Written by Carrie Jensen on behalf of One Truckee River (updated by Laudan Chaffin)
Funding provided by the Western Regional Water Commission
All of us at Moana Nursery think Nevada is a beautiful place to live! If you do too, then what better way to show it than to have a landscape that fits in with your region’s natural beauty and shows off your Nevada pride?
That’s why we’re partnering with One Truckee River to support their new River-Friendly Landscaping Initiative. This program teaches homeowners how to create gorgeous landscapes that promote our local ecology and protect our local waterways.
So what is a River-Friendly Landscape?
A River-Friendly Landscape is one that is specially designed for all residents of the Truckee Meadows, whether you live near or far from the Truckee River. It will beautify your property, conserve water, reduce yard maintenance and costs, and protect water quality. It doesn’t mean your yard must be wild and uncontrolled, but rather, it will respect the natural attributes of our region and promotes the health, diversity, and sustainability of the watershed.
Below are some reasons why a River-Friendly landscape is so important and some tips to start yours today!
River-Friendly Landscapes can have different aesthetics. This example highlights drought-tolerant, pollinator plants and retention of water on-site with thick layers of wood mulch. Carrie Jensen
Why does it matter?
The Truckee River is the lifeblood of our community in the Truckee Meadows! Without this river, we wouldn’t have water for drinking,irrigating our yards, growing our food, or swimming and enjoying. Also, the Truckee River is part of a very unique terminal basin, which means none of its water flows to the ocean. Only about 5% of all watersheds in the world are terminal basins! This accounts for many rare, endemic fish species, like Lahontan cutthroat trout and cui-ui in Pyramid Lake. It also means any pollution that flows into these watersheds stays there. This can result in harmful impacts on plants and wildlife as well as our community. Many pollutants can come from our own gardens and flow through the storm drain systems to our local waterways — like oil from car leaks, soapy water from washing cars in the driveway, sediments, fertilizers, pesticides, and even pet waste.
As shown in this drainage in north Reno, pollutants flowing through storm drains can build up quickly in waterways. Nitrogen and phosphorus from synthetic fertilizers used in the landscape can contribute to algae blooms, which deplete the water’s oxygen levels when the algae decay making it difficult for fish and other aquatic species to survive. Carrie Jensen
What can I do?
We all have to work together to protect this special place we call home, and there are lots of things you can do to help keep our watersheds clean. Many of them start right in your yard. That’s where River-Friendly Landscaping comes in!
The Six Principles of River-Friendly Landscaping
- Keep Water Onsite
Soak it up! We live in the high desert, so it’s really important to retain as much water as possible in our landscapes and be efficient with its use. Don’t let that precious water escape into the storm drain. Instead, use rain gardens, dry swales, rain barrels, and permeable paving to soak up water in your landscape. These strategies won’t offset the need for irrigation, but every drop counts in the high desert. And because most of our precipitation comes in the form of snow, another way to keep water onsite is to shovel as much of that snow as possible onto our landscapes instead of onto the street.
Strategies such as rain barrels (left) and dry swales (right) can be used to soak up water in your landscape and keep it out of the storm drain system.
- Reduce Pollutants
We depend on the Truckee River for our drinking water supply. Reducing pollutants in our landscapes helps ensure clean water is flowing to the river and out of our taps. To reduce pollutants in our landscapes, try using beneficial bugs or other organic and natural pest solutions before resorting to pesticides. Be careful not to over-fertilize with ‘weed & feed’ lawn fertilizers or overuse broadleaf weed killers on your lawn. Prevent accidental spills of fertilizers, pesticides, and other chemicals by storing these items in secure areas. To dispose of unused or unwanted pesticides, make sure to keep them in their original container and follow the directions posted by the Nevada Department of Agriculture here.
- Use Water Wisely
There’s no denying we live in a desert, but that doesn’t mean you have to remove your entire lawn and limit yourself to rocks and cacti. There are lots of climate-appropriate plants to consider, and you can even keep some of your lawn! Try removing small sections of lawn next to the sidewalk and replace them with water-wise and native plants. This conserves water, supports native pollinators, and ensures we’re not watering the sidewalk with our sprinklers. Consider the irrigation schedule for your River-Friendly Landscape to prevent evaporation during the warmer parts of the day, and be sure to follow the Truckee Meadows Water Authority’s assigned watering schedule. If you need help with your irrigation system, contact our experts at Moana Nursery for help creating a water-wise yard.
Try planting drought-tolerant plants between the sidewalk and your lawn as a buffer area that prevents sprinklers from over-spraying onto the sidewalk. This conserves water and protects our waterways from fertilizer pollutants that can wash off our lawns and into storm drains.
- Build Healthy Soils
Soil is the foundation on which we build all healthy landscapes. When we foster healthy soils, they support vigorous plants that are less susceptible to disease and pests and require less maintenance. Try using compost and mulch in your yard to increase organic matter, retain soil moisture, and build healthy soils.
Try using compost as a top dressing to increase the organic matter in your soil. Not only will it help your soil retain more moisture, it also acts as a slow-release fertilizer that reduces the need for synthetic fertilizers.
- Create Wildlife Habitat
While we’re not looking to attract big wildlife like bears and mountain lions, we can share our landscapes with birds and beneficial insects to help promote the biodiversity of our watershed. Try incorporating a mix of pollinator plants that bloom throughout the growing season, as well as installing bee hotels and nesting boxes for pollinators and birds.
To provide habitat for beneficial insects, you can incorporate plants, like these asters, that provide nectar and pollen.
- Prepare for Wildfire
Wildfire is a natural part of the Truckee Meadows and the eastern Sierra ecological cycle. Part of living in this beautiful place is learning to live with fire and managing it in a way that protects our homes and watershed. Be sure to incorporate defensible space, especially if you live on the wildland-urban interface.
Need Help Getting Started?
The team at Moana Nursery are always here to help. Whether it’s helping pick the right plants, providing expert pest management advice from a plant doctor, helping design your water-wise irrigation system or developing the perfect landscape design, we’ve got the answers! Talk to our team about any of your questions, and we’ll help you take the next step to making your landscape River-Friendly!
Plus, check out the Moana Nursery online store for convenient, anytime shopping at your fingertips!