Spring-into-Summer: Drought Strategies from the Ecology Center’s Help Desk

20140430waterWe’re getting a little taste of summer this week, and the driest, hottest part of the year is yet to come. With our changing climate bringing more dry years than wet years to California, 2014 requires a new normal. Can a shared effort to cut water-use in an extreme drought year set us up to conserve more every year? Let’s explore a variety of tools to help us conserve water in the garden and in the home, and make the most of the water we do use.

Mulch & Compost
Adding mulch on top of your exposed garden soil is a great way to slow the evaporation of water, prevent erosion, and stabilize soil temperature. Mulches made from plant material, such as wood chips or straw, also add organic matter to the soil as they biodegrade. This soil amendment helps soil absorb and hang onto water, delivering it to your plants gradually, and reducing the overall amount of water needed. Compost is organic material that has already broken down. Adding it on top of your soil, or digging it into your garden beds, nourishes your plants and other soil life. Visit our online EcoDirectory for listings of compost and mulch sources — some free, others for purchase.

Resources in our Library
Visit the Ecology Center Library to browse the many water-wise how-to books, including topics like permaculture, greywater and rainwater reuse, drought-tolerant gardening, and more. Current members can check books and DVDs out for two weeks at a time, up to five items at a time. Everyone is welcome to use our library books on-site at the Ecology Center any time during our open hours: Tuesday-Sunday 11am-6pm. We have a cozy reading nook for quiet reading, and a big work table for spreading out. You can search the library’s online catalog here.

… Or Purchase from our Store
Many of our most popular water-savvy books are also offered for sale in our Store. Recommended titles include: Creating An Oasis With Greywater; Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands; The Vegetable Gardener’s Guide to Permaculture; Growing California Native Plants; Golden Gate Gardening; Gaia’s Garden.

Classes and Tools to Use
Search our EcoCalendar for water-wise and drought tolerant gardening workshops around the SF Bay Area.

The Bay-Friendly Landscaping & Gardening Coalition offers Lose Your Lawn talks at various nurseries, features lots of DIY information on its website, and lists Bay-Friendly Qualified Professionals who offer Sheet Mulching or Lawn Conversion Service.

EBMUD offers free house and garden water conservation items to its customers. Visit their website to get your WaterSmart Home Survey Kit.

Further Reading
For further reading on the impact of drought across the state, check out the Pacific Institute’s California Drought website.

California Department of Food & Ag put out a blog post on drought updates from Gov. Brown last week.

[Photo by Eileen McFall on Flickr]

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