Gardening course focuses on optimizing under drought conditions

Orin Martin, UCSC
Orin Martin, manager of the Chadwick Garden at UCSC, will explain methods of contending with drought conditions during a three-session Garden Cruz class.

Drought conditions can be especially daunting for gardeners, but as gardening expert Orin Martin points out, “Although the drought is a challenge, it’s also an opportunity to give your garden the horticultural equivalent of a 50,000-mile tune up.”

Martin, who has managed the Alan Chadwick Garden at UC Santa Cruz for more than 30 years, will team with gardening instructor Sky DeMuro to teach “Garden Cruz: Organic Matters,” a lecture and hands-on workshop series on three Saturdays designed to provide a “toolkit” of the knowledge and skills you need to create a thriving organic garden and optimize water use in your garden and landscape.

The workshop series will take place at the historic Chadwick Garden on the UC Santa Cruz campus from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on March 15, 22 and 29.

Topics covered will include soil development, garden bed preparation, transplanting and direct seeding, water-wise irrigation techniques and crop choices, and pest control. Participants will also learn how to make and use compost, cover crops and other soil-building inputs that will help your garden use water efficiently. Each day includes both lectures and hands-on learning so that participants have a chance to practice the skills being taught.

This course is ideal for home gardeners looking to improve gardening skills, community members and students involved in campus and community gardens, and teachers working with school gardens.

With the drought in mind, Martin and DeMuro will emphasize the water-saving tricks of the gardening trade. That includes what Martin calls the “3Cs”: cultivation, compost, and cover crops.

“We’ll emphasize proper cultivation skills to use in creating garden beds, along with how to best use compost and cover crops to improve soil structure and make sure your soil gets the most out of whatever water it receives,” Martin said.

“The goal is to get the water to stick around so that plant roots can make optimal use of it, rather than puddling or running off and causing erosion. Even if you plan to cut back on what you grow this season, these techniques will improve your soil’s physical properties and capacity to nourish healthy plants through the years,” he said.

Other water-wise skills covered during the course include efficient irrigation systems and practices, how to properly assess soil moisture to avoid overwatering, and strategies for using water-conserving mulches.

Cost of the three-Saturday workshop is $300 (general public), $175 for educators, and $150 for limited-income participants and students. Class size is limited and pre-registration is required by March 11. For details and to register, see

For more information, call 831-459-3240 or send email to: This workshop is sponsored by the Friends of the UCSC Farm & Garden and the UCSC Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems.