Better Gardening through Science

Water Saving Tips for Lawn Care

Tommy Phillips, Kaufman County Extension Agent–Agriculture/Natural Resources

Water-saving Tips for Lawn Care. Graphic by KCMGA.

Even though we have been very blessed over the last few weeks with intermittent showers, we are still behind our normal rain fall. Despite that, we should all be good stewards of our most precious natural resource – WATER!  Use these water saving tips for lawn care during extended periods of heat and drought.

Quick Tips

  • Make sure your irrigation system is in good working order. Find any leaks and broken heads.
  • Turn off automatic sprinkler settings. Irrigate based on plant stress or on‑line tools. Don’t water lawns during heat of the day; water in early morning.
  • Watch your landscape watering—don’t water sidewalks, driveways or streets, or let water run down the street.
  • Use low volume drip or trickle irrigation for garden and bedding plants.
  • Mulch shrubs and other plants to keep moisture in the soil longer. This also controls weeds that compete with garden plants for water. Fewer but heavier lawn watering encourages deeper roots which withstand dry weather better. A deeply watered lawn should be able to go 5 to 8 days between waterings.
  • To irrigate trees and large shrubs in the lawn, water at their driplines—that is where the feeding root system of a tree or shrub is.
  • Raise mower height slightly in hot, dry weather. Mow frequently to avoid cutting more than one third of the leaf blade on any cutting.
  • Rainwater harvesting systems can provide supplemental water for landscapes and pets.
  • Don’t use the hose to clean off sidewalks or driveways; sweep them clean.
  • Don’t put debris, yard clippings or leaves down storm drains.

Drip Irrigation

With proper management, drip irrigation reduces water loss by up to 60 percent or more as compared to traditional watering methods. Traditional methods often deliver water faster than most soils can absorb. When this happens, water runs off the surface, removing valuable topsoil and nutrients. A properly adjusted drip irrigation allows water to soak in immediately. There is no flooding or run‑off; all of the water goes directly to the roots and avoids watering weed patches, walkways and areas between plants. Wind does not carry water away as it can with sprinkler systems, and water loss to evaporation is negligible.


Mulch conserves moisture by reducing evaporation of water vapor from the soil surface. This reduces water requirements. Mulching prevents compaction by reducing soil crusting during natural rainfall or irrigation. Falling drops of water can pound the upper 1/4 inch of soil into a tight, brick‑like mass that blocks air and water movement from the root zone. Mulching also reduces disease problems. Certain types of diseases live in the soil and spread when water splashes bits of infested soil onto a plant’s lower leaves. Mulching and careful watering reduce the spread of these diseases. Mulching also keeps fruit clean while reducing rot disease by preventing soil‑fruit contact. Most weed seeds require light to germinate so thick mulch layer shades them and reduces weed problems by 90 percent or more.


Trees need a deep, thorough soaking once a week in the growing season, either from natural rainfall or supplemental irrigation. When irrigating, be thorough and allow the water to penetrate deeply. To water large trees let water flow slowly onto an area under the dripline of the tree for several hours.  If you are unfamiliar with where the dripline is, it is where the furthers branches reach out.  This is where the “feeder” roots reside; the ones that take up the most moisture.  Watering next the trunk is almost useless. 

Professionals indicate that large trees require more deep watering than homeowners can imagine. Remember that watering which is adequate for lawn grasses growing under trees is not adequate for actively growing trees


The feeding root system of a tree or shrub is located within the top 12 inches of the soil at the “dripline” of the plant. The dripline is the area directly below the outermost reaches of the branches. Apply water just inside and a little beyond the dripline, not at the trunk. Simply lay a slowly running hose on the ground and move it around the dripline as each area becomes saturated to a depth of 8 to 10 inches.

For more water saving tips or information on agriculture and natural resources, contact the Kaufman County Extension office at (469) 376-4520.

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