You can’t take the garden out of the gardener – The San Luis Obispo Tribune

Cambria gardeners are licking their wounds. The Cambria Community Services District adopted the Stage 3 conservation measures and restrictions on the use of potable water at a special meeting last month.

Across the board, both residences and businesses have been hit hard on strict conservation measures because of a three-year drought and the fact that, over decades, our CCSD board has been unable to find an alternative water source.

Residents of this town have always supported businesses and even more so in the past few years when events have been created in the hopes of keeping businesses alive and well. Yet, there has been little vocal support for homeowners when it comes to maintaining the physical beauty and value of their property.

After Mother Nature’s gentle blessing this last week, my spirit is rejuvenated. Our gardens have relaxed and plant cells have swelled with recent hydration. Gardeners, who are restricted from using potable water on landscaping, are not about to “dry up and blow away.” Some of us have a rainwater catchment system that will sustain watering as long as there is a bit of rain. But many of us believe that you can’t trust rainfall to be the provider of all our water needs, no matter how large the storage facility. Nor should the CCSD rely on rainwater-dependent wells to continue to supply water in a severe drought. Trusting that this board will do what it takes to provide us with water, I’ll do my part.

In order to have any garden at all this year, I’ll start by reducing the water requirements of our landscape. To begin with:

  • I’ll remove plants that require excessive amounts water: hostas, foxglove, columbine, primula and wallflower, among a few.
  • My four vegetable boxes will be “out of commission” this year. I’ve filled them with dry leaves and a dash of chicken manure in hopes it will create compost by next fall.
  • Shallow potting “bowls” will be washed and stored.
  • Hanging pots will be taken down, cleaned, and stored.
  • Small potted plants will be planted in the ground in a shady area and I’ll water them with grey water.
  • Potted plants of any value, including succulents, will be put in a semi-shady place.
  • I’ll make deeper furrows around plants and shrubs to catch “run-off” from rain that is sure to come.
  • We’ll read our water meter several times a month so we can monitor our water use.

It would be a lovely thing if the rain continues to moisten our soil but, if we are left “high and dry,” I’m going to pull myself up by my “rainboot straps” and hope for a wet and soggy summer.

“You can take the gardener out of the garden, but you can’t take the garden out of the gardener.”

Lee Oliphant’s column is special to The Cambrian. Email her at; read her blog at


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