The seven low-cost, no-cost things you can do to conserve water and save money and labor with your lawn.
1. Mow your grass as high as the mower will allow. The taller the grass, the more roots will develop below the soil. The taller the grass, the cooler the soil will be. Cooler soil means more enzymatic activity. And more enzymatic activity means more vigorous plant and animal life (e.g., microbes and earthworms).
2. Let your lawn clippings lie. The clippings are mostly carbohydrate, protein, and trace minerals. These materials shrivel up and fall back to the soil, where they are consumed by the microbial life. Microbial life forms expand and proliferate, fueled by the carbon and nourished by the protein and trace minerals. When all the food is consumed, these populations die back and yield the protein of their decaying bodies back to the roots of the turf grass as nitrogen. Cooler soil temperatures prevent the nitrogen from gasifying and facilitate the uptake of the nitrogen by the grass roots. Additionally, nitrogen can dissolve itself into water being held in the soil. All the trace minerals and major plant nutrients (calcium, phosphorus, potassium, etc.) are also recycled in this way.
3. Stop over-fertilizing your lawn. In many cases, this means stop fertilizing your lawn altogether until you have a soil analysis done. In a recent survey of two hundred lawns in Austin, turf soils had dysfunctionally high levels of phosphorus and potassium and almost no nitrogen. Nitrogen likes to be a gas – it either dissolves into water and moves away from soils that have no water-holding capacity, or quickly evolves into a gas in hot soils and floats away in the breeze. The phosphorus and potassium, being minerals, are left behind and can become a serious problem as residues build up.
4. Keep your lawn mower blade sharp.
5. Top-dress your lawn with materials that will increase water-holding capacity and organic matter content.
6. Feed the soil, not the lawn. Healthy soil will always produce healthy turf grass. Use products such as alfalfa pellets, Medina Soil Activator, Aggrand, Alaska Fish Fertilizer, Texas Tee Soil Food, Maxicrop Seaweed Fertilizer, and Maestro Gro Agricultural and Horticultural Molasses. Fertile soil also eliminates the need for weed control – weeds don’t stand a chance against vigorously growing turf grass.
7. Do not water in the heat of the day.