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WaterSaver newsletter
Monday, June 8, 2009 Back to Issue Archive
Lawn Care During Drought
By Calvin R. Finch

If you haven't done so already, there's still time to fertilize your lawn. But this year, an organic fertilizer with less nitrogen may be the better choice.

Thanks to recent rains, area lawns have perked up and are now nicely green in many neighborhoods. Ground that was bare three weeks ago is now covered with Bermuda grass, and shade-covered zoysia and St. Augustine look especially nice.

If you haven't done so already, there's still time to fertilize your lawn. In past years the recommendation was always a slow release fertilizer with a high percentage of nitrogen, such as 19-5-9 or 29-2-4.  But this year, an organic fertilizer with less nitrogen — such as a 7-1-1 or 4-1-2 formula — may be the better choice, especially since lawn grasses respond to high levels of nitrogen only when enough water is available.

Although we've had some rain, we're still in drought restrictions and might be all summer. To balance root growth and encourage healthy grass blades, the goal is to apply only as much nitrogen as can be used in a dry situation.

Another reason to consider an organic fertilizer is it's less salty. The nutrients in fertilizers, especially high nutrient blends, are provided as salts. The salts in slow release lawn fertilizers pose no challenges for healthy lawns, but are difficult for damaged lawns to utilize.
Lawn mowing is also an important part of lawn care, and even has an impact on water use. Let your grass grow taller and the roots will be longer and more capable of utilizing the entire soil reservoir.

Recommended mowing heights for grasses during drought are 3 inches for St. Augustine, 2 inches for zoysia, and 1.5 inches for Bermuda.

Calvin R. Finch is the project director of regional initiatives and special projects for San Antonio Water System.

Last Digit
of Street
0 or 1 Monday
2 or 3 Tuesday
4 or 5 Wednesday
6 or 7 Thursday
8 or 9 Friday
No watering on weekends with a sprinkler, soaker hose or irrigation system. Areas without a street address, such as medians and neighborhood entryways, water on Wednesday.
Watering with a sprinkler or irrigation system is allowed once a week before 10 a.m. and after 8 p.m. on your assigned day, as determined by your address.
Friday, May 23, 2014
0 in. Bermuda (Full Sun)
0 in. Buffalo (Full Sun)
0 in. St. Augustine (Full Sun)
0 in. St. Augustine (Shade)
0 in. Zoysia (Full Sun)
0 in. Zoysia (Shade)
Rain benefits continue this week with established plants. No water necessary. Hand water newly planted plants. Donna Fossum, SAWS Conservation Planner.

Ask A Garden Geek
Do commercial properties and residential common areas follow the same restrictions as individual homes?
Absolutely yes! Commercial areas must water once a week according to the property address just like residential properties. Landscape areas without an address, like common areas, must water on Wednesday only.
E-mail your question to
Seasonal Star
Pride of Barbados
(Caesalpinia pulcherrima)
A returning perennial in Zone 8, freezes to the ground and returns in mid to late spring. Has stunning sunset-colored blooms and usually reaches 5 feet to 8 feet tall. This is not a native, but it\'s well-adapted and prefers well-drained soils and full sun. This tropical looking member of the legume family is a butterfly magnet and is easily grown from seed.
Past Peak
Carolina Jessamine
(Gelsemium sempervirens)
Evergreen vine, grows up to 20 feet long, climbs trees, fences and other structures. Displays a bouquet of yellow, tube-like blooms in early spring. An exceptionally versatile, heat-loving climber, Carolina jessamine tolerates a wide range of soil types including heavy clay and thrives in both sun and partial shade.
Event Calendar
Clean Dirt Workshop
June 13 10 a.m. - Noon
Mitchell Lake Audubon Center
10750 Pleasanton Road
Healthy soil means healthy plants, healthy wetlands and a healthy planet. Malcolm Beck will discuss the importance of soil conservation in conjunction with water conservation. For more information, call 210-628-1639.
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