Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘irrigation’

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.

 

Read Full Post »

This is the first in a series of posts by MMWD’s interns, summer helpers, and watershed aides about their experiences at the district.

by Philip Shea, Information Technology Intern

As a lifelong Marin resident, growing up in close proximity to the MMWD watershed has always provided me with ample access to abundant habitat away from freeways, cars, and traffic. I learned to mountain bike at a very early age. I’ve hiked miles upon miles of access roads surrounding just about every community and township in the central Marin areas.

Throughout all of this time, I had never considered MMWD as a potential workplace until seeing a job posting for a summer intern. Being here now has brought me back to doing the work I love after earning my Associates degree at College of Marin last May. As an Information Technology intern, I’m assisting anyone at the district using computers (meaning everyone at the district).

I came here in June, a few months after voluntary water-use reductions were requested by our Governor Jerry Brown and MMWD’s Board of Directors. With the education provided by our knowledgeable Water Conservation Department here at the district, I’ve learned that with planning and a little modification of my daily routine, using 25% less water throughout my day really isn’t too difficult and makes me feel like I’m making an important difference.

I’m not a homeowner (yet). But, if I were, I would absolutely take advantage of the education and rebates the district is offering to residents who want to use less water. Even in the lobby of the district offices here, I’ve seen free supplies for testing for toilet leaks, changing showerheads, and learning better water practices, as well as 20% off coupons to Fairfax Lumber & Hardware for outdoor irrigation supplies.

With all of the resources offered, it seems to me we could go above and beyond the 25% voluntary reduction requested by the board, which benefits not only your household, but all of Marin.

Read Full Post »

Save Your Green Save Our BlueMMWD is partnering with local retailers to help you give your garden a water-efficient makeover for less. For a limited time, participating businesses are generously offering coupons for a variety of water-conserving products for your landscape.

You’ll find discounts on smart irrigation controllers (which also may be eligible for a rebate from MMWD), mulch, drought-tolerant plants, drip irrigation supplies, and more. Each retailer has a different discount, so visit our website to browse the offers and print the coupons that best meet your needs. Or, drop by our lobby at 220 Nellen Avenue in Corte Madera to pick up some coupons and other water-saving information and gadgets.

Thank you to Fairfax Lumber & Hardware, Horizon, Marin Landscape Materials, Sonoma Compost, and The Urban Farmer Store for helping MMWD customers save water and money!

Read Full Post »

Marin County FairOur partners Marin Master Gardeners will be at the Marin County Fair today through Sunday with lots of great advice and resources for gardening in a drought. Drop by the “Potting Shed” to learn about designing low-water-use landscapes, water-wise edible gardening, and much more! Check out the schedule of activities.

The fair is open daily 11 a.m. – 11 p.m., July 2 – 6, at the county fairgrounds at 10 Avenue of the Flags in San Rafael.

Can’t make it to the fair? Marin Master Gardeners will come to you! Sign up for a Marin-Friendly Garden Walk at your home and get personalized, water-wise tips for a beautiful, healthy landscape. Watch the video below to learn more about the walks, then call 415-473-4204 to schedule your free appointment.

 

Read Full Post »

by Christina Mountanos

Bougainvillea

Bougainvillea

As I looked around my garden this past weekend, I felt myself sigh in both satisfaction and a little relief. No doubt summertime is here and the plants in my north-facing garden are enjoying the warmer weather and longer days as much as I am! The star jasmine that turn pitifully bare every winter have resurrected themselves once again, and my bougainvillea is back and bigger than ever, spilling its maroon blossoms wildly over my neighbor’s fence.

As a beginning gardener, this has been my most productive spring yet. In contrast to previous years, almost all of the projects I’ve been working on have yielded good results. I’ve been successfully coaxing two morning glories up a trellis, patiently shaping a small collection of rosemary topiaries, and the petunias I received for my birthday in April are still alive and thriving in the intensifying sun. Surprisingly even the poppy seeds I scattered at the end of May have sprouted and grown!

Maybe it’s safe to say that I’ve finally gotten a handle on how things grow, and it’s likely that working in water conservation has helped. But, as far as I’ve come, I do often find myself still grappling with some of the most basic of gardening concepts. One that I struggled with recently? Roots! What’s so complicated about roots, you ask? Well, let me start by saying that if you’re well-versed in water-wise gardening, you’re surely familiar with the principle of watering deeply, but infrequently to encourage more drought-tolerant plants. If you haven’t heard this before, watering in this manner can create plants with roots that grow more deeply. Not only can plants with deeper, more extensive root systems find water and nutrients in more places, but having roots further away from the surface of the soil means they also stay moist longer and plants don’t dry out as quickly.

Rooting petunia

Petunia cutting sprouting roots on a window sill

It was this concept that got me thinking. How deep is “deeply,” exactly? Of course, watering my potted plants has always been easy; I simply water until it comes out the bottom (fool-proof!). But, as I graduated from the simplicities of planter gardening, I began wondering about the tall shrubs that run around the perimeter of my yard. How deep are their roots? And what about trees? Is it both possible and necessary to water their entire roots zones?

Well, what I have found is that plants and trees have portions of their root systems that can, in fact, grow very deep in the soil. You may remember Charlene mentioning in a previous post that some California annuals have roots that reach 20 feet! These deeper roots can serve as structural supports and to find water and nutrients in extreme conditions. Oak trees growing naturally on our watershed, and throughout Marin, typically have taproots that grow deeply for this reason.

However, I was surprised to find out that the vast majority of a plant’s root system is concentrated much closer to the surface than I originally thought. Roughly 80% of a tree’s roots, for example, are concentrated in the top 12 to 36 inches of soil. Quite amazing when you think of how tall trees can get! Roots are confined to this depth, for the most part, because this is where the most oxygen, minerals, and nutrients are readily available. These elements become less and less prevalent as depth increases, and thus roots do, too. Not surprisingly then, watering beyond a depth of 36 inches essentially wastes water and effort.

A great take-away tip that I found from the California Master Gardener Handbook, and one that I now use for hand watering, is the 1-2-3 rule. Water to a depth of one foot for small plants (like annuals and groundcovers), two feet for medium sized plants, and three feet for large shrubs and trees. How long it will take to reach this depth will vary depending on your soil type and the flow of your hose, so some initial experimentation is necessary. A day or so after watering, use a soil probe or a shovel to dig down and to see how far the water has traveled, then adjust accordingly. Consider using this same procedure to check that your irrigation runtimes are sufficient as well.

With this small token of wisdom comes another sigh of relief. So far, gardening has surely been a process for me. It’s been a piecemeal operation with successes, frustrations, a lot of listening to those wiser than me, and most importantly, enjoyment.

Read Full Post »

by Keith Bancroft

Last December, I bought and moved into my first house (my first house!). When I moved, I brought with me a large assortment of container plantings I’d accumulated over the past dozen years or so—pineapple sage, ferns, agastache, salvia, fuchsia, honeysuckle, penstemon, bee balm, and various succulents. Now that I was in my own home and had a “real” yard to work with, I was eager to get my collection of potted plants into the ground where they belonged. But it was mid-winter, I had a seemingly never-ending list of DIY projects inside the house to keep me occupied (which, amazingly, continues to grow), and I knew the plants would be fine until I could find the time to give them a permanent in-ground home.

Save Our Water logoA few months later, just as I was starting to think about digging planting holes and getting the garden in order, a co-worker forwarded me a link to the Save Our Water website. Of particular interest to me was the section “Water-Wise Landscaping Basics,” which provides information on things to keep in mind when creating or maintaining a low water-use landscape. Even though I felt like I had a pretty good handle on water-wise gardening (based on almost 20 years working in water conservation), I found reviewing the site’s list of simple basic principles to be an excellent refresher. It’s easy to overlook the importance of mulch in reducing water use in the garden or to forget to adjust the irrigation schedule as often as one should. However, considering the record low rainfall we received last year, and the annual uncertainty of what future rain may fall, it’s a good idea for each of us to look at what we’re doing in our own gardens and make sure we’re following the basic framework of water-wise gardening.

The following is a slightly abbreviated version of the basic principles from the Save Our Water website:

Appropriate plant selection: Select trees, shrubs, and groundcovers based on their adaptability to your region’s soil and climate.

The right plants for the right soil: Knowing your soil and selecting the right kind of plants for your area is an important part of a water-wise landscape.

Limit your grass: Consider cutting back or eliminating the amount of turf you have at your house.

Efficient irrigation: The greatest waste of outdoor water is applying too much too often.

Mulch is good: Use mulch wherever possible. Mulch conserves water by significantly reducing moisture evaporation from the soil, reduces weed populations, prevents soil compaction, and moderates soil temperatures.

Appropriate maintenance: A well-designed landscape can decrease maintenance by as much as 50% through reduced mowing, once-a-year mulching, elimination of non-California-friendly plants, and more efficient watering techniques.

Read Full Post »

by Charlene Burgi

The caps and gowns of graduation are behind us. Summer vacation has officially begun. Trips are planned and reservations are made for a long and well-deserved rest from the hubbub of routine schedules.

Alas, while preparing for vacation, we tend to put aside the fact that the evapotranspiration rate is at its highest peak in June and July, which means plants require more irrigation now than any other time of year. The days are longer and plants are at their peak performance—either flowering or fruiting. Vegetable gardens are rapidly nearing the time to begin harvesting.

The question is what to do about this conundrum of vacation plans during the garden’s critical time of need! Perhaps a few suggestions will alleviate the angst of keeping the garden alive for a week or two while you have some fun in the sun elsewhere.

  1. Get your plants in optimal health before leaving. If the plants are well-fed, insect-free, and well-hydrated, they will stand a much better chance of surviving while you are gone.
  2. Watering container plants with rope wick

    Creative water wicking

    Before leaving, remove all hanging containers. The exposure to wind and circulating air, plus heat from the sun, will dry out these plants in short order. Cluster the containers in a shady area of the garden. Place the containers that have drainage holes in trays filled with water. The soil will wick up the moisture from the tray to the root system of the plant. If you do not have drainage holes, place a large vessel of water near the cluster of container plants and insert a cotton rope or twine into the water so one end of the rope rests at the bottom. Drape the excess rope over the top of the soil in each planted container, or run individual ropes from the water to each plant. Again, the rope will wick up the water and provide moisture to each planted container. (Note: Lightly cover the water vessel to slow evaporation.)

  3. Plants in the ground may require a bit more creativity if you do not have an automatic irrigation system. There are hose timers that attach to a hose bib and are available at your local hardware or irrigation store that will automatically turn on and off at a designated day and time that you set. Run a hose to the area where plants are in need of irrigation and attach a soaker hose to the open end of the hose. Wind the soaker through the garden to each plant until all plants are adequately covered.
  4. Water jug drip system

    Water jug drip system

    Fill one-gallon empty milk containers with water and replace the cap. Insert a very tiny pin hole into the bottom of the container and place two or three like-containers around trees. (Experiment before leaving to see how long the water lasts.) Depending on the size of the pin prick, you might need to add another pin hole at the top of the container.

  5. If interested, you can add polymers to your existing soil (polymers are found at your local nursery) .The polymers will retain water and release moisture as the soil dries out. Read directions carefully before using. This is a case of, “if a little is good, a lot can be disastrous.”
  6. Lawns. Let them go! While turf grass is one of the highest consumers of water, lawns are also extremely forgiving. If your lawn is dependent on a manual sprinkler, you can either employ a hose timer, or let the lawn go into dormancy without water. After returning from vacation, resume your watering schedule and the lawn will green up in a short period of time.
  7. Mulch, mulch, mulch! Three inches of mulch in and around your plants will reduce evaporation and retain the moisture you are providing.
  8. Lastly, ask a neighbor to check in weekly. If milk jugs or water containers require refilling before your return, it wouldn’t take long to assist with this chore.

The topic of this blog is a cagey way for me to let you know I am leaving for Italy for two weeks’ vacation. Many of you know all of my grandparents came from northern Italy many, many years ago. My son, daughter, her husband, and I have family there to meet. I promise my return will fill these blogs with pictures and new-found knowledge of gardening in the “old country.” Meanwhile, enjoy the blog written by some of my former coworkers at the district who graciously offered to enlighten you each week that I am gone.

Until then, ciao!

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »