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Master Tips From A Master Gardener!

Julie Morehouse
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Amazing but simple ideas to keep in mind when reducing water usage in your yard.

I’ve lived in San Joaquin valley all my life- and those of us who are natives have seen our share of drought years.  My current line of work as a Garden Coach has put me up close to the struggle our landscape plants face vying for available water.

With so many suggestions circulation about ways to conserve water, I want to focus specifically on your landscape.

  1. Water in the early mornings- yes,  good idea!  Water pressure is highest between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. Also absorption is optimal at these hours- less water lost to evaporation.
  2. Check your sprinkler heads. Many of us do run our sprinklers in the middle of the night. A broken sprinkler head or leak can go undetected for weeks because we are sleeping or not home when they come on.  Make a test run to see what needs to be repaired, adjusted or replaced
  3. Mulch your flower and garden beds- Yes!  Maybe the most important thing you can do for your garden beds. Covering bare soil reduces evaporation, and allows less wind, sun and water erosion. Mulch can be bark mulch, compost, even old leaves from last fall (my personal favorite). Mulch should be at least 2” thick for best water retention.  Mulch keeps the weeds down, too- bonus!
  4. Choose low water-use plants- yes.  When buying new plants, look for varieties that are moderate to low water users.  However, replacing all of your plants with low water users will be costly and is unrealistic for most people. Your mature, existing plants have established root systems and will survive on much less water than new plantings anyway.
  5. Allow your lawn areas to ‘die’ or go dormant this summer. Lawns are a big water user. But aside from looking at a brown lawn all summer, the bigger issue may be the health of existing trees that are planted in the lawn. When you starve the lawn you starve the trees. Look at your trees as investments. They provide shade, habitat for wild life, etc. So before you neglect the lawn completely, think about the effect this will have on your trees.

In addition, consider converting to drip irrigation for your shrub areas to water only plants not bare soil, and reduce fertilizer use so that plants aren’t pushing new growth in the heat of the summer.

Bio- Julie Morehouse is a Garden Coach and Horticultural Advisor. She has an AS degree in Horticulture, is a Master Gardener for San Joaquin county, and Garden instructor for Community Education at San Joaquin Delta College. Send  your questions or comments at Visit her website at


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