Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Water-Wise Wednesday: Going Native Garden Tour

What would you guess is our nation's number one irrigated crop? Corn? Wheat? Oranges? The answer might surprise you: It's turf grass.

Lawns began to permeate our culture roughly 100 years ago in order to emulate the estates of Europe. America's vast expanses of land and the invention of gas-powered mowers after WWII made it increasingly easy for us to give our land the same treatment once reserved for royalty. The areas adjacent to homes, once reserved for native, edible, and medicinal plants gave way to the monoculture grass we call lawns.

Though we have gotten to the point of optimizing our lawn care, it continues to take a toll on our resources. And though we are fortunate that the Santa Clara Valley Water District has done an excellent job of maintaining our aquifers, we also rely on a vastly decreasing supply of water from the mountains. Fortunately there are alternatives to the lawn and they are surprisingly easy. For millennia, plants had evolved on the lands we inhabit without the benefit of humans, cutting, irrigating, or showering them with fertilizers and pesticides. So it is with little effort that they can once again establish themselves near our homes, with relatively little effort.

This weekend you will be able to see native gardens all around the area - many of them here in Willow Glen - which use very little more than rainwater to thrive. You may find yourself surprised to see the variety of plants and how beautiful they can be. When you realize that they can look so good with so little effort, you may also find yourself tempted to try it on your own. The Going Native Garden Tour will be in our area this Sunday. It is self-guided and free. When you register you will receive a brief description of the sites and a map of their locations. Then you are free to decide which sites interest you the most, and which you will have the time to see - there are a lot! When you get there you will find all of the native plants neatly labeled. The homeowners are there and happy to show you what they've done and share their thoughts and experiences.

Beautiful landscape? Low maintenance? Low cost? Low water needs? More hummingbirds and butterflies? Check, check, check, check, and check.

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