Drought-tolerant plants star at spring garden market 

 

Just 10 days after Gov. Jerry Brown announced California’s first-ever mandatory water cuts in response to the state’s multi-year drought, hundreds of gardeners and landscapers gathered at the Master Gardeners of Santa Clara County’s Spring Garden Market.

The annual event, held at San Jose’s History Park on April 11 this year, drew hundreds of residents filling carts and boxes with tiny seedlings of ornamentals, tomatoes and peppers from around the world — grown by Master Gardeners, an organization of volunteers trained by the UC Cooperative Extension program.

The organization educates the public about science-based gardening and landscaping techniques. At the market, master gardeners answered shoppers’ many questions on plants and bugs, and they offered tips on making the most out of the local clay soil and on using water more efficiently.

The public’s interest in drought-tolerant plants is record high, according to master gardener Lisa Strand, chair of the organization’s public education committee.

“We’ve been getting a lot of interest in native plants and just knowing, ‘what can I plant that uses less water,’” Strand said.

Master Gardeners’ recommendations to save water include using a drip irrigation system to target the roots of plants, and covering the surface near landscape bushes and ornamentals with mulch, which prevents water evaporation.

This month, Gov. Brown ordered urban areas to reduce water use by 25 percent as compared to their 2013 consumption levels. The governor’s order also requires large landscapes, such as golf courses and cemeteries, to cut back water use. The directive has been controversial because it excludes the agriculture industry, which consumes an estimated 80 percent of the state’s water.