.

Mike Davis, Smith County Master Gardener
Texas A&M A&M AgriLife Extension Service

Posted in Water Conservation & Drought