Last Saturday I went to the Hands on Workshop (HOW) that I had heard about through my Ocean Friendly Gardens class participation (see Ocean friendly garden landscaping class wrapup) The workshop covered implementing a site evaluation using a worksheet to calculate current water use, runoff, and a water budget for conversion of a Torrance single family residence to an Ocean Friendly Garden that uses rain water. My goal was to check and cement the knowledge that I gained since I started to install my own native plant garden. I know that I made a lot of decisions based on less data than I could have had and when I build the next garden I want to have a bit more basis for my decisions. I was also interested assessing in the community interest OFGs.
The next step at this residence will be to incorporate the ideas into the Garden Assistance Program Workday (GAP) on Friday, November 26, 10am-4pm. This household is participating in the Garden Assistance Program whereby successful applicants get assistance to have their gardens reworked into ocean friendly gardens. I believe they are paying for plant materials and garden supplies, but the labor and design advice are provided at no cost. The homeowners were very gracious and welcoming (particularly considering that we were tracking mud all over their yard) and provided a light lunch with some delicious homemade berry and guava preserves.
The cost of the HOW, attended by perhaps 40 or more people, was free to the attendees though in the past charges have been up to $25 per person. This underwriting was provided by the City of Torrance since this is the first well-publicized garden conversion in the City of Torrance, who also plan similar garden conversions at several public sites around the city in an effort to reduce water use and provide demonstration gardens.
A (the?) top Torrance water manager was there and stated that Torrance will be moving to more recharge and use of local aquifers and to a four tier water rate system where the top rate will be more than twice the lowest rate, making gardens like this one a possibly significant contributor to the local water economy. It's interesting that no one ever mentions rationing at these meetings without first and more prominently mentioning tiered rates. I figure that aggressive tiered rates is the standard public answer to "what about rationing" types of questions. I hope that it is sufficient because no one is actually talking about real water rationing in California, such as would result immediately from significant infrastructure failure in northern California, or gradually due to continued severe drought. I've not heard of emergency water tiering, whereas emergency water rationing has a more familiar ring. At the class, West Basin Water District representative Carol Kwan related how rationing worked when she lived in Hong Kong: Water was turned on for 4 hours every three days! During the time water was on they filled every pot in the house with water to last through the next three days!
The workshop was useful, the instructors friendly and approachable, and the participants seemed engaged. I'm judging the community interest high based on the number of participants. I also felt particularly rewarded to get the straight skinny in regards to clarifying my mystification at the cult of the rain barrel. I did a little practical garden work, digging a hole to assess soil compaction (over 30 minutes to drain means it's compacted), learned that you only need to remediate soil to the depth of your largest plant (about 12" for 1 gal plants (soil flora and fauna will do the rest), and assessed drainage, learned to identify fungal hyphae and did some figgerin' on soil type and exposure for use in evapotraspiration calculations.