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'Christina Mountanos'

Dec 28

Green Resolutions

Posted to MMWD Blog: Think Blue Marin on December 28, 2016 at 10:12 AM by Ann Vallee

by Christina Mountanos, Water Conservation Specialist

In addition to my typical New Year's resolutions to sleep, exercise and floss more, I've been making small changes to do my part to help the environment the past few years. Since we're already pretty frugal in my household with water, I typically focus on saving energy. We purchased a heating blanket for our bedroom last year, so we no longer heat the entire room. This year, we put "sweeps" under our doors and bought a new energy-efficient refrigerator. I often find that these changes, ones that don't even require daily practice, help me conserve year round with no ongoing effort.

Along the same lines, if there were actions you could take right now to save water would you do them? What if you could do something that only took a single day of work, a few hours, or even seconds? Here is a list of simple "green resolutions" you can implement this year:

  • Double-check that your irrigation controller is in the OFF position for the winter.
  • Use a simple shower timer to become aware of how long you're typically in there. Set a goal of five minutes or less.
  • Locate your water meter and spend a few minutes checking for any movement. Learn more about how to use your water meter to check for leaks.
  • Locate the main shut-off valves to your house and irrigation system so you'll know how to quickly shut off the water if a leak should occur. 
  • Put a shut-off nozzle on your garden hose.
  • Use food coloring or dye tablets to test your toilets for leaks. Find step-by-step instructions here.
  • Replace an old toilet with a new, more efficient model. (We have rebates!)
  • Check if your showerheads are efficient, and replace any that have a flow rate of more than 2.0 gallons per minute. (To check the flow rate, turn on the shower and catch the water in a 1-gallon bucket. If it takes less than 30 seconds to fill the bucket, the flow rate is more than 2.0 gallons per minute and the showerhead should be replaced.)
Regardless of the significant rainfall we've received so far this year, fresh water is still a limited resource. We are fortunate to have a fresh, clean supply available to us, ready for our use at any given timehelp us conserve it.

Happy New Year! 
Sep 22

One Beauty of Fall

Posted to MMWD Blog: Think Blue Marin on September 22, 2016 at 3:06 PM by Ann Vallee

by Christina Mountanos, Water Conservation Specialist

Once the Chinese pistache outside our offices start turning their deep shade of red again, I know fall is officially on its way.

Amidst the hustle and bustle of getting back to our school routines and beginning to plan for the holidays, the change in season is also an ideal time to think about (and start implementing) our landscaping projects. That’s because with shorter days, cooler weather, and winter rains on the way, new plantings won’t need as much supplemental watering to get established.

green poinsettia
 Green poinsettia
I’m personally capitalizing on this natural offer by finalizing the changes I’ll be making to my own garden, in time for our upcoming wedding at the end of October. Adding more star jasmine and creeping fig to the “living wall” I’m creating are on the list. So is putting down a fresh layer of organic compost. And, I always enjoy a new experiment so currently that’s covering the poinsettias I still have from last year with boxes, to see if I can get them to turn red again.

What are some of your plans? Don’t forget, if your upcoming landscaping ideas include replacing a lawn, we offer many resources that can help get you started. Looking for inspiration? A couple of the gardens we’ve recently featured as part of our 2016 Virtual Garden Tour transformed their lawns into wonderful expanses of color and art. Can’t figure out how to get rid of your current lawn? Our online sheet mulching guide offers you an environmentally friendly option. And finally, the State of California is still offering their Turf Replacement Rebate of up to $2 per square foot. All the details of the program can be found at

All the best for this change in season,


Jul 08

New Challenges

Posted to MMWD Blog: Think Blue Marin on July 8, 2016 at 9:47 AM by Ann Vallee

by Christina Mountanos, Water Conservation Specialist

Last week my Landscape Architecture teacher handed out our latest assignment: using our newly acquired drafting skills to design a complete landscape. We were given a simple plan showing the entryway to a building and a nearby street. Fooled into thinking this would be easy, I was surprised to find myself immediately stuck, staring at my blank page for a long time, unable to come up with anything that seemed “right.” And I wasn’t alone—most of the class struggled immensely with where to begin, overwhelmed by the feat of starting from scratch. Given our collective experience with plants and irrigation, we laughed at how challenging such a seemingly simple assignment could be.

Landscape design
 The author's in-progress assignment
Nearly all of us showed up the following week still with empty papers in hand. Two of our creative classmates, though, had somehow managed to complete the assignment, one even creating a shamelessly gorgeous design! As we gathered around to admire his work, and discuss his process, I was surprised to find my mind opening up to things I hadn’t thought of before. Seeing examples of soft lines and curves, for example, freed me from my tight, geometric way of thinking. We all nodded at his logic and the wheels in our heads began to turn. Our teacher pointed out a lesson to us: Sometimes we learn the most not from classes themselves, but from our fellow classmates.

Designing and planning a new landscape can be difficult! If you’re struggling with how to design (or redesign) your current garden, sometimes the best way to come up with solutions is to look to your friends, co-workers, and neighbors for inspiration. One great place I’d encourage you to begin looking is MMWD’s Marin-Friendly Virtual Garden Tour page. The gardens we’ll be featuring are charming, creative, and showcase many Marin-friendly practices, all designed to conserve water, save energy, and reduce waste. Some of the gardens I personally visited for the tour belonged to homeowners who bravely faced (and conquered!) the challenges of successful landscape design all on their own!

Of course, once you finish designing your landscape, you’ll want to learn how to water it efficiently, too. So here’s something else to check out: This month and next, the Urban Farmer Store is offering a class titled Learn How to Make Every Drop Count! Sign up for July 13 or August 3 in Mill Valley, or choose from other dates in other parts of the Bay Area.

Happy designing!