Good lawn maintenance comes with its fair share of expenses – many of which are directly related to water and irrigation. When trying to save money while maintaining that pristine lawn, there are some common culprits to watch out for in relation to irrigation maintenance issues, lack of proper mulching, plant choice and lawn maintenance. Here are five landscaping issues to avoid, with tips on how to save money while maintaining your lawn.
1. Poor Irrigation Systems
Did you know that water utility companies report that more than 50 percent of regular water usage comes from landscape irrigation? That means a poorly maintained irrigation system not only is wasting precious water, but is costing you far more money than it should. Some of the biggest culprits are outdated systems, poorly installed systems, or sprinkler systems that are not intended for the type of yard/plants you have in your landscape. It may not even be a poor system, either. Sometimes time and age or even accidents lead to problems – such as leaks in pipes and fittings, broken seals and caps, and more.
To make sure your irrigation controls aren’t wasting water and money, you should do an annual audit of your system and compare it with other more up-to-date and efficient irrigation systems. You should also make sure the contractor installing the system knows exactly what they’re doing and has experience with that type of procedure. Consider plant type, soil type, the slope of your property, average temperature and humidity, and a variety of other factors related to water and irrigation.
2. Inefficient Water Distribution
The best irrigation systems start at the design phase and are well-thought-out before ever being installed. That being said, even the best designs have problems over time. Sometimes replacing parts, making adjustments or even dirty-ness limit the effectiveness of your water distribution. Overspray and runoff are a common side effect of these problems, and end up costing you money in the long run. Additionally, poor water metering practices don’t alert you to the problems soon enough and could end up costing you thousands in lost gallons of water and thousands in wasted costs (not to mention potentially killing your landscaping).
Again, one of the best solutions for this is to take an annual audit of your system by a trained professional. Just eyeballing the sprinkler heads or above-ground pipes isn’t enough. Pooling, overspray, and runoff are things that a trained professional can easily fix by replacing heads with drip irrigation, variable arc nozzles, or adjusting irrigation controllers. Also, make sure your water meter not only tracks general water consumption but alert you and the system of any leaks in real-time. Modern-day metering solutions offer some advanced testing of your systems and will pay for themselves in the long run by alerting you to problems as they arise.
3. Over Watering
According to the Saving Water Partnership, most people water their lawns too often and for too long. The average American family of four uses about 400 gallons of water per day, and about 30 percent of that is devoted to outdoor uses. Some experts also estimate that more than 50 percent of commercial and residential irrigation water use goes to waste due to evaporation, runoff or over-watering.
Most landscape experts will tell you that it’s not necessary to water your grass every day. One quick-and-easy test to see if your lawn needs water is to step on a patch of grass – if it springs back, it doesn’t need water. Another method is to test the soil moisture (ideally maintain 25% to 30% of volumetric soil moisture for loam soil). Regular maintenance of an irrigation system will help ensure that water is distributed evenly on the lawn and doesn’t over-spray onto paved areas.
4. Landscaping With The Wrong Plants
One of the most unexpected causes of wasted water is plants. Landscaping with plants that aren’t adapted to your climate increases water use and costs. Sure, those shrubs and flowers and trees from different parts of the world might look pretty, but they aren’t native to your area and as such they require extra special care to look the way they’re supposed to look. That means you need to water them more than you would native plants, and that leads to waste of water and money.
Consider using plants that are native to your area – they’ll grow better in the natural soil and they’ll be able to withstand and thrive in the temperatures and humidity native to your region. Those species have adapted to the local climate for a reason, and many of them are just as beautiful as the non-native plants you’re attracted to. Best of all, using local plans will reduce your water use by as much as 50 percent in some cases.
If you do want to use plants from different regions, consider grouping them by water usage. This will allow for more efficient irrigation.
5. Planting High-Maintenance Lawns
The idea of a pristine lawn with well-manicured plants and a perfectly trimmed grass has become the status symbol for the successful homeowner. With that comes a high-cost, high-maintenance lawn that in actuality isn’t practical. It takes a lot of work, and water, to keep the grass the right thickness and perfect color. Whether or not that’s “waste” is up to the opinion of the homeowner or business owner, which should be making those choices with full knowledge of the costs associated with that waste. That being said, there are low-maintenance landscaping options that can help save money and eliminate waste.
Consider less extreme lawns and landscapes. There are many beautiful, low-maintenance groundcovers – such as creeping thyme, trees, shrubs, native grasses and wildflowers – that are low cost and don’t require a lot of water. You could also consider growing a garden, which is both beautiful and practical. Utilizing patios and stone pathways also lessens the necessary plant-to-water footprint while giving your home or business’s vista an appealing look.