Local News

Prepare Your Yard for Dry Days Ahead

Posted May 7, 2000 7:00 a.m. EDT

— If these last few days have been any example, we might expect another hot and dry summer this year.

Last summer that meant severe water shortages in the Triangle, and water restrictions were soon to follow.

This year, get your yard, lawn and landscape ready for whatever Mother Nature has in store.

Most homeowners think they need to use lots of water and have a lot of money to have a beautifully manicured yard.

"There's a lot of people in Cary who live in new construction and they're faced with open yards, little shade and compacted soil," says Shaub Dunkley.

If that sounds like your yard, Dunkley -- a horticulturalist with the town of Cary -- has some tips.

"A lawn is generally the most labor-intensive and expensive part of any landscape when you consider the mowing, the fuel that goes into the mower, the insecticide, the weed control," he says.

Dunkley chose a home as an example, and recommended less lawn and more landscaping.

"[These homeowners] are best to realize they should go slow. And before they start buying plants, they should know what they're getting into," he said.

"Ivy's good but it can be invasive. They're using a lot of periwinkle, which is a less invasive and adaptable plant," Dunkley said.

"The magnolia and crepe myrtle are drought-tolerant, given good growing conditions," he noted.

For people living in Cary,watering outdoors is allowed three days a week. Lawn experts say that is more than enough.

"More water than a plant needs causes the plant to put out too much growth, causes the water system to be shallow and, when things get dry, the roots aren't there in the deeper soil to tap into hidden water reserves," Dunkley said.

How do you know when enough is enough?

According to Dunkley, "Lawns show water stress by turning off-blue green or grayish-green color."

There are other simple ways of knowing when your lawn needs watering -- the easiest way is to take a walk in the grass. If the turf does not spring back, it is thirsty.

Using the right watering tools will help grow that beautiful landscape.

"This is an example of an inefficient sprinkler," says Jennifer Platt. "It spends so much time going back and forth that a lot of the water is lost to evaporation."

Platt is a water conservation officer with the town of Cary.

She says a good sprinkler will throw heavier drops close to the ground.

She also suggests a watering wand for the garden and for the trees, a tree hugger.

And one last helpful hint -- if you are going to be away from home when you need to water, invest in a water timer. A timer is hooked up to a hose and is set for the amount of time needed.

Lawn and garden experts say soil should be analyzed to find out what kind of plant life it will support. The tests are provided free in North Carolina. Just contact yourcounty extension service.