How I Kept My Lawn Green While Cutting My Water Usage by 60% - The Kim Six Fix

How I Kept My Lawn Green While Cutting My Water Usage by 60%

This post has actually been more than 4 months in the making.  I started a lawn ‘makeover’ this past spring, when I believed our California drought ravaged our lawn was beyond salvation.  I thought it was going to be a fruitless last-ditch attempt to green up our lawn while following the mandatory state water restrictions, but I was stunned with what actually happened.  This past summer, while in one of the worst droughts on record, I was able to cut down my water usage by 60% and wound up with a greener, healthier lawn than we ever had.  

I finally decided to share the results with you when  Scotts® EveryDrop™  asked me to write a post educating people about the California drought crisis.  I know many homeowners have given up hope for saving their lawns.. but  I have been working on getting the perfect green lawn for more than 4 months, and have finally found success!  It is possible! Get a green lawn on half the water..It is possible. Even in the middle of the California Drought.
In case you are living under a rock, California is having a MAJOR drought.  It is pretty bad.. like “you can’t have a glass of water in a restaurant and you need to stop flushing the toilets” bad.  In the Bay Area (where I live) we are under a mandatory 30% water reduction requirement. This past spring we had a water audit and learned that a large amount of our water usage was going to our outdoor landscaping.  (And laundry.. always laundry… but I digress.)

Pre-drought, we had a 4 zone sprinkler system and were running each zone for 5 minutes every day (7 days a week).  Our water audit calculated (based on the assumption that an average a pop-up station (irrigation system) uses approximately 16 gpm (gallons per minute)) our weekly water usage at 2250 gallons.  JUST FOR THE LAWN. 

Here is what the lawn looked like on Easter of 2012 (using that watering frequency).  It wasn’t that great. But it was still moderately green:

Then, this past spring, in order to get to our mandatory 30% reduction, we cut down our lawns watering time and frequency. On the reduction we changed the watering length down from 5 minutes to 3 minutes and we only watered 5 days a week.  New water consumption level:  960 gallons.. a nearly 60% reduction!!

But here was the problem.  The grass looked TERRIBLE.  I mean.. it was a barren wasteland:
Dead lawn from drought
So what were we going to do?  Many people we knew were ripping out lawns and putting in plastic grass (although that is NOT ideal since if you have pets it works like a giant sponge sucking up pet waste odors.) And some neighbors pulled out all the grass and paved over the backyard completely. NO GRASS AT ALL!   I didn’t want to do that..  I have young kids and I wanted them to have some grass to play in.  Another option was the xeriscaping route where you put in drought tolerant plants and shrubs.  But once again, that wasn’t ideal.   And a few of our neighbors keep their grass green by using thousands of gallons of reclaimed water, but once again.. the idea of trucking water from the treatment plant and storing it in a giant carboy in the backyard was not appealing.

I wanted a LAWN.

I wanted REAL grass.

But I didn’t want to use a lot of water.

I wanted it all.

And guess what? I was actually able to get it!  
Why Im keeping my lawn during the California drought, and how I am actually saving water with GREENER grass!
So what was the trick?  It was actually a LOT of things.

There isn’t a one-stop solution to make your grass drought-toleratant.  And even if you are doing some of these, there is probably one more thing you can try to help keep your lawn looking good, even when water is in short supply.

5 THINGS THAT CREATE A DOUGHT FRIENDLY LAWN:

1. SOIL CONDITIONS: 
Something we realized when we were investigating why our lawn was so dry, was that when we were dumping 2200 gallons of water on our lawn, the VAST MAJORITY of it was running down the drain.  Our yard was sloped inwards towards a drain in the middle of the lawn.  Whenever we would water, especially for longer periods of time) all the water would just run straight down he drain.   The ground was compacted (which wasn’t helping) and the slope was basically funneling the water OFF the turf itself.

So we decided to completely re-level the lawn.  This was no small feat.  We pulled a string from one edge of the lawn to the other and realized it was nearly a 6 inch elevation change that needed to be filled in.
Unlevel lawn
I also needed to raise the drain to reduce the ‘funnel’ effect.  To do this we added an additional length of PVC pipe to the drain itselfAdding drain pipe extensionThen we backfilled around the new higher drain:
Raising drain in center of lawn
Since we were adding soil, we decided to use Scotts® Lawn Soil and not standard backfill since it retains water better than the clay rich native soil. Adding new soil to lawn
Our yard needed about 20 cubic feet of new dirt (13 bags worth!) and making sure it was level was KEY since we wanted to reduce any runoff. Leveling lawn

2. TYPE OF GRASS SEED:
The first thing I realized when we were investigating how to keep our lawn green was that the type of grass that had been previously planted in our yard was NOT drought tolerant.  Our yard is hot and dry and in full sun almost all day long.  We needed Bermuda grass.. not the sensitive shade loving fescue that was originally planted as sod (Back when water wasn’t an issue)
Seeding new grass
We used the Scotts® EZ Seed® version (which includes a growing material and fertilizer for getting a new lawn established):Overseeding grass
It worked great.   New grass emerging
The hardest part was keeping the kids off the tender new grass shoots for the first week or so:Don t go into the grass sign

3: WATERING TIMING AND FREQUENCY:
In the pre-drought days we were watering our lawn midday. This wasn’t as effective because the water would quickly evaporate.  The best time to water lawns is in the cool early morning hours.  It is also better to water less frequently but for a longer duration.  In our case, because of run off, we had cut back on the longer frequency since the water was running off. But what that meant was the roots of the grass were really shallow and tended to dry out quickly.  We were basically doing everything wrong.
Watering lawn
Our new waterings schedule is now 3 days a week for 5 minutes.  The total water usage is still only 960 gallons (a 62% reduction from our original usage) but the grass is doing so much better.  The deep roots and longer less frequently waterings are keeping it green.
Water on lawn
4: RETAIN SOIL MOISTURE WITH SCOTTS® EVERYDROP
With the new water shortages, not only in California, but worldwide, ScottsMiracle-Gro® wants to provide consumers ways to conserve water and give them more options for their lawns and gardens. Their new product EveryDrop™ is one of those solutions.

How does it work?

It is a combination blend of two wetting agents that helps move the water evenly and freely into the soil (especially soils that are hard and dry and typically in accessible to added water).  EveryDrop™ makes the (now limited) amount of water that comes into contact with the turf more readily absorbed by the plant’s roots.  This product has been in use by turfgrass managers for 50 years, but now it is finally available for homeowners!
Scotts ever drop water fertilizer
EveryDrop™ is super easy to use. Since I already had a Scotts® handheld broadcast spreader I just followed the instructions for use right on the package. (However, it is also sold with a shaker option if you don’t have a spreader.)
Fertilizer spreader amounts
The granular product is applied to the lawn in early spring (before the heat really begins) and then is reapplied monthly.
Adjusting hand spreaderTracking Pixel
I add it to my lawn in the morning, right before the sprinklers are scheduled to go on, and the water activates its immediately.

5. PROPER MOWING AND AERATING 
The final step in a beautiful green, low-water lawn is UPKEEP.  Once your grass is grown, you have to nurture it.  Keep it mowed, but set your lawnmower HIGH (the longer blades protect the soil and keep it from drying out as quickly).  If you have a mulching mower, make sure to leave trimmings on the lawn to create a protective thatch layer.  (I use a Scotts® push mower which doesn’t mulch, but I still leave the clippings in the lawn).
Mowing lawn
Also, make sure you are aerating and overseeding, as well as fertilizing your lawn properly.  Heat stress and lack of water can damage a currently healthy lawn.  Making sure the soil isn’t compacted with frequent aeration helps dramatically with water absorption.
Lawn after
It IS possible to have a beautiful green lawn with only limited water.  It takes a little more work, but the long term benefits are priceless.    And even when we finally get out of this drought, I’ll be happy to know how much water I will be conserving long term.  Since even if the water was available, this is a long term fix.  We won’t ever have to go back to being 2200 gallon a week water users again!

This was a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Scotts® EveryDrop™  The content and opinions are completely mine.  For my full policy on sponsored content please visit this post. 
How I Kept My Lawn Green While Cutting My Water Usage by 60% Reviewed by TheKimSix Fix on 5:00 AM Rating: 5 This post has actually been more than 4 months in the making.  I started a lawn ‘makeover’ this past...