Northern Nevada landscaping and gardening: Hot, Hot, Hot! | Carson City Nevada News

Summer temperatures have arrived. In combination with the seemingly relentless wind and the high desert sun, plants, including the grass, dry out. How can we save water with the drought this year?

If you can tolerate dry looking grass, put a bluegrass lawn to rest in the summer. Watering deeply once a week to twice a month should keep it alive, but it won’t turn green. Established trees can also be deeply watered separate from the lawn a few times a month and survive, but can lose their leaves and have some branch dieback. However, these extremely rationed irrigation practices are not particularly good for plant health.

One way to save water is to reduce the size of the lawn. Since trees grow better without a lawn, you should take it out from under trees first. Remove the grass from the trunk to the drip line (to the extreme tips of the branches). Mulch this area with organic material that is cooler than rock and holds moisture better.

Add several multi-gallons per hour drip sprayers all around under the canopy of the tree. This technique works well in large gardens. In small yards, instead, remove the turf in a four-foot-long ring under each tree. I reduced my lawn size by moving two to four feet from the outside edge to make the shrub beds wider. I didn’t plant any additional plants, just added mulch. Water less, fertilize less, mow less. And I like how the plantless mulch surface nicely rounds off everything else.

Any grass you have should be watered efficiently. This means that you know how much you are spending on watering and only water as much as the lawn actually needs. For each watering station, place a number of coffee mugs or jugs of the same size on the lawn to check the effectiveness of the coverage of your lawn irrigation system.

Also use this test to calculate how many inches of water the sprinklers are actually putting out each week. The exact instructions for performing a “can test” can be found here. If you find that the coverage is uneven, adjust or repair the sprinklers. With temperatures hitting the 90s and up, we’ll likely need at least two inches of water a week. The Washoe County’s Evapotranspiration Project website,, is an excellent resource for weekly water flow information.

You’ll need to adjust your watering timer when temperatures change to use only the amount of water you need.

– JoAnne Skelly is Associate Professor and Emeritus Extension Instructor at the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. She can be reached at

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