Archive for the ‘Dan Carney’ Category

by Dan Carney, Water Conservation Manager

Small grass area for children's play yard

Children’s play yard (photo and design by Michelle Derviss)

If you are looking for an ideal landscape area to have a picnic, play games with your kids, or rough and tumble with the family dog, a lawn may be a good choice.

When properly cared for, lawns have many environmental benefits: They clean and cool the air, filter storm water, produce oxygen, and require much less water than you might think—lawns are commonly overwatered by as much as five-times! As a rule of thumb, unless it’s the middle of summer and the lawn is in full sun all day long, a healthy lawn only needs to be watered one day per week if it’s not raining. If it needs more, chances are your lawn needs some help.

Common environmental problems with lawns occur when people overwater, use chemical pesticides and fertilizers, do not compost clippings, mow too often, and have a larger lawn than they actually use. This article focuses on the essential things you need to know in order to successfully grow healthy lawn grass in an environmentally responsible, Marin-friendly manner.

But first, ask yourself this question: Do you really need a traditional lawn at all? If your answer is no, then please consider planting a no-mow meadow of native grasses, low-water groundcover, or other drought-adapted plants. Even when perfectly maintained, lawns require more water than any other landscape plant and are best reserved for landscape areas where they will be actively used rather than just a pretty green surface to look at. If you have a lawn area you want to convert into a low-water using garden, check out this video to learn how to sheet mulch. Then, browse our conservation coupons to find discounts on mulch and other supplies from local retailers.

If you still choose to have a lawn on your property, here are the basics of Marin-friendly lawn care:

  • Incorporate a generous amount of organic compost into the soil (1-2 cubic yards per 100 square feet).
  • Select a drought-tolerant grass species.
  • Apply enough organic fertilizer to maintain plant health but not to stimulate fast growth.
  • Irrigate with a high-efficiency irrigation system, and adjust watering times frequently to match seasonal plant demand. Never water between the hours of 9 a.m. and 7 p.m., the time when 97% of evapotranspiration occurs.
  • Mow infrequently, use a manual or electric mower, leave the grass blades 2-4 inches tall, and compost the clippings.
  • Use graywater, rainwater, or recycled water whenever it is available.

By following these basic steps, you will be training your lawn grass to develop a deep and extensive root system—the key to growing a drought-tolerant lawn with the most environmental benefits and the fewest problems. MMWD offers a number of free services to help you make your landscape Marin-friendly. Visit our Conservation page today to schedule a free water use survey through our Conservation Assistance Program (CAP), sign up for a Marin Master Gardener Garden Walk, and take advantage of great rebate offers for smart irrigation controllers. And, be sure to sign up for MMWD’s Weekly Watering Schedule to get updated watering information for your climate zone delivered to your email box each week.


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by Dan Carney

help your trees survive the drought thumbnail

Infographic: Help Your Trees Survive the Drought. Click for a downloadable PDF. (Courtesy of the California Urban Forests Council)

According to the Department of Water Resources, California usually receives 75 percent of its annual precipitation between November and March, and in many parts of California landscape plants need little or no winter watering during this time. When rain doesn’t show up, plants become stressed and need an occasional drink to survive. If you’re trying to decide how to meet your conservation goals, consider letting lawns and other less-essential landscape plants go dry and focus on keeping the trees healthy.

Trees bring incredible values to the community that increase every year. Literally, money grows on trees in the form of water, soil, and energy conservation; habitat value; air quality improvements; carbon sequestration; and quality of life. It’s hard to find a better economic deal anywhere worth the gallons of water required to keep trees alive.

Mature trees, with access to groundwater and broad extensive root systems, usually are better adapted to periodic droughts—100-year oaks have weathered some tough times—and may actually be harmed by supplemental irrigation. Please consult your local UC Cooperative Extension office, certified arborist, landscape professional, or MMWD if you have specific questions about your trees.

For most newly planted and newly established trees, here is a simplified method you can follow to ensure they get enough water to survive the drought: Rule of thumb—10 gallons per week per inch of trunk diameter.

♦ Using a garden hose:

Newly planted trees: Place the hose on the ground near the root ball. Turn on the faucet to medium flow. Give the tree 10 gallons of water for every inch of tree trunk diameter (measured 6” above the ground). Since newly planted trees have limited root systems, they may need to be watered 2-3 times each week. For example, a 2-inch diameter tree will get a total of 20 gallons of water each week. If the hose flows at 5 gallons per minute, water for 1-2 minutes several times a week. (Use the second-hand on your watch and a bucket to measure gallons per minute.)

Newly established trees (1-5 years old): Place the hose on the ground as near as possible to the outside edge of the branches (the drip line). Follow the same watering guideline (10 gallons per inch of trunk diameter), but measure the trunk diameter at chest height. Because established trees have a more extensive root system they can be watered less frequently (about once every 7-10 days) depending on the soil type and time of year. For example, using a hose flowing at 5 gallons per minute, a 5-inch diameter tree would be watered for 10 minutes (50 gallons) every 7-10 days.

♦ Using drip emitter tubing:

Newly planted trees: Place the drip emitter tubing directly on top of the soil and in a circle near the root ball. A typical drip emitter hose with one-gallon-per-hour emitters spaced one foot apart would need to operate for about 40 minutes 2-3 times a week.

Newly established trees (1-5 years old): Place the drip emitter tubing directly on top of the soil and in a circle near the outside edge of the branches (the drip line). For a tree that was planted 1-5 year ago, run the drip emitter tubing for 90 minutes every 7-10 days.

Important note: If water starts to runoff or pond, reduce the flow, move the hose to a new location around the tree every few minutes, or water for fewer minutes at a time so that all water infiltrates completely into the soil. Finally, apply a generous 4-inch deep layer of organic mulch under the tree (keeping the mulch 6 inches away from the trunk) to preserve the moisture in the soil.

Taking the time to correctly water trees helps preserve scarce water resources and maintains a healthy environment for everyone.

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by Dan Carney

Water has a knack for quietly leaking 24-hours-a-day out of even the smallest cracks and crevices. In fact, it’s so good at finding ways to hide that one-third of all properties in Marin have water leaks. MMWD staff perform thousands of free Conservation Assistance Program (CAP) surveys at homes and businesses every year and discover leaking toilets, sprinkler lines and valves that sometimes account for 25 percent or more of the water used at the site—that’s a lot of wasted water and money!

MMWD Rebates: Get Paid to SaveIf you think it’s time for a free CAP survey to check for leaks, give us a call on the CAP hotline at 945-1523 and we’ll be glad to set up an appointment and meet with you at your property. As an extra bonus, MMWD has rebate dollars available for customers to replace leaky old toilets, water-guzzling clothes washers and out-of-control irrigation controllers. Visit the rebate website at marinwater.org/rebates or give conservation staff a call at 945-1527. Rebate dollars are limited, so get yours today!

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by Dan Carney

Are you looking for environmentally friendly ways to keep down the weeds and fill up a rain barrel this winter? Please join in the fun at two FREE workshops this February and you will be rewarded with a wealth of practical knowledge and techniques to improve your garden.

Sheet mulching

Sheet mulching

Introduction to Sheet Mulching: In this two-hour workshop you will learn how to use cardboard and organic mulch to virtually eliminate weeds, reduce water use, enrich soil, attract worms, replace unwanted lawns and make your plants extremely happy. If this all sounds too good to be true, come try it for yourself and see how easy and effective this simple technique really is. We will have piles of mulch, a roll of recycled cardboard and tools ready to go. You are welcome to bring your work gloves and grab a rake, too!
When: Friday, February 17 (10:00 a.m. – noon)
Where: Marin Municipal Water District, 220 Nellen Avenue, Corte Madera, CA 94925 (meet in the parking lot adjacent to Tamal Vista Blvd.)
What to bring: Curiosity and gardening gloves (optional)
How to sign up: Leave us a message with your name and contact information at (415) 945-1521 or send an email to wmenara@marinwater.org.

Introduction to Rainwater Harvesting: Spend the day learning how to harvest rainwater at your home. Expert instructors from the American Rainwater Catchment Systems Association (ARCSA) will guide you step-by-step through the fascinating process of storing and using the liquid gold that falls from the sky. Whether you are planning to harvest 50 or 5,000 gallons to store for emergencies, watering veggies, washing clothes or flushing toilets, rainwater is for everyone! This event is co-sponsored by The Urban Farmer Store and MMWD.
When: Saturday, February 18 (9:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.)
Where: Tam Valley Community Center, 203 Marin Avenue, Mill Valley, CA 94941
What to bring: Notebook and pen (lunch is included)
How to sign up:  Reserve your seat today by logging onto the ARCSA event website, or contact Becky Squires at (512) 617-6528.

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by Dan Carney

With all the late spring rain this year, did you find yourself wondering when it would stop? Now, at last, sunshine has returned. On the other hand, thanks to all that rain, we are starting this landscape irrigation season with full reservoirs and saturated soil.

Did you know that a 1,000-square-foot garden can soak up over 20,000 gallons of water a year? That is a lot of water, and irrigation systems are the largest single water user in the summer.

So, what can a person do to keep their garden happy and help conserve the water supply? How about creating your own backyard rain garden, or adding some water storage. You never know when a little extra water will come in handy for emergencies, watering your favorite veggies and orchids, or lowering your water bill this summer.

For more ideas and information on rain gardens and water storage, look into the new 10,000 Rain Gardens Project Report now available on MMWD’s website. The Salmon Protection and Watershed Network (SPAWN) and MMWD piloted the 10,000 Rain Gardens Project in 2010 to encourage innovative water conservation projects within the district.

The report is full of practical information about various types of rain gardens and cisterns. If you want to see what a rain garden looks like, and get a feel for what’s involved in constructing one, please take a self-guided tour of five projects now open to the public.

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by Dan Carney

Thammasat University students

Students from Thailand’s Thammasat University visit the Mt. Tamalpais Watershed.

Imagine making the journey from Bangkok, Thailand, to Lake Lagunitas! 

On May 2, that’s exactly what a group of students and professors did as part of an ongoing educational exchange program between Thammasat and Dominican Universities. Twenty-five graduate students joined MMWD’s Mike Swezy and Charlene Burgi on a two-hour interpretive walk around the lake.

The topics of water quality, environmental management, and conservation were of keen interest to the students, who explained there is tremendous need for environmental restoration and water system improvements in Thailand.

At Lake LagunitasThe students were fascinated with every aspect of the flora and fauna, and how people interact with the ecosystem. In fact, they asked so many insightful questions, even a watershed veteran like Mike commented afterwards, “I was afraid I was going to run out of things to say.” 

Watching the students taking pictures, and touching the water and redwood trees with awe, reminded me of how fortunate we are to have this protected natural treasure right in our own backyard.

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by Dan Carney

Rainwater Harvesting SignNext time it’s raining, why not catch and store some of that pure water falling from the sky? You can use it for summertime irrigation, emergency supply, flushing toilets, washing clothes, fire prevention and as groundwater to sustain plants year-round. The more water you catch, the less it runs off into the storm drains, which is better for our waterways and all the organisms that live in them.

Survey results from the 10,000 Rain Gardens Project show that many people in Marin want to learn how to capture and store rainwater on-site. And now you can! Get inspired with a self-guided tour at any or all of the five new demonstration sites in Fairfax, San Anselmo, Ross, Tiburon and Mill Valley. The projects are open to the public and showcase various methods of using rainwater at your home or business. They range in complexity from a 2,500 gallon above-ground cistern to a simple gravity-fed rain garden (click here for photos).

For easy-to-follow directions for the self-guided tour and lots of great information about rainwater harvesting, visit the 10,000 Rain Gardens Project website today!

The 10,000 Rain Gardens Project is a collaboration between the Salmon Protection And Watershed Network (SPAWN) and MMWD.

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