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Delta College Students Create Water Saving Landscaping

Living Waterwise
/ Categories: Landscaping Projects
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Part 1

By now you know that Governor Jerry Brown has officially declared a water drought for California.  So what can we do about it at our home and work?  How do we make a difference without having to spend a lot of money or time?

And, did you know that over 60% of the water used at home is used outdoors?

So what do a family-owned restaurant employee, a former Navy medic and a local garden center employee have in common?  They all are S.J. Delta College students and take Mike Toscano's horticulture class.  In addition, they created the winning landscape design in a recent competition.  The design, with changes implemented, estimated to save the homeowner approximately 1,640 gallons of water per month!  Now that's a lot of water saving.

Instructor Toscano, with the support of Delta College President Dr. Kathy Hart, had his students take on the challenge of creating a water-saver landscape example for a home backyard.  They were inspired to help share their knowledge with actual hands-on experience.

"Typically, our students learn about plants, irrigation, landscape design but we don't take on projects for homes.  We would be overwhelmed with requests," said Toscano.  The class does work on public projects and projects around Delta College.  But more important, they literally have planted the seeds (plants) that will have lasting impact on outdoor water usage.

The students competed among other Delta College student groups to create a simple-to-implement water-saver landscape.  The competition included:

    - Analyzing current water usage for existing plants and backyard lawn
    - Review water usage: sprinklers and length of watering
    - Review the setting of sprinkler controller currently being used and suggest more efficient options
    - Create a simple backyard landscape design using water-saving plants and very efficient irrigation
The winning group was consisted of Kelsey Moore, Mat Ju and Brandon Hill.

Dr. Hart along with Cynthia Madrid from the San Joaquin County Public Works - Water Resources Department, were part of a judging panel to select the winning landscape design.  Madrid said of all the groups competing, "The designs were very creative and well executed.  Some focused on plant selection, some on irrigation, and others focused on how the landscape would look a year from now when plants matured.  In the end, the winning design brought them all together. "

Dr. Hart commented, "The variety of plant colors and selection allowed for amazing texture and interest in the design.  The water savings is something every home could start implementing easily on a weekend.  How exciting to see our local students gaining such knowledge and then putting it to actual use to help our community during the drought and beyond."

Each student had a passion for different parts of the project.  You can tell that Kelsey loves plants and gives them amazing tender care.  Her mother also has a passion for landscaping as a hobby.  Kelsey also brought a thorough understanding or irrigation and the proper use of drip-sprinkler systems. Brandon brings the muscle and sense of use of ground cover and finishing touches such as rocks and/or bark.  Mat, an all-around guy that was involved with the design and the project overall.

Here's what they created for you to use in your backyard as well:

This is just one example of what you might implement in your yard.  You can add or reduce the plants and the area needed depended on your particular needs.

If you need assistance, Kelsey, Brandon and Mat all are available for hire to implement this design (or modification thereof) in your yard.  Please support them and other professional landscape designers as they focus on creating amazing water-saving landscaping without having to look like a desert.

Kelsey Moore: Currently employed at OSH Garden Center and brought a wealth of experience regarding plant types, water needs, irrigation and climate zone awareness.

Brandon Hill:  While a new student to horticulture, Hills believes in living a sustainable life and that includes being very aware of saving water and using water in the outdoors.

Mat Ju: While his family owns the very popular New Yen Ching Chinese restaurants, Mat's passion has always been with creating exciting designs outdoors through plants and natural resources.


Delta College has often been overlooked as a tremendous local resource.  That includes when it comes to student training at their public nursery.  Students learn about care for plants, their use and much more.  The Student Delta College Nursery is open to the public on Fridays from approx. 10am to 3pm.  (The nursery is closed during class breaks.  Don't worry, students and instructors still care for the plants to keep them healthy and in good shape for your yard.)


You can still have a beautiful yard without having to water --even for short amounts of time-- every day.  "It's very common for people to over-water their plants" said Jeff Gamboni, professional landscape architect from Stockton.  "You want to understand the amount of sun, the amount of water evaporation that can take place during the day and soil composition in order to select the right plants for the right area for maximum water savings" said Gamboni.

You can see his beautiful work at the City of Stockton Delta Water Supply Project at 11373 N. Lower Sacramento Road.   Gamboni visited the site once again during the recent U.C. Master Gardeners of San Joaquin County ' Home Tour that featured a variety of beautiful, unique landscape designs from small to large.  Gamboni's Water Conservation Demonstration Garden design there is a wonderful example of variety and color.  He has combined the subtleness of delicate ground cover with the big, bold colors of other plants.  The plant selection is amazing.  He's even paid attention to the smallest of details such as plants that will attract bees for pollination.  
Enjoy these photos from the Water Conservation Demo Garden.  But for a better experience, visit the landscape project today.  It's just a short drive and it's free for all to enjoy.  If you go during office hours,  they have a detailed layout of each of garden with plants and their names.  This is great to use when deciding what to ask for at a local nursery.
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