Over the Garden Fence – Principles of Waterwise Landscaping

July 10, 2021 – By Bob Labozetta (UC Master Gardener, Mariposa) – We are going through another year of drought in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. Therefore, it is a good idea to reconsider and remember the techniques of water-wise landscaping, also known as drought tolerant landscaping or xeriscaping.

There are basic principles of water-wise landscaping:

  1. Planning / design requires plant selection appropriate for the climate in which you live. It is best to choose native plants, drought tolerant, non-invasive plants, and plants that can tolerate our cool wet winters and dry hot summers. We live in a Mediterranean climate, so plants that thrive in places with a similar climate are good choices.
  2. Water protection You’ll need to prepare your garden soil for good drainage, use copious amounts of mulch, hydrozoning plants with similar water needs, and install drip irrigation whenever possible. Mulching helps reduce evaporation.
  3. Minimize lawns because lawns need a lot of water, fertilizer, money and time. Plant only as much as you need and plant the best type of lawn for your climate. Better still, install artificial turf to eliminate the need for water and fertilizers. If you need to plant lawn grass, consider cluster grasses. Also, consider using hardscapes, ground covers, mulches, and stones to cut down grassy areas and create interest.
  4. Zoning refers to the grouping of plants according to the same exposure and water needs. Fruit trees and vegetables, for example, need the most water and care and should be in the same area. Keep in mind that users with low water levels may still need additional watering in the summer. Limit planting annual flower beds. Consider container plants and plan Xeriscape planting areas.
  5. Efficient irrigation includes zone irrigation systems that meet plant requirements. Different irrigation lines can be programmed to take into account frequency and duration deviations. Install drip lines and / or soaking hoses in permanent, automated irrigation systems that need to be recalibrated three to four times a year in response to changing weather conditions from season to season. Water your landscape just before sunrise and avoid watering during windy periods. Avoid excessive spraying of sprinklers on patios, sidewalks, or other areas. Turn off irrigation systems in winter and check them regularly for maintenance.
  6. Proper maintenance includes cutting, pruning, trimming and weeding plants. Establish a regular schedule of raking and covering lawns and mowing them to a height of 3 inches. Remove about an inch of grass each time you mow.

Implementing water-wise landscaping is a wise investment of time and money that will save you both in the long run.

If you need assistance, please contact our helpline at (209) 966-7078 or at mgmariposa@ucdavis.edu. We are currently unable to take samples or meet you in person, but pictures are welcome.

Updated: The UC Master Gardener Helpline is manned; Tuesdays from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and Thursdays from 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Customers can take samples to the agricultural advisory office on the Mariposa Fairgrounds, but the master gardener’s office is not open to the public. Due to UCANR restrictions, we will not be making home visits this year.

Serving Mariposa County including Greeley Hill, Coulterville and Lake Don Pedro
Please contact the helpline or leave a message by calling: (209) 966-7078
By email (send photos and questions for researched answers) to: mgmariposa@ucdavis.edu

For more garden information and event announcements please visit: UCMG website: http://cemariposa.ucanr.edu/Master_Gardener
Follow us on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/mariposamastergardeners

Location of the master gardener’s office:
UC Cooperative Extension Office,
5009 Exhibition Grounds Street
Mariposa, CA 95338

Phone: (209) 966-2417
E-mail: mgmariposa@ucdavis.edu
Website: http://cemariposa.ucanr.edu/Master_Gardener

Visit the YouTube channel at UCCE Mariposa.

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