Yay for cool weather! Time to cut back outdoor water use

Steps you take now, as drought conditions dominate the state, can help reduce water use next year.

September 24, 2020 | By: Cathy Proctor
A brilliant yellow sunflower hovers above a Denver-area yard, with a garage in the background.
A brilliant yellow sunflower hovers above a Denver-area flower garden. Photo credit: Denver Water.

 

Now that fall has finally arrived, Denverites can take a breather from the months of hot, dry summer temperatures and relish the cooler nights and mornings.

And why not. Your lawn certainly is.

That’s why Denver Water’s standard summer watering rules only run until Oct. 1.

The arrival of cooler fall weather means homeowners can and should continue to dial back on watering their lawns, start shutting down sprinkler systems, and begin preparations for next year.

This is more important now than ever with the possibility that the drought conditions that we’ve been experiencing throughout Colorado this summer will continue. At the end of September, the U.S. Drought Monitor considered all of Colorado to be at least “abnormally dry,” and 98% of the state to be at some level of drought.

A map of Colorado, with most of the state listed in red and orange, signifying drought conditions.
At the end of September, the U.S. Drought Monitor listed 98% of Colorado to be at some level of drought. Image credit: U.S. Drought Monitor.

 

“The cooler temperatures mean plants don’t need as much water as they did at the height of summer’s heat,” said Jeff Tejral, water efficiency manager at Denver Water. “If you water like you did in July, you’re not benefitting the lawn as most of it will just run off. You’re just running up your water bill.”

The lawn doesn’t need as much water during fall compared to the summer months, according to landscape professionals with Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado.

During October, lawns and landscape typically need water no more than one day a week, Tejral said.

Good steps to take now

As the leaves fall, rather than raking them and bagging them for the landfill, running over them with a lawn mower can save you time and energy. When shredded leaves are left on the lawn, they become a natural source of fertilizer, and fall is the best time to fertilize, according to landscape professionals.

Aerating the lawn also helps water and fertilizer reach the roots. It can be done any time the ground is not frozen, according to Colorado State University’s extension experts.

Forget the bags — mulch leaves right into the grass to provide nutrients for the lawn.
Forget the bags — mulch leaves right into the grass to provide nutrients for the lawn. Photo credit: Denver Water.

 

This year’s first freeze occurred early, on Sept. 8. On average, the first freeze of the season occurs in Denver on Oct. 7.

But with more freezing temperatures looming in the weeks ahead, make plans to shut down sprinkler systems to avoid potential property damage from broken pipes and expensive repairs to the sprinkler system next spring.

And with the possibility that the drought conditions that have spread across Colorado this year will continue, this fall is also a great time to prepare for next year by identifying water-hungry plants and unused or inefficient sections of grass that could be replaced with less water-intensive options next year.

“If we’re in a drought next year, or any year, you will already be ahead of the game by identifying places you could cut back on water use while maintaining a vibrant landscape,” said Tejral. “We need to remember that we live in a variable climate. If we are in a drought next year, are you ready? Is your landscape ready?”

Purple, red and yellow flowers.
Late-summer flowers that don’t need much water but offer a lot of color. Photo credit: Denver Water.