It’s winter in the Santa Clarita Valley and our gardens are not growing the same as in the warmer months. That means winter watering in the SCV needs to be adjusted. Automatic watering systems cut down on work and things to remember, but they may not be your friend if you just set them once without regular adjustments throughout seasonal changes. In the winter the air is more moist, temperatures lower and most plants are dormant or at least semi-dormant so they don’t use the water they need when in active growth. That means if you leave your watering system the same as it is in the spring and autumn – or worse, the summer – you are wasting lots of water, encouraging weeds and fungus infections and paying much more than you need to for your water bills.
During December, January, February and March, even if we have winds or a heat wave, water evaporation is much slower than in other months. If there is a decent rain shower that delivers at least a tenth of an inch you can plan on a minimum of five days before lawns or garden will need extra watering in most SCV areas. A good rain storm that drops an inch or more can keep some soils moist for the next seven to ten days. Just because the soil looks dry on the surface does not mean there isn’t ample moisture under the surface. Before you let your sprinkler system spatter away precious water, dig down an inch or two to see if you really need to have your irrigation on.
One other way to make watering easier and more efficient is to get a smart irrigation controller. These are more expensive than regular water system timers but will pay for themselves over time by saving water and keeping plants healthy. Smart irrigation controllers automatically adjust with the weather to deliver the amount of water your garden really needs. There have been classes offered by the water companies in the SCV during spring and summer each year that will give you instructions on how to install and use one of these timers. And you’ll receive a FREE controller. Call your water company to see if these classes are still being scheduled and sign up.
Of course, if you don’t want to fuss with mowing and irrigating your lawn, you can consider lawn substitutes. These are ways to cover your soil with something other than grass. Consider non-living materials like gravel, useful areas like play areas or productive gardens like vegetable gardens that may not lower your water bill, but will give you something back for your effort and money.
The Santa Clarita area is prone to droughts and rainfall seems to be less generous as the years go on. Even if we do have one rainy winter, it’s likely the next will be dry. Irrigating properly without wasting water is always a good idea. It not only saves resources for the future, but it will cost you less when it comes time to pay the water bill!