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Check your soil moisture and save

This little frog sits atop a free moisture meter. Get one from the Regional Water Authority. (Photo courtesy RWA)

Free meter is a handy way to know when garden needs water

During hot summer weather, Sacramento gardeners often ponder the same question: Is my garden getting enough water? Next question: How do you tell?

Check the soil.

You can dig down with a trowel and actually look at the soil. Plunge a screwdriver into the dirt to see if it penetrates. Or you can check the soil with a moisture meter.

The Regional Water Authority, the umbrella organization over greater Sacramento’s 21 water districts and agencies, is now offering free moisture meters for area residents.

“They’re a low-tech answer (to efficient irrigation),” said Amy Talbot, RWA’s water efficiency program manager. “They’re tangible, visual reminders every day. They’re easy to use. You can get your kids involved; let them check the moisture. We want people to use them.”

Like an instant-read thermometer, the moisture meters are super easy to use. Just plunge the probe into the soil and it tells you if the ground is too dry, too wet or that just right moist spot in between.

These meters also can be key to a healthier garden.

“In non-drought years, focus on making your plants healthy,” Talbot said. “That means giving them the right amount of water; not too little, but not too much.”

The froggy meters are part of RWA’s “Check the Soil and Save” campaign. To get your free moisture meter, go to


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of Feb. 18:

It's wet to start the week. When you do get outside, between or after storms, concentrate on damage control:

* Keep storm drains and gutters clear of debris.

* Clean up tree debris knocked down by wind and rain.

* Where did the water flow in your garden? Make notes where revisions are necessary.

* Are any trees leaning? See disturbances in the ground or lawn around their base? Time to call an arborist before the tree topples.

* Dump excess water out of pots.

* Indoors, start peppers, tomatoes and eggplant from seed.

* Lettuce and other greens also can be started indoors from seed.

* Got bare-root plants? Put their roots in a bucket of water until outdoor soil dries out. Or pot them up in 1- or 5-gallon containers. In April, transplant the plant, rootball and all, into the garden.

* Browse garden websites and catalogs. It’s not too late to order for spring and summer.

* Show your indoor plants some love. Dust leaves and mist to refresh.

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