by Robin McKillop
Perhaps the interconnectedness of gardens, watersheds and people is nowhere more apparent than in Marin. Almost all of our water supply comes from local rainfall, collected from local watershed lands and stored in local reservoirs. Unlike most Californians, people in Marin live in the same watersheds that supply our water, witnessing first-hand the impacts of our activities on our local waterways. It’s apparent that what we do in our gardens has a direct impact on water quality in our local creeks and waterways, and on the plants and animals living here.
Marin Municipal Water District watershed lands total over 21,000 acres, and are home to over 400 species of animals and 900 species of plants, including many rare, threatened and endangered species. The watershed comprises only 0.2 percent of the area of California and five percent of Marin County, yet 15 percent of the state’s native plant species and 50 percent of the county’s can be found here. Lagunitas Creek, which begins above district reservoirs near the peak of Mt. Tamalpais on land owned by MMWD, is a spawning and rearing ground for endangered coho salmon and steelhead trout. It supports one of the best populations of coho salmon in California.
In addition to its critical role in nature, water plays a central role in our gardens. All plants need water to survive, but different plants need different amounts of water. Many plants that grow in Marin naturally have adaptations that allow them to survive through our hot, dry summers without any supplemental irrigation. Other plants, like thirsty lawns, require constant watering and maintenance. In Marin, a lawn the size of a tennis court needs about 400 gallons of water per day in July to remain healthy. That’s equivalent to having 16 people each taking 10-minute showers at your house every day! When you consider that irrigation systems are never 100 percent efficient, even more water is needed. Much of this water is wasted due to runoff, which travels into local waterways carrying harmful chemicals and other pollutants with it.
Marin-Friendly gardening is grounded in the notion that there’s a better way to achieve productive, beautiful gardens and minimize our impact on the environment. Marin-Friendly gardens use practices sensitive to our local environment, particularly ones that conserve and protect our precious water resources.
Want to see Marin-Friendly gardening in action? Join us for the Marin-Friendly Garden Tour on Saturday, May 18.