Above the Garden Fence – Principles of Waterwise Landscaping

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July 10, 2021 – By Bob Labozetta (UC Master Gardener, Mariposa) – We are once again experiencing a year of drought in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. As such, it’s a good idea to revisit and remember the hydrologic landscaping techniques that are otherwise known as drought tolerant landscaping or xeriscaping.

There are basic principles of waterwise landscaping:

  1. Planning / Design requires making a selection of plants appropriate for the climate where you live. It is best to select native plants, non-invasive drought tolerant plants, and plants that tolerate our cool, wet winters and hot, dry summers. We live in a Mediterranean climate, so plants that thrive in places with a similar climate are good choices.
  2. Water conservation requires preparing your garden soil for good drainage, using plenty of mulch, hydro-zoning plants with similar water needs, and installing drip irrigation where possible. Mulching helps reduce evaporation.
  3. Minimize areas of grass because lawns require large amounts of water, fertilizer, money and time. Plant only the amount you need and plant the best variety of sod for your climate. Better yet, install artificial turf to eliminate the need for water and fertilizer. If you must plant sod, consider clump grasses. Also consider using hardscapes, ground covers, mulches, and rocks to reduce areas of grass and generate interest.
  4. Zoning designates the grouping of plants according to the same exposure and the same water requirements. For example, fruit trees and vegetables need water and care the most and should be nearby. Keep in mind that low water users may still need additional irrigation during the summer. Limit planting annual beds. Consider container plants and plan xeriscape planting areas.
  5. Efficient irrigation involves area irrigation systems to meet the needs of the plants. Separate irrigation lines can be programmed to respond to variations in frequency and duration. Install drip lines and / or weeping hoses in permanent automated irrigation systems that must be recalibrated three to four times a year in response to changing weather conditions from season to season. Water your landscapes shortly before sunrise and avoid irrigation during windy periods. Avoid excessive spraying from sprinklers on patios, sidewalks, or other areas. Turn off irrigation systems during the winter and check them regularly for maintenance.
  6. Good maintenance involves felling, pruning, pruning and weeding plants. Establish a regular schedule of raking and covering areas of grass and mow them to a height of 3 ”. Remove about an inch of grass each time you mow.

Implementing a Waterwise landscaping is a wise investment of time and money that will save you both in the long run.


For assistance, contact our hotline at (209) 966-7078 or [email protected]. We are currently unable to take samples or meet with you in person, but photos are welcome.

Update: The UC Master Gardener helpline is staffed; Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and Thursdays from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Customers can bring samples to the Agricultural Extension Office located at the Mariposa Exhibition Center, but the Master Gardener’s office is not open to the public. We will not be doing home visits this year due to UCANR restrictions.

Serving Mariposa County including Greeley Hill, Coulterville and Don Pedro Lake
Please contact the hotline or leave a message by phone at: (209) 966-7078
By e-mail (send photos and questions for the answers sought) to: [email protected]

For more information on gardening and event announcements, please visit: UCMG website: http://cemariposa.ucanr.edu/Master_Gardener
Follow us on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/mariposamastergardeners

Location of the master gardener’s office:
UC Cooperative Extension Office,
5009, fairground path
Mariposa, CA 95338

Telephone: (209) 966-2417
E-mail: [email protected]
Website: http://cemariposa.ucanr.edu/Master_Gardener

Visit the YouTube channel at UCCE Mariposa.


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