Outdoor Water Conservation
The key to any successful water conservation program is to address the most efficient way to water our landscape. Growing plants and turf in Texas can be a challenge, but with just a little bit of education, efficiently watering your yard can put you way ahead of the pack. Here you will find great information on clay soil, hardy Texas plants and proven irrigation practices.
CYCLE SOAK IRRIGATION METHOD FOR NORTH TEXAS LAWNS
SOIL (The foundation of a healthy landscape)
Here in Carrollton, we live in a region called the “Blackland Prairie”. This name comes from the rich, black clay soil beneath our feet. Growing plants and turf is often difficult in clay soil because it's thick and gooey when it's wet and hard as concrete when it's dry. Because clay particles are so tiny, they pack together easily and become very dense, virtually impermeable to water and air, which are essential for healthy soil and plants. But there is good news! Adding organic matter to the soil breaks up the clay particles so water can get through and roots can get some air flow. The fall and winter seasons are a great time to amend your soil because it gives the decomposing organic matter time to break down and mix with the clay soil before the spring growing season. Dig up the top layer of soil in your planting beds, add your organic materials and blend with a garden fork, a shovel or by hand. Complete this process more than once during the fall and early winter so your beds will be soft and ready for the spring. For larger areas, consider buying or renting a rototiller that will effectively churn up the clay soil being careful not to injure the roots of existing plants.
IRRIGATION (Life giving moisture): There’s good news and not-so-good news (but mostly good) when it comes to irrigating clay soil. The good news is that once we get water deep into the soil, it has a tendency to hold it for a while which is good because it means we can water less. On the other hand, getting the water deep into the tightly packed particles of clay takes a certain technique. No worries, it’s not difficult at all, just a little different than most of us are used to. Clay soil has a very slow water absorption rate. In other words, it must be watered slowly. More often than not, running an irrigation zone for 15 – 20 minutes at a time is too much water for the soil to absorb and it just ends up running off of the yard and down the street. The best way to ensure that the roots of your turf and plants are getting watered properly is to use the Cycle Soak Method of Irrigation. Instead of running each zone one time around for too many minutes at a time, try breaking the run time into 3 shorter cycles. For example, instead of running the zone for 15 or 20 minutes straight, break the watering cycle into 2 cycles of 7 to 10 minutes or 3 cycles of 5 to 7 minutes with about 30 – 60 minutes in between cycles. This gives the clay soil time to deeply absorb the water that you have applied and will be ready to absorb more during the next short cycle. More details on Cycle Soak Method here...
Irrigation Systems Basics
The Controller: The irrigation controller is usually found inside the garage. It is the system's computer or "brain" and tells your irrigation system when to come on and for how long to run. Many times the controller is set to run during periods of time when we are away from home or are asleep. Automatic irrigation controllers are a great convenience for getting the job done, but beware, without a personal check on your system, you may have leaks or equipment malfunctions that are causing damage and/or wasting water without your knowledge. Think of the controller as an "automatic withdrawal" of water which greatly affects the size of the water bill you get each month.
Weather-based irrigation controllers (or Smart irrigation controllers)
Smart irrigation controllers reduce outdoor water use by monitoring environmental conditions such as rain, wind, temperature, soil moisture, slope and plant type. The program in the controller uses this information to adjust the amount of water each time the system operates. With a Smart irrigation controller, the right amount of water can be applied to maintain healthy plants.
Irrigation Zones: Your sprinkler system is sectioned off into zones. Most residents have between 5 and 12 zones. Hopefully each zone waters a different type of plant material. In other words, zones that water turf are separate from zones that water planting beds because they definitely have different watering requirements. Based on water pressure, only so many sprinkler heads can be on a single zone. If you have a large property, you'll generally have more zones. Take a little time to get to know the zones on your system. Manually turn on zone 1 and see how many sprinkler heads are in the zone and what area they water. Do this for all of the zones on your system. Be sure to right down the information for each zone so you will be familiar with your system and how it applies water to your landscape.
The Valves: Each zone on your sprinkler system is controlled by a valve. When the controller sends a signal to the valve, it opens a gate and allows water to run through the pipes and activates the sprinklers of that particular zone. When the programmed time is done, the controller shuts the valve to the zone and opens the valve on the next zone to continue the watering cycle.
The Sprinkler Heads: Sprinkler heads are the most visible part of an irrigation system. It is the small round device where the water comes out and sprays your landscape. They are installed underground and connected to the pipes and the water source. The “sprinkler head” is the outside casing that is attached to the pipe. The “nozzle” is the interchangeable insert at the top. Nozzles come in a variety of sizes, shapes, patterns and spray ranges so you can water any size or shape area in your landscape. Sprinkler heads generally spray between 7 and 17 feet. Installed nozzles can be either fixed pattern or adjustable to help apply water to an area that has unusual size or shape.
Thanks to our friends at the City of Plano for this great resource on sprinkler repair! Watch the video here.
FREE Rain and Freeze Sensors:
Rain and freeze sensors are a great addition to an automatic irrigation system. When temperatures are near freezing or when we have had substantial rain, the sensor overrides the controller and temporarily turns it off. When temperatures rise again or when the rain has stopped and things dry out a bit, the sensor releases the controller back to its regular programming mode. While supplies last, the City of Carrollton Water Utilities provides free rain and freeze sensors to all water customers for the purpose of retrofitting an automatic irrigation system. Systems must have been installed prior to January 1, 2006. The free devices are limited to one per residential or commercial premise and customers will be responsible for installation of the device. Requests for the free Rain and Freeze sensors must be made in person at Utility Customer Service, 1st floor of City Hall, 1945 E. Jackson Road, Monday through Thursday 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and Friday 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. For more information call 972-466-3000.
PLANT MATERIALS (Choose Native or Adapted plants)
Texas can be a harsh environment for growing plants. The good news is that if we focus on using Texas Native and Adapted Plants, beautiful, green and colorful landscapes are easily within our grasp. Check out www.txsmartscape.com for an extensive list of wonderful plant selections for our growing zone (which is Zone 7 & 8). You can also take a look under the On-Line Resources tab and make a plan to visit Carrollton's native plant gardens at Josey Ranch Library/Senior Center on Keller Springs Road, Don Cline Pump Station on Old Denton Road and Bobby Ballard Pump Station on Josey Lane. Also, be sure to watch for educational classes offered throughout the year that will help guide you to the very best plants for your home landscape.