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End of the Drought? I think Not!

Guest post by Mark Guthrie, Landscape Water Conservation Program Manager at Seattle Public Utilities

combined reservoir storage graphIn Washington, when it rains, it often pours! But that hasn’t happened yet, and the drought is not over. We’ve had some rain, but Seattle’s reservoirs have not refilled, and there are predictions that the fall, winter, and next spring may be warmer and drier than normal. So keep conserving water! Conservation is important— and not just for drinking water from our reservoirs, but also for healthy fish habitat. Now is the time of year when salmon return and need higher river levels and stream flows to spawn successfully.

Here are some tips to help you conserve water in your landscape this fall and winter:

Stop Watering
As temperatures become cooler and the days shorter, plants enter the initial phase of dormancy when no water is needed. This is the time to adjust your irrigation system for the cooler seasons.

  • Fix leaky sprinkler heads and broken nozzles.
  • Turn off your automatic irrigation timer
  • Before it freezes, turn off the water supply to your irrigation system , drain water (if possible), and insulate above-ground pipes
  • Remove the cup or bowl of your irrigation system’s rain sensor and place a cover over the remaining rain sensor.

Weed and Mulch
After your fall clean-up and weeding, add a 2–3 inch layer of mulch to the soil surface. Arborist wood chips work best around woody plants and trees, while fall leaves or compost should go around perennials. Mulch helps protect plant roots during freezing weather. Mulch also helps reduce water evaporation, blocks weeds, prevents erosion by winter rains and feeds the soil. If next spring is warm and dry, your mulching will be much appreciated!


Water Young Trees Efficiently
We’re getting some rain, but not quite enough for our trees, especially after the record hot, dry summer. Young trees planted within the last 5 years should still be watered once per week. Save our water and our trees by watering efficiently with a 15 or 20 gallon water bag.


Contact the Garden Hotline for free answers to your gardening questions! (206) 633‑0224 or

Visit for more watering tips and lots of information about environmentally friendly lawn and garden care.