It’s Spring, and that means it’s time MARCH PLANTNESS!  Yes, that’s right, March Plantness – a little California-friendly plant competition!

Who will wilt in the heat of competition?  Who will come out smelling like a rose?  South Bay Green Gardens has put together a 16 plant bracket, where drought-tolerant competitors like California Buckwheat will be tested against formidable opponents like the California Fuchsia, Flannel Bush and Deer Grass (a perennial favorite!).

We will be asking you to vote each week on our Facebook page.  First, we have Round One: The Sprout Sixteen.  Then it narrows again to the E-leaf Eight, then the Final Flora…and finally, the Championship Round.  Which of our these lovelies win?  Competition starts on Monday, March 25th.  Good luck to all! 

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Monarch Butterflies Need YOU!!!


California is the only place in the country that regularly hosts the awe-inspiring sight of thousands of monarch butterflies gathered for winter, and each spring they disperse across California searching for nectar sources and milkweed plants on which to lay their eggs.

According to the most recent Xerces Western Monarch Thanksgiving Count, the western monarch butterfly population is at an all-time low. Only 28,429 butterflies were counted in 2018, down a whopping 99.4% from the 1980’s.

Saving the population from collapse will require land conservation and protection, but two of the top five actions to help save western monarchs are things that we can do in our own yards:

1.       Restore breeding and migratory habitat in California – Western monarch’s need Californians to plant nectar species, especially flowers that bloom in the early spring (February–April) to provide critical nectaring resources.

2.       Protect monarchs and their habitat from pesticides - Western monarch’s need Californians to halt cosmetic use of pesticides. Seek out non-chemical options to prevent and manage pests in your garden and landscaping.

The tips and resources provided in the January 8, 2019 blog post on “the benefits of bugs” are relevant to monarchs too. And there will soon be a series of webinars by the Xerces Society with more information on how you can help western monarchs.  

By Zooey Elsa Diggory, Senior Biologist, Santa Clara Valley Water District

Spring Forward this weekend - and Take a Class!!

What better way to get used to the time change this weekend than doing a little gardening? And if you’re ready to be inspired or learn something new, why not try out one of the many classes available this week (or this spring for that matter)?

There are so many classes to choose from, including…

On Wednesday, March 6th…

  • A class on Irrigation Maintenance and Leak Detection in Sunnyvale

  • A class on Soil and Compost in Cupertino

On Saturday, March 9th..

  • A class on Rain Water Harvesting in Palo Alto

  • A Composting workshop in Los Gatos

  • A class on creating outdoor succulent designs in San Jose.

All of the details and information can be found here.

Happy Spring Gardening!!


Why Bother With Composting? Composting is the "Heart & Soil" of Gardening

For those who wonder whether it’s really worth it to invest time and effort into composting, here are a few good reasons to turn to composting:

  • Compost provides nutrients that plants need to grow and to thrive, and provides them in a form that is easily available for plants to absorb.   In addition to the main three nutrients -nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium, compost also provides important micronutrients such as manganese, copper, iron, and zinc.

  • Want to eliminate the need for pesticides in your garden?  Healthy plants are less susceptible to disease and pests, and compost can make a difference in helping to ensure healthy plants. 

  • Compost builds soil structure unlike soils that are damaged by relying on synthetic fertilizers.   The good soil structure that compost provides allows air and water circulation that keeps plants healthy. 

  • Good soil structure provides habitat for beneficial bacteria, fungi and earthworms that all work to provide nutrients which plants need. 

  • Good soil structure also provides habitat for beneficial insect predators that keep plant pests under control. 

Compost certainly deserves to be called Black Gold!  

Happy Gardening!! For more information, please see our Composting Page.

 By Les Kishler, former Agroecology, Chemistry, Biology teacher:  Los Gatos-Saratoga Union High School District.  Currently supervisor of the Los Gatos Community Garden. 


Great Race for Saving Water 5K, 10K and Kids Dash on Saturday, April 13th

If you are looking for a wonderful, family-friendly event, look no further than the Great Race for Saving Water in Palo Alto on Saturday, April 13th. This fun run and walk raises awareness about water resources, conservation, a healthy environment and healthy communities.

Register today, and don't miss your chance to chase the running toilet!

Earth Day Festival

After the race, join us for a free festival with electric vehicle ride & drive, live music, nature activities, arts & crafts, raffle, zoo animals, outdoor games, environmental and public safety resources...and much more!

  • Event schedule

  • Activity map

  • The race begins at 9am and festival activities continue to 1pm.

  • A special ribbon-cutting ceremony for the San Francisquito Creek Bay to 101 project will be held before the race at 8:45am.

We look forward to seeing you there!

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The Monarch Butterfly Crisis: What's Happening and How You Can Help - Two Upcoming Workshops in San Jose

Have you heard about the recent reports of the decline in monarch butterflies? Do you wonder how you can help? You are in luck - there are two upcoming workshops in San Jose: one on March 16 and one on March 23.

The workshops are presented by Santa Clara County Master Gardener Rebecca Schoenberger. In the workshop, you will learn about the monarch butterflies life cycle, habitat, and migration patterns. We'll also discuss why monarchs are in danger, and what you can do to help conservation efforts. We'll review several specific plants you can have in your garden to create a monarch habitat at your home.

Our Events Page has a number of other great landscaping classes for you to explore.


The Benefit of Bugs

There’s just no getting around it - insects are in trouble. According to a recent New York Times article, insect populations around the globe are rapidly dropping. Insects are important for a number of reasons but one of the biggest for humans is that they help pollinate our crops.

This is scary but the important thing is each of us can do our part to help. Here are some ways you can help:

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Resolve to Save Your Rainwater! NEW Rebates for Rain Barrels and more!

We want you to capture the rain!! The Santa Clara Valley Water District is now offering Rainwater Capture Rebates within its Landscape Rebate Program. 

Rain gardens, rain barrels, and cisterns are all systems used to keep rainwater onsite for reuse within the landscape and are now available for a rebate.

For all rebates under the Landscape Rebate Program, including the Rainwater Capture Rebates, application submittal and approval is required before purchasing any new equipment or starting any work.  Please visit the Water District’s website for more information or call our Hotline at (408) 630-2554.     

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Fire Safe Landscaping

Because of the recent fires in our state, it’s more important than ever to make sure your landscaping is fire-safe. Here are some great tips from Cal Fire:


A fire-safe landscape isn’t necessarily the same thing as a well-maintained yard. A fire-safe landscape uses fire-resistant plants that are strategically planted to resist the spread of fire to your home. Fire resistant plants are great in California because they are often drought tolerant, too.

The good news is, you don’t need a lot of money to make your landscape fire safe. And you will find that a fire-safe landscape can increase your property value and conserve water while beautifying your home.

Choose Fire-Resistant Plants and Materials

  • Create fire-safe zones with stone walls, patios, decks and roadways.

  • Use rock, mulch, flower beds and gardens as ground cover for bare spaces and as effective firebreaks.

  • There are no “fire-proof” plants. Select high-moisture plants that grow close to the ground and have a low sap or resin content.

  • Choose fire-retardant plant species that resist ignition such as rockrose, ice plant and aloe.

  • Select fire-resistant shrubs such as hedging roses, bush honeysuckles, currant, cotoneaster, sumac and shrub apples.

  • Plant hardwood, maple, poplar and cherry trees that are less flammable than pine, fir and other conifers.

Check your local nursery, landscape contractor or county’s UC Cooperative Extension  service for advice on fire-resistant plants that are suited for your area.


It's Time to Fall Back on Your Watering

With rain finally in the forecast (yea!) and cooler weather, it’s a good time to adjust automatic sprinkler and irrigation systems.  This saves money on water bills, and also helps to prevent pollution in our creeks and streams.

California’s Save our Water website has some great information about how to save water around the yard.

You might also be interested in getting a rebate for switching out your lawn for water-efficient plants. The Santa Clara Valley Water District’s water conservation page has more information about rebates.

Happy Gardening!