With the heavy winter rains, many people believe that California's drought problems have been fully washed away. Unfortunately, the truth is not that cut-and-dried. Governor Jerry Brown removed the drought restrictions earlier this year, but by late July through early September, warm weather and sparse rain leads to fairly dry conditions. With dry conditions comes the increased threat of wildfire, especially in the unincorporated areas of the County! As many of you are aware, there have already been a few small fires in the Santa Cruz City and County areas this summer. Thankfully, no one has been injured, and there were no structures damaged, but this could certainly change in the event of a truly large, uncontrolled blaze.
In order to prevent these expensive and damaging events, the County encourages you to get involved by conserving water and engaging in smart practices to prevent fires in our numerous (and beautiful) green spaces in the County!
Regardless of whether you are going camping or having a marshmallow roast in your backyard, it's essential that you follow proper campfire guidelines when managing a fire. Before you light the fire, make sure to have a bucket of water and shovel nearby- it's best to prepare beforehand! The "Dead Out" guidelines can be seen above- never go to sleep until you have ensured that the fire is completely drowned out and extinguished. Do not light firewood outside of approved fire pits or fire-safe containers. Additionally, in an effort to ensure avoiding infestations of non-native insects, it is recommended that you purchase firewood from local sources.
Water conservation is also important during the summer. Just as you need to bring along adequate water supplies on a day hike, so too is it important to plan in advance in order to save and use water wisely.
Good water-saving tips include:
- Cutting down on shower times,
- Switching to water efficient appliances,
- Ensure that you don't have any water leaks in your pipes or in other appliances (such as the dishwasher, washing machine, toilet, or sink).
- Maximize the use of natural vegetation and establish smaller lawns. For portions of your lot where a lawn and landscaping are desired, ask your local nursery for tips about plants and grasses with low water demand (such as creeping fescue). Consider planting more trees, shrubs, ground covers, and less grass. Shrubs and ground covers provide greenery for much of the year and usually demand less water. Use native plants in flower beds. Native plants have adapted to rainfall conditions in New England and often provide good wildlife habitat. Cluster plants that require extra care together to minimize time and save water.
- When mowing your lawn, set the mower blades to 2-3 inches high. Longer grass shades the soil improving moisture retention, has more leaf surface to take in sunlight, allowing it to grow thicker and develop a deeper root system. This helps grass survive drought, tolerate insect damage and fend off disease.
- Only water the lawn when necessary. If you water your lawn and garden, only do it once a week, if rainfall isn't sufficient. Avoid watering on windy and hot days. Water the lawn and garden in the morning or late in the evening to maximize the amount of water which reaches the plant roots (otherwise most of the water will evaporate). Use soaker hoses to water gardens and flower beds. If sprinklers are used, take care to be sure they don't water walkways and buildings. When you water, put down no more than 1 inch (set out a empty cans to determine how long it takes to water 1 inch) each week. This watering pattern will encourage more healthy, deep grass roots. Over-watering is wasteful, encourages fungal growth and disease, and results in the growth of shallow, compacted root systems that are more susceptible to drought and foot traffic. If an automatic lawn irrigation system is used, be sure it has been properly installed, is programmed to deliver the appropriate amount and rate of water, and has rain shut-off capability.
- Apply mulch around shrubs and flower beds to reduce evaporation, promote plant growth and control weeds.
- Add compost or an organic matter to soil as necessary, to improve soil conditions and water retention.
- Collect rainfall for irrigation in a screened container (to prevent mosquito larvae growth).
- When washing a car, wet it quickly, then use a bucket of water to wash the car. Turn on the hose to final rinse (or let mother nature wash your car when it rains).
- Always use a broom to clean walkways, driveways, decks and porches, rather than hosing off these areas.
To read more about drought and wildfire safety, please follow the links below:
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