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Get 'smart' irrigation controller, learn how to use it

Regional Water Authority offers Rachio 3 deal and free workshop

Man with remote controller
Get a smart irrigation controller at a discount and learn how to use it free. (Photo courtesy RWA)

On the hottest day of the year, decide to water smarter.

This current heat wave is a reminder of how dependent our landscapes are on proper irrigation. But how much water does your garden need?

A "smart" controller takes some of the guess work out of watering. It acts like a thermostat for your sprinklers, using local weather conditions to determine when and how long your system should run.
Smart controllers can be expensive, up to $270 for a 16-zone system. And they can seem a little intimidating to set up.

The Regional Water Authority has answers to both: A Rachio 3 Controller offered at a deep discount and an online workshop to learn how to use it.

The controller is available for $75 plus tax to customers of RWA's member water providers. That's about two dozen local agencies.

According to the RWA, a Water Sense-labeled controller such as this Rachio model can save an average home about 13,500 gallons a year.

Now how to make the most of that technology: Take an online class.

RWA's free virtual workshop is set for noon Tuesday, Aug. 25. Advance registration is required.

"The Rachio Controllers have many features that help you maintain a beautiful garden," says the RWA.

During this virtual workshop you will learn:
-- How Rachio can make any yard smart
-- Overview of installation, hardware & software setup
-- An overview of each schedule type
-- An overview of how the app works
-- An overview of your yard and zones


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of March 26:

Sacramento can expect another inch of rain from this latest storm. Leave the sprinklers off at least another week. Temps will dip down into the low 30s early in the week, so avoid planting tender seedlings (such as tomatoes). Concentrate on these tasks before or after this week’s rain:

* Fertilize roses, annual flowers and berries as spring growth begins to appear.

* Knock off aphids with a strong blast of water or some bug soap as soon as they appear.

* Pull weeds now! Don’t let them get started. Take a hoe and whack them as soon as they sprout.

* Prepare summer vegetable beds. Spade in compost and other amendments.

* Prune and fertilize spring-flowering shrubs after bloom.

* Feed camellias at the end of their bloom cycle. Pick up browned and fallen flowers to help corral blossom blight.

* Feed citrus trees, which are now in bloom and setting fruit.

To prevent sunburn and borer problems on young trees, paint the exposed portion of the trunk with diluted white latex (water-based) interior paint. Dilute the paint with an equal amount of cold water before application.

* Cut back and fertilize perennial herbs to encourage new growth.

* Seed and renovate the lawn (if you still have one). Feed cool-season grasses such as bent, blue, rye and fescue with a slow-release fertilizer. Check the irrigation system and perform maintenance. Make sure sprinkler heads are turned toward the lawn, not the sidewalk.

* In the vegetable garden, transplant lettuce and kale.

* Seed chard and beets directly into the ground.

* Plant summer bulbs, including gladiolus, tuberous begonias and callas. Also plant dahlia tubers.

* Shop for perennials. Many varieties are available in local nurseries and at plant events. They can be transplanted now while the weather remains relatively cool.

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