Water-saving idea

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Submitted by zk on October 22, 2013 - 12:00am

I have an idea to use less water when watering my lawn. I'm not totally sure it'll work. I've looked online and I haven't seen anyone else doing it. I thought I'd run it by the Piggs and see if I'm missing anything.

My grass lawn is totally surrounded by concrete. It's about 50x20. The standard procedure would be to slope the lawn towards drains so the runoff would... run off. But I'd like to eliminate runoff. So here's my idea: Get my lawn totally level. (I'm removing the old lawn because my wife didn't like the runners that the buffalo grass shed. Long story. Anyway it'll be just dirt. Getting it perfectly level would be very difficult, I know. Not even sure I can do it. But assuming I can...) The soil would be about 3/4 inch below the lowest part of the concrete. Seed the soil and grow the grass. Cap the drains when it's not raining (easy to do). Water the lawn, and there's no runoff. When it rains (it only happens a few times a year here in San Diego), uncap the drains. The runoff won't go down the drains quite as efficiently as it would if the lawn were sloped. But it should drain ok. The lawn might get soggy for a while. But it's not like the water would pool deeply. A small tradeoff, I'm thinking, for eliminating sprinkler runoff.

Any reason why that wouldn't work?

Submitted by ocrenter on October 22, 2013 - 6:43am.

since you're getting rid of the existing lawn, might just be easier putting in some artificial turf.

Submitted by EconProf on October 22, 2013 - 6:54am.

A couple of factors limit how much water savings this could really achieve:
1. San Diego can go six months without a drop of rain (as your comment suggests), so this would be of no help during those months--the very months in summer when your lawn needs the most water.
2. During our rainy winter months, some people can get away with turning off their lawn sprinklers entirely, so your plan would yeild no savings for those periods.
Finally, leveling a lawn is a HUGE amount of work. And do you have a place for the extra soil?

Submitted by zk on October 22, 2013 - 7:21am.

EconProf wrote:
A couple of factors limit how much water savings this could really achieve:
1. San Diego can go six months without a drop of rain (as your comment suggests), so this would be of no help during those months--the very months in summer when your lawn needs the most water.
2. During our rainy winter months, some people can get away with turning off their lawn sprinklers entirely, so your plan would yeild no savings for those periods.
Finally, leveling a lawn is a HUGE amount of work. And do you have a place for the extra soil?

In the summer (and fall and spring) is when I would get the benefit. Because there would be no runoff from the sprinklers. Normally, a lot of the sprinkler water runs off the grade and down the drain. With my plan, it would all soak directly into the grass, and there would be no water wasted to runoff.

The extra soil is not a problem.

Submitted by zk on October 22, 2013 - 7:25am.

ocrenter wrote:
since you're getting rid of the existing lawn, might just be easier putting in some artificial turf.

A good idea and I certainly considered that. I don't like that it looks and feels...artificial. Or how it gets kind of hot in the summer.

Submitted by no_such_reality on October 22, 2013 - 8:42am.

zk wrote:
EconProf wrote:
A couple of factors limit how much water savings this could really achieve:
1. San Diego can go six months without a drop of rain (as your comment suggests), so this would be of no help during those months--the very months in summer when your lawn needs the most water.
2. During our rainy winter months, some people can get away with turning off their lawn sprinklers entirely, so your plan would yeild no savings for those periods.
Finally, leveling a lawn is a HUGE amount of work. And do you have a place for the extra soil?

In the summer (and fall and spring) is when I would get the benefit. Because there would be no runoff from the sprinklers. Normally, a lot of the sprinkler water runs off the grade and down the drain. With my plan, it would all soak directly into the grass, and there would be no water wasted to runoff.

The extra soil is not a problem.

I have artificial turf in the play area for my son under his sandbox. I wouldn't install it again. If it gets direct sun, it gets hot. Almost as hot as a concrete driveway in the sun. Liquids run through it, but anything else (sand, dirt, dog doo, etc.) just mats into the under fabric. You get very little water savings from artificial turf, you use almost as much cleaning and cooling it.

If you're getting run-off with your sprinklers, they're on too long. In most of SoCal with our clay type soil, in the height of summer, a lawn will be fine with the sprinklers set to cycle 3 times for 3 minutes 3 times a week. If you still have run-off after that, adjust the flows on your sprinklers.

Finally, if it's not an area used for socializing and playing such that you need an open lawn area, xeriscape and install California fountain grasses, pencil plants, etc. Plus many water districts will pay you to remove your lawn.

Submitted by livinincali on October 22, 2013 - 8:53am.

If you're willing to spend the time and energy to level a lawn you might want to consider the time and money for a grey water reclamation system.

Submitted by Hobie on October 23, 2013 - 4:59am.

Different types of grass require less water. The Marathon fescue variates tend to be thirsty.

You may save a bit on water with a burmuda hybrid. I can't remember the name but there is a variety that does not go dormant during winter.

Take a look for yourself as it is growing outside the Offshore surf shop/fish and chips place in Carlsbad next to the beach.

I had a large putting green area once that was very level... at first. Over the years, the ground would settle and trees roots would lift areas. Finally gave up trying to keep it flat and put in a pool. Not sure it that was the best idea looking back!

Submitted by UCGal on October 23, 2013 - 11:21am.

livinincali wrote:
If you're willing to spend the time and energy to level a lawn you might want to consider the time and money for a grey water reclamation system.

This is what I was thinking of. Laundry water is a good source for grey water.

It's in our long term plans.

That and xeroscaping with less thirst plants.

Submitted by patb on October 23, 2013 - 10:50pm.

also try a moisture trapping system.

look up what geoff lawton at the permaculture institute has been doing

http://permaculturenews.org/author/geoff...

you can put in some swales that match the existing terrain, put a 4" collecting line with little mini drain tubes to wick water up to the surface, fill the swales
with cellulose.

then plant various plants that use the cellulose as moisture feeds.

Submitted by ocrenter on October 24, 2013 - 7:04am.

no_such_reality wrote:
You get very little water savings from artificial turf, you use almost as much cleaning and cooling it.

uh... would really really really really have to disagree with this.

The $100 per month difference between my neighbor with traditional lawn and myself with the artificial turf is not "very little water savings." And I have a pool and he doesn't.

The $100 per month saving from the gardener is also not very little either.

4 years since install, we are already $1600 on the upside from the initial investment. The turf still looks like it was laid down just yesterday. We do have to deal with weeds on the border of the turf and the concrete on an occasional basis. Plus raking 4-5 times a year. So it isn't truly maintenance free.

As for pets, we got the pet resistant turf, but we actually have a wood chipped area set aside for the dogs as the main area for their business. You are right, if the turf is the primary area for potty time, rinsing afterward can get really old quickly. But from past experience, spots of yellow all around the lawn from dog urine made for more difficult lawn care did it not?

Appearance wise, I do agree there are a lot of turfs out there that look really fake. But that's likely because the owners went with the cheapest option. Since we were hoping for 10+ years out of the turf, we did go for the grade just below the top of the line. We also made sure to have the turf bordered with flower and shrubs to cut down on the artificial feel. Most visitors have no idea we have artificial turf until I point it out to them.

I've seen the really badly flattened artificial turf around La Jolla and SeaWorld, therefore we also made sure to avoid placing the turf on heavy traffic area.

yes during the summer the turf does get hot, but concrete level hot? I would disagree. Our habit is shoes off indoors and shoes/flip-flops on outdoors, so walking or playing on the turf with flip-flops on is not a big sacrifice for us.

I figure for $2400 of after-tax saving per year, I can live with having to wear flip-flops when walking on my turf.

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