Mar 27, 2013 3:00 PM  PST

GreenPointers: Water Efficient Landscaping

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Water Efficient Landscaping

Our series of GreenPointers provides helpful tips for a healthier, greener home in a variety of topics. Today's topic is Water Efficient Landscaping.

Green Pointers

It's easy to take water for granted in California, but insufficient levels of rainfall and a fast-growing population are quickly drinking up our already strained water resources. A large portion of this water is used to keep our gardens and landscapes healthy and green. And as the days get longer and warmer as summer approaches, our lovely plants require even more water and maintenance to stay lush.

Since we are not able to produce new water, the best solution is to conserve the water we have by giving our plants only the water they require. Here are a few tips to help you avoid excessive watering while keeping your garden beautiful.

Step 1


  Different plants have different water requirements. Hydrozoning involves dividing the landscape into zones of low, medium and high water use matched to the needs of the plants in that area. This saves water and results in healthier plants that don't need to be replaced as often.

Group plants by water needs, creating irrigation zones based on the plants' water requirements and their exposure. If you are working with a landscape design professional, have them delineate each hydrozone on the site, irrigation and planting plans. Place thirstier plants in relatively small, highly visible areas and if possible, in spots that naturally collect water. Plant the larger areas with drought-tolerant species. Install separate irrigation valves for different zones. Some California natives do not tolerate water in the summer after they are established; be sure to separate them from plants that need ongoing irrigation.

Step 2


  Efficient irrigation systems minimize overspray, evaporation and decrease runoff, dramatically reducing landscape water use while preventing disease and weed growth that results from overwatering.

Setting up drip and bubbler products in the soil at plant root zones will reduce water use by automatically applying water at the rate the soil can absorb it. Installing low-flow sprinkler heads will help minimize excessive watering by applying water uniformly and slowly. Lastly, adding smart controllers to your system saves time, work and water by automatically regulating watering based on weather or moisture sensors, historic data, or customized settings.

Step 3


  Mulch is any material spread evenly over the surface of the soil. Mulch conserves water, reduces weed growth and simplifies maintenance. Organic mulch materials, including chipped landscape debris, are preferable over inorganic materials because they supply nutrients over time and provide wildlife habitat.

Apply and maintain a minimum of 2 to 3 inches of natural mulch to all soil surfaces or at least until plants grow to cover the soil. Do not place mulch directly against any plant stem or tree. Designate areas under trees as repositories for fallen leaves to remain as mulch. To further reduce environmental impacts, look for suppliers of mulch produced locally from urban plant waste debris.

Step 3


  Rainwater can be channeled through gutters and downspouts to an above-ground cistern or underground gravel dry well, and then used later for landscape irrigation. It can also be directed to bioswales or rain gardens. Rainwater catchment reduces the need to use municipal or well water for irrigating lawns and gardens, and reduces the volume of rainwater flowing into municipal stormwater or sewage systems.

Set up a system for rainwater collection wherever there is guttered roof runoff and room for a cistern, dry well, bioswale or rain garden. Bioswales are gently sloped drainage courses that slow the flow of rainwater, allowing it to percolate into the soil. A rain garden is a planted depression that absorbs or slows rainwater runoff.


Read more tips on sustainable gardening and landscaping.

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Source: Build It Green  

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