Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Train your dog, train your man, train your lawn?

I’m reading a book right now called What Shamu Taught Me About Life Love and Marriage by Amy Sutherland. The premise is that you should be able to train your husband (or anyone else, for that matter, by using techniques created by famous animal trainers. I’m not very far into the book, so for now, my husband isn’t coming when called or heeling very well when we go for a walk.

However, with drought conditions in effect for much of the D.C. area, I thought that now would be a good time to talk about the benefits of training your lawn.

Lawns and gardens can be water hogs. But experts agree that with proper training, most landscapes should be able to tolerate drought conditions with few problems.

Most lawns only need water up to two times a week in the spring and summer, less if it rains, and less in the fall and winter. The problem is that people start out watering incorrectly so they have to re-teach their lawns to use less water.

With drought conditions in affect for much of the area, now is the time to start re-training your landscape for less water. That means to ONLY water your lawn when it really needs it. According to the Virginia Cooperative Extension, you should water your lawn when it shows these signs of thirst:

A "thirsty" lawn turns from the normal green color to a purple-bluish color. In these areas the grass blades will not spring back if you walk across the lawn and your footprints will be visible. This is the first sign of "wilt" and indicates a need for water.

Here are some more landscape tips to consider during drought conditions.

Refrain from fertilizing – Fertilizing encourages new growth, and new growth is less drought-tolerant. If you do fertilize, use fertilizer with slow release nitrogen in it. If your goal is to improve grass color, try an iron application rather than fertilizer. Dull mower blades can also make your lawn look brown instead of green by shredding rather than cutting grass blades.

Reduce lawn areas– Since Lawn irrigation can account for more than 50 percent of total water use at residential and commercial locations, considering installing a pond, walkway, or larger garden beds in place of water-hogging turfgrass.

Irrigation Methods - Investigate the use of micro–irrigation for your plant beds. Micro-irrigation is more efficient way of distributing water directly to the base of plants without water loss from evaporation and wind drift. If you are in the market for a new irrigation system, find a reputable irrigation contractor who has experience with these systems. If you already have an irrigation system in place, many of the larger manufacturers now sell retrofit kits which will allow you to change specific irrigation zones over to micro-irrigation fittings.

Mulch. Add mulch to plant beds to reduce evaporation from soil and to moderate soil temperature, reducing stress on roots. Make sure to pull the mulch away from tree trunks and plant stems to leave a gap of an inch or two to discourage diseases and insects.

Amend the soil - To improve the water retaining capabilities of soil, considering adding several layers of top-soil or compost.

Weed – Keep weeds under control. Weeds steal water from plants.

Your plants and lawn may seem a little stressed as they adjust to their new watering schedule, but after a week or two, they should adapt and begin to flourish again.

For more information: Lawn Management During Heat and Drought and Watering the Lawn , both from Virginia Cooperative Extension

Or check out the Metro DC Lawn and Garden Blog's other posts on Waterwise Landscaping Techniques

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