A hands on workshop (HOW) will be held at a residence in Torrance to implement some of the techniques described in this class on Sat Oct 30th from 11 to 2. Contact mcgilvraydoug at yawho (correct misspellings / format to email) for the address and to register. This household is participating in the Garden Assistance Program whereby successful applicants get assistance to have their gardens reworked into ocean friendly gardens. The same residence will renovate their garden on November 26, 10-4, another chance to get some hands on experience.
My motivation for attending the Ocean Friendly Garden Landscaping Class (OFG.org) last night was partly to take the temperature of the local sentiment for California friendly gardening and partly to update and refresh my own knowledge. I will have the opportunity to install a new garden in the near future and I'd like to do it right from the start instead of learning on the job as have in my current garden. (Gardens are forgiving of many mistakes, but fundamental ones about drainage, irrigation, and hardscape are harder to overcome.) I came away with a few new tidbits of information, better clarity, and a renewed sense of enthusiasm for ocean friendly gardens. The class teachers came from West Basin Water District, The Surf Rider Foundation, and the Green Gardens Group (G3). I heard Paul Herzog of the Surfrider Foundation not too long ago at a CNPS meeting where he gave an abbreviated presentation. Last night he spoke only briefly which let me get a fresh spin on the information from Pamela of G3, an engaging speaker.
Between 25 and 30 people attended the 3 hour ocean friendly gardens workshop that was held last night in Lomita. Nearly all seemed alert and engaged, so it seemed there were few reluctant spouses or skeptics. It looked like they had reservations for more, but rain may have kept people at home. Still, I consider the turnout significant in number - my intuition tells me that there's still interest in transforming sterile lawn into habitat. The south bay is a small enough world that I knew one attendee from work - he said he was looking into changes that made sense for his home. I would guess that level of interest is the target audience for this presentation and I think it worked effectively on that level.
A couple questions that came from the audience indicated a general interest in water issues:
How come we don't have rationing? (Carol Kwan of West Basin attempted an answer that ended with, "Well, some areas like Manhattan Beach have tiered water rates" (apparently Lomita doesn't have tiered rates or people were unfamiliar with the concept) but didn't address any real political or process blocks to rationing or more / more aggressive tiers. I held back from my cynical comment that rationing is typically based on history of past use and that everyone in the room ought to be using plenty of water to make sure they don't get rationed too much in the future. Paul had noted earlier that water rates are expected to rise overall, motivating people to change all on their own, so perhaps that's the best answer, though it wasn't directed at this question.)
How much water evaporates from the aqueducts that convey water to southern California? (No answer was given.)
They supplied a CD with class presentations and supplemental material as a free take away from the session, which was a good idea (the PDFs they supply have only low resolution images in a format suitable for notes, not for reuse in a briefing). This picture of our watershed comes from their packet and it's my favorite image of the evening. If you can't visualize the watershed from this picture then you must be blind.
My second favorite picture is this one:
West Basin Water District provides support for a number of water use reduction activities and they seem to be pretty forward thinking in this regard. They now have demonstration gardens in El Segundo and Carson(?) where they walk the walk. Rebate programs continue with a new combined rebate program that allocates up to $235 per household for smart irrigation controllers. bewaterwise.com was a constant referral for this type of information.
Some interesting tidbits from the class:
The widely quoted figure of 20% of electricity used in California is used for moving water was clarified - apparently it's used for moving and cleaning water. I'm not sure how to verify this figure, but I'd like to.
143 gallons per person per day was the typical water use in LA (County) cited for a four person residence. This includes outdoor water, which comprises a larger fraction of our total water use than use of our indoor water use. This is in part due to our successful indoor conservation policies. Nonetheless, something like 60% of all potable water used is used outdoors.
Soil testing - Why have I never done this? Even though I'm a huge fan a data and I've been a successful gardener without it, think what a little more knowledge would do for me. The simple mayonnaise jar test mixes soil with water to separate out the soil constituents and then maps the ratio of silt:sand:clay onto a ternary phase diagram to define soil type:
The class didn't call this a ternary phase diagram, but of course I know one when I see it, so perhaps that common point of reference makes me more interested in this test. Pamela recommended the use of distilled water for the test, but web references I checked don't require anything other than clean water. She made a vague reference to "reactions" as the motivation for using DI water, but I can't think of reaction that could be of concern if just using tap water - buffering action by dissolved minerals shouldn't affect much of anything in the soils assessment. If this procedure is also used to test soil pH, then of course DI water matters.
Another interesting aspect of the class was the focus on rain barrels and rain chains. I've never been a fan of rain barrels, since they seem to have so little payback. Pamela suggested that sequestering the first flush rainfall was most important in terms of providing environmental benefit and in that respect rain barrels could have a net positive impact, particularly in areas where rainfall can't be kept on property by other means. Rain chains I've used before for their architectural benefit. Pamela's focus was at times on water velocity - and the net positive impact of rain chains and barrels in that regard. I don't think that rationale passes the sniff test for me. She may have been meant to say rain flux or something else like that. I'll have to explore this issue a little more later on.
All in all, this was a useful class, probably right on target for those not yet singing along with the choir.