Helping our customers with water conservation is an essential part of what we do at the Soquel Creek Water District. A lot of water savings can be achieved through changes inside our homes, but a significant amount of residential water consumption is related to outdoor water use. Big landscaping changes, however, can be both time-consuming and expensive, so we are constantly working to provide our customers with rebates, information, and technical assistance that will help them make the transition to more water-efficient landscaping. In that spirit, this month's Water Wisdom focuses on an incredibly useful and inspirational online tool for choosing "water-smart" plants and getting inspired to garden with water in mind.
The "Water-Smart Gardening in Santa Cruz County" website was customized in partnership with the Master Gardeners of Monterey Bay and the Water Conservation Coalition of Santa Cruz County (of which Soquel Creek Water District is a member). This tool is custom-built to provide information for the Santa Cruz County environment. Many of the photos are of eye-catching local gardens that make one say "that's what I want my landscape to look like".
The website is now smartphone and tablet friendly and has a plant search by keyword. For example, you can type 'salvia' in the search box in the top menu and get a listing of all the salvias on the site. In addition to keyword searching, there are popular plant lists like 'deer tolerant plants' and a powerful guided plant search. This search asks a series of questions about your desired plant to focus your list. The questions include plant type, height, color, bloom season, sun exposure, and soil type. Click 'done' and get a focused photo list of plants that meet your garden's needs. Clicking on each photo reveals the plant's details and plants can then be added to a favorites list. The plants that you add to your list can be sorted by how much water they typically need. Plants that are California Natives are denoted with a California poppy icon over the photo.
You can also add an entire featured garden to a customized garden list. When you look at your saved garden report, all the plants highlighted in that garden are listed under the main garden photo. This report can then be printed and taken to a nursery, shared on social media, or emailed. All the images are now unique website links, so it is easier to share the individual plants, gardens, and garden resources you are looking at with your friends, family, landscape designer, clients, or gardener.
The website also features "Garden Tours" and "Garden Gallery" photos that show plant 'tags' over the photo to identify the plants in the garden. You can hover over or click on the plant tag to get more information and add it to your customized list. The resources section is a wealth of information about gardening in a "Water-Smart" way as well, including watering tips and irrigation scheduling for our coastal climate. Give it a try and get inspired.
If you haven't seen the site in a while or are about to plan your garden, check it out.
The Water Conservation Coalition of Santa Cruz County consists of the member agencies Scotts Valley Water District, City of Watsonville, Soquel Creek Water District, Pajaro Valley Water Agency, City of Santa Cruz, San Lorenzo Valley Water District, and the County of Santa Cruz. Water conservation representatives from each agency worked together in a collaborative fashion along with a software consultant (GardenSoft) to develop the tool. Experts like Tom Karwin from the Master Gardeners of Monterey Bay also contributed their expertise to provide a well-rounded knowledge base.