How landscaping can help your Texas water bill

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By Terri Williams September 13th, 2019
For business

Your home's landscape can have an impact on your monthly water bill.

Texas is warm (and that’s putting it mildly) most months of the year. In fact, the average temperature in September is 91 degrees, and the average for October is 82 degrees.

Making matters worse, according to Drought.gov, there are approximately 9,284,000 Texas residents in drought areas (37% of the state’s population), and 6,012,000 more (24% of the state’s population) in abnormally dry areas. As a result, Texans need to water their lawns on an almost year-round basis. And that can result in a consistently high water bill.

However, a home’s landscape can do more than just make the property look good. It can also help reduce the amount of water needed to keep the yard looking good. And this, in turn, can reduce the water bill.

For those who live drought areas, there may also be restrictions on how often the lawn can be watered, so the right landscaping can help a property owner remain in compliance.

These are some of the ways that landscaping can help Texans conserve water and save on their monthly water bill.

“Utilizing energy-efficient landscaping can improve both your home’s exterior appearance and energy savings, resulting in a reduction in maintenance costs, a more tranquil home, lower water usage, and cleaner air,” according to Susan Brandt of Blooming Secrets, an e-commerce gardening website.

Choose native plants

First, it is important to understand that Texas has several distinct microclimates, for example: a hot-humid region, a hot-arid region, and a temperate region.

“One way to decrease water usage is to make sure that you choose plants that are native to your area,” Brant says. By choosing plants that naturally occur in your region, these plants will thrive and after they’ve become established, they won’t need much maintenance – which means you won’t have to water them as often.

According to the Texas A&M Agrilife Extension, these are some of the best plants based on Texas regions:

  • In North and Central Texas, the best plants include Rockrose, Asian Jasmine, Coralberry, Eastern Redcedar, and Turk’s Cap.
  • Residents of the Panhandle and High Plains should include Coralberry, Lilyturf, Eastern Redcedar, Turk’s Cap, and Rockrose,
  • For those who live in Northeast and East Texas, consider Shore Juniper, Rockrose, Ornamental Sweet Potato, Monkey Grass, and Turk’s Cap.
  • West Texans would do best with Whitesage, Turk’s Cap, Lilyturf, Coralberry, and Asian Jasmine.
  • In Southeast Texas, try Monkey Grass, Rockrose, Turk’s Cap, Wintercreeper Euonymus, and Climbing Fig.
  • For Hill Country and Central Coast areas, some of the best plants include Shrimp Plant, Beach Morning Glory, White Sage, Fiddleleaf Morning Glory, and Rockrose.
  • The Rio Grande Valley does well with Railroad Vine, White Sage, Turk’s Cap, and Rockrose, while great selections for Upper Rio Grande include Coralberry, Asian Jasmine, Turk’s Cap, Salvias or Sages, and Lilyturf.

Plant shade trees

“Trees are the least expensive plants you can add to your landscape when you consider the impact created due to their size,” says Brandt. “Try planting deciduous trees such as Oak and Elm trees on the south side of your home,” she says.

These trees will serve 2 purposes. “In the summer these trees can screen 70 – 90 percent of the hot summer sun, but they also allow breezes through.” And by shading the lawn, she says residents can keep the lawn and garden cooler – and reduce water evaporation.  In the winter, these trees are bare, which lets winter sun to filter through and warm the home.

Don’t overdue the fertilizer

Fertilizer helps your grass and plants to grow. Normally, that’s a good thing.  However, the more fertilizer used, the more water will be needed – and the the lawn must be mowed. (This fast growth can also contribute to issues with diseases and insects.) Brandt recommends the use of a slow-acting organic fertilizer.

Create natural walkways

Brandt advises against using cement pavements in a yard. According to a study by the Federal Highway Administration, artificial materials like pavement tend to store more heat, compared to natural materials. Brandt recommends using natural paths that support energy efficiency.  “Try using woodchips, barks, or other natural materials that help keep the yard cooler and also encourage proper drainage,” she says.

Don’t water your pavement

Sprinklers can provide convenience, but they can also waste water and money. Make sure to water only the lawn and plants, not the driveway or sidewalk.

Use a water sensor

A water sensor or rain meter can work with an automatic sprinkler system to sense when the lawn needs moisture. It monitors the level of water in the root system. And if it has enough, the sensor will prevent the sprinkler from turning on, but if the moisture level is below the desired level, the timer will be allowed to work as usual.

Mulch, but not too much

Brandt also recommends 2 – 4 inches of mulch in flower beds. “It acts as a weed deterrent and helps retain moisture for your plants.” However, she warns against applying too much mulch, since this will smother the plants’ roots and prevent the soil from soaking up water when it rains. And when mulching around trees, Brandt advises keeping the mulch 12-18 inches away from the trunk.

Terri Williams is a freelance journalist with bylines at The Economist, USA Today, Yahoo, the Houston Chronicle, and U.S. News & World Report. Connect with her on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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