AUSTIN (KXAN) — Lawns! Popularized by the founding fathers and a symbol of American prosperity and success may be in danger due to what could be the hottest summer on record in Austin. Between the intense heat and tight water restrictions, experts with ABC Home & Commercial Services said many lawns might not make it.
“St. Augustine lawns, one of the first grasses really that people started using here. If that dies, it’s probably dead [and not just in hibernation],” said Hank Rutkowski, landscape manager with ABC. “Bermuda grass will go dormant and come back.”
Rutkowski said tight water restrictions are making it difficult to care for lawns as temperatures linger in the 100s for weeks on end.
- Watering with a sprinkler is limited to one day a week.
- Watering with a hose end sprinkler is limited to two days a week.
- Watering must be done in off hours (midnight – 8 a.m.; 7 p.m. – midnight)
- Drip irrigation has no restrictions.
Rutkowski said these restrictions are bad news for lawns. “The one time a week will keep it alive; they won’t keep it green.”
The best way to water under these restrictions, according to Rutkowski, is to water twice: once in the morning and once in the evening. This way the water will reach the roots easier.
Drip irrigation, which is not restricted currently, is also a good idea. “You can do it on existing lawns, it’s easier to do it on new lawns.”
To install drip irrigation, landscapers lay hoses in a grid beneath the grass. These hoses are punctured, so water flowing through them is slowly released.
“Most of them are 0.9 gallons per hour. So it’s very slow, but it waters it below the soil.”
Trees and bushes are also at risk due to the heat. Rutkowski said look for changes in color and curling leaves. If these occur, your plant may need some extra water. To properly water these, you must water deeper than you do with lawns.
Water usage and lawncare
Lawns are major consumers of water, and they waste a lot of it. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, around 50% of water used in landscaping is lost to evaporation. The EPA also said Americans use on average 320 gallons of water per day. About 30% of which is used in landscaping.
Drip irrigation reduces the amount of water lost evaporation, because the water is all released under the soil. Another way to save water — ditch the lawn altogether.
“Whether it’s beds, it’s … walkways, maybe an outdoor kitchen, artificial grass, you know, there’s lots of different options,” Rutkowski said.
Planting native is also a great way to save water. Native plants use less water and are more resistant to the heat.