Being Wise About Water
California is in a drought. This is an indisputable fact. However, it doesn’t mean that we must give up all of the beauty that drew us here, or has kept us residing here. In fact, whether you decide to begin better and more effective water usage on a small scale, or enlarge your plans to completely alter the way you look at and apply your philosophy of water preservation to your entire lifestyle, www.BeWaterWise.com exists to assist you.
Let’s begin with the amount of water we use to maintain our landscaping. The Water Calculator is a tool developed by the city of San Diego to provide an accurate and more efficient method of watering for urban Southern California, depending on the month of the year and the concurrent weather conditions; it can be found at http://www.bewaterwise.com/calculator.html. Simply answer a few easy questions, and the calculator will chart for you the frequency, the number of minutes, and the total minutes each week you should be watering each section of your home landscape. It factors in the type of soil you have, whether you are watering turf or plants, and the average monthly conditions. Of course, in times of rain, discontinue additional watering altogether; allow Nature to take her turn.
If you’ve planted turf, and have struggled with the at-times difficult weather conditions of Southern California, why not re-think things and plant native plants and California-loving plants instead? In fact, by decreasing the amount of turf you include in your home landscape, you may be eligible for rebates. Just remember to do your research and group plants that are not only aesthetically harmonious, but also have the same water requirements. And be wise about the ‘when’ of watering; quench your garden’s thirst at night when the evaporation rate is lower and the air is calmer.
By routinely cultivating your soil with the addition of organic matter such as compost, you are improving the soil’s ability to resist evaporation and retain moisture. Aeration is a vital aid to water conservation; by breaking up the hard surface, water can more easily soak in, thus giving your plants and turf the oxygen, nutrients and water that they need to thrive. Work the compacted soil around trees with a hand tool, and aerate the turf you’ve retained in your landscape. Speaking of trees, planting more of them will lower air and soil temps, thus reducing the moisture loss both in plants and soil.
Just as you reach for a blanket in the cooler temperatures of a California night, your plant beds will appreciate a 2 to 3 inch layer of mulch. Also mulch around shrubs and trees, but take care to not smother the base; that will prevent decay and disease.
Mulching retains water, helps in weed control, returns nutrients to the soil as it decomposes, and makes your garden look terrific! Instead of bare soil, add visual texture with the wide range of organic mulches available such as shredded bark or chips, compost, aged sawdust, or the ever-increasing varieties of low-growing ground cover.
By applying the following principles to your gardening, you not only will be rewarded with a happy landscape, you can feel good about being a responsible water conservationist.