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Gardeners come up with ways to conserve water
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When in drought, what do avid gardeners do?

They invent plenty of water-wise ideas so they can continue to indulge in their favorite hobby. They also make some small sacrifices by giving up a few of their favorite landscaping features, such as green lawns, which need a lot of irrigation pampering.

That’s what happened to Allen and Beth Stitt of Manteca.

“Because of the water situation, we turned off the sprinklers on our front lawn and let it die. Then we put weed killer on it, so now it looks just horrible!” lamented Beth Stitt.

But the couple is determined to have a green spread in front of their house. This time, though, they won’t have to install sprinklers.

“When it gets a little cooler, we plan to install artificial turf,” said an excited Beth Stitt who enumerated a number of benefits to their landscaping plan.

“No water needed as well as no mowing and no fertilizing or weeding. Yea! It will look perfect all the time,” she added happily.

They also did not plant a vegetable garden this year because of the drought. But that’s no cause for alarm or further lamentation either for the optimistic gardeners.

“We really miss the fresh vegetables,” Beth Stitt stated, “but hopefully we can plant a vegetable garden next year.”

The Stitts’ loss is also local farmers’ gain.

“Of course, there’s always the Manteca Farmer’s Market!” said Beth Stitt, preferring to look at the situation as that of a glass that is half-full and not half-empty.

Tom and Anita Handley, whose ongoing major gardening project at their home in Manteca is a familiar one to their friends who are following their green thumb efforts on the couple’s Facebook page, shared what they just did in the interest of water conservation.

“Tom just planted a tree in the front and made a drip system that he put in the ground before he planted the tree and attached a nozzle to it, so when we water, we just attach the hose to the nozzle and turn it on real low for a few minutes and it only waters the roots,” Anita said.

Her husband plans to install a similar process to another tree on their property that is also connected to the drain pipe.

The Harmon family is turning to drought tolerant plants in response to water conservation mandates due to the drought. They are also going to be implementing the latest in state-of-the-art water-wise landscaping designs using water crystals with the help of professional and award-winning landscape artist Eric Teberg of Manteca.

“We are now involved with Eric Teberg in designing front-yard landscaping that will be drought tolerant,” Will Harmon shared via email. “We have a start date of September 8. … Part of the design will be the use of water crystals, plant selection and irrigation.”

Water crystals are also known as water-retaining crystals or hydrogels. They are also touted as “green” since using them will require less watering and are reported to conserve water.

Tom and Rita Canales went even farther than what most of their fellow gardeners have done in the face of the persisting drought. They ripped out their lawns front and back of the house and replaced the greens with mostly low water-usage beds and plantings. Additionally, about 60 percent of their landscaping is on drip irrigation.

Some of the drought-tolerant plants in their extensive gardens include Mexican poppies, cone flowers, salvia, and succulents such as aloe and sedum.

“Around the house, we’re pretty conscientious about any running water (dishes, brushing teeth, etc.). In the bathroom we follow the ‘if it’s brown flush it down, if it’s yellow let it mellow’ rule,” said Tom.

But they have taken that even further for the benefit of their garden.

“We’ve started using a bucket in the shower to catch all the water that usually runs down the drain when you’re waiting for it to get hot, then we use it to supplement garden watering,” he said.

Manteca Garden Club member and avid gardener Kay Harris goes into yet another extreme water-conservation practice, saying. “I take any extra water from the sink – like if I’m soaking a pan that has hard-to-remove food in it – and use it to water flowers out front.”