How to maintain a nice landscape during a watering restriction

With parts of the state still in a drought, how do you keep a nice landscape while following the water restrictions, and not breaking the bank? Fox 25's Kisha Henry asked the experts.

"It is possible to use less water in the yard and still have nice, green grass," says Debbie Ragan, spokesperson for the Oklahoma City Utilities Department. She says Oklahomans need to start being more water aware. "Right now, when we see Lake Hefner, it looks good. It looks full, but when we take into account all six of our water supply lakes, our water capacity is only at 66-percent," says Ragan. She says Lake Canton, the back-up source for Lake Hefner, is 13-feet below normal levels and isn't useable. It could be years before it's back to normal heights.

On April 30, 2013, Oklahoma City started a mandatory odd-even watering rotation, year round. It's stage one of a five-stage program. If our water levels get below 50-percent, we will go into stage two- where Oklahoma City residents will only be allowed to water two days a week, according to the last number of your home address. Stage three will only allow for one day of watering per week. Stage four only allows for hand-watering of flower beds and gardens, and residents will only be allowed to use commercial car washes that have recycling operations. Stage five is an all-out ban on outdoor watering.

To better conserve the city's water, in addition to passing out tickets and fines for what not to do, free water conservation workshops will also be available to show you what to do.

"If you have a Bermuda grass yard or something like that and you're trying to keep it green throughout the Summertime, it can be anywhere from one- to- two-inches of water per week," says Dr. Justin Moss, an OSU professor in the Horticulture department. You can measure this by buying a cheap rain gauge, or saving an old cat food container or a tuna container. Put it out in the middle of your yard, and when it fills up an inch, you're done for the week. He says the way you mow your grass can also help. "Don't try to mow it so low. Maybe try to raise that mowing height a little bit. That can help put less stress on the plant," says Dr. Moss.

Tools like a rain sensor are recommended for automatic irrigation systems. They start at around $20. "Whenever it rains, it will automatically turn off your irrigation system," says Dr. Moss. Another tool-- a smart irrigation system control. These start around $50 to $100. "They can tell exactly how much to water based on the climatic factors for that day," he says.

Utilizing a rain barrel will help you recycle water for your plants, and will really cut down on your use.

And, when it comes to your flower beds, you might not need to water every day. "Dig down a little bit with a screw driver or something, and if you're digging down two, three inches and the soil seems a little bit wet just by touching and feeling it, then skip watering that day," says Dr. Moss. He says ornamentals flower beds only need about 1/2-inch to 1 1/2 inches per week. You should put mulch around the plants, about three-inches deep to help keep in the moisture and keep the weeds out. You should also water at the base of the plant, instead of watering the entire plant.

And, most important, as you maintain your landscape this sizzling summer, the experts say a little brown never hurt anyone. "You can certainly use less water and still have a healthy plant that may not be the beautiful bright green," says Dr. Moss.

The next workshop is Saturday, July 20. It will be hosted on the OSU-OKC Campus, in the Agriculture Resource Center, Room 196 (400 N. Portland Ave.). You can register by calling 405-297-3380, or you can just show up. The workshop runs from 9 a.m. to Noon. The next workshop will be held in the same location on August 20. These workshops are free of charge, and are a partnership between the OKC Utilities Department and the OSU Extension.

For more information on how to squeeze every drop out of your water use, click here.

And, for even more information on how to prevent water waste, click here.