Home & Garden

Water: waste not, want not

An example of drought-tolerant landscaping by Sprinkler King.
An example of drought-tolerant landscaping by Sprinkler King.

Watering the lawn isn’t rocket science – or is it?

When Atascadero’s Sprinkler King conducts a water audit, the process is quite scientific, indeed. They test the soil for factors like drainage, uniformity and composition. Plants are evaluated for their water requirements. A carefully-placed grouping of catch cups determines the distribution rate and uniformity of sprinkler systems.

“There are seven or eight factors that we consider,” said Dave Wesolowski, founder and president whose company performs landscape design and specializes in moving water, be it irrigation or subsurface drainage.

Why go to all the fuss? For starters, rising water rates and mandatory conservation in many local communities. Sprinkler King not only handles water audits and consultation for residential customers interested in conserving, it’s also the conservation consultant for the city of Arroyo Grande.

While a full water audit is a “great tool for the homeowner to assess how and where water distribution is happening,” according to Wesolowski, a couple of basic principles can help anyone cut down on water consumption.

The first has to do with the way we water. If you have heavy clay soil and use sprinklers with stationary spray heads (rather than rotor), water likely begins to run off within a few minutes.

“Clay will generally absorb a third of an inch per hour,” he said.

Wesolowski recommends taking the time to observe your sprinklers. Let’s say you see runoff or pooling within five minutes. If you normally water 20 minutes, three times a week, break each session up into four five-minute watering cycles with around 20 minutes in between to allow the water to soak into the soil.

Even better, consider investing in a smart controller that uses weather data to calculate when and how much to water. According to Wesolowski, these controllers will soon be mandated by law for all new irrigation systems. But for now, you can take advantage of rebates offered by many local water districts.

Plant selection is another factor to consider. When Sprinkler King does a water audit, it categorizes plants according to water use: H for high, M for medium, and L for low.

Wesolowski advocates sticking to M or L plants, especially if you have watering restrictions in your area. These plants, once established, can survive a couple of days without water, even in intense summer heat. A few of his favorite water-savvy plants for color in the garden are marigolds, rock rose, agapanthus and daylilies.

Naturally, turf grass ranks in the H category for water usage. Wesolowski recommends planting just enough turf for your needs. If you have kids, leave just enough grass in the back yard for playing a game of tag. Pets typically require even less. Then consider replacing the seldom tread-on front lawn with a low-growing ground cover.

“You get curb appeal because it looks like grass, but maintenance is little to nothing,” he said.

For an at-home consultation, contact Sprinkler King at (805) 466-4990.