Water woes – Los Angeles Business Journal


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at C&S Nursery Inc. in Baldwin Hills. Business was slow.
Cristian Rosales, who owns the company with his brother Santiago, said the slowdown this summer was due to customers refusing to buy new plants.

“With[water]restrictions, you don’t want the plant to die on them if you can’t water it properly,” Rosales said.

Tighter restrictions on outdoor watering have cut business at Los Angeles-area nurseries, with one owner reporting a 90 percent drop in sales in August. They agree that their future may lie in California native plants and growing materials that use less water.

The water restrictions come from the Metropolitan Water District (MWD), which in April asked its member water agencies to either go on a one-day-a-week watering schedule or set water budgets — the setting of quantitative limits on water levels. It has been used. The new requirements went into effect on June 1.

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) announced on May 10 that it would go with the water budget option and allow twice-weekly watering.
For all LADWP customers, street address watering will be Monday and Friday only. For customers whose address ends with a number, watering will be limited to Thursdays and Sundays. The new city ordinance went into effect on June 1.

Los Angeles city regulations differ from MWD regulations in that the city allows residents to water twice a week, as opposed to the once-a-week watering schedule mandated by MWD.

The changes come on top of existing water restrictions, which stipulate that customers drinking sprinkler water are limited to eight minutes per use. Using sprinkler nozzles, watering is limited to 15 minutes. And regardless of the day of the water, it is forbidden to drink water between 9 am and 4 pm. The existing regulations were imposed by LADWP last year.

“We’re free because we fall under the farming umbrella,” Rosales said. “To stay in business, we have to keep our plants alive.”
The exemption under which Rosales’ business falls is regulated by the LADWP and allows him to continue to irrigate without restriction. But not everywhere.

Martin Badilla at C&S Nursery Inc. in Los Angeles. Waters the plants in the greenhouse. (Photo by Ringo Chiu)

Not only

Water use in Agora Hills, served by the Las Virgines Municipal Water District, is limited to once per week for both residential and commercial customers.
That includes a colorful garden center.

Bharat Shah, the owner of the mall, said business dropped by 40 percent in July, but by 90 percent in August.
Shah In 2014 and 2015, business dropped between 30 and 40%, but everyone said they reduced water use by 20 to 25%.

“It wasn’t like that,” he added of the current situation.
Shah said he started a colorful garden 30 years ago; The company sells flowers, trees, shrubs, fruit trees, soil and indoor plants.

“We do a very good business here,” he added. “We make over a million dollars in one year. This is just one year. Next year will be normal because we’ll have an El Nino year and we’ll have a lot of rain next year and the year after that.”

A colorful garden is broken only in years of severe drought, Shah continued.
“Then we will start to get a lot of rain and people will start to forget about the drought,” he said.

Native plants

Bob Sussman founded Mathilija Nursery in Moorpark 25 years ago. It was a career change for Sussman, who had been in the banking business. But he was exhausted from the trip to downtown Los Angeles and didn’t want to wear a tie anymore.

His nursery section sells mostly California natives – irises, sages, lilacs, buckwheat, manzanita and the flower that gives his business its name – the Matilija poppy.
“They are the largest of the poppy family,” explains Sussman. “It’s (a) big white flower about 6 inches with a big orange ball in the middle like a golf ball.”

While the summer months are slow in terms of crop sales, it is too early to tell if water restrictions are having a big impact on the business.
But there is some lift in the business, Sussman said.

“If you don’t do as much during the summer and you do less, that’s a big percentage increase and that’s an improvement,” he added.
Greg Cuga, manager of Sunset Blvd Nursery in Silver Lake, said the nursery has reduced water use over the years by switching to drought-tolerant plants. Garden and bedding plants are watered every two days or more, while other nursery stock is watered once every four or five days or sometimes once a week.

“It’s been an extraordinary two years,” Kuga said. “Since the outbreak, the nursery industry has been going crazy. Because people were staying at home and growing their own food, there was a need for more vegetables and herbs.
For the past six months or so, sales numbers have been trending downwards and are returning to pre-pandemic levels.

“It went up and then down and now it’s back to normal,” Kuga said.
He continued, “I’ve never seen sales double or triple during a pandemic, so business has increased.”

At the height of the epidemic, 1,000 people a day came to the nursery. Now that’s down to a couple hundred people during the week, with more on weekends, Kuga said.
“All the nurseries were thriving during the epidemic, and now it’s back again,” he added.

Looking ahead

Ask a nurseryman where the industry will be in California in five years and their answer will be about drought tolerant plants.
“The long-term trend is to move away from plants that use more water. I expect that to continue,” said Sussman of Matilija Nursery. It could be more Mediterranean, more desert, more native, more sweet, things like that.

Unfortunately, this means more concrete, more fake grass, and more rocks on green fields.
“I guess it’s somewhat worrisome, but I’m not sure you’d call that the landscape industry,” Sussman said.

Rosales, a C&S nurseryman, also predicts the future of aquatic sage plants.
“It’s becoming common to be water-wise in LA,” Rosales said. “I think most people are on board. If you look at most people’s landscapes, they are introducing and mixing in Australian natives and successors and Californian natives to save money on lawns or water-loving plants. I think it will continue that way.

on Sunset Blvd. Daycare, the business has always evolved with what customers want to buy, said Kuga, whose father, Dennis Kuga, owns the company.
During the epidemic, house plants, vegetables and herbs were popular. Drought-resistant plants are now popular among customers. The nursery sells many cacti, succulents and California-native plants, Kuga said.

“In five years, it will be very different from where we are now,” he added.


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