Watering grass

This doesn't seem complicated, but there's definitely a wrong way to water your lawn. Many people assume that a little watering every day is the way to go, but you can actually hurt your lawn by watering too frequently and not enough at any one time.

Assuming you're growing grasses and plants native to your area, a good rule of thumb is to emulate nature. In much of the eastern half of the United States, a good rainfall might occur once a week on average and last an hour or more. This gives plants a good soaking that goes down to the roots.

When you only water for 20 minutes, all you're doing is soaking the surface while the deeper roots remain dry. If you do this too frequently you will also encourage the growth of moss and water-borne diseases.

Experts say the optimum amount is one inch per watering session. You can measure this easily by placing an empty tuna can or other small container in the yard and keep the water on until an inch of water is in the container.

Above-ground irrigation

You don't necessarily need to spend a lot of money in order to rig up your own system. A lot can be accomplished using garden hoses, inexpensive sprinklers and perhaps a clock-style timer to remind you when it's time to move the hoses around. This low-tech method can be cumbersome, it also allows you to customize how much or how little water the yard and flower beds receive.

Above-ground methods can also include semi-permanent placement of pipes or hoses within a flower garden in order to provide slow-drip irrigation. Water is allowed to drip down at the emitters, soaking the roots of the plants.

Irrigation systems

Hidden sprinklers allow you to water your gardens and lawn without having to drag hoses around the yard. A network of irrigation tubes is strategically placed around the yard to keep your gardens and grass properly watered.

Small spray heads are available to create a basic fan-shaped water pattern. Specialty heads can be used to customize the system. This includes heads with lower pressure that will irrigate flower beds without soaking delicate petals and various shapes for watering add shaped areas. Rotor heads that will run the water in a circular pattern over a large area are also available.

Whether above- or below-ground, if you live in a seasonal climate, make sure you properly prepare your irrigation system for winter.

Sprinkler timers

Timers are available to fully automate this chore. You may prefer to turn the system on manually if you live in an area that gets a fair amount of rain. However, turning it over to a timer is an excellent choice to ensure that the grass will be watered for the exact amount of time required.

Though installing an in-ground system is something anyone can do, it might be best to find a lawn irrigation specialist on Angie's List. A professional will have the right equipment to dig and lay the irrigation system and the knowledge of how to avoid disturbing any pre-existing lines, drains or pipes that run through your yard.

Water conservation tips

1. Choose native plants, which have had centuries to adapt to swings in environmental conditions.

2. Prioritize watering if resources are scarce or conservation is your goal. First soak newly planted lawns, shrubs, trees and perennials stressed by transplanting; then quench annuals, including vegetables and ornamental plants that need water to continue producing; and lastly sprinkle turf that can safely go dormant.

3. Water early in the morning to help plants withstand the heat of the day. Watering later can mean losing a lot to evaporation. Nighttime watering may contribute to fungus diseases. Be sure to check with your local municipality, as some areas may mandate residents water only during designated times on specified days.

4. Use drip irrigation or sweating hoses to water garden beds, trees and shrubs. These methods put the water at the root zone where it's needed.

5. Use a rain gauge or straight-edged container, such as a tuna can, to monitor sprinkler watering. Stop the sprinkler when the can collects the desired level.

Misting systems

One way to cool the air around your home and on your patio is by installing misting systems that provide cooling water to the air. These systems operate by using an evaporative cooling method which is achieved by forcing water droplets into the warm air in a manner in which they can evaporate quickly.

READ MORE: Angie's List Guide to Misting Systems

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