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2011 Highlights: UC IPM Annual Report

Bay-Friendly walks help home gardeners apply sustainable practices
A master gardener inspects a residentís garden. Photo courtesy of Marin County Master Gardeners.

Bay-Friendly walks help home gardeners apply sustainable practices


  • Program aims to reduce water use in Marin County and pesticide runoff into public waters.
  • UC Master Gardeners visit Marin County home gardens to assess plants and cultural practices.

Since 2008, the Bay-Friendly Garden Walk Program has been conducting free, hands-on demonstrations in a resident’s own garden to show how they can use sustainable landscaping practices while reaping benefits.

The program starts by training Marin County Master Gardeners in water conservation, irrigation, and landscape sustainability. Master Gardener “walkers,” who have visited more than 550 home gardens since the program began, then share written suggestions at the end of the walk to give clients tangible materials they can immediately use. The result is less water use and healthier landscapes.

The benefits of growing plants suited to the local climate and of using good watering practices reach beyond the program’s immediate goal of water conservation. Overwatering often leads to plant diseases and otherwise unhealthy plants, while poor watering practices are a common source of urban runoff that can carry pesticides and fertilizers down storm drains and into waterways.

Steven Swain, a UC Cooperative Extension advisor affiliated with UC IPM and an originator of the program commented, “We’ve known for years that most of the pesticides that pollute California’s waters come from residential pesticide applications, not agriculture. Recently UC’s Darren Haver and Loren Oki showed that the biggest single factor in whether residentially applied pesticides end up in the San Francisco Bay was how people managed their landscape water. Simply put, excess irrigation water leads to pesticide runoff.”

The Bay-Friendly program has been recognized with several awards, including the Marin Conservation League’s Ted Wellman Water Award, first place in the UC Master Gardener’s Search For Excellence, and the Community Outreach Award at the National Extension Master Gardener Coordinating Conference.

The program is a partnership between the Marin Municipal Water District and the UC Marin Master Gardeners. In addition to Swain, other program founders include Ellie Rilla, then-Marin County Cooperative Extension director, and the Marin Municipal Water District. Swain, who manages the project with Peggy Mathers, garden walk program representative, is currently analyzing data from past years to further assess the effectiveness of the program.

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Statewide IPM Program, Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California
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