Advice from a Kansan

Wichita resident Tom Ensign offers an outsider’s perspective on California’s water problems:

“Water is much more plentiful in Kansas than central California.  Even so, we have far more restrictions on water use.  Every resident of Wichita has a water meter and pays for his water use.   Conservation is enforced with water rates that escalate with consumption.  So a typical homeowner might pay $50-100 a month for water during the winter, but summertime lawn watering can increase the bill to $300-1000 per month.  Here are some suggestions that I use to reduce the irrigation needs:

“1)  If you mow your lawn, don’t bag the clippings.  Bagging is a needless hassle, robs your lawn of moisture nutrients, and fills the landfill prematurely.  Over time, the clippings form an efficient recycling layer at the top of the soil in your lawn, while shielding the soil from the drying effects of sun and temperature.  The turf gradually becomes healthier and more resistant to moisture changes.  Mulching mowers work best because they chop the clippings into tiny shreds, which disappear between the blades of grass.  Similarly, you can use a mulching mower to dispose of fallen leaves in the autumn, once again improving the health of your lawn. 

“2)  Plant shade trees.  During the rainy time of the year, excess moisture soaks deep into the soil.  Trees, having deep roots, tap this moisture during dry times, while shading the lawn.  Hence, moisture levels in the soil become more consistent and the lawn can survive on less irrigation.
“3)  Avoid overwatering your lawn.  Grass plants can get accustomed to generous watering, and neglect to develop an effective root system.  When times of drought come, it is difficult and expensive water your lawn enough to keep it alive.  A little periodic drought stress on the lawn, especially in cooler weather, encourages deep roots and drought resistance.  Watering heavier but less often is better than watering every day or two.
“4)  Consider which parts of your lawn get the most sunshine.  When these areas begin to show signs of drought, water them a bit while delaying irrigation of the shady spots.  Any decorative shade will help, be it trees, trellises, or shrubs.
“I hope that your Stockton readers enjoy these ideas from the Heartland.”

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    Alex Breitler

    A native of Benicia, he lives in Stockton with his wife, Ann, who forces him to go backpacking in the Sierra Nevada or Trinity Alps at every opportunity. He has been writing mostly about natural resources since 2003, first in Redding and now in ... Read Full
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