5 tips to be water smart: July is Smart Irrigation Month, a prime time to learn how to use water wisely | VailDaily.com

5 tips to be water smart: July is Smart Irrigation Month, a prime time to learn how to use water wisely

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Across Colorado, the dog days of summer are skyrocketing into above-normal temperatures. Forest fires are raging, and Stage 2 fire restrictions have been declared in Eagle County and across the state. Hot, dry weather is only anticipated to continue into August and September.

Since July is a peak month for irrigation water usage, it has again been proclaimed as Colorado's Smart Irrigation Month. In the spirit of conserving our precious water resources, Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado offers the following tips to help homeowners save money and use water wisely this summer.

1. The best sprinkler system can't compensate for poorly designed landscapes — Even the best sprinkler system with all the bells and whistles isn't the be-all, end-all if your landscape is poorly designed.

Group like plants together, placing those that like hot, dry conditions in full sun and shade-loving plants in protected areas. Rezone sprinklers to accommodate the different needs of mature trees and shrubs. Good soil makes for good water absorption, and mulch is a must in plant beds and tree wells.

2. Overwatering is a plant serial killer — Hot weather tempts us to over water, causing water waste and higher utility bills. But did you know that too much water could harm and kill, too?

Overwatering is actually the most common cause of death in plants, since drowning a plant keeps its roots from absorbing the oxygen it needs to live. Mildew, mold, fungus and root rot can also destroy your plants when too much water sits around their roots.

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3. Save water one drip at a time — Water every plant in your landscape, except lawns, with drip irrigation. This keeps water from evaporating in a breeze or spilling into a gutter. Water goes right to the plant's roots, where it is needed most. Wherever possible, convert less water-efficient spray heads to drip irrigation nozzles.

4. Use the soak and repeat strategy at the right time of day — Instead of letting your irrigation run on one long cycle, set your system for several spaced and shorter cycles. For example, run the sprinklers for a shorter period of time and then repeat the watering cycle again later.

This cycle and repeat method gives time for water to soak into the soil and ensures your water (and money) won't be wasted as runoff. Avoid running your system during the day. Watering midday can result in a 30 percent loss of irrigation water. Water before 7 a.m. and after 7 p.m. to avoid evaporation caused by heat.

5. Increase your sprinkler system's IQ — The amount of water that your lawn and garden need can vary greatly day to day and season by season. Upgrade your system by adding "smart" sprinkler controls and components that alter the amount of water to account for changes in soil moisture, rain, evaporation and plant water use.

Soil moisture sensor kits are often less than $200 and can increase water savings by as much as 40 percent.

With five chapters statewide, Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado is the professional organization for Colorado's landscape companies, promoting the responsible use of water and other natural resources and providing educational and industry certification opportunities to Colorado's landscape professionals. Visit http://www.alcc.com.