As 2017 ushers in, I can’t help but reflect on the new way of waterwise gardening. After all, it’s the 6th year of drought here in Southern California and the 3rd year of mandatory rationing in our local district. And we are not alone in the need to conserve water in everything we do.
Six key lessons I’ve learned are:
#1. Accept that water shortage is permanent.
When rationing began, the prevailing attitude was this ‘this too will pass.’ A year ago El Niño was forecast as the drought-buster, but that was wishful thinking for California’s southern half. Instead of holding out hope, use climate history and trends as your truth-teller and dry gardeners in other regions as your guide.
#2. Open yourself to possibilities.
Just because something was done a certain way doesn’t mean it can’t change. Consider what you might do differently in design, plant material, irrigation setup, irrigation execution, and maintenance, all of which determine supplemental water usage. In my case, radical changes to all 5 cut our monthly usage by 50-75%. Experiment and take risks.
#3. Realize that sustainable gardening is hard work.
Anyone who thinks that this process is simply a matter of one-time lawn removal, drip irrigation installation, or irrigation frequency cuts should think again. Those are just the tip of the sustainability iceberg. Some plants will come and go. Some irrigation will spurt leaks; some can be removed as plants mature or change. It’s unending.
#4. Make choices.
Face the fact that scarce water means tough choices. Trees for instance should be the top priority to preserve and protect. Do we really care about lawns if trees are at risk? Areas close to the house that you and your family see and visit daily are important too. Do we really care about robust gardens in areas around the side or further away?
#5. Track results.
Boring, yes, all those spreadsheets and being on high alert to plant behavior and abnormalities. But it’s the best way to spot issues and take actions before a catastrophe of major water and/or plant losses.
#6. Savor the results.
Water-driven reinvention and overhauls are worth it. I knew they would cut consumption, but who would have thought they would make our garden more beautiful and satisfying? They do and they can yours too!
Happy New Year!