As water becomes scarcer and more expensive, finding ways to conserve it becomes even more important, and making lawns more drought-resistant is one way to do so.
According to Dustin Coufal, Williamson County extension agent for agricultural and natural resources, the best drought-resistant grasses for Central Texas include buffalo grasses, many hybrid Bermuda grasses and some zoysia.
Grasses that go dormant and then turn green once a drought ends can be useful in the Texas heat. James McAfee, turfgrass specialist of the Texas AgriLife Extension Service in Dallas, said that while all grasses go dormant to some degree, buffalo does so best, while common Bermuda grass and some varieties of zoysia grasses are also good in the heat. St. Augustine grass has only a moderate level of drought resistance and will lose turfgrass during intense drought compared to other grasses, he said.
Based on the demand for water supplied by Cedar Park’s water treatment plant, most irrigation systems turn on between 2–5 a.m., said Katherine Woerner, Cedar Park director of community affairs.
Kevin Farmer, owner of Farmer’s Grass in Leander, said the best time to water grass is in the morning.
“The best time to water is before 10 a.m. because there is less evaporation, and you are not leaving water on the lawn, which promotes fungus growth,” he said.
Farmer said ideally lawns should be watered three times a week, but the cities of Leander and Cedar Park are under restrictions that only allow watering by sprinkler twice a week on designated days.
That limited schedule may affect the often shallow or clay soils present in Central Texas, McAfee said.
“It’s unfortunate, but in those situations, [people with shallow soil] should really water more often with less water,” he said. “But when cities go to once-a-week water, there isn’t the opportunity.”
Ideally, water needs to seep 4– 6 inches into the soil, a difficult feat for homeowners with shallow or clay soil, McAfee said.
“The mowing is the key,” McAfee said. “Most people mow too infrequent and too low.”
McAfee recommends setting mower blade levels high enough to cut only 30 percent to 40 percent of the leaf blade, which allows for a more extensive root system and retained moisture in the summer heat. However, that could mean mowing grasses such as Bermuda twice a week.