River-friendly gardening, eco-landscaping, Sierra smart gardening, sustainable landscaping, conservation gardening: these are all different names for similar environmentally friendly gardening practices that you can use to create a landscape around your home that meets your needs for outdoor space, is aesthetically beautiful and gives back to the Sierra by keeping water clean, promoting native vegetation, providing habitat for wildlife and maintaining the integrity of native soils.
“The choices we make as gardeners definitely impact our local creeks and rivers,” said Ori Chafe, restoration ecologist with Sierra Streams Institute in Nevada City. “By using drought-tolerant native plants, gardeners can cut way down on water use, leaving more water to flow through local waterways. Sustainable gardening practices also reduce erosion and run-off of chemical fertilizers and pesticides from your garden, which ultimately ends up in local rivers and streams,” said Chafe.
Adopting sustainable landscaping practices in your home garden can have other positive impacts on the environment and also save you money.
“Some of my favorite projects have been for customers wanting an all-native landscape,” said Arborist and Sustainable Landscaping Contractor Zeno Acton. “My clients who choose environmentally friendly landscaping typically want to reduce water and electricity consumption. But they are also want to create habitat for wildlife, use locally produced or recycled materials for garden construction and reduce silt- and chemical-laden storm water runoff from your property.
“Periodic mulching is an important part of sustainable gardening,” adds Acton. Mulching cools the soil and slows evaporation, suppresses weeds, mitigates soil erosion during heavy rains and eventually enriches the soil in a natural way as the mulch breaks down and blends into the soil.”
Brad Carter and Fred Hodgson decided to develop an all-native landscape when they moved to their Grass Valley home in 2002.
“I planned the landscape for drought tolerance and low maintenance,” said Carter. “I do most of my garden maintenance work in the late winter and early spring when cool temperatures make it comfortable to work outside. When the hot summer arrives, I don’t want to be working in the garden – I’d rather be swimming in the Yuba. So in June, I just walk away from my garden. And I don’t have to worry at all because I know that absolutely no summer irrigation or maintenance work is needed.”
If you would like to learn more about sustainable gardening, plan on attending the Art in the Garden Party, a sustainable gardening festival and garden art sale, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 1. This free outdoor event is set in the native plant garden at the home of Fred Hodgson and Brad Carter and features eight local artists selling garden art. Food and drink will be for sale, and sustainable gardening talks and garden tours are scheduled throughout the day. Twenty percent of the art sale revenues from this event will be donated to Sierra Streams Institute. For more information on this event, visit www.sierrastreamsinstitute.org or call Lisa Frankel at 530-263-7055 or Fred Hodgson at 530-272-8900.