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!


Rainy Day Landscape Management Tips

Are you sick of dealing with flooding generated at home or transported from nearby areas when it rains? Urban areas are especially prone to the negative effects of runoff because of the large amounts of impervious surfaces in our world. Although storm drain systems are effective at moving water off the roads and into our creeks and the bay, none of the water is treated and pollutants such as pesticides, fertilizers and trash can be difficult and expensive to remove.

Here are a couple ways to help reduce runoff and prevent pollutants from impacting water quality by mimicking nature:

1. Soil: Knowing your soil type can help you find ways to improve water holding capacity and drainage. Most native soils in San Jose are clay or clay loam. Clay can hold onto water for a long time, but it can also prevent water from infiltrating. Clay soils can be amended with gypsum and compost (organic matter) to break down tough minerals and increase the pore spaces in the soil. Check out this factsheet for more information:

2. Hardscape: Do you have a concrete path or driveway? Do the downspouts from your home drain roof runoff directly onto them? If so, consider replacing these with a permeable option such as porous bricks, perk grout, decomposed granite, permeable asphalt, etc. Or perhaps slope and redirect runoff from hardscapes so that they drain towards vegetated areas such as swales or rain gardens. Both methods will reduce the total volume of water reaching nearby water bodies, settle out fine particles, and give microbes in the soil a chance to neutralize or capture/remove pollutants. Check out this factsheet for more information:

3. Rainwater Harvesting: If you have rain gutters and down spouts that collect roof runoff, your site is likely a good candidate for a rain barrel or cistern. Capturing rainwater is easy and often requires minimal time and investment. Rainwater can be utilized for non-potable uses such as irrigation. Temporarily storing small amounts of rainwater can help prevent erosion, improve water quality, and reduce demand for drinking water.

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Autumn leaves - perfect for mulch and compost!

The secret ingredient to incredible compost and mulch LITERALLY grows on trees.  That's right, it's leaves.  Thinking about mowing your lawn?  Don't rake those leaves first.  Instead, get a mulching mower, which chops them up into tiny pieces that will enhance your soil and improve your lawn.  Bonus - no raking involved!

If you don't have a lawn, and you're wondering what to do with those leaves, they can be used as mulch, chopped up and put right on your landscape.  Or you can create beautiful compost by combining leaves (carbon) with moist, organic material (nitrogen), such as old coffee grounds.  Check out this short video on leaf mulching.

Happy Gardening!


California Coast Cleanup Day - September 15th

We need YOU to help keep our creeks clean!  Please join in the fun on Saturday, September 15th from 9:00 am to noon. 

Top 3 Reasons Why You Should Participate:
1.   It's fun!  Yes, really!  You will meet wonderful people and have a great time.  
2.  You will be doing something nice for the community, especially the plants and critters that live in and around the creeks.
3.   You may find something amazing.  If nothing else, it's a lovely walk along a local creek.  

There are plenty of locations, and more information here.

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What time of year should I plant?

This is a good question, and the answer is usually "It depends on what you're planting."  But there are some pretty good general rules of (green) thumb to follow:

In general, early fall is considered a good planting time for most (but not all) plants since the soil is still fairly warm (to promote root growth), the air temperature is cooling down, the days are shorter, and the angle of the sun is lower in the sky.  Plants have a chance to develop stronger roots and to get established without having to transpire much.  Planting in fall also reduces the amount of supplemental irrigation a plant needs (due to the lower air temperatures, shorter days, and angle of the sun) so this is good for water conservation. 

Plants that are frost sensitive (citrus, avocados, bougainvillea, fuchsias and succulents) might do better if planted in the spring after the last frost date has passed.  

Most California natives and Mediterranean plants will do just fine if planted in the summer, but it means that they will need to be watered more frequently.  Even if natives are planted in the fall, they will still probably need some supplemental irrigation through their first or second summer.  

Happy Gardening!!



Get Pests to Stop Bugging You

Here at South Bay Green Gardens, we are fans of all creatures great and small.  But some critters overstay their welcome in our gardens, to put it kindly.  Where do we turn to when we want to welcome the beneficial insects and discourage others?  

Our Water, Our World is a wonderful resource for finding less-toxic products to use in our homes and gardens.  On this website, you can find a wealth of material on finding pesticide alternatives, where to buy products, beneficial insects and much more.  Check out their handy pocket guide to less toxic products for managing common pest.

So here's to you you, ladybug and dragonfly!  Happy Gardening!


July is Smart Irrigation Month

Today’s irrigation systems include sophisticated controllers that allow you to easily adjust watering schedules to fit different needs.

Get in the zone. Schedule each individual zone in your irrigation system to account for type of sprinkler, sun or shade exposure, and soil in that section. Different zones will almost always need different watering schedules.

Consider soil type. Type of soil determines how quickly water can be absorbed without runoff. Watering more than soil can absorb causes runoff and waste.

Don’t send water down the drain. Set sprinklers to water plants, not your driveway, sidewalk, patio or buildings.

Water only when needed. Saturate root zones and let the soil dry. Watering too much and too frequently results in shallow roots, weed growth, disease and fungus.

Water at the best time. Watering during the heat of the day may cause losses of up to 30 percent due to evaporation. Prevent water loss by watering when the sun is low or down, winds are calm and temperatures are cool — typically between the evening and early morning.

Water more often for shorter periods. For example, setting your system to run for three, 5-minute intervals lets soil absorb more water than watering for 15 minutes at one time, reducing runoff.

Adapt watering to the season. Familiarize yourself with the settings on your irrigation controller and adjust the watering schedule regularly based on seasonal weather conditions. Or invest in a smart controller so your system can make these changes automatically.

Thank you to the Irrigation Association for these great tips!  To find out more about how to water wisely - or for a free irrigation efficiency evaluation - click here.