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Workshop to cultivate knowledge on drought tolerant yards
Drought workshop
The California Native Grasslands Association will partner with the California Department of Water Resources to provide Californias New Front Yard: Creating a Low-Water Landscape, a workshop later this month that will teach participants how to create and maintain their own drought-tolerant landscape. - photo by Photo Contributed

Whether a local homeowner, landscaping professional or someone in between, the upcoming drought landscaping class “California’s New Front Yard: Creating a Low-Water Landscape” hosted by the California Native Grasslands Association will be advantageous to every California resident in the face of the ongoing drought.


“California is in a drought so our first thought was to offer the residents of California a step-by-step workshop that will help them actually make these changes in their own yard to save water during the drought,” said CNGA Administrative Director Liz Cieslak, who said that the Association has already held similar workshops in Fairfield, Sacramento and Santa Cruz.


Sponsored by the University of California, Merced Sustainability Office, CNGA partnered with the California Department of Water Resources for the workshop, which will kick off with a series of presentations throughout the morning covering site inventory and design; plant selection, location and species highlights; lawn removal methods; and irrigation and rainwater harvesting. In the afternoon, participants will engage in hands-on demonstrations.


Cieslak said that since the CNGA is the one hosting the workshop, guests will primarily be exposed to plants that are native to California that will help restore ecological relationships with native pollinators, non-native honeybees or any other wildlife that call California backyards their home. 


Instructors who are experts in the fields of design, installation and maintenance of low-water landscapes in residential and commercial settings will lead activities throughout the day. Speakers will include Andrew Fulks, Assistant Director of UC Davis Arboretum; Kris Randal, Master Gardener Coordinator for Mariposa County’ Regina Hirsch, Mountain Sage Nursery in Groveland; Bryan Tassey, Horticulture Instructor, Merced College; and Jim Brugger, California Native Plant Society.


“One thing we really pride ourselves on is the local knowledge we use to teach our workshops,” said Cieslak. “We outline the curriculum for them, but we welcome and want them to use their own knowledge of the local area in order to shed some light on different irrigation methods, different mulches, different options that people have.”


“California’s New Front Yard: Creating a Low-Water Landscape” is scheduled from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on March 10 in UC Merced’s Terrace Center on Scholars Lane. The cost of the workshop is $30 ($25 for CNGA members), which will include morning refreshments, lunch and professional quality workshop materials. To register for the workshop, visit or email for more information. Registration is required.


“This kind of workshop is really important across the state because the drought is affecting us all,” said Cieslak. “It is really important to save water where we can, especially since outdoor irrigation uses so much.”


Cieslak said that CNGA will also be offering an online interactive learning module that will effectively compile everything the organization has learned from the workshop. The tool, which is slated for completion in late spring, will be made available for free at