by Charlene Burgi
My daughter Lynette called me this week during her lunchtime walk. She informed me it was currently a balmy 80 degrees in Petaluma. While she spoke, I clenched my jaw to prevent my teeth from chattering as I gazed out the window to overcast skies and noted the outdoor thermometer registered a high of 44 degrees.
How could the weather be THAT different 300 miles away? I thought about last week’s blog mentioning fall color, and then realized you are still wearing summer clothing and sipping iced tea while tending your summer gardens! Plants are still growing and requiring irrigation. New garden designs are still on your minds as I am buttoning down the greenhouse and thinking about soups to cook and canning, freezing or dehydrating what little is left from the garden while donning woolies.
Lynette’s weather report reminded me that fire season is still a primary concern in Marin. We tend to relax our efforts in the garden during this time of year and turn our attention toward other activities that stretch our summers out just a wee bit longer. Red Flag Warnings may be met without a passing thought. However, October is a time when humidity levels typically fall and temperatures rise—the perfect storm for the tiniest of sparks from a lawnmower or weed-eater to take off into high grasses on a gentle breeze. These conditions make me wonder if everyone took the time to create defensible space around their homes by limbing-up trees and pulling tall grasses? It is not too late to get these chores done.
The warm autumn days often find us cranking up the irrigation controller. But despite the warm temperatures, the days are shorter, the evenings longer and plants are entering their dormant phase. As a result, plants don’t need a lot of water now. Check your controller setting and compare it to the settings suggested on the Weekly Watering Schedule. Are your runtimes close to what is posted for your area? Be aware that this is one of the times of year when people tend to overwater the most.
And, if you are still manually changing your irrigation controller, might I suggest that you make an appointment with the Marin Municipal Water District’s Conservation Department and take that first step toward applying for a smart controller rebate? Smart controllers are a treat. Once they are up and running, no longer is it necessary to check or schedule runtimes every week. These controllers automatically adjust the runtimes to the current weather conditions, and many have features that automatically shut off the controller if it is raining, too windy or freezing. Smart controllers are custom-programmed to fit your specific garden conditions, making them time- and money-savers. Depending on your watering habits, you could find yourself using on average about 25 percent less irrigation water.
Warm weather, saving time and money—I am green with envy … or is that green coming from the four boxes of green tomatoes in the greenhouse that are calling to me?