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Archives for March 14, 2014

On Gardening: Don’t prune too early, and other bulb-growing tips

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Veteran bulb growers have learned to put patience ahead of pruning in helping their perennials bloom season after season. They’re in no rush to remove the unsightly leaves and stems of these botanical storehouses, which need time after flowering to renew their growth cycle.

“We consider the foliage of the bulbs the ‘recharging batteries’,” said Becky Heath, president and chief executive officer of Brent and Becky’s Bulbs at Gloucester, Va. “If they aren’t recharged, the flowers won’t bloom again.”

Bulbs will green up despite premature pruning, but return with fewer and smaller blossoms. How long must you wait before trimming the foliage to get successive seasons of color?

“After spring-flowering bulbs finish blooming, allow for approximately six to eight weeks before removing the foliage to ground level,” said Hans Langeveld, co-owner of, a retail website for bulbs, perennials and edibles in Lakewood, N.J. “Another rule of thumb is to wait until the foliage turns brown and dries out.”

That garden grooming tip applies to all spring-flowering bulbs including tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, crocus, alliums and specialty varieties, Langeveld said. But there are ways to make the decay less unsightly.

“An idea is to combine bulbs with other perennials in the borders like hosta so that hosta foliage covers the dying bulb foliage,” he said.

Summer-blooming bulbs that flower until cold weather arrives need differing levels of maintenance. “This (first killing frost) would be the time to cut to ground level and dig the bulbs that are not winter-resistant, like dahlias, gladiolus and begonias,” Langeveld said.

Other post-bloom, bulb-care suggestions:

• Braiding. “The only foliage that lends itself to be braided are daffodils,” Langeveld said. “It is not a necessity, but it will help keep your borders neat and tidy.”

• Seed pods. “Make sure to remove the seed pods that sometimes form after blooming,” he said. “These eat up a lot of energy from the bulbs.”

• Fertilize when planting for healthier roots. Before and during bloom also are good times to apply bulb fertilizer, said Leonard Perry, an extension professor with the University of Vermont. “This can be a granular form (of fertilizer) as bulbs are emerging or you can water with a liquid fertilizer,” he said in a fact sheet. “The key is to provide nutrients as the leaves are making food for the next year.”

• Divide the bulbs if they’re becoming too crowded, as often happens with large daffodil clumps, or if they are blooming less each year, Perry said. “Dig and shake the soil off bulbs after bloom, leaving leaves attached if not died off already. Bulbs should separate naturally, otherwise plant back ones still joined together,” he said. “Don’t forcibly pry bulbs apart.”

Should you treat tulips as annuals or perennials?

Tulips need to be in dry, well-drained soils during their summer dormancy if they’re to multiply or return to bloom, said Scott Kunst, head gardener and owner of Old House Gardens in Ann Arbor, Mich. “That’s hard to come by in the rainy eastern half of the U.S. or where people water during the summer,” he said. “In those situations, many people just grow tulips as annuals.”

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Gardening Tips: March garden questions, answers

Posted: Friday, March 14, 2014 11:22 am

Gardening Tips: March garden questions, answers

By Matthew Stevens

The Daily Herald, Roanoke Rapids, NC


With the time change and spring officially starting March 21, gardening season is nearly here and it’s a good time for a quick recap of questions I’ve been hearing a lot about the past few days.

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Friday, March 14, 2014 11:22 am.

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Autumn in the garden

Picture: Guru Productions October Glory.

The changing of the season with deciduous trees is seen by some as a time of great beauty; for others it’s a messy time in the garden. Then there are those who see it as a window of opportunity.

Deciduous trees make fantastic additions to the garden and in recent years there have been some real stand-out varieties making their mark in WA.

The surprise package of the lot for me would be the sugar-red maple hybrid Acer x freemanii, Autumn Blaze, and the red maple Acer rubrum PNI 0268, October Glory. These two trees have proven to grow exceptionally well in Perth and the South West and as trees mature the autumn colour show they put on is simply dazzling.

I have marvelled at the golden hues initially put on by my three and four-year-old trees before they turn crimson red and eventually drop their foliage in a sea of colour.

This bed of colour is the window of opportunity for people who want to improve the quality of their soil; effectively these leaves are the gold that those who see these trees as messy can’t see. When collected and composted, either formally through a bin or informally through large piles in garden beds allowed to compost down, they make amazing high- quality compost that is home to trillions of microbes.

Deciduous trees come in many shapes and forms. Among my favourites is the beautiful Forest Pansy Cercis, with its amazing autumn coppery foliage, red spring foliage, pink late winter/early spring flowers and 4-5m maximum-height growth habit.

Another is the gorgeous Chinese tallow tree, with its golden but sometimes crimson foliage set atop a 4m-high tree which colours up in coastal locations and warmer climates and is relatively drought tolerant.

One recent introduction from Olea Nursery, in WA’s South West is Alford Blaze Platanus orientalis.

This variety of plane tree has thick, leathery, deep-green leaves which transform into the most amazing, fiery autumn colouring in shades of deep orange, bronze and red. Its colouration is not determined by cold as such so the colour is something you can rely on each year. The stunning display continues for a long period over autumn and into early winter when other plane trees are either still green or turning to the usual brownish, gold shades. Best of all, this tree is a third of the physical size of the traditional oriental plane tree, making it ideal for medium-sized gardens.

The important thing now is to identify what trees you like, secure them early from your local nursery and get the soil ready to plant as soon as they go dormant.

Autumn lawn tips

Autumn is also lawn-renovation time, either getting it back on track or in some cases replacing it altogether.

Lawn renovation is always a contentious issue, particularly whether to vertimow or core.

Vertimowing or dethatching involves blades ripping into the surface of the lawn, which works well for rhizomatous grasses such as couch, Zoysia grass and kikuyu.

The problem with this form of renovation is the stoloniferous buffalo grass, which does get heavily thatched if it’s fed high nitrogen-based lawn fertilisers. Buffalo grass varieties are, in my opinion, best cored and top-dressed with organic humus such as that made by local company NutraRich, which produces a specialised product, Turf Topper, a soil improver and organic fertiliser in one.

Vertimowing followed by top-dressing can produce amazing results in old couch lawns.

Now is also when you need to take action to avoid prickles, weeds and patches in your grass.

Having lawn sprayed with a pre-emergent herbicide will knock weed seeds out before they smother your slow-growing winter lawn.

Top-dressing with a purpose-designed, humus-based lawn top-dressing will improve the soil’s health, the turf’s growth and cover patches before weeds can germinate and get hold as the weather cools.

Time to repot

Another major task to tackle at this time of the year is repotting, something many forget is important — particularly if you haven’t done it for a couple of years.

The average potting mix will sustain a potted plant for 12-18 months but after that it’s pretty much sand and roots. At this point applying fertilisers is critical or the plant will sink into decline.

The classic indication of a plant ready for repotting is when they lose density of foliage as the soil can no longer sustain the amount of foliage, leaving them looking haggard and tired.

The main decision is what soil to replace them with. I’ve noticed a trend recently for some retailers to promote cheap potting mixes.

Quality potting mixture is the foundation of success in the garden and they are developed using a tremendous amount of science. Understanding the plant’s roots, air needs, the moisture-holding capacity of ingredients, drainage capacity and the nutrient levels required to sustain the plant’s growth over a six to 12-month period are all criteria used to determine optimum results, so seeing cheap mixes gets on my nerves.

Always look for a quality potting mix. If a product bears the Australian Standards red box, and costs more than $10 for a 30 litre bag, you’re likely getting a quality mixture.

Companies such as Scotts and Baileys provide quality potting mixes, originally developed in commercial nurseries who cannot afford failures.

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GARDEN MAIDEN: Tiny specks of green: More tips about starting seeds



Herbs such as sacred basil, caribe cilantro and sweet basil shown here can be started in cell trays and then potted up into permanent containers once their first true leaves appear.



Cucumbers (often direct seeded in our planting zone) require potting up rather quickly when starting indoors and appreciate almost a week of hardening off, or bringing the potted plant outdoors during the day to comfortably transition to the garden where the well established plant has a much higher chance of fending off hungry pests that devour tiny seedlings in one day.



Holly Hughes

Posted: Thursday, March 13, 2014 10:00 pm

Updated: 10:36 pm, Thu Mar 13, 2014.

GARDEN MAIDEN: Tiny specks of green: More tips about starting seeds

Holly Hughes,, 815-433-2000


Since writing my last column, I’ve started nearly 20 trays of seeds — a renewed fascination with life and with living.

I’m delightfully surprised that year after year I am amazed as tiny specks of green curl their way toward the light within just a few days of wetting down nearly invisible seeds into their plug of sterile earth.

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Thursday, March 13, 2014 10:00 pm.

Updated: 10:36 pm.

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Garden Tips: Try some new veggie varieties

Advertisers often use the words “new,” “improved” or “better” to tempt consumers. Plant marketers are no different. They want us to buy new varieties developed by plant breeders and seed companies. It is a good approach because most of the gardeners I know like to try something different in their gardens each year. It is part of what makes gardening so much fun. Here are some new veggie and herb varieties you might want to know about.

Burpee ( has an exclusive basil introduction that has me excited. Basil is my favorite herb but by the middle of the season it starts to flower. I then work endlessly to keep the flowers pinched off. “Bam” is touted as a basil that reaches a height of 18 to 20 inches and is very productive, flavorful and fragrant. The great thing about “Bam” is that it never flowers and it keeps producing in hot weather.

Mascotte (www.parkseed) is a new bush bean variety that is so good it has been honored with the All America Selection award for 2014 — the first bean since 1991 to receive that honor. What makes this bush bean so great? First, it is a compact variety, which makes it ideal for the trend toward gardening with less space in raised beds and containers. The plants also produce plenty of long slender pods above the leaves, making harvesting easy. The beans are crunchy with a great taste.

Fans of beets (I’m not) will want to know that there are two new varieties to pique their interest. One is a red “Baby Beat” from Johnny’s Selected Seeds ( The National Garden Bureau says “Baby Beat” is a true baby or mini beet that’s nicely rounded with smooth skin. The beet tops are small and attractive, which could make them a nice addition to an edible landscape or a container garden. The other new beet is “Boldor” ( with sweet, mild, 2-inch round fruit. The flesh is a bright yellow and the skin is a dark golden color. The young tops are tender and sweet.

I do not eat a lot of eggplant, but after eating some spicy baba ganoush (sort of like humus made from grilled eggplant) last year, I’ll probably eat more this year. A new All American Selection is “Eggplant Patio Baby F1” ( As its name implies, it is a compact eggplant that will work well in containers. The plants are highly productive and yields 2- to 3-inch, deep purple, egg-shaped fruit. Plus, it is a “friendly” eggplant that does not have thorns on its leaves or at the top of the fruit.

I grow most of my veggies in containers, so I am always watching for space-saving bush varieties of squash, melons and cukes. While not brand new, here are a few varieties that space conscious gardeners might want to know about. From Renee’s Garden Seeds ( comes “Bush Slicer”, a dwarf bush cucumber with 6- to 8-inch fruit, “Astia”, a compact zucchini, and two bush winter squash. “Pic-N-Pic”, a bush yellow crookneck squash, comes from Burpee.

You might find some of the varieties I have mentioned on seed racks at your local garden stores, along with other interesting varieties that may entice you, or you can order them online from the companies noted. The weather is warming, so get your seed as soon as possible and don’t forget to try something new.

— Marianne C. Ophardt is a horticulturist for Washington State University Benton County Extension.

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Most Popular Stories


“Interdisciplinary Explorations: The Idea of Nature” public lecture: 6 p.m. with reception to follow at 7 p.m. in the Simplot Ballroom, Student Union Building, Boise State University. “Emily Dickinson and Science” presented by Richard Brantley, Professor Emeritus, University of Florida. Free. For free tickets for the reception or information about free parking, email Details available at

Water Wise Landscaping: 6 p.m. at Boise Public Library, 715 S. Capitol Blvd. Catherine Chertudi, City of Boise, discusses maintaining a successful low- water landscape. Free. To register, email or call 362-7336.

MARCH 13-16

Boise Spring Home Show: 5 to 9 p.m. March 13-14, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. March 15 and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. March 16 at Expo Idaho, 5610 N. Glenwood St., Garden City. $5 general, $4 seniors, free for children 12 and younger.


Garden classes: At Madeline George Garden Design, 10550 W. Hill Road Parkway, Boise. Free. Register: 995-2815,• Garden Design 101, 11 a.m. • Preparing Your Ornamental Garden Beds for the Season, 2 p.m.


Tree care class: 6 to 8:30 p.m. at Boise Public Library, 715 S. Capitol Blvd. Tree selection and planting with Ryan Rodgers, Boise city arborist. Free. To register, email or call 608-7700.


Water Wise Landscaping: 6 p.m. at Boise Public Library, 715 S. Capitol Blvd. Susan Bell, University of Idaho Extension Educator and horticulturist, will discuss designing a xeriscape. Free. To register, email or call 362-7336.

MARCH 21-23

Boise Flower Garden Show: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. March 21, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. March 22 and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. March 23 at Boise Centre, 850 W. Front St. Shop for the latest in landscape design, garden art and decor, yard furniture, plants, decks, greenhouses, etc. Also, display gardens, gardening seminars, orchid and bonsai displays, a silent auction of container gardens and more. $8 general, $3 children 12-17, free for ages 11 and younger.


New Plants for 2014: 11 a.m. at Madeline George Garden Design, 10550 W. Hill Road Parkway, Boise. Free. Register: 995-2815,


Tree care class: 6 to 8:30 p.m. at Boise Public Library, 715 S. Capitol Blvd. Managing pests and other tree problems with Debbie Cook, Boise city arborist. Free. To register, email or call 608-7700.


Small Garden Design for the High Desert Plateau: 11 a.m. at Madeline George Garden Design, 10550 W. Hill Road Parkway, Boise. Free. Register: 995-2815,

Water Wise Landscaping: Meet at 1 p.m. at the Idaho Botanical Garden, 2355 Old Penitentiary Road, for a special tour emphasizing low water use plants and practices. Free. To register, email or call 362-7336.


Lawn and landscape class: 6 to 8:30 p.m. at Boise Public Library, 715 S. Capitol Blvd. Dave Beck provides an overview of the most important topics related to growing a beautiful lawn. Landscape architect Toby Norton provides background on landscape design, including orientation, hydrozones and proper plant placement. Free. To register, email or call 608-7700.


Layering the Garden for Seasonal Color: 11 a.m. at Madeline George Garden Design, 10550 W. Hill Road Parkway, Boise. Free. Register: 995-2815,


Roses and irrigation class: 6 to 8:30 p.m. at Boise Public Library, 715 S. Capitol Blvd. From proper pruning techniques to selecting the right plant for the job, Andrea Wurtz reviews the basic steps involved in producing beautiful healthy roses. Dan Falconer teaches a short course on how to use your irrigation system to efficiently water your garden and landscaping in our dry Idaho climate. Free. To register, email or call 608-7700.


Celebrate Spring with Zing! 11 a.m. at Madeline George Garden Design, 10550 W. Hill Road Parkway, Boise. Tutorial on creating unique spring containers. Free. Register: 995-2815,


Planting 101 and Sprinklers 101: 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Madeline George Garden Design, 10550 W. Hill Road Parkway, Boise. Free. Register: 995-2815,


“Interdisciplinary Explorations: The Idea of Nature” public lecture: 6 p.m. with reception to follow at 7 p.m. in the Simplot Ballroom, Student Union Building, Boise State University. “Getting to the Roots of the Matter: Trees in 19th Century Literature” presented by Susan Oliver, senior lecturer in English, University of Essex, England. Free. For free tickets for the reception or information about free parking, email Details available at


Plant sale: 8:30 a.m. to noon at 1917 N. 9th St., Boise.

Garden classes: At Madeline George Garden Design, 10550 W. Hill Road Parkway, Boise. Free. Register: 995-2815,• The Bees Knees Planting Class, 11 a.m.• Design with Idaho in Mind, 2 p.m.

MAY 2-3

Idaho Botanical Garden Plant Sale: Members only, 4 to 8 p.m. May 2, and general public, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. May 3, at Idaho Botanical Garden, 2355 Old Penitentiary Road, Boise. General garden admission fees apply. 343-8649,


Ada Gardeners plant sale: 8 a.m. to noon at 10608 W. Cruser Drive, Boise. Proceeds pay for scholarship at CWI.


National Public Gardens Day: 9 a.m. to dusk at Idaho Botanical Garden, 2355 Old Penitentiary Road, Boise. Free. 343-8649,

MAY 9-10

Idaho Horticulture Society plant sale: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at BUGS Garden, 4821 Franklin Road, Boise. Proceeds benefit garden club community service projects and CWI horticulture program. Bring your own boxes. 870-1299,

MAY 17-18

Golden Garden Club Plant Sale: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 10305 Harvester Drive, Boise.

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Why William Kent was one of the great garden designers

Kent was a virtuoso designer of interiors and, as the exhibition shows, able
to turn his hand to anything from dog kennels to state barges to pier
glasses to silverware to uniforms. As a “total designer”, perhaps the
nearest equivalent to Kent today is not any garden designer but a figure
like Thomas Heatherwick, the architect-designer who cheerfully turns his
attention to a wide range of design challenges, from his signature bridges
to furniture, buildings, graphics – and not forgetting the Olympic torch.

But range is not everything; Kent’s abilities as a painter were limited and
most experts agree that his legacy as a furniture designer is founded on his
appropriation of styles encountered in Italy (all that gilding!). It could
be argued (see 4, below) that Kent’s interior work was, in effect, a
training area for the greater wonders he was able to work outdoors. Kent’s
training as a painter helped, of course, but this underestimates the impact
of literature on landscape gardening, and also in Kent’s case the importance
of spatial felicities. He was a master at manipulating outdoor space to
create intense and distinctive garden episodes, as well as an underlying
rhythm that links them together. One has a strong sense of this at Rousham,
his greatest surviving work.

Here are four reasons why William Kent might be considered first as a great
landscape designer:

Portrait of William Kent

1 In the 1730s and ’40s, Kent perfected the English landscape garden
with boldness and imagination, developing the work begun by designer Charles
Bridgeman, poet Alexander Pope and others. Rousham is his surviving
masterpiece, and perhaps the greatest and best-preserved garden of the era
(it is still in the hands of the same family, and open every day of the
year). The 18th-century aesthete Horace Walpole stated that Kent was
“painter enough to taste the charms of landscape… He leapt the fence, and
saw that all nature was a garden. He felt the delicious contrast of hill and
valley changing imperceptibly into each other, tasted the beauty of the
gentle swell, or concave scoop, and remarked how loose groves crowned an
easy eminence with happy ornament.”

These are innovations generally ascribed to Capability Brown, but Kent was
able to call in distant prospects or conversely to create intense episodic
atmospheres as his will dictated. Kent was the first true artist of the
landscape garden, which was itself England’s greatest contribution to the
visual arts.

A William Kent sketch for the Chinoiserie garden temple

2 Kent was a consummate professional, who rose from humble origins in
time-honoured British fashion. A lad from Bridlington in Yorkshire, he
started as an apprentice coach-painter, was talent-spotted in London by
painter William Talman and then catapulted over to Italy in 1709 for a
decade in company with a wide range of so-called “milordi”: young gents off
on the Grand Tour of Europe. With little money and less social standing,
Kent’s role in Rome developed as a kind of artistic adviser, “teacheroni”
and procurer of objets d’art. He flourished as a result of his manifest
talents and friendly, pragmatic nature. Unaffiliated politically, he got
along well with a wide range of patrons of all political persuasions – in a
fractious period – including the snootiest and most intellectually demanding
of them all: Lord Burlington of Chiswick House. He also worked for the royal
family, notably for Queen Caroline at Richmond, for whom he designed a suite
of notoriously avant-garde buildings including a hermitage and “Merlin’s

3 Kent was bold and brave enough to design the most explicitly
political landscape ever conceived: the Elysian Fields at Stowe. In the
1730s and ’40s, landowners habitually expressed their political and dynastic
affiliations through the ornamentation of their estates. Lord Cobham of
Stowe was sacked from the Whig power base by prime minister Robert Walpole
when he publicly attacked his plans for an Excise Bill, which would
introduce new taxes on freeborn Englishmen. Cobham was so enraged by his
treatment that with Kent’s help (and Alexander Pope’s) he turned the heart
of his landscape garden into a searing critique of what he viewed as the
debased, nepotistic and corrupt Whig government. The Temple of British
Worthies is a curved wall adorned with statue busts of “true Whig” heroes
such as John Locke, Isaac Newton, King Alfred and John Hampden, while the
Temple of Ancient Virtue facing it is a perfect temple peopled by heroes of
the classical past. Adjacent to this he built the sarcastically named Temple
of Modern Virtue: a ruin presided over by a statue that was identifiable as
Walpole himself.

The Temple of British Worthies at Stowe (ALAMY)

4 Kent deployed many of the design ideas he honed in house interiors to
greater effect outdoors. A key Kentian principle is “stacking” elements of
ornamentation one on top of the other – the way chairs, sofas or beds lead
on and up to gilded mirrors and picture frames, to doorcases, ceiling
paintings and chandeliers. (Kent inherited the habit of drawing “elevations”
of his furniture designs from his first master, Talman.) He used this idea
of verticality in his exterior design, too, so that at Rousham, for example,
one has a sense that statues, lawns, groves of trees, buildings, seats and
more distant elements are piled one on top of the other, with the view
foreshortened. In the same way he used the interior idea of the enfilade – a
succession of connecting rooms – in garden spaces, creating visual links
horizontally between them while also manipulating the visitor’s sense of
rhythm. In these and other ways, Kent brought a new level of sophistication to
landscape design.

*Designing Georgian Britain, March 22-July 13, Victoria Albert Museum,
London SW7 (020 7942 2000;

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Gardening group discusses sustainable garden design March 22

ARLINGTON — Those who missed the debut of the new Arlington gardening group on Feb. 22 will have another chance to catch up with the club on Saturday, March 22, from 10 a.m. to noon in the Stillaguamish Conference Room of the Arlington Utility Office Building, located at 154 Cox Ave.

“We’re meeting monthly, and we aim to benefit those who may not be available on weekdays, but can meet on Saturdays,” said Master Gardener Bea Randall, who has access to free materials and low-cost handouts from the Snohomish County Master Gardener Foundation, in addition to her knowledge about gardening in the Pacific Northwest. “Our first four meetings will serve as opportunities for folks who would like to know more about the art of gardening to ask questions about the upcoming planting season.”

Randall herself will be leading the next session. While the Feb. 22 program focused on landscaping your yard, with an eye toward incorporating local plants, Randall’s class on March 22 will cover various aspects of sustainable garden design.

“We’ll offer tips, tricks and hints on saving money, all while getting the same results and making gardening easier,” Randall said. “The general public is welcome to attend this meeting, whether they’re just looking for a one-time information-gathering deal, or are maybe interested in eventually joining the club.”

The cost of admission is $4 for the first meeting attended, and $1 for each meeting thereafter, with all the money going to the group’s future treasury, when it officially becomes a club.

“Even though I’ll be leading the discussion and I’m a Master Gardener, I’d encourage participants to bring their own tips for easier gardening, that they could share with the rest of the class,” Randall said.

The next scheduled Saturday meetings of the Arlington gardening group after March 22 will address natural lawn care on April 26, and cool bugs and surface water management on May 24. These meetings will also run from 10 a.m. to noon in the Stillaguamish Conference Room.

For more information, contact Randall by phone at 360-435-3892, or via email at

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UC Merced meets its goal to conserve water, plans more efforts – Merced Sun

UC Merced was designed from the beginning to conserve resources – and that’s paying off in a very dry year.

The newest UC campus has reduced its water use per person by 43 percent since 2007, according to UC Merced officials, far surpassing a university system goal to reduce water use by 20 percent by 2020.

University of California President Janet Napolitano announced that goal for each campus Jan. 16. Gov. Jerry Brown made the official declaration on the state drought the next day.

UC Merced staff, faculty and student water use dropped from 22,564 gallons per person in 2007 to 13,290 last year. That puts the campus below the systemwide goal by more than 4,700 gallons per person.

“It does take a significant amount of effort and investment to build an efficient building,” said Zuhair Mased, the campus director of energy and sustainability. “It’s equally important to build the building and operate it in an efficient manner.”

Mased said UC Merced planners surveyed the other UC campuses with plans to design more-efficient buildings and water systems. To that end, the campus was fitted with high-efficiency and low-flow faucets, toilets and showers.

The campus has an extensive water metering system that allows it to find even the smallest of leaks, Mased said. “You don’t find major leaks on our campus, because we always take care of it,” he said.

Though the campus has met its goal, there are other ideas floating around about ways to further conserve water. One would be the recycling of gray water – the dirty water that comes from people washing their hands, showering and washing dishes. This water usually goes down the drain and leaves the campus, but could be filtered enough to be used to water landscaping.

Thought also goes into what kind of landscaping could be planted that would require smaller amounts of water. Roughly 50 percent of the university’s water is used to sprinkle the landscape, according to school leaders.

The water at UC Merced comes from an 800-foot well found on the university’s property but owned by the city of Merced.

“They’ve been doing a great job conserving water,” said Michael Wegley, the city’s director of water resources. “I think we could all learn from them.”

With roughly 6,200 students on campus, the university is the city’s “biggest customer,” Wegley said.

Students living on campus are also encouraged to do their part to conserve. An annual competition pits the residential buildings against one another to see which can keep the water meter readings the lowest.

The campus has a goal to reach 10,000 enrolled by 2020, so total water use will surely go up. However, university leaders expect to be able to keep the use per capita low compared with the other campuses in the system.

Graeme Mitchell, assistant vice chancellor for facilities management, said students who live on campus have been asked to be mindful of how long they shower, of running the faucet while brushing their teeth and of only washing clothes when there’s a full load, among other regular conservation requests.

Mitchell, who also spent 18 years at UCLA, said some of the efficiency that UC Merced sees would be difficult to imitate at the other UC campuses. However, he’s seen a significant amount of retrofitting at other campuses, such as waterless urinals, low-flow toilets and new irrigation practices.

UC Merced wants to be able to pass the “best practices” it develops beyond the campus and the UC system, Mitchell said. “Not only are we trying to do the best we can on the campus,” he said, “but we’re trying to extend it and connect to the community and our business partners to inspire their conservation as well.”

Sun-Star staff writer Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or

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Grant Associates scoops Paradise Circus landscaping job

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