Spring is on Sacramento Valley’s doorstep. Daffodils raise their sleepy heads at the sound of rumbling thunder, but keep their yellow petals tightly cloaked. Tulips shout and wait for the sunshine. Now is the time, here in the West, to think about loosening our own cloaks and greeting spring in our gardens. We’re mending fences, planting pansies and sprouting herbs for seed.
It’s also time to think about our gardens’ water needs. While the storms still bluster, read your irrigation timer manual, pray for a March Miracle of lavish downpours. It’s going to be a long, dry summer. Learn how to adjust the irrigation controller and change the settings when (hoping, fingers crossed) we get that gift of additional rain. Do it before the sun scorches.
If your manual is lost, try the Internet. Many manuals can be downloaded from the manufacturer’s site for free. Just like farm fields, home landscapes thrive with smart water management, even in a drought.
So, put on your raincoat, bring an umbrella, and test your system. Check for leaks, sprinkler-head misalignments, broken pipes and other system problems. Look for ponding, erosion and mushy spots that indicate your system may need tweeking. Clean filters in sprinkler heads and drip systems (the worms get in!). Allow for a five minute recovery between station run times to ensure adequate water pressure to operate the irrigation system when it gets hot. Set a goal of zero runoff from your garden.
And, while you’re cruising the net, visit the California Department of Water Resources Water Use Efficiency web site at http://landscape.water.ca.gov . They’ve got a great online guide to estimating irrigation water needs for landscape plantings in California. For my followers in other parts of the country, where snow is still piled up to the windowsill, check your University Cooperative Extension web sites for landscape irrigation tips specific to your growing conditions.