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New program offers $15K for big water-wise makeovers

Schools, churches and businesses near American River qualify

Landscape with low-water plants
Big water-wise gardens, such as the Water Efficient Landscape at the Fair Oaks Horticulture Center, make efficient use of irrigation. Churches, schools and businesses can apply for funding to replace turf and upgrade irrigation systems. (Photo: Kathy Morrison)

Commercial properties and institutions such as schools or churches often have the biggest lawns. Local water providers want to help get those lawns irrigated more efficiently – or replaced with water-wise alternatives.

With the help of a new rebate program, Sacramento-area schools, churches and businesses can get up to $15,000 for water-wise landscape upgrades. To qualify, the commercial, industrial and institutional properties must be located within 5 miles of the Lower American River.

“Our goal is to make it easy for business and institutional customers to reduce their water use while also improving water quality,” said Amy Talbot, Water Efficiency Program Manager for the Regional Water Authority (RWA), which is administering the program.

Most of our water use in the greater Sacramento region goes toward lawn and landscape irrigation. This rebate program isn’t just about water use; it’s about runoff, too.

About a third of landscape water use is lost due to overwatering and evaporation, Talbot said. “This program is designed to prevent the overwatering and runoff that carries fertilizers and pesticides from landscapes into the storm drain and directly into our rivers, streams and creeks.”

According to the RWA, qualifying properties can receive funding to replace turf with beautiful low-water plants and trees, and to upgrade inefficient irrigation to high-efficiency sprinkler heads, weather-based irrigation controllers, drip irrigation and more. Rebate funding will cover both equipment and professional installation.

The program is available on a first-come, first-served basis until funding is depleted. To learn more, including eligibility guidelines, contact Chris Perry at or call 916-967-7653.

The rebate program is funded by a grant from the Bonneville Environmental Foundation.


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Dig In: Garden checklist for week of Jan. 29

Bundle up and get work done!

* Prune, prune, prune. Now is the time to cut back most deciduous trees and shrubs. The exceptions are spring-flowering shrubs such as lilacs.

* Now is the time to prune fruit trees, except apricot and cherry trees. Clean up leaves and debris around the trees to prevent the spread of disease.

* Prune roses, even if they’re still trying to bloom or sprouting new growth. Strip off any remaining leaves, so the bush will be able to put out new growth in early spring.

* Prune Christmas camellias (Camellia sasanqua), the early-flowering varieties, after their bloom. They don’t need much, but selective pruning can promote bushiness, upright growth and more bloom next winter. Feed with an acid-type fertilizer. But don’t feed your Japonica camellias until after they finish blooming next month. Feeding while camellias are in bloom may cause them to drop unopened buds.

* Clean up leaves and debris around your newly pruned roses and shrubs. Put down fresh mulch or bark to keep roots cozy.

* Apply horticultural oil to fruit trees to control scale, mites and aphids. Oils need 24 hours of dry weather after application to be effective.

* This is also the time to spray a copper-based oil to peach and nectarine trees to fight leaf curl. Avoid spraying on windy days.

* Divide daylilies, Shasta daisies and other perennials.

* Cut back and divide chrysanthemums.

* Plant bare-root roses, trees and shrubs.

* Transplant pansies, violas, calendulas, English daisies, snapdragons and fairy primroses.

* In the vegetable garden, plant fava beans, head lettuce, mustard, onion sets, radicchio and radishes.

* Plant bare-root asparagus and root divisions of rhubarb.

* In the bulb department, plant callas, anemones, ranunculus and gladiolus for bloom from late spring into summer.

* Plant blooming azaleas, camellias and rhododendrons. If you’re shopping for these beautiful landscape plants, you can now find them in full flower at local nurseries.

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