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Grow Beautifiul Drought Tolerant Plants For Bees

Whenever you wander in a garden or wild flowers in nature, chances are, you will see bees working on the flowers.  It is a beautiful picture we are all familiar with since when we were little kids: the buzz, the black and yellow beeline, the flying, from one flower to another. A bee on a flower It is not just a picture to enjoy, those little bees actually create huge values for us when they are busy feeding on the flowers.

Huge Value Created by Bees

Bees visit flowers for their pollen and nectar, which are their food, just like bread and meat are our food.  In the process, bees transfer pollen, produced by the male part of a flower, to the female part, enabling fertilization to take place. With successful fertilization, seeds are produced, allowing the next generation of the plant to grow and reproduce. For fruit trees, since the seeds are surrounded by fruit, the fertilization also will result in fruit.  Without pollination and subsequent fertilization, the trees will not bear fruits. As you can see, bees are extremely important for so many things we use in daily life.  Wearing a pair of cotton jean?  Give thanks to bees, as they are the ones that pollinate the cotton crop.  Ate an apple today? Thanks to bees again for pollinating the tree. Bees pollinate 75% of world’s main crops.  According to USDA, bees pollinate an estimated $15 billion or more of American crops per year. It is hard to imagine a world without the bees pollinating all those crops! Bee on a Sunflower

Bee On the Decline

For something so important for us, unfortunately, the bee’s population has been on a decline.  While we are not sure of the main cause yet, the loss of the habitat, pesticides, disease,  and climate change (mismatch of the timing of flowers and when the bees need them)  may all have played some role.

Help Bees By Planting

One thing we can all do to help out the bees is grow plants in our garden that bees like and can visit all year round.  That can offset the loss of their habitat, and provide them the food when they need them.  If enough such plants are grown in our gardens, hopefully it can stem the bee’s decline and restore their population to close to previous levels. These plants are the ones that bees like.  They are all magnets for bees. Good news is, not only do the bees love them, they are also very drought tolerant – they all qualify for Santa Clara Water District’s Rebate Program. By planting them, you will not only help the bees, but also conserve water! As we should continue to conserve water, and are encouraged to replace the lawn with drought tolerant plants, now is a good time to plant some of these beautiful plants. Jerusalem Sage A bee on a a flower Lavender

Bees on a Lavender

California Poppy A bee on a California Golden Poppy California Lilac Bees on a California Lilac Bottlebrush Bottlebrush Echium Bees on an Echium In summary, planting native plants will not only provide food to bees who badly need it, but also conserve water and add color and beauty to your yard.  Happy planting!    

Echium: Color and Drama for a Water Efficient Garden

Echium Want color and drama in a water efficient garden?  Consider Echium. At 6-8 feet tall when fully grown, their big spikes are like flower towers in a garden.  With them in the picture, there is no chance a garden is plain and dull. Water Efficient Plant Echium originates from North Africa and nearby islands in Atlantic Ocean. They are well adapted to the climate there, and are drought tolerant. The type of Echium that we see most often, as in the picture above and below, is called “Purple Tower Echium”. 2016-03-20-15h43m56 Another type we can see is “Tower of Jewels”, which sports pink flowers, instead of the purple blue ones of “Purple Tower Echium”. Both types are drought tolerant, and qualify for Santa Clara Water District’s Landscape Rebate Program.  Once established, they need only a little water. 2016-03-20-15h43m21 This is another type of Echium, “Pride of Madeira”.  It originates from the island Madeira, off the northwest coast of Africa (Madeira is part of Portugal). “Pride of Madeira”, in Barcelona, Spain 2016-04-10-10h56m33 Bees’ Favorite Plant Echium’s flowers attract bees, making it also a great choice for a bee garden.  If you want to build a garden that attract bees, birds and butterflies, this is one of those plants! Echium_4 Echium_6 Planting  Echium can grow to be very tall and wide, so plan for a rather big pocket of space.  Plant them in a group, match with other medium and low height plant groups.  The grouping will also make it better for bees if a bee garden is desirable.  The bloom time is from spring to summer. Full sun is required.  Water until establish, then only very little watering is needed. So, if you are planning for a water efficient garden, and have quite some space, if you enjoy those bold colors and tall towers, you can choose some “Purple Tower Echium” or “Tower of Jewels”! Echium_7  

Santa Clara Landscape Rebate Program First Step – Pre-Inspection

IMG_2350 Got a yellow lawn and live in Santa Clara county, California?  Now is the perfect time to replace it with a water efficient garden.  Not only will you get rid of the eyesore, but also receive some rebate cash provided all the requirements are met for the new landscape.  The Santa Clara Landscape Rebate program is open now, providing $1/square feet for the lawn replacement (see full details).  Seize the opportunity and take the first step – schedule a pre-inspection. After you call the number listed on the rebate program, the water company will schedule an appointment for you.  When the time comes, someone from the water company will show up at where the lawn is at. Pre-Inspection  At the pre-inspection, first, the water company person will decide which areas qualify for receiving the rebate, which ones don’t. According to the program, “areas to be converted must include approved high water using landscape at the time of pre-inspection…In response to the drought, lawns that are dead, brown, yellow or green all qualify as long as the lawn is still physically onsite. Sites do not need to maintain a green, living lawn in order to qualify for the rebate program as long as the dead or stressed lawn was still onsite at the time of the pre-inspection and has not been removed.” These areas qualify.  While the lawns are already brown, they are still physically on site. DSC_0305 DSC_0312 These areas do not qualify, as they have not been lawns: NQ1 NQ2 Second, the water company person will measure all the areas that qualify, and come to the “Total Irrigated Turf Square Feet”.  This is what the $1/square feet replacement rebate will be based off, provided the replacement finishes in time and meets all the requirements. Then he showed us all the documents for the application, and went over the key items one by one.  The documents include an Application Form, a Information Packet, a Qualifying Plant List, and a W-2 Form (for the part of rebate that will qualify as personal income). The next steps is to fill in the information required on the Application Form, mail or email it, then receive the Notice to Proceed from the water company. Submit the Application Form The key information to be entered on Application Form before one can submit include:

  1. “diagram or set of plans” for the landscape.

The diagram can be a just a  sketch of the yard and where the plants will be placed.  To see some design of the gardens, see Garden Photos. 2.  plant list, each plant’s coverage value, and the total plant coverage (square feet). To receive the rebate, the old lawn needs to be replaced  “with a minimum of 50 percent plant coverage consisting of low water using plants from the water district’s Approved Plant List. ”  For example, if the lawn’s total area is 1,000 square feet, then at least 500 square feet needs to be covered by plants from the “Qualifying Plant List” provided. To see what some of the plants on the list are like and their coverage, visit Water Efficient Plants IMG_2361 Notice to Proceed Once the application is sent, the next step is wait for the Notice to Proceed.  When it is received, the replacement project can kick off.  The project needs to be finished within 90 days from when the Notice is received, with 2 possible extensions for a total of 180 days. This beautiful garden was one of the those that applied for the program and successfully received the rebate. Schedule a pre-inspection now and build a great water efficient garden! Connect with us on Facebook if you have any questions. B2                          

Santa Clara Landscape Rebate Program Open Till End of Year

Comparison Good news for owners of single family home or other properties in Santa Clara county who want to replace their lawn – the Santa Clara Landscape Rebate program is open and accepting application now. Per California Department of Water Resources, “outdoor landscaping is the single largest use of water in the typical California home. In most of our yards, grass consumes the most water, so reducing or eliminating how much grass we have in our landscapes can make a significant impact on the state’s water use.” p5rec The Santa Clara Landscape Rebate Program To encourage the replacement of lawn with drought-tolerant landscape, some local water agencies provide a rebate program.  The Santa Clara Water District provided such a program early last year, then stopped when the funds depleted.  Now, with the arrival of new funds, the program was reinstated on July 1, 2016. Anyone who own such properties in Santa Clara county are eligible to apply for the rebate:  “Santa Clara County single family homes, multi-family and business properties with qualifying irrigated landscape (i.e. irrigated turf or functional swimming pool) can receive rebates for replacing high water using landscape, such as irrigated turf grass, with a minimum of 50 percent plant coverage consisting of low water using plants from the water district’s Approved Plant List.” The rebate amount for lawn replacement for a single family home is $1/square foot.  See details here Rebate Application Procedure The whole application process run like this:

  1.  Property owner call to schedule a pre-inspection;
  2. An inspection will be performed; if approved, the owner can submit a Request for Application Form;
  3. After the Form is submitted, receive a written Notice to Proceed;
  4.  With the Notice to Proceed, purchase materials and start the project.  Projects must be completed within 90 days of date on written Notice to Proceed.
  5. Another inspection will be performed; if all the requirements are met, the rebate will be processed and sent to the owner.

A4 When to Apply Rebate applications are accepted on a first-come, first-served basis. The program will end on Dec 31, 2016, which means there are only 3 months left.  Anyone interested should submit their applications as soon as possible. The plants used for the the new landscape must be on the water district’s Approved Plant List.   Check out some the plants on the list, with their photos here P4

“Severe Drought, Limit Outdoor Watering”

(Published on Sept 1, 2016) “Severe drought”  This is what we kept seeing when we were on our way to Tahoe for a weekend camping trip 2 weeks ago.   Throughout the 4 hour drive, we could see the same sign, from east Bay all the way to Tahoe: Severe Drought Severe Drought

California is still in a severe drought

Yes, we are still in a drought, as one can see in the Drought Monitor below. California drought In the previous 4 years from 2012-2015, the state was in an unprecedented drought.   The water content in California’s snow pack was only half or 1/3 of the normal level, in 2015 it was as low as 5%! Last winter, with El Nno, California received a decent amount of rainfall. Many of us thought, or hoped, all those rains could end the drought. Unfortunately, they did not.  While the rainfall was much better than the previous 4 years,and did bring the water content in snow pack back to 86% level, 4 years of drought was too much for one year of rainfall to fix.  A couple major reservoirs in the state are still at levels lower or much lower than average (36% -48%). CASnowPack

We still need to conserve water

In April 2015 Governor Jerry Brown declared a state emergency, making it mandatory that statewide urban water use be reduced by 25%.  Since then, Californians have done a pretty good job conserving water, cumulatively saved an average of 24.2% from June 2015-June 2016. Now, facing the still serious drought situation, Californians are asked to continue to conserve water.  Instead of a statewide target, each water supplier are now required to reduce water use in a percentage equal to their projected shortfall in the event of three more dry years.  For Santa Clara Water District, the target is 20%.  In other words, all households in the Santa Clara district are required to reduce water use by 20% this year. CAWaterSaving

Limit outdoor watering is the most effective way

Outdoor watering for a lawn typically accounts for half or more of an household’s total water use; to convert a lawn to a water efficient garden is the most effective way to conserve water.   Use this calculator to find out how much water you can save by converting.  Browse www.waterefficientgarden.com for designs and ideas. For a lawn of 500 square feet, it can take as much as 4000 gallons of water in a month; if it is replaced with a water efficient garden, 30% to 80% of water can be saved.  Suppose the original household water usage is 8000 gallons a month, and the garden saves 50% of water, the total water usage will reduce to 6000 gallons, a 25% saving versus with the lawn. comparison2 Water Content and Snow Survey We had a great time camping in lake Tahoe.  After a lot of swimming and playing at the beach, we decided to go for a hike.  When we reached Mont Rose and were getting ready to start, I saw this at the parking lot area: IMG_0358[1] So…this is the birthplace for snow survey!  It is here, on Mt. Rose, back in 1905, “Dr. James Church established one of America’s first high-altitude meteorological observatories… and carried out his famed snow studies and developed the modern science of snow survey.  Dr. Church’s Nevada System of Snow Survey is used throughout the world today to predict seasonal water flow from precipitation stored as snow pack. ” It is based on this method, or the water content in snow pack across the state that the “severe drought” status for California today was determined.   In other words, something that was invented in Tahoe led to the signs on the way here over 100 years later…things have come a full circle, in a rather terrific way. Well, it is good that we have a method to predict and determine drought; more importantly, we need to do all we can to conserve water and reach our target. With effort and effective ways like water efficient gardens,  we can surely achieve that. Water Efficient Garden Conversion