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    Water, Your Yard, and Drought…A Troubling Trifecta

    Friday, September 15, 2023 | Mid-Cities Pest Control

    Water. We all know how important it is for sustaining life. A human can only live for around 3 days without water, and it’s been reported that about 10,000 people in the U.S. die each year after being admitted to the hospital for dehydration. But even if you have enough water to survive, without plenty of available water, your comfort and sanitation levels can decline rapidly. If you lived in Texas during the massive winter storm in February of 2021, you (like me) might have first-hand experience of the many difficulties of living without running water.

    But did you know that too much water can also be dangerous? For people, drinking around 6 liters of water in around 3 hours can potentially be lethal! And if it’s possible to over-hydrate yourself, it should come as no surprise that the over-hydration of other things people care for, specifically plants, is not only possible but quite common. This means that you are likely over-watering your yard, maybe even to the point that you are severely damaging it, and you might not even know it.

    By Tevarak Phanduang on Vecteezy

    But why are we talking about the importance of water?

    First, if you’ve seen the news lately, you probably know that Texas is in the midst of a severe to exceptional drought, and that means water is at a premium as it becomes ever scarcer. One of the best ways people can help amid this drought, according to Texas Living Waters, is to reduce nonessential water use. A prime example of how to achieve this is to reduce things like watering your lawn or washing your car during peak demand times. As The Bug Dude is a part of this wonderful Texas community, we want to help spread the word on taking care of the amazing resource of fresh water at a time when it’s most needed (yes, we are talking about the extreme heat we’ve all been enduring).

    Second, at The Bug Dude we want to do everything we can to help you keep your yard healthy and pest-free, and one of the simplest, but most effective ways to achieve this is through proper watering. If you’re a regular reader around here, you have probably noticed that moisture and sources of water are a regular enticement for insects and wildlife, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the problems that can be encountered with excessive watering.

    By Narong Pobout on Vecteezy

    How is Overwatering Your Yard Harmful?

    You might be surprised to learn that over-watering your yard can be harmful in several different ways, from damage to the individual plants to damage to the environment to financial concerns, and so much more.

    Damage to the Plants: The most straightforward way that over-watering is harmful is that it negatively impacts the health of your yard, from grass to landscaping. The first way it does this is by causing the roots of the plants (grass included) to become shallow. If the plants always have water available at the surface level, their roots won’t have to grow deeper in search of water. Not only does this leave the plants less structurally sound and resilient, but it also leaves them more prone to infection and insect damage.

    But shallow roots aren’t the only damage the plants will suffer. When you flood the soil with water, it takes up the empty spaces in the dirt where oxygen resides. Much like us, plants need to intake oxygen to survive, and when you over-water them it’s rather akin to drowning them. Even if they don’t drown, too much water can wash away vital nutrients for the plants, again leaving them weakened and susceptible to damage.

    Weeds, Fungi, Pests, and Aesthetics: An over-watered yard is prone to growing an excess of weeds, especially crabgrass, as this environment is one in which these plants thrive. These weeds can overtake the beautiful grass and landscaping you care so greatly about. Another over-watering issue can be the fostering of fungi, both the kind that form directly on the plants, discoloring and damaging them, as well as mushrooms that pop up in your yard (some of which could be dangerous for pets or kids). Not only are both of these issues aesthetically displeasing, but over-watering can also lead to discolored and dry grass and leaves, which are a sign that your plants aren’t healthy and are also a blemish on the yard you are trying to care for.

    Finally, not only are pests drawn to water and moist areas, they can use the thatch layer that often accompanies over-watering as a place to hide. When there are copious easy places for pests to hide, it makes it much more difficult even for skilled technicians to quickly and effectively eliminate the issue. And even worse, some of the most structure-damaging pests (carpenter ants and termites) like moist areas. So if you see an influx of pests on your property, whether it’s from over-watering or not, give The Bug Dude a call at 817-354-5350 as soon as you notice the issue.

    Environmental: When it comes to using excess water on a yard the first environmental impact is that of wasting water. Since Texas is in the midst of a drought and is only a little over a decade past a long-lasting, extreme drought, it’s pretty clear that essentially throwing away this limited resource is something that can negatively impact a lot of people.

    The other big issue for the environment when you over-water your yard is that any chemicals you may have put on your grass or plants will contaminate the run-off and enter the stormwater system, thereby polluting nearby streams or rivers. Even worse, you could end up pushing those chemicals into the groundwater that supplies your community’s drinking water.

    Financial: The first financial issue is simple, when you over-water you will spend money on water that you don’t use. Since water prices are likely to rise as scarcity increases, this could quickly add up. But the real financial burden comes when droughts arise, as you can see in this article by the Texas Comptroller. Though the initial burden will be borne by the ranchers and farmers, the costs could easily find their way to consumers as items become rarer and more difficult to produce.

    By Anna Chaplygina on Vecteezy

    How Do You Know If You’re Overwatering Your Yard?

    There are a few tell-tale signs of an over-watered yard. If you notice any of these, it’s worth taking the time to check the moisture of your soil before doing any more watering.

    1. You see puddles of water in your yard or you see runoff (rivulets of water) coming from your lawn.
    2. Your lawn is muddy or feels spongey or squishy when you step on it.
    3. Your grass doesn’t quickly bounce back when you walk across it.
    4. You see dry or discolored patches in your grass or on landscaping leaves.
    5. Your yard has a lot of weeds.
    6. Your yard is growing fungi (mushrooms or fungal discoloration on leaves or grass blades).
    7. You notice excessive thatch build-up in your yard.
    8. You notice an influx of bugs in your yard or your home.
    By Artinun Prekmoung on Vecteezy

    How Should You Water Your Yard?

    There are quite a few factors to consider when deciding how often to water your lawn and landscaping, and how much water to use when you do water it. Knowing the kind of grass and plants you have, their health and history, the type of soil you have, if you have mulch around your plants, and much more can go into determining exactly how you will water your specific yard. For some basics on this, check out this guide from the Texas Water Development Board.

    In general, though, the first rule of thumb is that it’s almost always better to under-water than to over-water plants (including grass). If the soil around your plants looks wet, you should skip the watering. However, even if the soil around the plants looks dry on top, that doesn’t mean it’s time to water. Since surface soil dries out the quickest, especially in Texas heat, it can look fully dry even though there’s still plenty of water for the plants a few inches down. A simple way to determine how much water is in the soil below the surface is to invest a few dollars in a soil moisture meter that can read at least 6” below the top of the soil. Once the soil is pretty dry, it’s time to water again. With the robust summers we face in Texas, this could be as often as a few times a week. Generally, however, the suggestion is to water your yard about once a week when it’s warm out and about once every 2 weeks (or possibly less) in the winter.

    When you do water your yard, you want to aim to soak the soil down to about 6” for grass, up to 10” for perennials, and up to 12” for trees and shrubs. Again, a soil moisture meter can help you determine just how much watering this will be. Remember, when you water your lawn, whether it’s with a sprinkler system or with a hose, you want the water coverage to be low to the ground, in large drops (as opposed to a mist), and to have time to be absorbed; this isn’t a process you can rush. The rule of thumb here is it’s better to water deeply and thoroughly than to water frequently.

    Also important to note is to be sure to regularly check the weather before you water your yard as you don’t want to water on days when it’s due to rain (or immediately after, if it was a relatively significant rain).

    One final note on watering during a drought: consider letting your grass go dormant. This would of course mean letting go of having a beautiful, lush, green yard, but if done correctly, your grass can survive the drought and spring back in just a few weeks once regular watering commences. For more on this, check out this article from Purdue University.

    By TsunamiHolmes on Vecteezy

    When Should You Water Your Yard?

    The ideal time to water your yard is in the early morning before 10 am, the earlier the better; this gives the plants time to utilize the water before the sun starts to evaporate it. Though evening watering may seem convenient, it leaves your yard more susceptible to fungal growth with the moisture lingering on the soil all night.

    Though lawn watering might not be the first thing you think of when you hear about The Bug Dude, we deal with a lot of pest, lawn, and ornamental issues that are caused or exacerbated by the over-watering of yards. And though we are always here to help if a pest issue arises (just call us at 800-310-BUGS 2847), over-watered yard or not, we encourage everyone to make a change and really evaluate their water usage, especially in this time of heat and drought. The DFW area is a wonderful community, and if everyone just takes a moment to survey their lawn we could end up helping with the drought while getting to enjoy healthier Texas yards, which just sounds like the perfect ending to an extra hot summer to us.

    Author Bio: Alissa Breach has been gaining knowledge and experience around pest control concerns over the last 13 years while working for Mid-Cities Pest Control. She has a creative writing BA from UW-Madison and is always pursuing new and interesting writing projects.

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