SUMMER YARD CARE SMARTS

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Enjoy lush landscaping and a lower water bill Everyone loves a lush lawn and garden, but as summer heats up and water supplies are more precious, keeping things green becomes an expensive challenge. This time of year, outdoor water use can add up to nearly half of a household’s monthly bill, and if drought conditions lead to cutbacks in your area, your home’s landscaping and curb appeal will suffer the consequences. Making some minor changes,

Enjoy lush landscaping and a lower water bill

Everyone loves a lush lawn and garden, but as summer heats up and water supplies are more precious, keeping things green becomes an expensive challenge. This time of year, outdoor water use can add up to nearly half of a household’s monthly bill, and if drought conditions lead to cutbacks in your area, your home’s landscaping and curb appeal will suffer the consequences.

Making some minor changes, however, can bring savings into your routine with an approach that helps Mother Earth feel good as well as look good. Following are several smart ways to create your own beautiful, water-sipping backyard haven.

Get WaterSense into your system:

Turf and floral trimmings will be the first to go when local drought conservation alerts kick in, so install an irrigation system that makes the most of less water. A WaterSense-certified irrigation professional can help you to design one that keeps things green while reducing water use by 15 percent or about 9,000 gallons annually. Timers and moisture sensors are part of the scheme, helping to regulate and adjust watering routines as climatic conditions change.

Know when to water:

Early morning hours are best for this chore, when direct sunlight and warm temperatures aren’t around to evaporate the moisture meant for your plants. Windy conditions can also waste your watering efforts.

Stay on top of maintenance:

Even the best irrigation aids can sometimes send water wandering, so check faucets, hoses and sprinklers regularly and tend to adjustments and repairs.

Make lawn care long-lasting:

Longer grass cuts down on water evaporation and keeps turf hydrated, so keep your mower’s blade high (three to four inches from the ground). Aerating your lawn will also help with hydration, especially in areas with clay or other heavy soil types.

Create soil that plants will dig:

Amending the soil in your landscaping will help plants’ roots more efficiently drink in the water you provide. Add mulch to bed surfaces to help hold in the moisture and regulate soil temperature.

Design a xeriscape:

This five-dollar word describes a landscaping approach that can save you many more in the years to come. It’s all about remodeling your current layout for increased water savings and more natural beauty: decreasing turf area in favor of a wider swath of indigenous plantings and low-water ornamental grasses, grouping plants according to their water needs, getting acquainted with the cool array of colorful, low-water plants at your local nursery, and designing creative, naturalistic planting schemes that attract birds and butterflies to the scene.

Tom Kraeutler is the Home Improvement Editor for AOL and host of The Money Pit, a nationally syndicated home improvement radio program. To find a local radio station, download the show's podcast or sign-up for Tom's free weekly e-newsletter, visit the program's website.

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