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Water Conservation Tips

for spring & summer

As temperatures increase, irrigation systems start turning on.  Below are some tips to look into during the spring and  summer to maintain a water efficient and healthy outdoor landscape.


In Colorado, irrigation start up timing can vary due to the possibility of spring freezing. A good rule of thumb is to charge the system after Mother’s Day. To reduce water wasted during the irrigation season check the system for the following every month:

  • Leaks. Leaking irrigation lines often present as puddles in the yard or water spraying into the air.
  • Broken or malfunctioning sprinkler heads. Depending on the issue, the sprinkler head may need a full replacement or simply removing and replacing the guts with the same model of sprinkler.
  • Sunken or tilted sprinkler heads. Sprinkler heads perform best when level with soil grade. During irrigation, the sprinkler riser is perpendicular to the soil surface.
  • Clogged nozzles. Remove the nozzle and flush the sprinkler head and clean or replace the screen.
  • Overspray. Make adjustments to avoid overspray onto hardscape
Irrigation Assessments provide knowledge to optimize sprinkler efficiencies and reduce water use by measuring how evenly water is applied during an irrigation event and the precipitation rate. The data collected can support the operating condition of the irrigation system and identify malfunctioning irrigation parts to replace or adjust. Contact your town or water provider to see if they provide assessments; sometimes they’re offered free of charge.

Irrigation scheduling supports a living landscape by monitoring plant material and environmental conditions. The goal is to provide sufficient water to plants by replacing what was lost through evapotranspiration.

  • Reduce runoff by activating the cycle and soak feature on your irrigation controller.
  • Extending intervals between irrigation and increasing the duration reduces water loss and encourages plants to root deeper into the soil to support the plant during times of drought.
  • Adjust irrigation frequency and duration on the shoulder seasons (spring and fall) to reduce unnecessary overwatering.
  • The right time to irrigate is between 6 p.m. and 10 a.m. when temperatures are cool, winds are calm, and evapotranspiration is lower. The best time to irrigate is in the early morning.

Right Plant, Right Place

When installing new plants into the landscape consider the following:

  • Conditions in the area (full sun, part shade, shade, soil and wind).
  • Hydrozone, which plans the garden area by installing plants with similar water and sun requirements together.
  • Diversify plant types and varieties to avoid monoculture plantings.


Soil is the foundation of a healthy landscape and plants have different soil needs. Although many plants are adaptable, understanding the soil type, the pH, and the soil structure is important to the success of the landscape. Before adding anything, consider getting a soil test. Commercial soil labs can provide information on pH, salinity, and nutrient and mineral availability.

Soil testing labs:

  • Colorado State University Soil Lab
  • Weld Laboratories
  • Ward Laboratories
Many Colorado native plants don’t need soil amendments. Research the plants you're interested in to make sure you choose the Right Plant for the Right Place.


Fertilizer can provide essential nutrients and minerals to improve plant growth but can also be wasteful. Understanding the existing soil type and structure will help to address any deficiencies in your landscape.

  • Utilize your soil test results to find a fertilizer right for the landscape.
  • Consider fertilizers without phosphorus, which can pollute our water system and lead to high algae growth that damages aquatic life.
  • Follow the recommendations on the product label so as not to over-apply the fertilizer.
  • Slow-release fertilizers provide nutrients over a longer period of time. Avoid over irrigating to reduce fertilizer leeching past the plant root zone.
  • Apply the right fertilizer for the season.

turf aeration

Annual core aeration supports good soil health by encouraging pore space to reduce soil compaction and allowing water to percolate better into the root zone. Take advantage of natural precipitation during the spring, this softens the soil and allows for deeper core aeration. 

mowing best practices

Follow these best practices to improve the health of your cool-season turf grass and conserve water.
  • Adjust mulching lawnmowers to a 3” height. Setting the mower at a higher setting supports deeper root growth and develops healthier plants.
  • Mulching grass clippings are a natural way to add nitrogen back into the soil.
  • Clean, sharpen and maintain mowing equipment regularly to keep machinery in optimal working condition and reduces unnecessary costly repairs.


Mulching in planting areas is very important, as it reduces moisture evaporation from the soil. The two main types of mulch are organic and inorganic.

  • Organic mulch can include wood chips, grass clippings, etc., that slowly breaks down and feeds the soil.
  • Inorganic mulch can include large sizes like cobble, medium sizes like river rock, or small sizes like pea gravel and squeegee.

Applying mulch at a 3” depth can reduce the number of weed seeds that can germinate. If you are using organic mulch to break down and feed the soil, avoid installing weed barrier, as it prevents the organic matter from being incorporated into the soil.  

Colorado WaterWise                                  

PO Box 101012

Denver, CO 80250

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