by Keith Bancroft
Last December, I bought and moved into my first house (my first house!). When I moved, I brought with me a large assortment of container plantings I’d accumulated over the past dozen years or so—pineapple sage, ferns, agastache, salvia, fuchsia, honeysuckle, penstemon, bee balm, and various succulents. Now that I was in my own home and had a “real” yard to work with, I was eager to get my collection of potted plants into the ground where they belonged. But it was mid-winter, I had a seemingly never-ending list of DIY projects inside the house to keep me occupied (which, amazingly, continues to grow), and I knew the plants would be fine until I could find the time to give them a permanent in-ground home.
A few months later, just as I was starting to think about digging planting holes and getting the garden in order, a co-worker forwarded me a link to the Save Our Water website. Of particular interest to me was the section “Water-Wise Landscaping Basics,” which provides information on things to keep in mind when creating or maintaining a low water-use landscape. Even though I felt like I had a pretty good handle on water-wise gardening (based on almost 20 years working in water conservation), I found reviewing the site’s list of simple basic principles to be an excellent refresher. It’s easy to overlook the importance of mulch in reducing water use in the garden or to forget to adjust the irrigation schedule as often as one should. However, considering the record low rainfall we received last year, and the annual uncertainty of what future rain may fall, it’s a good idea for each of us to look at what we’re doing in our own gardens and make sure we’re following the basic framework of water-wise gardening.
The following is a slightly abbreviated version of the basic principles from the Save Our Water website:
Appropriate plant selection: Select trees, shrubs, and groundcovers based on their adaptability to your region’s soil and climate.
The right plants for the right soil: Knowing your soil and selecting the right kind of plants for your area is an important part of a water-wise landscape.
Limit your grass: Consider cutting back or eliminating the amount of turf you have at your house.
Efficient irrigation: The greatest waste of outdoor water is applying too much too often.
Mulch is good: Use mulch wherever possible. Mulch conserves water by significantly reducing moisture evaporation from the soil, reduces weed populations, prevents soil compaction, and moderates soil temperatures.
Appropriate maintenance: A well-designed landscape can decrease maintenance by as much as 50% through reduced mowing, once-a-year mulching, elimination of non-California-friendly plants, and more efficient watering techniques.