WRD Eco Gardener Program


Make your beautiful garden the envy of your neighbors while simultaneously saving water and creating a productive ecosystem in your backyard! The Lillian Kawasaki Eco Gardener Program teaches homeowners about the multiple benefits of planting a sustainable garden through a series of in-person classes. Whether you attend one or all of them, you are certain to walk away with knowledge about sustainable garden design concepts as well as plant and material selections for creating an attractive, water efficient garden. All classes are FREE.

The Eco Gardener program educates residents on four popular topics: sustainable landscape design, drought-tolerant plants, edible gardening, and irrigation basics. For a brief introduction into all four topics at once, try our Water Efficient Gardening class. See descriptions of each class below, then click the sign-up button when you are ready to register! If you’d like to sign up for our mailing list or are interested in hosting a workshop in your community, please use the sign up bottom to contact us.



- Sat, Nov 2nd, 2019 | Whittier Public Library | 10am - 1pm | Edible Gardening

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Sustainable Landscape Design

Look to nature for the answer! This class explores the philosophy of natural watershed design which uses minimal resources while increasing the aesthetics, and possibly the value, of your property. 

Participants learn how to conduct a thorough site analysis using the principles of planting design and assessing different materials available for use. Visual examples of design styles using various spaces, color schemes and levels of hardscape are shown throughout. An overview of plant selections including drought-tolerant plants and California native plants prepare you to make your backyard a water-saving sanctuary.



Edible Gardening

Turn part of your ordinary landscape into a lush edible garden. Use your water in a way that will benefit you and your family while creating a sustainable environment that you can be proud of.

This workshop shares tips on how to analyze and enhance your soil, as well as how to maximize the productivity of your garden through planning, design, composting and localized irrigation. Learn the fundamentals of propagation and pruning while understanding how to identify and address pest issues. It’s easy to select the right “crop” of fruits, herbs and veggies for your needs, all while having fun in the garden!



Drought Tolerant Plants

With an average of only 14” of rainfall per year in the LA area, it doesn’t make sense to have gardens that require daily watering. Planting a drought-tolerant garden can alleviate the high demand on our precious water resources while saving you money! With many options to choose from, it’s easy to get creative with your eco-friendly garden.

Before diving into the needs and benefits of drought-tolerant plants and California native plants, this workshop examines planting and pruning fundamentals including plant nomenclature (naming), sizing and spacing, growing habits, root systems, pests and diseases, and maintenance considerations. Visual examples of various trees, shrubs and ground covers that are readily available in California and well-suited for the region will assist homeowners in confidently making plant selections for their water-wise landscape.


Irrigation Basics

Imagine 50% of all the drinking water from the faucets at home that you pay for being thrown outside—you couldn’t use it to shower, clean, cook or stay hydrated. That’s exactly what we do here in Southern California in efforts to keep our yards looking lush, but it doesn’t have to be this way. Learn how to get the most out of your irrigation system so that we can conserve water, live more sustainably, and save money while we’re at it.

This workshop will familiarize participants with the components and the layout of a residential irrigation system while teaching them about the installation and maintenance of an efficient, well-managed irrigation system. Troubleshooting the most common irrigation problems that occur will also be covered, leaving homeowners ready to tackle many maintenance issues that may arise.



Water Efficient Gardening

Looking to take it all in on one day? This workshop combines the pertinent information from the four popular topics into one 4-hour workshop. Participants will get a basic understanding of how to approach sustainable landscape design and optimize their soils, as well as the value of water management techniques through smart plant selection and efficient irrigation. Taken together these pillars turn your yard into a beautiful, water-smart landscape and a productive ecosystem.






From Pilot Program to Community Program

Recognizing the need for effective water conservation education well before the recent 5-year drought, WRD initiated a pilot of the Eco Gardener Program at a local junior college in the fall of 2006. Now in its thirteenth year, thousands of participants have been trained throughout WRD’s 420 square mile service area as hundreds of participants attend the program annually. 

Due to the pilot’s success, more classes were added each year and by teaming up with community partners such as cities, private utilities, and non-profit organizations; the courses became locally-tailored and more relevant. This collaborative approach, combined with always keeping the program free of charge, has resulted in the Eco Gardener Program being an effective tool for reaching populous, under-served, and environmentally-strained communities that may lack access to these types of educational opportunities. 

The Eco Gardener Program even inspired what became the Lillian Kawasaki Demonstration Gardens at the WRD headquarters in Lakewood and the WRD Albert Robles Center for Water Recycling & Environmental Learning (ARC) in the City of Pico Rivera. For both demonstration gardens, the principles from the Eco Gardener classes have been employed to produce a landscape that is both aesthetically balanced and water efficient, all while using minimal resources. 


Lillian Kawasaki was born in Denver, CO on September 17, 1950, the oldest of three children. Her love for public service was inspired by her father who joined the Army after his release from the Manzanar Internment Camp because, in his words, “it was the right thing to do.” Lillian would later become a co-founder for the Friends of Manzanar, a volunteer organization that supports the Manzanar National Historic Site.

Ms. Kawasaki was the first Asian American department appointee for the City of Los Angeles where she headed the Department of Environmental Affairs and spearheaded major initiatives to protect air and water for the City’s four million residents.  She would later serve as General Manager of the City’s Community Development Department. Appointed by the California Governor and the U.S. Secretary of the Interior, Lillian was also a member of the California Bay-Delta Public Advisory Committee (BDPAC).

Upon retiring, Lillian remained active in water issues and was elected in November 2006 to represent Division 3 on the Board of Directors at the Water Replenishment District of Southern California. Division 3 serves the cities of Long Beach, Cerritos, Lakewood, Signal Hill, Artesia, La Mirada and Hawaiian Gardens. Ms. Kawasaki also served on the Long Beach Water Commission. 

During her tenure at WRD, Lillian initiated the Eco Gardener program to promote water awareness and educate people about sustainability practices. She held the program close to her heart and the WRD Board of Directors honored her for her commitment and dedication to public service by naming the Eco Gardener Program, as well as the facility demonstration gardens after her. 

Lillian passed away in 2013 at her home in Long Beach, and will be remembered for her lifelong commitment and dedication to public service.