HOME DESIGN : A SPECIAL ISSUE OF ORANGE COUNTY LIFE : You Can Conserve Water While Nourishing Lawn in Arid Orange County

Is your lawn drinking you out of house and home? Large amounts of water can be saved by watering lawns properly and by taking some simple conservation measures. Here are a few:

Water early in the morning, so most of the water gets down to the roots instead of evaporating. You can also water early in the evening, but morning is the best time.

Water only enough to keep your lawn healthy. A steady schedule of three days a week in the summer is sufficient, except during extremely hot weather, when you can increase the amount or frequency. The Orange County Water District, which provides water for the northwestern half of the county, has a lawn watering guide available. It is a pocket slide device that tells you exactly how much water is needed for your lawn, based on the amount your sprinklers put out as measured in three cans placed on your lawn. Call (714) 963-5661 for information.

Wash car on lawn, using little or no soap, which can be harmful to the grass.

Sweep sidewalks and driveways rather than hosing them down.

Control weeds; they use up the water that your lawn and garden need.

Put down a layer of mulch in your garden. This will moderate soil temperatures, prevent soil compaction and discourage weed growth.

Find leaks in hoses, pipes and faucets. This can be done by turning off all water sources inside and out and checking your water meter before and after a 15-minute period to see if there has been any movement on the gauge.

Mow less often and set the trim level higher. Taller grass holds moisture better.

Avoid over-spray, in which sprinklers water paved areas, by adjusting sprinkler heads and turning down the pressure.

Use a garden hose to touch up any temporarily dry areas rather than over-watering a large area or the whole lawn. Uniform coverage is best.

Cut the lawn down to size. Replace thirsty grass with decking, ground covers or porous pavement. The next logical step is the xeriscape, as decribed below.

Adopt the xeriscape concept, which is a water-conserving landscape that combines minimal turf areas, drought-resistant plants and ground covers, irrigation instead of sprinkling and a regular schedule of maintenance.

Just tear it all up and pave the whole. . . .

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