When Cupertino residents Sherri Stein and her husband planted a victory garden, it wasn’t to grow food but to help fight the California drought.
The Steins took advantage of a pilot project by the City of Cupertino to help residents establish Climate Victory Gardens in their front yards. These gardens are drought-tolerant and can be irrigated with laundry-to-landscape graywater systems.
“It’s an easy way to save 15% of home water use,” Sherri Stein said of the graywater system she had installed a couple months ago in the laundry room of her Dumas Drive home. “I don’t have to go outside and water my trees, and they’re really healthy and thriving. What else am I supposed to do with all that water?”
Washers and dryers need to be against an outside wall for a graywater system to be installed. Once the system is in place, homeowners must use a detergent that doesn’t contain sodium or chemicals that would kill the plants being watered.
Climate Victory Gardens must be located in a front or side yard that covers at least 500 square feet, and in a location that’s visible to the general public.
“The reason we were selected is because we’re right down the street from the park,” Stein said. She added that some of her neighbors have applied for the program, which has a long waiting list.
Residents selected to participate in the pilot program work with Santa Cruz-based Ecology Action to create a custom planting and irrigation design.
Stein said she and her husband researched the native plants they wanted to use in their new front yard landscape.
“We wanted the leaves to be different, we wanted some color and we wanted fruit production,” she said. “Drought-tolerant gardens don’t have to be ugly.”
Once the design is complete, residents can choose an Ecology Action contractor to complete the landscaping project at an affordable rate. To that end, homeowners are encouraged to help with the planting, which the Steins did.
While the new garden is still establishing itself, Stein said the plant life should cover the front yard in about three years.
Ecology Action also helps homeowners apply for rebates on their victory gardens, including Valley Water’s graywater rebate program, which offers up to $400 to install a laundry-to-landscape system.
Reusing laundry water to irrigate the yard can cut home water usage by 4,600 gallons per year, said Justin Burks of Valley Water.
“The landscaping system is really simple to maintain,” Burks said, opening up a water outlet in Stein’s yard to check for any lint or other byproducts that may have come from the washer.
In March Valley Water asked Santa Clara County residents and businesses to cut their water usage by 15% over 2019 levels. That month the water district saw usage increase by 25% over March 2019; in July, usage dropped to 6% below what it was two years ago.
For the Steins, programs like the Climate Victory Garden are a way to do their part to keep this figure headed in the right direction.
“We know what kind of trouble we’re in in this state, so we’re really into the idea of conserving water,” Stein said. “We have to do this, or we won’t have potable drinking water.”
Cupertino residents interested in participating in the Climate Victory Garden project can sign up for a no-obligation, no-cost site visit by visiting cupertino.org/ClimateGarden.
For more information on Valley Water’s rebate programs, visit https://www.valleywater.org/saving-water/rebates-surveys.