In five or six weeks, unless we have extraordinarily mild weather,
our lawns will go dormant. There is almost no need for irrigation
when lawns are dormant for the winter. Every three weeks, if we
have not had any rain, you can apply one-half inch of water to
keep the St. Augustine roots supplied, but winter lawn sprinkling
otherwise is a waste of water. Turn the timer off and rely on
manual application if any irrigation is required.
The green lawns you see are perennial rye. Perennial rye is attractive,
but the conditions must be right before I would recommend that
it be used. Some apartments and even a few homeowners apply perennial
rye seed to their winter lawns. The practice stresses the permanent
grass. Bermuda grass lawns tolerate the practice fairly well,
but it is a killer to buffalo, St. Augustine, and zoysia grass.
For overseeding a Bermuda lawn six lbs. of rye seed per 1000 sq.
ft will provide the green lawn desired.
The most reasonable need for a winter lawn is to protect your
soil from erosion. A newly graded yard left without cover is subject
to erosion, especially if there are any slopes. Spread 10 lbs.
or more of seed per 1000 sq. ft. and water it everyday with one-quarter
inch of irrigation until it germinates. Transition to one time
per week or every 10 days sprinkling after the rye is established
(usually three weeks). Remember, any winter lawn watering, including
establishing winter rye, must be done between 8 p.m. and 10 a.m.
in San Antonio.
Perennial rye grass in full sun will survive until May most years.
In shade it may last a month longer. Till and rake the yard at
that time and apply your permanent lawn with Bermuda seed or sod,
or zoysia sod.
A better way to protect the soil from erosion over the winter,
especially if you are going to plant a xeriscape (groundcovers,
perennials, shrubs) is to apply shredded brush mulch to the exposed
area. The City of San Antonio's brush management site charges
$.03 per lb. of mulch or you can buy it in bulk from Garden-Ville,
Fertile Garden Supply, Living Earth Technology, and other suppliers
for about $20 per cubic yard delivered. One cubic yard will cover
about 100 sq. ft. three inches deep. You can plant your shrubs
and groundcovers right into the mulch throughout the winter and
next year when your schedule and budget allow.
It is desirable to minimize landscape irrigation over the winter
for several reasons: 1) The lawn and trees do not need it. They
are not growing actively, evaporation rates are low, and we get
adequate rains in the winter; 2) winter is when SAWS determines
your sewer fee for the next year. We call the process winter averaging.
The logic is that the water you use in the wintertime is mostly
inside water so it reflects the amount of water you will use each
month year-round that must be treated as sewage. Folks who use
small amounts of water in the wintertime have low sewer bills
for the next year because of winter averaging. For more information
on winter averaging call 704-7354 and ask for a Conservation Planner
to explain the process.