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Sustainability saves energy, water, time and money

Examining plants regularly for damage, pests and natural enemies is the first step in sustainable pest management.
Examining plants regularly for damage, pests and natural enemies is the first step in sustainable pest management. UC REGENTS

Q: We so often hear the word sustainable these days, from various sources and seemingly with various meanings. We do care about the environment but are not in a position to completely renovate our landscape and garden. Can the Master Gardeners offer an approach to sustainable gardening, or some specific practices which we can begin to use right away?

— Paul and Mary Kubacki, San Luis Obispo

A: An approach to sustainable landscaping recommended by the University of California Cooperative Extension includes practices developed by the Sacramento Stormwater Quality Partnership with permission and assistance from StopWaste.orgin Alameda County.

Most gardeners should be able to implement these practices immediately and relatively easily, and save energy, water, time and money. Benefits of sustainable practices can be felt in our own households; the environment benefits from such practices adopted throughout watersheds, and the cumulative effects may be significant.

Landscape in harmony with natural conditions of the site, watershed and climate.

Maintain fire safe landscaping, protect local flora and fauna, and use site-adapted plants; you can get ideas for them at Cal Poly’s Leaning Pine arboretum and at


Landscape in order to send less to the landfill. Use plants of sizes that match their intended space to reduce pruning, grasscycle, compost, and incorporate salvaged hardscape materials where possible.

Nurture the soil. Save topsoil, mulch, avoid use of quick-release inorganic fertilizers and use pesticides as a last resort.

Conserve water. Minimize turf, group plants according to water needs and maintain efficient irrigation systems.

Conserve energy. Plant trees to minimize energy use. Shade paved areas. Shade south and west sides with deciduous trees. Design outdoor lighting carefully.

Protect water and air quality.

Use integrated pest management; minimize impervious surfaces; prevent runoff; use appropriate equipment.

Create and protect wildlife habitat. Maintain diverse plantings and utilize natives. Provide water and shelter. Conserve or restore natural areas and wildlife corridors. Please contact Master Gardeners for more related information and detail.