Learning to Garden with the Drought

by Carol Puck Erickson-Lohnas

Water levels in our wells are dropping and lakes and reservoirs are at all time lows. Everyone should be pitching in. So what are the two most important things you can do to help manage our community’s dwindling water resources?

For many homes, more than 60% of residential water use can be attributed to garden irrigation. For some gardens, use can consume up to 80% of domestic water use. So given these statistics, we should focus on water use in our gardens in our to make real inroads in water conservation.

So let’s keep it simple. In many cases, water is wasted due to poor management. Have you looked at your irrigation controller? Do you really know how much time is on each station? In one case, just by helping a client adjust his timer, we reduced his water use by 50%. Are the heads really adjusted to cover green areas or is a lot of water ending up in the street or sidewalk? Is your system older than 15 years? Many advances have been made in irrigation technology. Pipes age and you may have small underground leaks. Consider a retrofit.

Give your lawn a haircut. For many homes lawn can be reduced by 30 to 50% without losing any real function or residential recreation potential. Often lawns are installed on slopes, side yards and other non-functional areas. Take an inventory and determine where you can lose some lawn. These lawn areas can be easily replaced with native or other drought tolerant groundcovers or inert materials such as gravel or decomposed granite.

If you would like to learn more, the Santa Ynez Valley Botanic Garden, WEWATCH and the Los Olivos Grange will be hosting a Water Conservation Workshop on Saturday afternoon, September 20th just in time for fall renovations and garden retrofitting. For more information, go to the SYVBG website.