Above the Garden Fence: Principles of Waterwise Landscaping

Through Bob labozetta (UC Master Gardener, Mariposa)

We are once again experiencing a year of drought in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. As such, it is a good idea to revisit and remember the techniques of landscaping over the water which is otherwise known as drought tolerant landscaping or xeriscape.

There are basic principles of Waterwise landscaping

1. Planning / design involves making a selection of plants appropriate for the climate where you live. It is best to select native plants, non-invasive drought tolerant plants, and plants that tolerate our cool, wet winters and hot, dry summers. We live in a Mediterranean climate, so plants that thrive in places with a similar climate are good choices.

2. Water conservation requires preparing your garden soil for good drainage, using plenty of mulch, hydrozonating plants with similar water needs, and installing drip irrigation where possible. . Mulching helps reduce evaporation.

3. Minimize turf areas because lawns require large amounts of water, fertilizer, money and time. Plant only the amount you need and plant the best variety of sod for your climate. Better yet, install synthetic turf to eliminate the need for water and fertilizer. If you must plant sod, consider tufted grasses. Also consider using hardscapes, ground covers, mulches, and rocks to reduce areas of grass and generate interest.

4. Zoning consists of grouping plants according to the same exposure and the same water requirements. For example, fruit trees and vegetables need water and care the most and should be nearby. Keep in mind that low water users may still need additional irrigation during the summer. Limit planting annual beds. Consider container plants and plan xeriscape planting areas.

5. Efficient irrigation involves zonal irrigation systems to meet the needs of the plants. Separate irrigation lines can be programmed to respond to variations in frequency and duration. Install drip lines and / or weeping hoses in permanent automated irrigation systems that must be recalibrated three to four times a year in response to changing weather conditions from season to season. Water your landscapes shortly before sunrise and avoid irrigation during windy periods. Avoid excessive spraying from sprinklers on patios, sidewalks, or other areas. Turn off irrigation systems during the winter and check them regularly for maintenance needs.

6. Good maintenance includes clearing, pruning, pruning and weeding plants. Establish a regular schedule of raking and covering areas of grass and mow them to a height of 3 inches. Remove about an inch of grass each time you mow.

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

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Mariposa County UC Master Gardeners serve Mariposa County, including Coulterville, Greeley Hill and Don Pedro. For gardening and event information call us at 209-966-7078 or email [email protected] Find us online at http://cemariopsa.ucanr.edu/Master_Gardener/, to Facebook (UC Master Gardeners of Mariposa County), and on Youtube at “UCCE Mariposa”. Listen to us on KRYZ 98.5 FM radio Wednesday at 2 p.m. and Saturday at 5 p.m.

Terri S. Tomasini