Smokin’ grass

Here it is, barely the middle of May, and already some of your neighbors have shown that they really don’t care about the concept of wasting water when irrigating their lawns and gardens.

(There are certain people who shall remain nameless who feel that any water on grass is a waste of water, but some of us demand our greenies, and plainly, we’re a little defensive about a lawn’s environmental soundness.)

Now, there doesn’t have to be any mystery to watering your lawn. Washoe County and the Desert Research Institute have a site called the Washoe Evapotranspiration Project,, that’ll tell homeowners the correct amount of time to set sprinklers based on factors like sprinkler type, water pressure and delivery rate. These are estimates. You’ll want to spend a few weeks dialing in the water timer two minutes less each watering day until the grass shows stress. And for goodness sake, take a walk around the property and see if any sprinkler heads have broken off in the winter. There’s nothing that says “moron” like an irrigation geyser flowing while the lawn dies all around. And please, twist your sprinklers so they spray the lawn instead of the street and bicycle commuters riding by.

(Water that’s put on grass returns to the ecosystem through evaporation and transpiration. And in the meantime, it decreases dust and cools the earth, which works as a natural swamp cooler, decreasing the amount of air conditioning people use.)

So, at any rate, most of us are paying for our water by the drop now, so a little care with where you put the water saves you money and keeps the neighbors from thinking you’re a butthole because you’re watering their lawns, sidewalks and picture windows.

Here’s how to set your sprinklers.

(Responsible lawnskeepers don’t allow water and fertilizer to run off the property and into the Truckee River, which pollutes the ecosystem. And really responsible lawnskeepers get to save 25 percent of their fertilizer costs by leaving grass clippings on the ground.)

First, buy one of those really expensive, like $70, computerized timers from your local hardware store. Cheaper sprinkler timers do not allow changing water times in one-minute increments, and the difference between six minutes and 15 minutes of watering is huge on your pocketbook. You can install and set it yourself! Next, do the calculations based on the Evapotranspiration site’s recommendations.

(Grass actually reduces air pollution through filtering the air of pollen and greenhouse gases.)

Next, decrease the water in two-minute increments after each watering day. Keep doing this until the lawn begins to show drought stress—when you walk on it, it stays down instead of springing back up. Remember, you have to do this for each zone. Once the grass shows stress, add one minute every watering day until it’s perky all the time. You’ll probably have to adjust up a bit in the height of summer.

(Grass is a pleasant surface to hang out on. Have you ever been to a barbecue on one of those xeriscaped, lava-rock lawns? Stay long?)

There are all kinds of resources on the internet for other tricks to save water and improve the look of your verdant, cool, relaxing, beautiful Northern Nevada lawn. The bottom line is if you do have a lawn, you don’t want your water to end up in the gutter.