Conserve water, let the lawn go

Water rationing won't be impacting just Yakima Valley farmers this year. Home gardeners wanting to maintain green lawns will be impacted as well, said Matt Johns, a turf grass technician with Washington State University.

Based in Puyallup, Johns said many home gardeners will probably have to forego having a picture perfect green lawn this summer. "Many will be facing letting their existing lawns go brown," he said.

Johns urges Yakima Valley residents to observe city water restrictions, which may include watering only once or twice a week.

"But if you must water, do it as early in the morning as possible or late in the evening," Johns suggested.

"Watering during the heat of the day will only cause you to lose water to evaporation," he said.

Johns said Valley homeowners should make use of all rainy days. "Use rainy days to soak in fertilizer and to reseed bare spots in the lawns," he suggested.

"Try to keep your lawn healthy up front," he said. Use slow release fertilizers early in the season and let the rain water in the fertilizer, he recommended.

Johns also recommends gardeners dethatch their lawns early this spring.

By dethatching, a process which removes the dead stems that build up in lawns during mowing, gardeners will increase the air flow in their lawns and allow water to penetrate more effectively. Johns suggested using a criss-cross pattern, using either a rake or a dethatching machine.

Follow up the dethatching process with the application of a slow release fertilizer, Johns suggested.

He also encourages the use of drought tolerant grasses in lawns and plants in gardens. Johns said lawns should be reseeded with drought tolerant grasses, such as colonial bend grass, tall fescue grasses or Kentucky blue grass. Although Kentucky blue grass, said Johns, is not as drought tolerant as the first two grass varieties.

Johns also urges people planning to put in new landscapes to consider alternatives to grass filled landscapes. Consider landscapes using gravel, brick, wood decking, landscape bark or concrete, he suggested. Johns also recommends planting drought tolerant ground covers such as juniper or ivy in home landscapes.

Water management will be a huge challenge not only for farmers, but for gardeners trying to stay within the restrictions of city water rationing, said Johns.

"Everyone must redouble their efforts to conserve water in any way possible," he said.



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