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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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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of Dec. 3:

Make the most of gaps between raindrops. This is a busy month!

* Windy conditions brought down a lot of leaves. Make sure to rake them away from storm drains.

* Use those leaves as mulch around frost-tender shrubs and new transplants.

* Rake and remove dead leaves and stems from dormant perennials.

* Just because it rained doesn't mean every plant got watered. Give a drink to plants that the rain didn't reach, such as under eves or under evergreen trees. Also, well-watered plants hold up better to frost than thirsty plants.

* Prune non-flowering trees and shrubs while they're dormant.

* Clean and sharpen garden tools before storing for the winter.

* Brighten the holidays with winter bloomers such as poinsettias, amaryllis, calendulas, Iceland poppies, pansies and primroses.

* Keep poinsettias in a sunny, warm location. Water thoroughly. After the holidays, feed your plants monthly so they'll bloom again next December.

* Plant one last round of spring bulbs including daffodils, crocuses, hyacinths, anemones and scillas. Get those tulips out of the refrigerator and into the ground.

* This is also a good time to seed wildflowers such as California poppies.

* Plant such spring bloomers as sweet pea, sweet alyssum and bachelor buttons.

* Late fall is the best time to plant most trees and shrubs. This gives them plenty of time for root development before spring growth. They also benefit from fall and winter rains.

* Lettuce, cabbage and broccoli also can be planted now.

* Plant garlic and onions.

* Bare-root season begins. Plant bare-root berries, kiwifruit, grapes, artichokes, horseradish and rhubarb. Beware of soggy soil. It can rot bare-root plants.

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