by Renee Roth, Rainscape Designs
Over one-half of all residential customer’s water use is for outdoor landscaping. With drought restrictions and allocations imposed by water agencies, is it time to RETHINK the Landscape – what is the highest and best use of your landscape water?
Water Wise Landscaping Tips
First, call your water company (in the City of Ojai it is Casitas Water or Meiners Oaks Water, Ventura River Water District) and ask for a Water Survey, where a water surveyor will go over your water bill, help you determine the amount of water used inside vs outside, read your water meter and check for leaks, and identify ways to save water with your irrigation/landscape. Some agencies also have water wise site assessments that can help you come up with ideas to use water more efficiently, including what to plant, how to remove turf, what trees to plant etc.
Trees & shrubs take longer to establish—take care of them!
Managing grass is tricky in the Ojai Valley, as a traditional lawn requires about 54” of water/sf/year. Our average rainfall is only 21 inches/year, with recent rainfall only 10.5 inches per year for past 6 years. It is hard to justify keeping your grass green with drought restrictions, allocations and penalties being imposed to reduce our water consumption to help make supplies last longer.
Reduce/Remove Your Turf
- Rethink the lawn, do you use it? Info on Lawn Care from UC Ag & Natural Resources
- Maybe consider a smaller turf area by gradually reducing size or maybe switch to a low water grass that takes less water and maintenance. Choose and identify your turf species here Consider warm season turf (~ 20-30% less H2O).
- Gradually reduce water (harden off over time) and let it spring back to life if/when we get rain.
- Let it go brown, and re-seed with compost during rainy season (and hope for rain).
- Replace with native turf (~ 50% less H2O) more info at S&S Seeds
- Mow lawns higher during summer- reduces growth rate, protects from sunburn, promotes deeper root growth, shades soil, reduces weeds, and grass cycle your cuttings back into lawn.
- LONG TERM SOLUTION: Get rid of turf and plant “climate appropriate plants”, which require one-fifth the water and one-quarter the maintenance of lawn (not just succulents save H2O).
- Replace nonessential turf with ground covers, mulches, permeable walkways, mulched basins, or rain gardens (~600 gallons H20 captured from 1,000 sq feet roof in 1” rain) to keep rain water on site. More info on rain gardens here.
- Install a greywater system that recycles laundry water back into your landscape. More info on how to do it here with Ventura County regulations and permit information here
- Low water using plants i.e. California native plants need time to establish (1-2 years) so introduce new plants into your landscape in December or January, when weather is cooler and chance of rain likely.
- Plant in the fall when rain is expected and temps are cooler.
- How much water is needed? Based on size and age of plant and climate, we may still need to water in the summer if little rain and really hot. See WUCOLS rating of plants water requirements at http://waterwonk.us (select only plants with low or very low water demands).
- Mulch, mulch, mulch! Cools soil, reduces weeds, feeds SOIL, retains water. Info about mulch and sustainable landscaping found here
- Create Healthy SOIL – OWL – Oxygen Water & Life, add Compost Tea
- Avoid heavy pruning – adds stress.
- Don’t use fertilizers, which increase growth rate and water demands.
- Convert pop-ups to mini rotors or cap off and change-out to drip.
- Install a rain garden – more information from UC Extension is here
Edible Gardens – Plant enough for your household, drought resistant varieties with short growing season, critical watering periods are when transplanting and fruit development. Add compost which provides nutrients to soil, improves water holding capacity and yields.
CA Rare Fruit Growers-SB & Ventura Chapter
Water Conservation Tips – Vegetable Gardens
Water for wildlife – Use shallow dish, put stick in it so critters can climb in, add rocks and put in shade, refill often. For birds container should be above ~ 3′ above ground.
Water Wise GARDENS & PLACES TO VISIT
Meiners Oaks Elementary School -Watershed Friendly Garden
Cluff Vista Park in Ojai- Native Garden designed by Tom Bostrom
Santa Barbara Botanic Gardens in Santa Barbara
Firescape Gardens at Stanwood Dr. and Mission Ridge Rd. in Santa Barbara
Ventura Botanical Gardens in Ventura
Seaside Gardens in Carpenteria
Lotus Land http://www.lotusland.org/ in Montecito
Theodore Payne Foundation in Sun Valley
Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden in Claremont
Grow Natives Nursery near UCLA in Veterans Garden
Descanso Gardens in La Cañada Flintridge
South Coast Botanic Garden in Palos Verdes Peninsula
San Luis Obispo Botanic Gardens in San Luis Obispo
The LA Arboretum in Arcadia
The Huntington Gardens in San Marino
Arlington Garden in South Pasadena
U.C. AG & Natural Resources-Master Gardeners
Capture the Rain and Let it Flow
Plant list for Rain Gardens
Water Conservations Tips for the Home Lawn & Garden
Sustainable Landscaping In California
33 Ways to Save Water in Your Home Garden
California Institute for Water Resources
California Water Districts & Associations
NEW! Coastal California Rain Gardens
NEW! Keeping Landscape Plantings Alive under Drought or Water Restrictions
Gardening Basics: How do I practice sustainable gardening?
Lawn Watering Guide for California
Managing Turfgrass During Drought
Managing Water, Sustainably
Questions & Answers About Water Conservation and Drought in the Landscape
Water Conservation Tips for Home Lawn and Garden
HFH Plant List, Santa Barbara Fire Resistant Plant List
State and Local Resources
Casitas Water Drought Declaration and Water Waste Prohibitions
City of Ojai Drought Information and Resources
Ventura County Seasonal Rainfall Map
County of Santa Barbara WaterWise Landscaping
City of Santa Barbara Drought and Water Conservation Information
State of California – Water Use Efficiency
Rain gardens offer an an attractive and practical way to conserve water in your landscape. Rain garden design and placement require planning (not too close to the foundation of buildings) and sizing (big enough to capture one inch of rain off of a nearby roof), along with the ability to drain and percolate water into soil (based on soil texture and structure i.e. percentage of sand, silt and clay ). Rain gardens also need to be designed with spillways for very large rain event, so extreme amounts of rainwater can “spill out” and into the storm drains. And don’t forget the plants, which have to like being wet in the rainy season and dry in the summer. More info below:
Youtube Videos Calculating Runoff https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fMmNY7SimV8
Plants for Rain Gardens
Favorite Websites on WaterWise Plants
Search by zip code http://www.mynativeplants.com/site
Nifty Fifty list of plants and other info from San Diego County Water Authority
Landscape Plants for California Gardens by Bob Perry download Ch 1-3
Eguide to a Watersmart Lifestyle (San Diego County Water Authority)
Parkway Guidelines/Plant Lists
City of LA Parkway Guidelines/Plants
City of West Hollywood Parkway Guidelines/Plants
City of Corona Parkway Design
City of Santa Barbara HW1 Coastal Corridor Parkway Guidelines
Water Wise Lawn Alternatives, City of Santa Barbara
Parkway Plant list from Weeding Wild Suburbia
Landscape Designs Ideas
City of San Jose
Goleta Water Edible Garden
Native Plant Planting Instructions from Irvine Water District
Tree People Resources Page
CA NATIVE plants Lists
Turf Alternatives http://waterwisesb.org/asset.c/259
Water-Wise Gardening in Ventura County
California Native Plant Society Calscape Native Plant Database
PDF City of Santa Barbara Desireable FIRE HAZARD Plant List
Links to CNPS School Gardens Info
CA Native Plants- A Starter List from Tree People
Waterwise Landscaping Books
G3 – WaterWise Landscaping Materials
Open Space and Conservation
Ojai Valley Land Conservancy
Ventura Land Trust
Ventura River Watershed
Friends of the Ventura River
Ventura River Watershed Council
Santa Barbara Channel Keeper
Ventura County Ocean Friendly Gardens
Your Lawn During Drought, UC AG & Natural Resources, Master Gardener Contra Costa County http://ccmg.ucanr.edu/files/186273.pdf
Educational Resources for Watershed Education-Region 8 of CREEC
Heat Island Effect explained