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Planting the Rain - Water Smart Gardening


Planting the Rain
- Water Smart Gardening

By Mary Jennings

It may sound odd, but at least one local farmer is turning away from the ordinary cash crops and focusing on his favorite - water. Sean Jennings of Rootstock Landscapes is on a mission to raise awareness that; while our county is rich in agricultural abundance, we seem happy to let our largest harvest pass us by. The Russian River has epic floods almost every year as runoff builds from developed areas, shed down rooftops, streets and gutters. Our cities are designed to send water to the sea as quickly as possible, like a kid on a slide. Even open fields and grassy hillsides are not soaking inasmuch as they could.  A few weeks later, warm California sun parches our seedlings and lawns and we look to the faucet for refreshment. According to Sean Jennings, it doesn’t have to be this way anymore. 

Backyard slope collects and stores waterHe has a three pronged approach to creating a water smart garden. Starting at ground level, Rootstock Landscapes aims to create groundwater ‘hydration stations’ in every yard.  A contoured swale at the base of a hill or a gentle basin in the center of a garden stops the runoff and soaks water deeper into the earth like a sponge, recharging urban aquifers. Gardens with earth sponges hold water longer and need less irrigation overall. Moving up in the landscape, rainwater shedding off rooftops and gutters is captured in sealed tanks; stored and delivered to drip irrigation when needed. The third technique used by Rootstock is greywater: rerouting non-toxic laundry and shower water to a mulched and planted basin all year round, keeping fruit trees and other landscaping in year-round supply of water for no additional cost on your water bill.

“My father always told me to work smarter, not harder.” says owner Sean Jennings. “Farmers and gardeners have a constant challenge working with California’s dry climate. A few smart remodels can make it a lot easier. I’ve farmed almost every crop there is and I have yet to find a crop that didn’t appreciate water. When I heard of people pulling out their backyard veggie gardens in the recent drought madness, I couldn’t stand it. knew I had found my calling. Relying on trucked in industrial farmed veggies couldn’t possibly be a better solution. Between greywater, rain water, and earthworks you can grow all your favorite local edible crops and keep your water bill very reasonable.” 

Rootstock focuses mainly on the suburban gardener, though their services are available to landowners of any size. They enjoy the challenge of transitioning our culture en masse to a self-reliant sustainable model.  

If you’d like to learn more about this three-pronged path to water resilience and river friendly landscaping, consider attending their free informational workshop, Saturday March 5. Details can be found soon on their website

Hillside gardens create groundwater ‘hydration stations’