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Slow your roll on watering: Let Mother Nature be your guide

It’s still cool out there, so don’t rush into irrigation season right away.
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Plastic covers a section of lawn.
When it comes to lawn watering, let Mother Nature help you out, especially before the hotter and drier summer months. Spring is a great time to convert a section of lawn (under the plastic) into a low-water flower garden. Photo credit: Denver Water.

Denver Water’s annual summer watering rules start May 1 and last until Oct. 1, but weather plays an important role in deciding when and how much to water.

Plants don’t need much water in the cooler months, like May. And late spring snows will bring Mother Nature’s water to your yard.

Not to mention, the average last freeze date in Denver is May 4, but that’s just the average, according to the National Weather Service. In 2019, the last freeze was recorded on May 22.

Freezes can wreak havoc on automatic sprinklers that have already been turned on, as the water expands inside the pipes, leading to costly breaks and issues throughout the system. 

So, ease into summer slowly. Keep the sprinklers off for a bit longer and use a hose and nozzle if there’s a dry patch that needs a bit of extra attention.

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A chart showing how long efficient sprinklers should run, with shorter times in the cooler spring and fall months and longer times in the hot summer months.
You can water less in the cooler months in spring and fall, when plants need less additional water. Image credit: Denver Water.

If you’re excited to get out and start playing in the yard like me, now is a great time to prepare for some landscape upgrades.

At our house, we put down plastic several weeks ago on a section of our lawn. This makes it easier to remove the turf that we’ll be converting into a low-water flower garden this year.

We’re doing this with the help of plants from Resource Central’s Garden In A Box

I’m also looking at pictures at Plant Select and considering where new plants and flowers that use less water could take up residence in other areas of our landscape. 

Plant Select is a nonprofit collaboration of Colorado State University, Denver Botanic Gardens and professional horticulturists. Its mission is to seek out and distribute the very best plants for landscapes and gardens from the intermountain region to the high plains and beyond.

If you’re looking for inspiration, there are many examples of beautiful water-wise yards scattered throughout the Denver metro area. 

This includes “functional landscapes,” which fit the needs of the homeowner and family. Examples of functional landscapes include having multiple areas for different activities, such as grass for kids and pets to play on, vegetable gardens to grow food, sheds for storage, patios and decks for entertaining and flower gardens for visual beauty. 

Watch how April Montgomery and her husband Kim Hartsen worked to make their front yard more functional, including building a walkway over the mud patch, enlarging the garden and adding water-efficient plants.

 Denver Water also has tips and resources if you’re thinking about remodeling your yard.