Master Gardener’s Corner: How to manage water in your California Landscape

Submitted by: Gerry Hernandez   |   glhernandez@ucanr.edu

Did you know that you can save water in your landscape and actually improve its appearance? Most of us tend to over-water rather than under-water. And, just keeping your sprinkler system in good repair by fixing broken sprinklers and straightening crooked sprinkler heads can reduce water waste more than anything else you can do.

You don’t even need to replace your current landscape. What you plant depends most on what plants are adapted to the climate you live in. How and when you water is a more critical issue.

Watering only when your plants need the moisture is another key to proper watering. The “lawn watering guide” is a simple to use guide on our website.

Knowing when to apply the water to your landscape plants is as important as knowing how much water to put on. While your lawn prefers more frequent watering, trees and shrubs prefer deep watering less often. Here are some tips, water before 10am, don’t water on windy days, reduce fertilizer, apply mulch to your landscape plants.

Good luck! A few simple changes can reduce your water bill and have a great looking landscape.

Mulches can save water too!

Mulches are materials you put on top of the soil around trees and shrubs to reduce water evaporation, prevent weed problems, and buffer soil temperatures.

What types of materials can you use for mulch? Backyard compost and decomposed lawn clippings are often recycled into mulch by homeowners. Many products are commercially available and work well, also. These include decorative bark, gravel, compost, redwood sawdust and peat moss.

If you decide to use your own yard waste to make mulch, make sure first that it is well decomposed. Otherwise, you may have to add nitrogen fertilizer to your plantings, since undecomposed material can rob it from the soil.

Mulches are best applied in spring but can be applied anytime. When used around trees, they should begin a few inches from the trunk and spread outward. In the case of shrubs, mulches should cover the soil surrounding the plants to reduce soil evaporation. Mulches can also save lots of water in flower bed plantings. Add the mulch between plants throughout the bed.

Since mulches work by preventing sunlight from reaching the soil, dark products work the best. You need to add two to six inches of mulch for an effective barrier.

Remember to water through the mulch layer into the soil. Drip systems are very useful in mulched plantings, since they apply water directly into the root zone.

Mulch is not only useful but will also spruce up your garden.

— Contributed by The Master Gardeners of Colusa County. They can be contacted by: Phone (530) 458-0570. Email glhernandez@ucanr.edu. office, 100 Sunrise Blvd., Ste. E, Colusa,