River-friendly gardening continues to go mainstream.
"It's really an emerging market, thank goodness," said Christine Kohn, spokesperson for the Regional Water Authority. "We're redefining the California landscape as sustainable, something that was meant to grow here."
Going "green" gets easier with growing awareness. As part of May's Water Awareness Month, the RWA is hosting Ask a Green Gardener Day at several local nurseries.
Next Saturday, certified Green Gardeners along with water efficiency experts will staff booths at eight local nurseries plus the UC Davis Arboretum teaching nursery. These nurseries all feature easy-care Arboretum All-Stars or other drought-tolerant and native plants that add beauty and water savings to Sacramento landscapes.
So far, more than 100 local landscape pros, master gardeners and water experts have graduated from the RWA's Green Gardener program, said Linda Yager, the RWA's water efficiency program manager. In addition, a recent pilot class for amateur "green" gardeners was a hit in Roseville.
"That's exciting," Yager said. "We're hoping to bring the program to all three corners of the Sacramento area."
Added Kohn, "People are asking for more river-friendly techniques from landscape professionals. They want to know how they can make their gardens more sustainable and save water."
The primary focus of the program as well as Ask a Green Gardener Day is creating a beautiful, sustainable landscape, Yager said.
"The average homeowner wants to know, 'What's sustainable?' " Yager said. "They ask, 'Do I have to take all my grass out?' No, but there are ways to make any garden more sustainable. We're really focusing on more efficient irrigation systems."
Homeowners can save money along with saving water, Yager noted. Several local water providers offer rebates for "smart" controllers that key sprinkler use to the weather. This month, some providers will roll out new rebate programs for drip irrigation or other upgrades.
"People are very interested in changing or upgrading their landscapes," Yager said. "It's not just residences, but commercial businesses, too. We're ramping up those rebate programs."
Since Sunday is Mother's Day, Kohn came up with a gift list for water-wise moms including automatic shut-off nozzles for hoses, drip irrigation starter kits, automatic hose timers and rain sensors. Don't forget a sun hat, gloves and some water-wise plants.
And offer to help with the work.
Bill Bird, Natomas' best-known backyard farmer and gardening blogger, found a hit with his PVC tomato cages. Several readers responded, "Where do I get those?"
"I saw that (idea) online about six or seven years ago," Bird said. "It was the brainchild of a Glendora grower by the name of Thomas Matkey. Tom had been using bits and pieces of PVC to hold up his wire cages that would usually fail when he needed them the most. So, one year he constructed a cage, tested it, and it worked."
Bird borrowed Matkey's idea. The cages are made of 3/4-inch PVC pipe 1/2-inch pipe is too flimsy held together with crossover connectors, right-angle connectors and "T" connectors. The uprights are lengths of 24- and 30-inch pipe. The crossbars are 8 or 12 inches long depending on the width of the bed.
Don't use glue on the connectors; you want to be able to disassemble the cages in fall.
"I sized mine down a little bit to fit within the space confines of the raised beds," Bird explained. "I have built 24 of these cages and not one has ever failed, nor has it broken. It has stood up to surprise June and July windstorms that have blasted through my riverbottom backyard and never once failed.
"If there is a downside to this setup, it's the time it takes to set it up and tear it down," he added. "Putting up 24 cages can take the better part of an afternoon. Despite that, I will never go back to using wire cages again. It is a very strong cage and can handle a full crop of ripening tomatoes with ease."
Matkey's original plans are available online at www.feldoncentral.com/ garden/tom_pvc/
Gardeners can follow Bird's tomatoes and more via his Sacramento Vegetable Gardening blog at http://sacramentogardening. blogspot.com.
GOT A 'GREEN' QUESTION?
Next Saturday, Ask a Green Gardener Day invites area residents to learn how to have a more sustainable and water-efficient yard and a beautiful garden, too.
Participating nurseries (and hours experts will be on hand) include:
Big Oak Nursery, 10071 Grant Line Road, Elk Grove. Hours: 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Bushnell Gardens Nursery, 5420 Douglas Blvd., Granite Bay. Hours: 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Fair Oaks Boulevard Nursery, 4681 Fair Oaks Blvd., Sacramento. Hours: 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Front Yard Nursery, 5801 Mother Lode Drive, Placerville. Hours: 10 a.m.-noon.
The Flower Farm, 4150 Auburn Folsom Road, Loomis. Hours: 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Green Acres Nursery & Supply, 901 Galleria Blvd., Roseville; 8501 Jackson Road, Sacramento; and 205 Serpa Way, Folsom. Hours: 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
UC Davis Arboretum teaching nursery, 920 Garrod Drive, Davis. Hours: 9 a.m.-1 p.m.
For more information on rebate programs, visit www.BeWaterSmart.info.