Deep into the drought conditions we are experiencing, most local gardeners are well aware of our need to be frugal with the water we have now so that we have enough for essential future uses.
Many local water departments offer rebates for lawn removal and the installation of drought tolerant landscapes, as well as various free devices such as irrigation timers to aid us in our conservation efforts.
In the Santa Cruz or Monterey areas, if you are in one of the three larger districts, visit:
• cityofsantacruz.com/government/city-departments/water/conservation/rebates• soquelcreekwater.org/190/Rebates or• cityofwatsonville.org/717/Business-Resident-Water-Conservation-Res• mpwmd.net/conservation/rebates/
Check your own supplier’s website if you are in another district. But even if you are on a well or your supplier doesn’t offer incentives to conserve, you can save money and water by taking steps to use water more wisely in the garden.
One excellent resource to for this is the Water Smart Gardening site at santacruz.watersavingplants.com/. Packed with useful information on drought tolerant plants, sustainable gardening tips, advice on the use of native plants, watering guidelines and efficient watering systems, virtual tours of water-wise gardens and a list of resources, information on harvesting rain water and how to safely and legally recycle gray water, this site will inspire you as well as give you practical tips.
Many gardeners are telling me that they are concerned about attempting to establish new plantings during the drought. Something to consider, if you want to repopulate your garden with non-thirsty plants: putting them in now in the fall, which has long been considered optimal in our climate, is even more advantageous during a drought.
Even if we don’t get “normal” (whatever that is) rain amounts this winter, we are likely to get at least some rain which lessens our need to rely on irrigation water for new plantings. Also, with cooler weather and shorter days, water evaporates more slowly and plants need less moisture to become established. By spring when the rains cease, natives and other drought-tolerant plants put in now will have grown healthy root systems deeper into the soil that will be better prepared to manage with less irrigation water. Consider this too: the availability of landscape professionals, many stretched beyond their capacities over the past almost two years, tend to be less busy during the winter months so finding help for your landscaping project may be easier.
And for a bit more on the subject of irrigating: if you read my column last week, you know that the topic was the heritage apples grown by Freddy Menge at Epicenter Nursery. After it was published, I received a message from Menge that contained some important information about his experience in establishing young fruit trees, especially avocados.
About my advice on the dough-nut ring watering method, he wrote: “I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately as I try to establish young avocado trees. Some friends told me one of their new avocados died after they realized they had both been watering it without the other knowing it, and so likely drowned the poor thing. I know the young avos I’ve had to dig out after their early demise uniformly display signs of soggy soil. I’ve lately made a point of watering only a perimeter around young trees, and not their root ball (after the first couple weeks of planting), in order to draw the roots of the young tree outward into new ground, and away from the danger-zone directly under the crown.”
Sage advice from an expert! Remember that Menge’s delectable apples will be available Saturdays at the West Side Farmer’s Market beginning Saturday.
Readers sometimes ask me if I have favorite drought-tolerant plants. I do but since I garden for birds and pollinator insects as well as for my own enjoyment, my favorites are mostly plants that do double duty. In addition, I have limited garden space so don’t have room for plants that are difficult to keep on the small side.
Here are a very few of my personal favorites: Epilobium canum (California Fuchsia), many Salvias, Cupheas, Yarrows and Ceanothus, Tecomaria capensis (Cape Honeysuckle), Frangula (formerly Rhamnus) californica (California Coffeeberry), Leonotis leonurus (Lion’s Tail) and of course many of the lavenders.
Garden tips are provided courtesy of horticulturist Sharon Hull of the San Lorenzo Garden Center. Contact her at 831-423-0223.
Contributed by local news sources