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If you've ever wanted to learn about waterwise landscaping and/or xeriscaping, read on!

Over the Garden Fence: Principles of Waterwise Landscaping

By Bob Labozetta (UC Master Gardener, Mariposa)

We are once again living through a drought year in the Sierra Nevada foothills. As such, it is a good idea to revisit and remind ourselves of the techniques of waterwise landscaping that is otherwise known as drought-tolerant landscaping or xeriscaping.

There are basic principles of waterwise landscaping

1. Planning/Design requires making appropriate plant selection for the climate where you live. It’s best to select native plants, drought tolerant non-invasive plants, and plants that tolerate our cool wet winters and dry hot summers. We live in a Mediterranean climate, so plants that thrive in places with a similar climate are good choices.

2. Water conservation necessitates preparing your garden soil for good drainage, using mulch profusely, hydro-zoning plants with similar water needs, and installing drip irrigation wherever possible. Mulching helps to reduce evaporation.

3. Minimize turf areas because lawns require large amounts of water, fertilizers, money, and time. Plant only as much as you need, and plant the best variety of turfgrass for your climate. Better yet, install artificial turf to eliminate the need for water and fertilizers. If you must plant turfgrass, consider bunch grasses. Consider also using hardscapes, ground covers, mulches, and rocks to reduce grass areas and provide interest.

4. Zoning refers to grouping plants according to the same exposure and water needs. For example, fruit trees and vegetables need the most water and care and should be in the same vicinity. Remember that low water users may still need supplemental irrigation during the summer. Limit plantings of annual flower beds. Consider containerized plants and plan for xeriscape planting zones.

5. Efficient irrigation involves zone irrigation systems to match plant requirements. Distinct irrigation lines can be programmed to meet frequency and duration variances. Install drip lines and/or soaker hoses in permanent, automated irrigation systems that need recalibration three to four times a year in response to changing weather conditions from season to season. Water your landscapes shortly before sunrise, and avoid irrigation during windy periods. Avoid over spray from sprinklers onto patios, sidewalks, or other areas. Turn off irrigation systems during the winter, and check them regularly for maintenance needs.

6. Proper maintenance involves deadheading, pruning, trimming, and weeding plants. Set up a regular schedule of raking and thatching turf areas and mow them to a height of 3 inches. Remove about an inch of grass each time you mow.

Implementing waterwise landscaping is a wise investment of time and money that will save you both over the long haul.

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UC Master Gardeners of Mariposa County serve Mariposa County, including Coulterville, Greeley Hill and Don Pedro. For gardening and event information, call us at 209-966-7078 or email mgmariposa@ucdavis.edu. Find us online at http://cemariopsa.ucanr.edu/Master_Gardener/, on Facebook (UC Master Gardeners of Mariposa County), and on YouTube at “UCCE Mariposa”. Listen to us on KRYZ 98.5 FM radio Wednesdays at 2 p.m. and Saturdays at 5 p.m.

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