It’s Saturday morning. Cartoons are on, breakfast is cooking, and before you’ve even wiped the sleep from your eyes, Dad’s yelling at you to mow the lawn. Ah, memories …
Here in drought-stricken California, though, we may need to find another way for kids to earn their keep besides cutting the grass. In an effort to save water, several cities, including Napa, Los Angeles, and Sacramento, have started Cash for Grass programs.
What is Cash for Grass?
The premise behind these programs is simple. Cities offer residents anywhere between $0.50 to $2.00 per square foot to rip out their lawns and replace them with water-saving options, like native plants or rock gardens. Though Sacramento’s program hasn’t gone into effect yet, demand is already high.
And that’s a good thing because, as a nation, we use a lot of water in our yards — 7.8 billion gallons per day, according to the EPA. That’s 30 percent of our daily water use (and 30 percent of our water bills!).
If you don’t want to rip out your lawn, there are other things you can do to save water in your yard. Here are a few ideas for how to keep a water-conscious garden.
How to save water in your yard
1. Water less
Before you respond with a collective “duh,” keep reading (it turns out a lot of people overwater).
Of course, different plants have different needs — annuals tend to need more water, perennials less — but a good rule of thumb is to deeply saturate your plants and then let them dry out a bit before watering again.
When it comes to your lawn, you can often go up to a week between waterings (depending on your soil). If you’re unsure whether your grass is thirsty, step on it. If it springs back, it’s still plenty hydrated. But if your footprint remains for more than a couple of hours, it’s time for water.
2. Water in the morning
Watering early in the morning slows down evaporation since the sun isn’t as strong when it first rises.
I used to think that watering my plants in the evening was just as beneficial. But, it turns out that plants need time to (slowly) dry out throughout the day to avoid developing mold and fungus. Considering how foggy the Bay Area can become at night, I’m glad I switched to a morning routine!
3. Add compost to your soil
Creating your own compost can be a little, well, icky. But, man, is it good for your plants. Compost helps the soil retain moisture while also giving it tons of yummy nutrients.
And it’s good for different varieties of soil too. If you have sandy soil, it’ll hold in moisture. And if you have clay soil, it can increase aeration and drainage.
If you compost at home, more power to you. But if worms kind of freak you out, compost is also available for purchase (try adding mulch on top for extra moisture retention).
4. Grow native plants
Whether you live in the desert, the tropics, or somewhere in between, native plants (those that were here before European settlers incorporated plants from abroad) are naturally adapted to the soil and climate of their region. In addition to using less water, these hardy plants often require less fertilizer and pesticide because they’ve evolved to survive in local conditions.
A quick Google search will tell what’s native to your neck of the woods. If you live in a drier region, succulents are a great, low-maintenance option, as are herb gardens — rosemary and lavender tend to thrive in dry areas (and provide year-round seasoning for your meals).
5. Recycle your water
When you’re waiting for the shower (or sink) to heat up, collect the water in a bucket, then use it to water your plants. I’ve been using this method for a couple months and haven’t needed to use my sprinklers at all (thanks, native plants!).
Saving feels good
When I moved into my place a few years ago, I was in the fortunate position of having a blank slate in my backyard. For about $300, I landscaped it on my own using native plants and some strategically placed stones. It was a fun way to spend the weekend and it’s nice to not have to worry about watering every day.
If you already have a firmly established (and thirsty) garden, however, hope is not lost. Take advantage of these tips to decrease your water use and lower your water bill.
And if you’re looking for other ways to save around the house, get a quote for Esurance homeowners or renters insurance. By bundling it with your car insurance, you could save time and money — and who’s not a fan of that?