Weekly Express-News Article
By Calvin R. Finch, PhD,
SAWS Water Resources Director, and Horticulturist
Saturday, August 5, 2006
“Options with Your Lawn”
a lawn in San Antonio is not easy in the best
of times; during drought restrictions it is even more difficult. Lawn grasses do best in conditions where
there are relatively deep soils, mild temperatures and regular rainfall. Our favorite grass, St. Augustine, evolved in a region with
acid soils and 50 – 60 inches of rain.
It is no wonder that some of us are wondering what the options are with
our lawns in the midst of droughty weather.
Option #1 is to maintain a green lawn.
Even with drought restrictions this is possible in San Antonio. Under Stage 1 of the restrictions, area
businesses and residences can water the lawn once per week based on the last
number of the address. Addresses ending
in 0 or 1 water on Monday, 2 and 3 on Tuesday and so on, through the end of the
week. All watering must be completed
between midnight and 10:00 a.m., or 8:00 p.m., and midnight on your designated
day. There is no watering on the
Option #2 is to let your lawn go dormant for the duration of the
drought. This is an especially desirable
option for individuals with zoysia, Bermuda, and buffalo grass
lawns. Those species of grasses are capable
of shutting down like a bear in hibernation during a drought. When rains resume, they green up quickly with
no negative consequences. The advantages
of this option are obvious – you do not need to worry about watering days and
your water bill is very low.
For St. Augustine lawns, the dormancy
option is not as simple. St. Augustine evolved in a climate
where it rained all year and temperatures were always mild; there was no
survival advantage to going dormant. The
closest you come to dormancy with St. Augustine is to water every two
weeks – the lawn will brown, but roots will stay alive.
Option #3 – This alternative is built on Option #1. It maintains a green lawn, but minimizes the
amount of water used. Water
on your designated day, but only add the amount of water recommended
by SIP. SIP stands for Seasonal Irrigation Program.
It calculates the amount of water your lawn needs based on
the grass type, the amount of sun and the weather conditions in the
last week. Under Option #1,
everyone might apply one inch of water every week, while under this
option, a buffalo grass lawn might not require any irrigation, and
a St. Augustine lawn in the shade might
only require .5 inches of water. Option
#3 requires more management of your irrigation application, but it
does save 20% of water use on average and your water bills are less. SAWS makes SIP easier to follow by sending you
a SIP kit with the directions and tools you need to determine how
much water is being applied by your sprinkler system.
Sign up for the kit and a weekly SIP recommendation by visiting
the SAWS website at www.saws.org. Your personalized recommendation will be provided
by e-mail or phone message on the day you designate. SIP was developed in San Antonio over four years of tests
and six more years of use. It
is the way to keep your lawn green without using any unnecessary water.