Q. What is “Green Gardening?”

A. A fresh look at landscaping principles through the lens of current environmentally focused practices in order to create a sustainable landscape for years to come. Considering a change? Here are just a few items to consider when greening your garden.

Consider your goals: When designing your landscape, keep your goals in mind. Is your goal to grow food? Attract pollinators? Reduce water usage? Have year-round color or create a relaxing outdoor sanctuary?

Landscapes can add visual beauty, provide cleaner air and water, provide food and support wildlife. Thinking through the outcome you wish to achieve with your landscape in advance will help to determine plant selection, irrigation layout and maintenance needs.

Resources on planning landscapes and irrigation can be found at SaveDavisWater.org under Helpful Links.

Plan for stormwater: Consider ways to keep water from running off from your property and into the storm drain and retain rainwater on-site by redirecting downspouts to landscape areas, incorporating rain gardens, dry creek beds or swales, permeable pavements, and adding rain barrels to your garden.

To keep soil and mulch onsite, create borders around your landscape so materials are not washed away by rain or wind.

Optimize water efficiency: Consider plants’ water needs. Hydrozoning (or grouping plants by water usage needs), ensures that all plants receive the appropriate amount of water.

If you haven’t already, consider switching your irrigation system to drip irrigation to provide water directly to plants and reduce runoff. Always check that your irrigation system is functioning properly and repair any broken or misaligned sprinkler heads.

You may also want to consider alternative ways of collecting water for irrigation purposes, such as adding a laundry-to-landscape greywater system, where water leaving the washing machine though a discharge hose flows directly to outdoor landscape irrigation.

Whichever methods you use to conserve water, you can sign-up for AquaHawk, the city’s online water-use portal, to track your water usage and see how much water is used for irrigation (SaveDavisWater.org).

Choose green materials: Green building materials can be incorporated into your landscape. Use old fence boards and scrap lumber to build planting beds and wood chips from tree removal companies for mulch.

Other reused, recycled or sustainable building materials can add character and needed enrichment to your yard while diverting materials that might have otherwise ended up in the landfill.

Build sustainable soils: Building sustainable soils will help to ensure the continued health of your landscape. Prior to planting, incorporate compost, manures or other natural fertilizers into your soil to provide needed nutrients for plant growth. Use mulch to increase soil water retention, to keep soil and plant roots cool and to reduce weeds.

Be sure to look for natural and less-toxic pest control options at OurWaterOurWorld.org.

Make a home (or a pit stop) for wildlife: Residential landscapes can serve as safe wildlife travel corridors and can go a long way to encourage residency of beneficial species. Consider pollinator plants that help support native bees, butterflies and birds. Install bat and/or barn owl boxes to keep insects and rodent populations under control.

Reduce garden waste: When choosing plants, consider how much work you want to put into maintaining your landscape and the amount of yard trimmings different landscapes might generate. To minimize maintenance work, select plants that grow more slowly and don’t require frequent pruning. Be sure to choose the right plant for the space available. Placing a large plant in a small area results in more frequent pruning.

Leaf” it onsite: If you do have leaves and other yard trimmings, consider “leafing” them onsite and using them as an alternative to mulch. Instead of bagging grass clippings, try using the mulch feature on your mower. Mulch mowers chop grass into tiny pieces that are recycled back into the soil. You can also try composting yard trimmings on-site in a backyard compost pile.

Find more green gardening information and resource links at GreenerDavis.org and SaveDavisWater.org (under Helpful Links).

One-time bulky waste landfill voucher

Due to the continued impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the city and Recology will again offer a Bulky Waste One-Time Voucher in lieu of the typical Bulky Items Drop-Off Days in April for city of Davis customers. The one-time voucher will be valid from April 1 to the end of November and will be mailed out to all Davis residents at the end of March. The voucher is your ticket for the program, so watch your mail, be sure to hold onto it, and bring it with you when you go to the landfill.

The voucher will allow Davis residents to dispose of one free load of bulky waste at the Yolo County Central Landfill. The load can be up to a full-size pick-up-truck bed, full-sized van or small trailer (less than 3 feet high and less than 8 feet long). Disposal of additional items must be paid for by the customer. Please see the voucher for details on material acceptance.

This voucher will be valid only for city of Davis residents; commercial haulers and business materials will not be accepted. Only one voucher will be accepted per household and proof of residency within the city of Davis will be required at the landfill (ID, utility bill, etc.).

For more information on the voucher, please contact Recology at 530-756-4646 or RecologyDavis@Recology.com.

— Jennifer Gilbert and Dawn Calciano are conservation coordinators with the city of Davis; this column is published monthly. Reach them at PWWeb@CityofDavis.org.