Water Bill

Garden Clippings for March 10, 2018

Don’t ever complain about your water bill.  Ever.  Our most recent household water bill was $133.66 and when I sent it up for payment, I wondered for only a minute how something so valuable could be delivered to my faucet so inexpensively.

Most of us take water for granted.  We use so much of it so often that we fail to recognise how much we value clean water.  Even those of us who have travelled to developing countries and have seen how many in the world don’t have access to clean water, return home and revert to the previous habits of using water without regard.

In this privileged corner of the world, we use water to brush our teeth, take a shower, wash the car, do laundry, run the dishwasher, drink coffee and water plants.

Just because we have a lot of water available at a low cost, doesn’t mean we ought to squander our precious commodity.  In the garden I will always advocate for wise use of water.

At our rural home, watering the grass is impractical, impossible and not necessary.  Yet, aside from the occasional dry spell during the two hottest summer months, our grass remains remarkably green.  And the reason our lawn remains green is because we don’t water it.

Those who water their grass frequently will find they will need to water the grass even more frequently.  Watering grass too often causes grass roots to remain near the soil surface where sprinklers dish out water on a regular basis.  Consequently, roots become lazy and won’t make the effort to penetrate deep into the earth.  And when a summer dry spell arrives, grass quickly turns yellow because roots are weak.

When people ask me how much they should water their lawn, I suggest once a week will do the trick just fine.  Water less often if we get rain from above.  But when we water, I recommend giving the soil a good drench rather than a light sprinkling.  My rule of thumb is one inch once a week.

Watering in spring and fall will usually not be necessary because temperatures are cooler and we generally get enough water from the sky.  That means we will only need to drag out the garden hose in June, July and August.

What holds true for grass also holds true for trees and shrubs.  Watering too much, too often will cause roots to remain near the surface, where they become even more dependant on an artificial water source.  A shallow, weak root system increases the potential for a tree falling over in a windstorm.

Being a water miser is wiser for the environment.  But newly transplanted plants are thirsty and will need a generous dose of water for at least the first few weeks after planting.  After a month, give less water until the roots become established.  Once plants have been growing for their first full year, they should be fine without additional water.