In the Yard
Avoid Over-Watering Your Lawn
Watering too heavily or too often weakens your lawn and causes erosion and runoff pollution. A general rule is to water one inch, once a week, when needed, but always comply with your water system’s restrictions. Shrubs, trees, and other perennials generally need less because of their deeper root structure.
Avoid watering in the middle of the day. Watering in the morning allows for the water to be absorbed before evaporating in midday heat. If using sprinklers, use larger drops close to the ground. The water in misters can evaporate quickly. When watering, always comply with your water system’s restrictions.
Collect and Use Rainwater
Lawn and garden watering makes up 30 to 50 percent of total household water use during the summer. Collecting rainwater for landscape use not only is great for the plants, but can save you water and money. By collecting rainwater from just 10 percent of the residential roof area in Texas, we could conserve over 30 billion gallons of water annually. Download Rainwater Harvesting, a Take Care of Texas manual.
Update Your Sprinkler System’s Controller
Billions of gallons of water are wasted every day from inefficient landscape watering. Replacing a standard clock timer with newer irrigation-control technology can save an average home nearly 8,800 gallons of water annually. New, more efficient controllers act like a thermostat for your sprinkler system telling it when to turn on and off. They use local weather and landscape conditions to tailor watering schedules to actual conditions on the site, better matching your yard’s water needs.
Leaves, grass clippings, and other yard debris make up 20 percent of the trash sent to landfills each year, and it costs Texans over $250 million a year to collect and dispose of that waste. Instead of throwing them out with the garbage, try recycling yard materials by composting them. Compost can serve as a soil conditioner that nourishes your yard and reduces the need for outdoor watering by up to 60 percent. Download Mulching and Composting: a "Take Care of Texas" Guide.
Use What Nature Gave You
To save money and reduce harmful chemicals, use natural alternatives to help grow your plants. Mulch is a chemical-free protective ground covering that can include straw, leaves, bark, wood chips, and pine needles. It reduces evaporation, prevents erosion, controls weeds, and enriches soil.
Mow Your Grass Higher
How you cut your lawn matters. Set your lawn-mower blades one notch higher. That keeps the grass blade longer which provides shade to the roots, prevents greater evaporation, and inhibits weed growth. Also keep your mower blades sharp. Lawns cut with dull blades lose moisture faster and are more subject to disease.
Leave Grass Clippings on the Lawn
Allow grass clippings to remain on the yard after mowing. They can act as a slow-release fertilizer to your lawn by recycling nutrients back into the grass and improving the top soil. This reduces the need for watering and can eliminate the need for fertilizer—both good for your wallet and the environment.
Use Native Texas Plants
Plants that are native to their location help conserve water and protect the soil, and require less pesticide, fertilizer, and maintenance—all saving you time and money. The deep root systems of many native plants also increase the soil’s capacity to store water and reduce runoff. In addition, native plants attract a variety of birds and butterflies by providing habitat and food. Explore the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center’s Native Plant Database to see which plants are best for your region.
Plant Shade Trees
Plant deciduous trees on the south and west sides of your house and around your air conditioner. Because deciduous trees lose their leaves in the winter, they can save you energy by keeping your home shady and cool in the summer, yet allow the sun to shine through windows to warm your home in the winter. Carefully positioned trees can reduce interior temperature by three to six degrees in the summer and save a household up to 25 percent in heating and cooling costs.
Annual Savings: $180
Use Less Pesticides and Fertilizers
More is not always better when fertilizing your yard. Excessive watering or a rainstorm can wash away the chemical excess—wasting your money and endangering nearby waterways. Misapplication of fertilizer is the most frequent cause of surface and groundwater contamination. To minimize environmental impact, apply pesticides and fertilizers according to the label’s directions, and only use the recommended amount.