Home landscape water use comprises the majority of home water use. The University of California Cooperative Extension Sonoma Master Gardeners (SCMG) have been focusing on the sustainable gardening practice of water conservation via the Garden Sense program, a partnership developed between SCMG and the Sonoma County Water Agency. California is famous for its’ arid Mediterranean climate featuring an extended dry season from approximately April through November. However, most home landscapes in this region have been created without any regard to our summer-dry climate, and the public is not at all aware of the water needs of commonly used landscape plants.
The Garden Sense program, launched in September 2013, is available to any Sonoma County resident. SCMG has developed a comprehensive 9 course advanced training for Garden Sense consultants in the areas of irrigation efficiency, sheet mulching and low water use plants. There are currently 50 trained volunteer consultants who meet with residents in their gardens to evaluate existing irrigation practices and advise how to increase irrigation efficiency, reduce or remove lawns, and create climate-appropriate gardens based on the client’s functional needs.
In August 2014, clients who had received a Garden Sense visit were surveyed; 75% of respondents indicated that the visit was either very helpful in helping them change their home landscape water conservation practices or that they could not have completed their lawn removal project without SCMG’s assistance. Conservative estimates of water savings as a result of Garden Sense consultations in our first year of operation are equivalent to 6 acre feet of water saved annually (nearly 2,000,000 gallons)!
One of our clients who was new to the Sonoma County area stated: “We couldn’t have done it without them . . . their advice and expertise was essential to our successfully creating a low water-use landscape. Thank you so much!”