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Five ways to save water this summer

With dry days ahead, here are suggestions to reduce use by 10% — or more

Frog-shaped moisture meter in pot
A moisture meter or just a screwdriver or trowel can be used to determine the moisture level of your
soil. Make small changes in irrigation to save water now. (Photo courtesy Regional Water Authority)

Can you save 10%? That’s the question the Sacramento area’s water leaders are asking local residential consumers during what looks like a very dry year.

On Thursday, the Regional Water Authority – the umbrella organization over the region’s 20 water providers – asked customers to voluntarily conserve water by 10%, especially outdoors where most water is used during the warm summer months. That followed reports that almost all of California is now under drought conditions.

According to the RWA, Folsom Lake – the major reservoir serving Sacramento’s 2 million residents – is lower than it was during historic drought conditions in 2014 and 2015. Fortunately, the Sacramento region is “in a strong position to meet the water supply needs of people,” says the RWA. But the dry conditions are expected to stress the Lower American River, vital to Chinook salmon and steelhead trout.

A dry summer also has potential to stress our landscapes – and plant-loving gardeners.

Don’t panic. Some small adjustments quickly can add up to that 10% savings – and more.

First, look at your baseline and determine your target. The average Sacramento-area household uses about 304 gallons a day, says the RWA. (Of that, 167 gallons goes toward outdoor use.) So, a 10% savings equals about 30 gallons a day.

Here are five suggested ways to reach that goal, courtesy of the RWA:

1. Mulch. A layer of 2 to 3 inches of organic mulch around trees and shrubs can save 30 gallons per 1,000 square feet every time you water.

2. Adjust your sprinkler heads to reduce runoff: Make sure they’re hitting the lawn and not the sidewalk or driveway. That tune-up can save 40 gallons every time you turn on the sprinklers.

3. Check your soil moisture. Before you turn on the sprinklers, use a moisture meter, long-handled screwdriver or other probe. If you can easily push the screwdriver 6 inches into the soil, wait on watering. Potential savings: 80 gallons a day.

4. Water in the early morning. There’s less evaporation and more water gets to plant roots. That can save 50 gallons every time you water.

5. Upgrade to a Water Sense-labeled weather-based sprinkler timer or controller. This one change can save 100 to 150 gallons a day. Several water providers are offering rebates on these smart controllers, too.

For more ideas and links to rebates: .


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Dig In: Garden checklist for week of Sept. 25

This week's warm break will revive summer crops such as peppers and tomatoes that may still be trying to produce fruit. Pumpkins and winter squash will add weight rapidly.

Be on the lookout for powdery mildew and other fungal diseases that may be enjoying this combination of warm air and moist soil.

* Late September is ideal for sowing a new lawn or re-seeding bare spots.

* Compost annuals and vegetable crops that have finished producing.

* Cultivate and add compost to the soil to replenish its nutrients for fall and winter vegetables and flowers.

* Plant for fall now. The warm soil will get cool-season veggies and flowers off to a fast start.

* Plant onions, lettuce, peas, radishes, turnips, beets, carrots, bok choy, spinach and potatoes directly into the vegetable beds.

* Transplant lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower.

* Sow seeds of California poppies, clarkia and African daisies.

* Transplant cool-weather annuals such as pansies, violas, fairy primroses, calendulas, stocks and snapdragons.

* Divide and replant bulbs, rhizomes and perennials.

* Dig up and divide daylilies as they complete their bloom cycle.

* Divide and transplant peonies that have become overcrowded. Replant with "eyes" about an inch below the soil surface.

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