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MMWD Blog: Think Blue Marin

Welcome to our blog! Written by staff at MMWD, “Think Blue Marin” explores all things water in south and central Marin—water supplies, conservation, new projects, watershed management, and more.

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May 21

The Gold Lining

Posted on May 21, 2015 at 4:23 PM by Ann Vallee

by Charlene Burgi

The Master Gardener classes are behind me now. I got word yesterday that I passed the course and can proudly call myself a Master Gardener.

The new 700-plus page text was chock-full of information. Lectures held two to three times per week added more knowledge to the plate. Classes on horticulture, entomology, weeds, plant pathology, propagation, furry pests, soils, mulch, pruning, vegetables, fertilizer, vermiculture, irrigation, and water filled the minds of those in the class with just enough knowledge to leave us yearning for deeper comprehension of each subject.

The real value of the class was listening to fellow students discuss their successes and failures with garden problems. What were their solutions to deer problems, seedlings dampening off, redirecting excess rainwater catchment, water conservation issues, and pressure loss in their irrigation systems?

Needless to say, the subject of smart controllers also came up, and yours truly pulled out the proverbial soap box. How can anyone hearing about the benefits of a smart controller not jump for joy? I was disturbed to hear you can still buy dumb controllers—those controllers that require a "guesstimate" as to how much water your plants really need!

Smart controllers do require that a person be smart about their gardening practices. Hydrozones are critical to saving water with a smart controller.

  1. Plants must be grouped together based on their water needs, as well as sun exposure and irrigation type. In other words, each hydrozone must either be all drip or all spray; do not mix the two systems together on the same valve. Nor would you mix a native plant garden with non-native ferns and azaleas.
  2. The irrigation nozzle types on a particular valve or station must all match. If MP Rotators are being used on one valve, that valve must use them exclusively. The same holds true for any nozzle chosen for each specific valve. The precipitation rates must match so the irrigation system applies water evenly, like rain falling on the garden.
  3. Sloped areas should be designed with separate valves at the top and the bottom of the hill. Water seeks its own level. Due to gravity, more water will puddle at the base of the hill, meaning the downhill plants will require less watering time.
  4. Head-to-head coverage is required for good distribution uniformity, and spray heads can't be blocked by overgrown shrubs that require flood irrigation to reach the plants behind.
Yes, it is work to get everything dialed in for a smart controller. But the long-term water-saving benefits far outweigh the effort.

 Golden sunset
 Golden sunset
The golden lining? After hours studying for the Master Gardener test, I glanced out the window. It has been raining here in Lassen for several days, but while I was poring over hours of notes, there was a lull in the rainfall. The world outside the window took on a golden glow as the sun started to set. It was as if the hard work of study paid off in gold.

Will your hard work improving your irrigation system also pay off in gold? It may not be in a sunset, but you will find it your water savings. Give it a try!

It is Memorial Day weekend. Thank you to those readers who served in the armed forces. Thank a veteran and family of vets for their service. They haven't forgotten the fallen who may have served with them.

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