How can I be sensible with my landscaping water use?
Currently, and for all of our forseeable futures, water will one of the most important factors to
consider when planning our landscapes. No worries, you'll be able to be water-smart and
have a landscape that makes you happy. There are some helpful basics to keep in mind when
choosing landscape styles and plant types so we can garden realistically in our dry
Zone for water use.
When you are planning your landscape, plan for using the most water in areas where you will
appreciate the landscape most. This often means that you may make the areas near the house
higher water use areas. Lawns, rose gardens, rhododendron dells, vegetable gardens - they all take lots of water here in our dry county - plan to place those types of landscapes where
they'll have the most value / use to you. (If you think of water like you think of money,
this way of thinking will make a lot of sense.)
Usually, the landscapes that are further from the house, (along the driveway, the back
forty, the landscape Behind the back yard) are planned for lower water use.
You should know that some yards really take this far, with parts of their landscape
receiving water only three times a month in summer; other areas once a week, others
twice a week, others etc., and containers / veggies which require daily H2O.
The technology on even the most basic irrigation controller these days can handle the
differing watering needs of most California landscapes.
Realistically plan to have only a small percentage (if any) of your landscape high water use area; the majority of your landscape should plan to have low or very low water needs.
Choose your irrigation methods thoughtfully.
Use low-volume output water delivery methods. This means less run-off, more
efficient watering to your plants = water conservation = $ saved. With spraying type of
irrigation, usually rotors (20'-60' distances) or MP rotators (10'-30' distances) are
good choices, they have low precipitation rates - that is, the water comes out slower and in larger droplets and translates to more effective watering with less water.
Choose drip irrigation whenever practical, it is a very efficient method of watering
your plants, and locates the water ONLY at the places needed and not on those
unwanted weeds. Consider using drip tubing with emitters built in-line, a labor saving and very effective approach to drip irrigation.
Choose smart-controllers (they are even smarter than us!) with rain-sensors or solar-syncs, they're an affordable and easy-to-use technology; they'll automatically adjust their programs to our changeable foothill weather.
Choose the right plants for the job from the start (Right plant, Right place.)
When choosing your plants, consider the needs of the plant and the needs of you.
Most lawns are used only for aesthetic reasons but use the majority of our landscaping water, as well as significant amounts of energy for their maintenance. Good reasons for lawns are on-going sports uses (like on school turf areas), and on-going entertainment areas (as in park picnic grounds). A cool green area, a reproduction of the midwest, are not good reasons.
Challenge yourself to imagine a landscape that is efficient with its water needs while creating a satisfying outdoor space. Your satisfying landscape can be realistic in the environment we live in. Keep in mind what a particular plant needs to do for you (what problems it needs to solve, which qualities you would like it to have); then interview the qualifying candidate plants that fit the bill, THEN choose a plant type. Remember, your landscape probably wont be truly satisfying if it comes at the expense of our local ecology.
Mulch, mulch, and then mulch some more.
A 3"-4" layer of mulch over the ground around your plants preserves the water-storage
capacity of the soil, it insulates it fromthe drying air. It modulates the soil temperature.
Mulch is great stuff. And it helps keep your weed problem down. Use mulch made of
plant material that will decay, (like bark, leaves, straw, etc.), it will make your soil healthier.
Place it directly in contact with your soil, not on a weed barrier/ fabric.
Just make sure to keep your mulch a few inches away from plant crowns (the part of
the plant that meets the soil). Add to it every few years to maintain the mulch depth (those soil microbes (the guys that make your soil health - eat the mulch. Replenish the microbe's food!)
Some satisfying low-water plants for El Dorado County:
Grevillea where hardy
Santa Barbara Daisy
Creeping Bramble (Rubus calycinoides)
Sulfur Flower / other hardy buckwheat
Wild Lilac (Ceanothus)
Many Bunchgrasses (especially the native types)
Daffodils and most other bulbs
Lilacs and flowering quince when established
Acacia Trees where hardy
Native Oaks and many other oaks
Most California native plants
Water HOGS in El Dorado County:
Many Annual Flowers
Blue Star Creeper
Breath of Heaven
If it looks lush, it probably requires a lot of water