Over the Garden Fence: Principles of Waterwise Landscaping

By Bob Labozetta (UC Master Gardener, Mariposa)

We are experiencing 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. Saving water requires preparing your garden soil for good drainage, using copious amounts of mulch, hydrozoning plants with similar water needs, and installing drip irrigation whenever possible. Mulching helps reduce evaporation.

3. Minimize lawns, as lawns require 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 grouping 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 crop 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 care includes clipping, 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.

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UC Master Gardeners of Mariposa County serve Mariposa Counties, including Coulterville, Greeley Hill, and Don Pedro. For gardening and event information, call us at 209-966-7078 or email mgmariposa@ucdavis.edu. You can find us online at http://cemariopsa.ucanr.edu/Master_Gardener/, on Facebook (UC Master Gardeners of Mariposa County) and on YouTube under “UCCE Mariposa”. Listen to us on Wednesdays at 2 p.m. and Saturdays at 5 p.m. on the KRYZ 98.5 FM radio

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