- Make sure that your lawn is properly irrigated.
- Use a soil probe or trowel to check the moisture level. The top 2” to 3” should feel almost dry before you water.
- Water slowly and watch for pools and runoff.
- Aerate any spots where water is pooling, the grass looks thin, and/or there is heavy traffic.
- When you are finished watering, check the soil moisture again. If the soil is not wet 4” to 6” down, you should continue watering.
- Waiting until the top 2” to 3” of soil is dry and then watering until the soil is wet 4” to 6” down will cause the grass roots to grow deeper, which in turn will lead to a healthier lawn.
- Keep track of the time so that you know how long to water the next time.
Prevent Water Runoff by Planning Ahead
- Bare soil promotes water runoff so try to landscape as much of your property as possible. Planted areas absorb more rainwater and help percolate it into the ground.
- Plant native vegetation. Natives require less water and are less likely to require chemical fertilization.
- Sandy soils dry out more quickly and may need more frequent irrigation. Clay soils hold more moisture and dry out more slowly.
- Reduce the amount of paved surfaces on your property.
- Divert hoses and rain spouts away from paved surfaces.
- Consider a rain barrel to collect rain water for watering your lawn and flower beds.
Alternatives to Grass
Replace some of your lawn with an attractive alternative. The following plants require little water and will accept occasional foot traffic.
- Wooly Yarrow (Achillea tomentosa) – Plant from flats or small pots, 6” apart; mow in March and July to a height of 2”. Yellow flowers. Keep soil on the dry side.
- Caraway-Scented Thyme (Thymus herba-barona) – Plant all thymes from flats or small pots, 6” to 8” apart. Mowing is not necessary. Rose-pink flowers in early summer that attract bees.
- Creeping Thyme (Thymus praecoxarcticus) – Mow to 1½” in July and fertilize; purple flowers in summer that attract bees.
- Strawberry Clover (Trifolium fragiferum) – Plant from seed in fall; mow to 2” in April, June, August. White to pink flowers in summer that attract bees.
- Garden Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile) combined with strawberry clover – Plant chamomile from flats or from small pots, 6” to 8” apart. Plant strawberry clover as noted above and mow both ground covers to 2” in April, June, and August.
Native Plant Resources
Santa Barbara Botanic Garden