Water Conservation Tips
Summer Tips for Outdoor Watering & Water Conservation

  • Cool season lawn grasses need about 1 to 1.5 inches of water per week to maintain green color and active growth.  In general, water as infrequently as possible.  Water thoroughly so moisture gets down to the depth of the roots.  Exceptions to this general rule would be for newly seeded lawns, newly sodded lawns, or when summer patch disease is a problem.  Otherwise, avoid frequent waterings, which promote shallower root systems and weeds.  
  • Watch for excess runoff and modify watering times accordingly.   The goal of watering is to provide water into the soil system where it can restore microbial populations and help sustain plant growth.
  • Avoid excessive watering which can cause lawn diseases and wastes water. 
  • If possible, water in the morning to minimize evaporation.    
  • If you wish, do not water at all and let the lawn become dormant.  The brown grass does not signal a problem, but rather part of a natural cycle.  The green lawn will return in the fall when the weather is cooler and wetter.  However, lawn which are watered on an infrequent basis or heavily fertilized, may be lost.  If you choose to water, do so, on a regular basis following the above guidelines.
  • Minimize or eliminate lawn fertilizer during summer months.  Fertilizer promotes new growth which will need additional watering and is often not needed by the grass plant.
  • Maintain a healthy lawn by cutting the grass high.  The recommended height after cutting is 2 1/2 – 3 inches.  Tall grass has deeper roots and helps the soil system hold moisture.   
  • Select and install a good quality underground irrigation system.  Paying more for a system initially will save money in the long run.
  • If you currently have an underground irrigation system, consider an audit that will detect leaks and system inefficiencies.  An audit can save 50% or more of your water bill by improving the functioning of the system.   Check the plan for the system.
  • Install moisture sensors on the irrigation system so that you do not overwater or water during or just following a rain.
  • Set sprinklers to water the lawn or garden only – not the street and sidewalk.
  • Improve the water-holding capacity of the soil by using compost as a top-dressing.

Trees and Shrubs
  • Water trees and shrubs, which have deep root systems, longer and less frequently than shallow-rooted plants which require smaller amounts of water more often.  For plant-specific advice, check with your county MSU Extension office.
  • Apply additional water if trees are nearby.  Tree roots underneath the lawn compete for water.  The best way to water trees is to set up a slow watering that saturates the soil around the plant roots and as deep into the ground as possible.  
  • Use natural mulches around shrubs and in gardens to reduce evaporation and weed growth.
Flower Gardens
  • Consider replacing some turf areas with water-efficient and drought-tolerant plants and groundcovers.  Talk with gardeners and garden centers to identify choices – before you make your purchases.
  • Prepare the soil with organic matter, such as compost.  An excellent mix for planting is 50% compost and 50% top soil.  The organic matter (such as compost or peat) helps conserve the water under the ground.
  • Group plants together with similar watering needs.  Then mulch the plants to conserve water.
  • Place plants that require watering close to the house in beds designed to capture water runoff from downspouts and driveways.
  • Consider native summer wildflowers with deep roots.  After establishment, native prairie plants often do not require additional watering.
  • Factors such as soil texture, sun/shade conditions, and types of plants affect the water needs of the garden.   During dry weather, set up a consistent watering schedule, such as every other day or twice a week.  If plant roots are deep, water deeply … but do not over-water.

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