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Water-Saving Landscape Featured on Garden Tour

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On Sunday, June 2nd, the UCCE Master Gardeners of Tuolumne County will host their Eighteenth Annual Garden Tour from 10:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. There are five beautiful and very different gardens on the tour this year. One of the gardens is the fascinating, diverse and water-thrifty garden of Al and Marie Dahlstrand.

The 27-year evolution of the Dahlstrand garden has been a gradual learning experience (eliminating some poor choices) while researching how to create a pleasant, more-efficient landscape which will survive in the foothills. Garden development began with clearing for fire protection and establishment of ornamental landscape vegetation including lawn and a vegetable garden. Much of the vegetation was not drought tolerant and couldn’t adapt to the local climate; it was clear that changes were required-particularly when extended drought hit in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s.

Water conservation is the main focus of the current landscape effort. An extensive drip irrigation system is in use and is constantly changing to reflect plant growth and types of vegetation. Water-saving techniques are always practiced in the home, as well as in the garden. In 1989, tanks were installed to collect rainwater for irrigation use. Although rainwater rarely lasts past late spring, the system takes pressure off of the well and public resources. Saved rainwater provides ample irrigation to allow plants to enter the heat of the summer in excellent health.

Over the past two years, the home owners have removed over 2000 square feet of lawn and replaced it with natives and other drought tolerant species. The second lawn replacement project is about 80% complete and will be finished during the next winter. Lawn replacement has resulted in substantial well water savings.

Other projects in the garden include the use of leaf litter, lawn clippings, small prunings and local soil to create mulch for use in plantings. The landscape includes paths, numerous seating areas and custom metal sculptures created by the home owner.

Come out to see this creative, soothing, aesthetic model of wise foothill gardening. Not only does the garden feature rainwater irrigation systems, it incorporates raised vegetable beds, a fruit orchard and a pool. The landscape is planned around spreading local oak trees while also highlighting ornamental plantings and a cactus garden.

Garden Tour tickets are available at Columbia Nursery in Columbia; J.S. West Hardware, Antiques, Etc. and the UCCE office in Sonora; The Nest in Twain Harte; Nature’s Whole Food Depot Nursery in Standard; and from any Tuolumne County Master Gardener. Tickets are $10.00 (children 12 and under free). Tickets will also be available on the day of the tour at the Master Gardener demonstration garden at 251 S. Barretta Street in Sonora, CA. In addition, tickets can be purchased on-line at:

Editor’s Note: Al Dahlstrand-home owner, garden designer, metal artist, geologist, mining expert, custom rock lamp creator and master gardener-will be in his garden on Sunday, June 2, during the garden tour to answer your questions and show you around his rainwater catchment system.