Most of California enjoys a Mediterranean climate found in only 2 percent of the world’s land mass. This climate gives us mild, wet winters and hot, dry summers and San Leandro is no different. Consequently, droughts are part of our natural weather cycle and when winter rains are minimal it becomes more and more important to be ‘water-wise.’
More than half the state’s residential water is used on landscapes, yet it’s so easy to save a significant amount of water if you just learn a little about becoming water-wise. You may be surprised to find you can still have a beautiful, lush landscape in this gorgeous part of the country by creating a water-wise garden. Here are some tips for creating a healthy, inviting garden requiring minimal resources and less effort and expense than the norm.
1. Go with the (low) flow: Employing soaker hoses or installing a drip system can cut water use by as much as 90 percent. Consider installing a ‘smart controller’ for your irrigation system that helps calculate changing water requirements and adjusts accordingly.
2. Irrigate early: Watering in the morning minimizes evaporation and discourages pests like snails and fungal diseases like black spot that develop at night in wet foliage.
3. Go deep: Watering less often and more deeply encourages plants deep root systems that will sustain the plant through dry periods.
4. Get in the zone: Group plants with similar watering needs together. Place pots of thirsty plants near the house where you can keep an eye on them and use native or Mediterranean plants farther away: Once established, they require very little water.
5. Mulch like mad: Install 1-3 inches of organic material such as bark, shredded leaves or grass clippings over the soil surface. You will be amazed at the huge difference it makes in reducing moisture loss from soil, moderating soil temperatures, controlling weeds and returning nutrients to the soil. Keep mulch a few inches back from stems and trunks of plants.
6. Count on compost: Add organic matter like compost to the soil to increase its ability to absorb and hold water while slowly releasing nutrients that keep plants healthy and robust, thus staving off pests and disease. If you feed plants use a slow-release organic fertilizer to discourage excessive plant growth that attracts pests and increases water needs.
7. Go native: You will find a wonderful variety of water-wise plants at Evergreen Nursery in San Leandro; in fact, it’s our specialty! Plants that are native to California or a Mediterranean climate are adapted to our hot summers and more resistant to pests. Once established, many of these can survive on rainfall alone.
8. Fall into planting: When working on a large planting project, the water-wise time to plant is in the fall when the weather starts to cool and winter rains help plants establish deep, healthy root systems before being called upon to endure the summer heat.