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News and updates from the statewide UC Master Gardener Program office.
by Beverly McKinney
on April 7, 2015 at 5:21 PM
I killed my lawn last year thinking that it was a good thing to do in a drought. I am filled with shame & loathing that I did so without learning that grass is one of the greatest ways to sequester carbon. It's true that most people can reduce the amount of water that they use on their lawns, but I hope that we remember that our trees, shrubs & lawns also serve to clean our air, especially, as the state attempts to reduce it's CO 2 emissions. Private citizens shoulder the cost of planting & caring for lawns as opposed to government sponsored programs which subsidize emissions reduction. Let's not jump from the fire into the frying pan by killing all California lawns & gardens. Hopefully, the Governor will focus on education programs that teach the public how to conserve water & preserve millions of acres of carbon reducing lawns & gardens.
Reply by Missy Gable
on April 9, 2015 at 11:48 AM
As UC Master Gardeners, we assist the public by providing research-based information to inform home landscape management decisions. All plants sequester Carbon. In the case of turfgrass, the maintenance of a healthy lawn requires water applied through less efficient application systems (e.g., overhead sprinklers) and may be managed with equipment that emits carbon into the atmosphere (e.g., gas powered mowers). Turfgrass certainly serves an important function in the environment but in times of extreme drought, we have minimal water to apply to our home landscapes. Some individuals are choosing to concentrate their watering on plants that are not easily established, like mature trees. Mature trees sequester carbon and can provide valuable shade for our homes during hot summer months. UC Master Gardeners are more important than ever as we support Californians to make informed decisions in their landscapes.
by Kris Randal
on April 9, 2015 at 4:27 PM
I am a lazy gardener and have over 30-years experience planting natives that don't require much attention or water. There are many very drought-tolerant native plants that could be planted in the fall and survive on little water, if monitored. Grey water or shower water captured in buckets would provide enough for certain xeric natives to get started. California natives also have many more advantages than other drought-tolerant plants from other places in the world, since CA. natives are acclimated to soils and climate and have important interrelationships with native wildlife, bees and birds. Some of our natives, such as oaks, have survived 100-year droughts, and some natives have not. Why not give the hardiest of natives a chance at this time?  
California is home to more biological diversity than any other state in our country. Therefore, to sustain pollinators, other insects, birds and natural ecosystems, I believe it is essential that we replace water-thirsty lawns with the toughest drought-tolerant California natives we have access to. Otherwise, we will lose a lot more than just lush green lawns. We will lose a California legacy tied to native plants and sustainable, healthy ecosystems--a vast diversity of life.
by Robin Y Rivet
on May 1, 2015 at 7:10 AM
Like Beverly (in the first comment), I am very concerned about the message to "not plant any new plants", while simultaneously ceasing to water lawns. I realize there are numerous middle-ground options, but many folks don't have the means, time, or know-how to implement them hastily. I do not have turf, but I sadly watch as many neighbors let theirs go brown, and that choice also begins the demise of adjacent foundation plants and front yard trees. Unfortunately, these typically get watered - only because of that lawn irrigation. To address climate change, many urban regions have vowed to double or even triple their tree canopies, but this "water message" manifests itself as environmentalty contradictory. In San Diego County, we have few abundant native trees, so it is even more essential to prepare for a transitional period of grass conversions, and immediately start planting alternative water-saving trees, shrubs and ground covers. If nothing gets substituted during a Drought Stage 2 plan, advocacy to replace lawns permanently then translates into a blend of quickie, artificially green plastic rugs, and heat-inducing coarse gravel mulches that do not mitigate urban heat islands, nor store carbon, clean our air, reduce stormwater runoff, or create corridors for wildlife. Gravel is especially difficult to remove later, and its surface area magnifies and traps heat; and fake grass is costly, and truly NOT sustainable. During year one of change, sensible educators need to tout smarter watering strategies, and that our home gardens are assets, not liabilities. Without plants there is no transpiration, and without adequate transpiration, rainfall ceases.
by Kyle Ross
on October 9, 2015 at 1:29 PM
These are some great tips, and I appreciate your advice to gradually lower the water you use in your landscape so your plants have time to adjust. My area is in a drought right now, and there are new restrictions to how much water we can use. I'll definitely try to reduce that amount over time, so my plants can remain healthy. Thanks for the great post!
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