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Take a walk, conserve water

  • Jeanne Price
  • Want to save money on your water bill? Invite a Master Gardener to walk your garden path with you. A garden walk could help you locate a leak, learn more-efficient irrigation methods, get to know your controller, improve soil health and water retention, and discover beautiful, water-wise Mediterranean and native plants.

    The free "Bay-Friendly Garden Walks" have been offered the past two years through a partnership of the University of California Marin Master Gardeners and Marin Municipal Water District (MMWD). Bay-Friendly gardening principles include saving water and energy, building healthy soil, reducing waste in the garden, creating wildlife habitat, protecting local watersheds and contributing to a healthy community. Last summer 90 Marin Master Gardeners visited almost 300 gardens in Marin. The program has proved so popular, the district is continuing it this year.

    The water walks are offered as part of MMWD's overall conservation program. Because Marin is dependent largely on local rainfall for its water, it's up to all of us to help preserve our precious supply. The garden walks also can help customers find ways to trim their water bills. With 30 percent to 70 percent of the average Marin water bill attributed to garden irrigation, even small savings on irrigation add up.

    In addition to the walks, this year Marin Master Gardeners and MMWD also will be collaborating on several public education presentations and demonstrations, according to Peggy Mathers, the Master Gardener garden walk coordinator. Watch for lectures on lawn replacement and native plants to help you create a beautiful garden with drought tolerant plantings. You can also find a water-wise plant selector for Marin on the Master Gardener website atwww.MarinMG.org.

    Dan Carney, water conservation manager for MMWD, agrees the garden walks have been a big success, measured by the number of people who want to participate. The main purpose of the joint venture, which he says is unique in the Bay Area, if not California, is to raise awareness about water conservation. His goal is a 20 percent reduction in landscape watering. "The most common problem is overwatering. Cutting back on irrigation by just two minutes for every 10 would save that 20 percent," he said.

    Customers from southern Marin to San Rafael have expressed their satisfaction. Nan Harle of San Anselmo appreciated that Master Gardeners "warned me my water pressure was too high for the irrigation system I was planning to install."

    Master Gardener Teryl Volkober, who volunteers with the program, found it rewarding because she learned from the other Master Gardeners with whom she partnered. As a volunteer in this program, I've had the pleasure of visiting some of Marin's lovely gardens this past year, meeting interesting people, sharing some helpful information and knowing that we have made a contribution not only to individual gardens but to Marin as well.

    To sign up for a free Garden Walk call Marin Master Gardeners at 499-4204.

    The University of California Marin Master Gardeners are sponsored by UC Cooperative Extension. For questions about gardening, plant pests or diseases, call 499-4204 from 9 a.m. to noon, and 1 to 4 p.m. weekdays, or bring in samples or pictures to 1682 Novato Blvd., Suite 150B, Novato.