Dial it Down for Fall

By Megan Hatch, Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District

In theory, sprinkler timers are a good idea. They allow us to water at all the optimal yet most inconvenient times, like early morning or late at night, without even getting out of bed! It’s awesome. But sometimes in practice, they can be a bad idea. Like when we have no idea what our sprinklers are doing because we never actually see them sprinkling. Have a leak? No idea. Watering every day? No idea. We tend to operate sprinkler systems with a “set it and forget it” mindset, meaning we set our timers to a frequency that makes sense in July, and then don’t change them again until it is time to winterize. It’s convenient, but it isn’t efficient. Fall is when most water waste happens, specifically because we don’t change our sprinkler timers to water appropriately for the season—and that can lead to real problems for our landscapes. Too much water can harm a landscape just as much as too little water can.

Fall is when your lawn begins its process of preparing for winter dormancy. In simple terms, your lawn uses less water, slows its growth, focuses resources on its roots, and stores up energy to survive the cold months ahead. Overwatering during this period can invite fungal diseases and impact your lawn’s root growth. While adequate watering is an important part of maintaining a healthy yard, overwatered lawns are far more common in Utah than underwatered lawns. In fact, most Utahns overwater their landscapes by nearly 20 percent.

Depending on weather, we can usually cut down watering to once every five days in early September and should be able to stop watering altogether by Columbus Day. So how do you know when it’s time to “dial it down”? Here are a few recommendations:

  1. Use the screwdriver test: push a screwdriver into the soil. If it goes into the soil easily, the soil is still moist and you don’t need to water.
  2. Get a smart controller: WaterSense-labeled smart controllers use local weather and landscape conditions to apply water only when needed, and rebates for these controllers are available throughout the state. Visit Utahwatersavers.com to claim your rebate.
  3. Consult the State’s Watering Guide: The Utah Division of Water Resources publishes a weekly lawn watering guide with recommendations based on current weather conditions in your county. Visit slowtheflow.org each week to view the updated recommendation.

Fall doesn’t have to be a season for water waste. By dialing down to match the season, you can create a yard that is both healthy and efficient.

To learn more about landscaping for Utah’s seasons, visit Conservation Garden Park in West Jordan (8275 South 1300 West, West Jordan, Utah 84088). Or visit the Garden’s website at www.conservationgardenpark.org.