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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 Nov. 27

Before the rain comes later in the week, take advantage of sunny, calm days:

* This may be your last chance this season for the first application of copper fungicide spray to peach and nectarine trees. Leaf curl, which shows up in the spring, is caused by a fungus that winters as spores on the limbs and around the tree in fallen leaves. Sprays are most effective now, but they need a few days of dry weather after application to really “stick.” If you haven’t yet, spray now.

* Rake and compost leaves, but dispose of any diseased plant material. For example, if peach and nectarine trees showed signs of leaf curl this year, clean up under trees and dispose of those leaves instead of composting.

* Make sure storm drains are clear of any debris.

* Give your azaleas, gardenias and camellias a boost with chelated iron.

* Trim chrysanthemums to 6 to 8 inches above the ground after they’re done blooming. Keep potted mums in their containers until next spring. Then, they can be planted in the ground, if desired, or repotted.

* Prune non-flowering trees and shrubs while dormant.

* Plant bulbs for spring bloom. Don’t forget the tulips chilling in the refrigerator. Other suggestions: daffodils, crocuses, hyacinths, anemones and scillas.

* Seed wildflowers including California poppies.

* Also from seed, plant sweet pea, sweet alyssum, bachelor buttons and other spring flowers.

* Plant most trees and shrubs. This gives them plenty of time for root development before spring growth. They also benefit from winter rains.

* Set out cool-weather annuals such as pansies and snapdragons.

* Lettuce, cabbage, broccoli and cool-season greens can be planted now.

* Plant garlic and onions.

* If you decide to use a living Christmas tree this year, keep it outside in a sunny location until Christmas week. This reduces stress on the young tree.

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