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Sustainability Strategies for Spring

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Spring is the time of year when most of us start planning and thinking seriously about the yard, garden and outdoor living. To assist residents, Tuolumne County Master Gardeners (MGs) are offering several upcoming learning opportunities

University of California MGs promote sustainable gardening practices. To be sustainable means to pursue an activity indefinitely with minimal impact on the environment. This means protecting water quality and availability, soil, energy resources, wildlife habitat and fire risks. For more information, check the UC Davis web site:

Many typical gardening practices have environmental consequences. For example:

• Herbicides and pesticides can kill or harm beneficial insects, critters, wildlife.
• Residue running into lakes, rivers and streams threatens the water supply.
• High nitrogen fertilizers ending up in lakes and streams produce algae.
• Unprotected soil becomes sediment in storm drains, lakes or streams.

Some sustainability issues arise from timing, inaction or missed opportunities. For example:
• It is time to activate irrigation systems. Instead of just setting the timer to 5:00 a.m.-when geysers will never be seen and corrected-first check the system for efficiency and effectiveness.
• There’s still time to plant deciduous trees near south or western facing windows to reduce heat build-up and energy costs.
• Eliminate any invasive plants before they set seed.

Many sustainable gardening practices may mean actually doing less rather than more:
• Fertilizer should not be applied routinely, only when clearly needed by the plant.
• Grass clippings can be left on the ground to decay and add nitrogen to the soil.
• Cover the soil with mulch to reduce weeds and cool the soil, using less water.
• Compost to keep green waste on the property, reduce waste disposal costs and create nutrients for plants needing them.
• Select plants that attract bees, birds and other beneficial critters.

To highlight the importance of these issues, MGs are sponsoring a seminar, “Sustainable Gardening Practices for the Foothills” on Saturday, April 17th at the Jamestown Community Hall from 10:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. The registration fee of $20 includes snacks, handouts, snacks and lunch. Register online at

Individuals interested in learning more about sustainable gardening practices should visit the MG Demonstration Garden at 521 S. Barretta Street in Sonora by the Cassina High Dome on Open Garden Days. Each Open Garden Day features specific topics starting at 10:30 a.m. The topics for April 10 are: Weed Identification: the Dirty Dozen, Composting, and Drip Irrigation Systems.For more events check out the event calendar.

Those with other specific questions can also contact the Tuolumne County MG Hotline at 533-5912.

Marlys Bell’s sustainable gardening practices will be included on the 15th annual Master Gardener Spring Garden Tour on May 16th.