Keeping Grass Green in a Drought

subsurface drip irrigation system for a lawn

lawn with subsurface drip irrigation

Two weeks ago I asked if anyone had succeeded in keeping a lawn green despite watering restrictions.  Here are some of your responses:

Where we live, it’s much drier than most anywhere in Los Angeles.  For over two decades we maintained a tall fescue lawn with never more than three days of watering per week. We had conventional spray sprinklers that ran only at night, at three intervals spaced 90 minutes apart. The lawn did fine till we took it out for the rebate during the recent drought.
Currently we still have a tiny lawn of St Augustine grass in the backyard that only got watered twice a week for most of this past summer with a similar irrigation run schedule — 5 minutes three times per night, at 90 minute intervals.
St Augustine is a bother to put in (we spent a couple of days planting the plugs), but once established takes less water than tall fescue and is pretty much impenetrable to weeds.  Counter to advertising, ours has never turned yellow or brown in the winter; grows less, yes, but hasn’t ever turned brown like Bermuda grass.
I agree that trying to have a lawn in southern California is absurd and that water efficient ground cover or other plantings are far better.  But lawns ARE possible on less water.
Jan Beyers, Moreno Valley
My St. Augustine lawn loves the heat and I rarely water more than two times a week even in the hottest summer months.  An additional benefit is that St. Augustine, unlike traditional lawns, “creeps” or spreads and will fill in bare spots and choke out most weeds. I do supplement my lawn  twice a year with Nitra King fertilizer.
This type lawn can be rather high maintenance as far as mowing and I use a reel type, front throw mower. When it is thriving in hot summer months you had better mow once a week or it will become a monster!  An additional benefit is that it goes dormant in colder winter months and will give you a break from weekly mowing.
Dave Pekarcik, Garden Grove
I have Marathon II (dwarf tall fescue) front and back lawns that I water three days per week in spring and summer and two days per week in late fall and winter.  Lawns are kept weed free and fertilized three or four times a year.  People take photos of the front lawn while on their walks.
Ken Hill, Altadena
We are restricted to two sprinkler days per week and I have maintained a beautiful green lawn and plants under this regime. I have St. Augustine grass in both the front and back yards.  On each watering day, I have the automatic sprinklers set for 3 a.m. and 4 a.m. to water the lawn for 10 minutes each time.  I do the same thing for the plants for 5 to 7 minutes each time.  I fertilize the grass and plants 4 times per year.  My plants and grass are the envy of the neighborhood and the neighbors ask me how do I keep everything so green with the water restrictions; so I tell them.  I have not gone over my water allotment in over 3 years using this method.
Even when we had those extremely hot days this past summer when it reached over 110 degrees for a few days, I had no problem with the lawn or plants dying, only some burnt tips of plants.
Patrick Holland, Sierra Madre
My front yard lawn is holding up okay on three weekly sprinkler irrigations. It is west facing but trees help shade the grass, which I think is St. Augustine. We have lived here 25 years and never fertilized it. When we mowed it ourselves we used a mulching mower. Now our gardeners come twice a month and mow with a traditional mower.  I occasionally hand water the areas that are thinning out.
Connie Mcgehee, North Hills
I water my lawn 3 times weekly, 5 minutes each station, and we have a gardening service that comes twice a month.
Hey, maybe not a perfect lawn but it beats dirt any day and kids can play on it.
Pam D., Fullerton
Tip of the Week:  Jim Bermingham emailed the following testimonial regarding subsurface drip irrigation:  “I have found great success with drip irrigation underneath the entire lawn (inline drip emitters every 8”, drip lines 3” apart).  The only drawbacks that I have found so far (with my installation of 3 years) are a slight expense in labor and materials for initial installation and repairs required if you are unlucky enough to have an invading gopher chew on the water lines.  The advantages are a year-round green lawn exempt from Los Angeles watering restrictions which only apply to sprinkler watered lawns.  I find that a drip irrigated lawn is very miserly with water consumption.  I water mine 4 times a day, 1 minute each watering.
Lawns can also be easily fed with a remote tank fertilizer system that taps into the drip line.”
Drip tubing designed specifically for subsurface irrigation, such as that produced by Toro, is readily available and may be located through an online search.

subsurface drip irrigation system for a lawn

lawn with subsurface drip irrigation

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.