Home gardening: Water-wise options for a water-thirsty region
The current drought is the worst that many of my fellow gardeners and I can recall. We are desperate to find remedies, both short- and long-term, for this predicament. Are there viable options for gardeners and other homeowners facing this water shortage?
As you know, many communities have imposed watering restrictions limiting the watering of yards to, in some cases, as few as two days per week during the hotter months. Some of these same communities are also offering incentives to homeowners to replace their grass lawns with synthetic lawns or drought-tolerant landscapes. The city of Fresno has made it possible for residents to go to its website to learn about myriad water-saving options, from micro irrigation conversions and soil moisture sensors to smart irrigation controllers and sprinkler nozzles. (Visit fresno.gov, go to the highlights section and click on “Water-saving Rebate Programs.”)
Before you take advantage of these and other water-saving incentive programs, it is important to first get an inspection and file an application with “before” photos. In the case of Fresno, residents are urged to request a free water-wise landscape consultation from the city’s Water Conservation Program Representative. From that point, an applicant will be guided through the process, get some recommendations from the inspector, and hopefully be approved for a rebate once the individual’s application is processed.
There are many educational resources for those seeking water-wise options that don’t involve local government rebate programs. I recently attended a Saturday morning “water-wise” event at Belmont Nursery in Fresno. To my surprise, approximately 250 mostly home gardeners packed the outside venue. We were there to hear experts from as far away as San Diego speak about drought-tolerant plants and water-saving irrigation alternatives.
Intermountain Nursery - Prather, CA, in the central foothill town of Prather on Highway 168 on the way to Shaver and Huntington lakes, regularly offers classes on a variety of topics germane to the Central Valley, including native plant species that have been known to propagate for more than 35 years. Customers come from throughout Central California to stroll among several demonstration gardens on the five-acre property and learn about water-wise native plants and how to create habitats for native pollinators.
Unlike most nurseries, Intermountain “grows the plants we sell,” says nursery founder and owner, Ray Laclergue. The distinction of being locally grown rather than imported from another region and state is often critical in predicting the survivability of plants and trees, especially during drought conditions.
Other valuable information resources for home gardeners include the various County Master Gardener Associations scattered throughout the state. Janet Cangemi, master gardener program coordinator for Fresno and Madera counties, says local master gardeners host classes for the public “featuring topics to equip the home gardener with skills to cope with the drought. Topics include drip irrigation, lawn conversion, and native and drought-tolerant landscaping.” (To find a county organization closest to you, go online and enter “master gardeners” as your search term. Another useful resource for water-saving tips is ucanr.edu/drought.)
When considering the best trees and bushes to plant in the dry heat of the central San Joaquin Valley, one need look no further than Visalia, which has been recognized as a Tree City U.S.A. by the National Arbor Day Foundation for several years running.
Tyson Carrol, a landscape architect and project manager for the Urban Tree Foundation in Visalia, says that over just the last decade, “We’ve planted several thousand native and drought-tolerant trees and shrubs.”
The trees and shrubs have been strategically planted along public waterways and trails throughout the area, and in many cases have name plates identifying the particular species, allowing passersby to not only enjoy the scenery but to also learn what they might plant in their own yards.
Drought-stricken gardeners and other homeowners need not feel alone during these challenging times, thanks to potential financial assistance programs and dependable information sources.
There are also many attractive options to converting your landscapes to be more water-efficient and earth-friendly. As Annie Gallagher of Belmont Nursery puts it, “You can be a good steward to the environment and have a beautiful landscape.”
Written by Ed Dunn, a contributing writer, media personality/spokesperson, nursery industry marketing consultant and master gardener. He can be reached at his Facebook page, The Lazy Landscaper, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.