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HesperiaStar.com
  • MOJAVE GARDENER

    Tips to help conserve water

    Statewide restrictions shouldn't impact gardening
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  • Due to the ongoing drought in California, the state has implemented a mandatory emergency water conservation regulation (effective Aug. 1) and may fine those who are wasting this precious resource up to $500 per day.
    The regulations require Californians to stop the following water-wasting activities:
    • Washing down driveways and sidewalks
    • Watering of outdoor landscapes that cause excess runoff
    • Using a hose to wash a motor vehicle unless the hose is fitted with a shut-off nozzle
    • Using potable water in a fountain or decorative water feature unless the water is recirculated According to Armstrong Garden Centers, “research shows that Californians use up to 50 percent more water than they need to maintain healthy, beautiful gardens.” In fact, their experts suggest that “gardens and landscapes would actually be healthier if they were watered less, but more effectively.” “Californians don’t necessarily need to change their gardens drastically in order to save money and water during the drought,” said Eric Asakawa, regional manager of Armstrong Garden Centers. “Instead, homeowners can change the way they water.”
    Armstrong Garden Centers suggests following these 10 tips to save water:
    1. Water early in the morning. Making sure sprinklers stop running by 8 a.m. will reduce evaporation and lessen the likelihood of water waste caused by wind interference. Another perk — watering early reduces plant disease and water damage.
    2. Mulch. Placing a two- to three-inch layer of organic mulch on the soil surface around plants can save hundreds of gallons of water every year.
    3. Repair and adjust sprinklers. Fixing damaged sprinklers immediately and checking pipes for leaks can save as much as 500 gallons of water per year.
    4. Water deeper, but less often. Most gardens in California on automatic sprinklers are overwatered. Homeowners should change sprinkler systems to water every other day or every third day, while increasing watering times by only 50-75 percent.
    5. Change watering times with the seasons.
    Homeowners can save huge amounts of water by adjusting automatic systems at least three times a year, according to the season. During periods of rain, it is vital to turn automatic systems off.
    6. Use trigger sprayers when hand watering. Trigger sprayers help ensure that water is not wasted while watering gardens.
    7. Minimize water loss in plants. Use waterretentive potting soils in all container gardens.
    8. Add compost to soil. Adding store-bought or homemade compost to planting beds and pots will decrease the amount of water needed.
    9. Use organic fertilizers. These fertilizers slowly release nutrients into the soil at a natural rate that matches a plant’s needs, so plants need less water when fed organically.
    10. Install a smart sprinkler controller. The latest technology dramatically reduces water use and water bills. Wireless “smart controllers” activate automatic sprinklers via computer-based weather data and information about specifics of gardens. These “smart controllers” can save over 40 gallons of water each watering day.
    Here in the High Desert, there are a number of organizations that offer water-conserving tips especially for the desert climate. Here is a list of some of the organizations and what they offer: • The Alliance for Water Awareness and Conservation (AWAC) offers a number of watersaving tips on its website: www.mojavewater.org/ saving-water-outdoors.html. Among those tips is a list of plants that use low amounts of water and can thrive in the High Desert climate — accents, ground covers, grasses (both ornamental and turf), perennial flowers, shrubs, and trees (deciduous and evergreen). The site has a great list of nurseries in the area that carry selections of water-saving plants. Plus, the website has tips for saving water indoors, and a lengthy list of participating agencies.
    • The City of Victorville also has a comprehensive website dedicated to conserving water: http://ci.victorville. ca.us/Site/CityServices.aspx?id=3002. They have a huge list of lowwater use plants in their “Prototype Guide” along with ideas on how to use the plants to create an attractive landscape, and help with irrigation plans. They offer a “Cash for Grass” program in partnership with the Mojave Water Agency, plus they offer a school program to help educate youth about water conservation. • The Mojave Desert Resource Conservation District (MDRCD) features any array of conservation programs and tips on its website: www. mdrcd.ca.gov. They also sell a blend of wildflower seeds that have been especially developed for the High Desert area, which are available for $40 per pound (covers approximately a quarter of an acre). Please contact the district office at 760-843-6882. Another interesting thing I found on their site was information on the California Irrigation Management Information System (CIMIS). This system collects weather data and helps to develop water budgets for agricultural growers and turf managers administering parks, golf courses and other landscapes for determining when to irrigate and how much water to apply. Check it out, there are lots of interesting things to read and learn about.
    • The City of Hesperia offers a website with tips for having an efficient landscape: www.cityofhesperia.us/index.aspx?NID=497. Among the many tips is that property values can be increased by having a landscape that provides shade, interest and color, while attracting birds and butterflies, and costing less in time and water.
    • The Town of Apple Valley’s website, http://www.applevalley.org/index.aspx?page=57, states that the town has a landscaping ordinance to promote the use of native, drought tolerant plants. They offer links to the AWAC website.
    They also offer a “Habitat Gardening Class” — for more information and registration, call The Town of Apple Valley Community Services at 760-240-7880.
    Hopefully, you will check out some of these websites and get some ideas for creating your own low-water use landscape that is both attractive,
    and environmentally friendly. Each of them seems to offer different information, so visiting each of them should give you a comprehensive way to conserve water and have a beautiful landscape.
    HAPPY GARDENING!
    High Desert resident Micki Brown is a drought-tolerant plant specialist with a master of science degree in plant science. Send questions to be answered in the column at HorticultureHelp@aol.com.
    To see previous issues of the Mojave Gardener column, visit www.vvdailypress.com/sections/ mojave-gardener/ 
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