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Learn how to save water like a pro

QWEL program offers certification for water-efficient landscaping

Water-efficient landscape garden
The Water Efficient Landscape garden at the Fair Oaks Horticulture Center offers good examples for anyone looking to reduce water use via plant selection. (Photo: Kathy Morrison)

Are you ready to step up your water-wise expertise? Would you like to become a certified water-efficient landscape pro? Then, this program is for you.

And the best part? You can do it virtually anywhere (as long as you have internet access).

It’s the Qualified Water Efficient Landscaper (QWEL) professional certification program, designed to provide landscape professionals with the know-how to create and maintain beautiful landscapes while saving water.

These skills (and the knowledge behind them) are helpful at any time, but will be particularly useful in dry times ahead. Despite recent storms, Northern California’s total rainfall for this water year remains far below average.

Hosted by the Regional Water Authority and scheduled for six afternoons, the QWEL course will be held from 12:30 to 4 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays, March 8 through 24. Course fee is $50.

“The QWEL professional certification (program) provides landscape professionals with 21 hours of education on local water supply, sustainable landscaping, soils, landscape water budgets, irrigation system components and maintenance, irrigation system audits, and scheduling and controller programming,” said Amy Talbot, RWA water efficiency program manager.

“In order to obtain the QWEL certification, an individual must demonstrate their ability to perform an irrigation system audit as well as pass the QWEL exam.”

The list of topics covered in the QWEL curriculum include:

* Where Our Water Comes From

* Sustainable Landscaping

* Landscape Water

* Irrigation Systems

* Irrigation Maintenance and Trouble Shooting

* Irrigation System Auditing

* Irrigation Scheduling

* Irrigation Controllers

This training also has been approved for 19.5 Association of Professional Landscape Designers (APLD) Continuing Education units. Graduates can choose to be added to the QWEL public referral list.

Space is limited and slots are filling quickly, so register early. To register:

For more information on QWEL, go to:


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Garden Checklist for week of July 7

Take care of garden chores early in the morning, concentrating on watering. We’re still in survival mode until this heat wave breaks.

* Keep your vegetable garden watered, mulched and weeded. Water before 8 a.m. to conserve moisture.

* Prevent sunburn; provide temporary shade for tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons, squash and other crops with “sensitive” skin.

* Hold off on feeding plants until temperatures cool back down to “normal” range. That means daytime highs in the low to mid 90s.

* Don’t let tomatoes wilt or dry out completely. Give tomatoes a deep watering two to three times a week. Harvest vegetables promptly to encourage plants to produce more.

* Squash especially tends to grow rapidly in hot weather. Keep an eye on zucchini.

* Some weeds thrive in hot weather. Whack them before they go to seed.

* Pinch back chrysanthemums for bushy plants and more flowers in September.

* Harvest tomatoes, squash, peppers and eggplant. Prompt picking will help keep plants producing.

* Remove spent flowers from roses, daylilies and other bloomers as they finish flowering.

* Pinch off blooms from basil so the plant will grow more leaves.

* Cut back lavender after flowering to promote a second bloom.

* One good thing about hot days: Most lawns stop growing when temperatures top 95 degrees. Keep mower blades set on high.

* Once the weather cools down a little, it’s not too late to add a splash of color. Plant petunias, snapdragons, zinnias and marigolds.

* After the heat wave, plant corn, pumpkins, radishes, winter squash and sunflowers. Make sure the seeds stay hydrated.

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