With a dry January in Southern California and very little rain forecasted for the remaining winter months, gardeners can take steps now to ensure their gardens receive enough water for a bountiful spring and summer harvest, say experts at Agromin, an Oxnard-based manufacturer of earth-friendly compost products made from organic material collected from more than 50 California cities.
» Install a drip irrigation system: Now is the ideal time to install a drip irrigation system. These systems, available at nurseries and home improvement stores, can be elaborate or simple. They apply water directly to the base of plants. Other forms of watering increases the likelihood of evaporation and runoff. Sprinklers deposit water onto leaves where it evaporates. They often soak unnecessary portions of the yard including sidewalks, driveways and patios.
» Select plants that need little water: A number of attractive drought-tolerant plants thrive in Southern California. Consider planting only perennials because once established, their water needs are minimal. Some plants to consider are bear’s breech (spiral flowers bloom in late spring to late summer), kangaroo paw (long-lasting blooms come in a variety of colors), sage (numerous varieties, attractive fragrance), western redbud (magenta flowers in spring) and deer grass (dense base with slender flower stalks).
» Mulch your garden: Use organic mulch around flower and vegetable gardens. Mulch traps moisture in the soil, keeps roots cool during hot spells and reduces erosion so less water is needed. As organic mulch decomposes, it releases nutrients into the soil so plants are healthier. Before mulching, remove weeds from your garden. Then apply two to three inches of mulch to discourage new weed growth and to retain moisture. Place mulch at least one inch away from stems to discourage possible rot damage to plants.
» Reduce lawn square footage: According to the Environmental Protection Agency, landscape irrigation accounts for nearly one-third of residential water use. The percentage is higher in dry climates. Lawns are the biggest outdoor water users. Consider replacing all or most of the lawn’s square footage with bark, drought tolerant plants and shrubs. With water rationing a possibility, this preemptive move will keep lawns looking green and reduce water bills significantly.
» Determine how much water to use: Most homeowners have a tendency to overwater. Click here to calculate how much water is truly needed to water a garden. Calculations are based on location and soil makeup (sandy or clay).
— Diane Rumbaugh is a publicist representing Agromin.