The Crescenta Commons (which Creative Concepts Landscape installed). Minimal water and thriving plants.
Is it possible to have a great looking landscape that only gets watered once a month? Yes, absolutely, and some landscapes will require even less than once a month watering.
Welcome to the world of xeriscaping and Southern California native planting. The word ‘xeriscaping’ combines the word ‘scaping’ (as in landscaping) with the Greek prefix ‘xero’, meaning dry.
Although many xeriscaped properties have a desert aesthetic (decomposed granite, cacti, boulders, etc…), there can be a range of looks, including Southern California chaparral.
Once the low water use plants are established, irrigation can be reduced to once a month, and during the rainy season it can be turned off completely.
First off, ground cover (wood bark mulch, gravel) will help weed abatement and soil moisture retention. This is perhaps the single most beneficial thing you can do for your landscape. It looks great, adds continuity throughout the yard, and reduces the amount of irrigation needed by reducing the level of evaporation from the soil.
In natural settings, leaves and branches fall to the ground and are left in place to slowly decompose into the soil. This provides organic matter to the soil with nutrients and improves soil structure. When the rain comes, the layer of organic material helps prevent water from hitting the soil directly, causing erosion. Landscapes are a maintained environment, which can make things a little tricky. You want your yard to look clean and cared for, and also be healthy. Mulch helps accomplish this.
A layer of mulch also helps to retain soil moisture, which is very beneficial in our dry Southern California climate. Less water used – more money saved.
Mulch also protects drip irrigation lines. Drip irrigation is not meant to be exposed on top of bare soil. This makes it more vulnerable to damage and causes the irrigation water to evaporate much faster.
A fresh layer of organic mulch to improve the landscape’s aesthetics and increase soil moisture retention in these hot Southern California summers.
- Aesthetic appeal – it looks great in the landscape
- Helps slow erosion
- Helps soil structure, texture, and nutrient levels
- Helps preserve drip lines and optimize their efficiency
- Helps soil retain moisture – less water equals more money saved
Southern California native gardens, once established, can potentially go without any supplemental irrigation. Some of the plants might start to look a little drought stressed in the summer and early fall, but that does not mean they are dying. You can give them a little water to improve their look, but not too much. Light summer watering is key. These plants will be damaged if their roots are kept in soggy soil. This creates an environment where pathogens and harmful fungi can grow. Certain trees, such as coast live oaks, should not have any supplemental irrigation at all. They are made for the dry Southern California weather, and too much water can cause root rot and eventual death. A word to the wise: never have turf grass directly next to an oak tree.
Plants that need more water should be planted in naturally moist areas of the landscape – depressions, low levels, or shaded areas. By creating catch basins and sunken areas in your landscape, rainfall and irrigation will be naturally retained for use by the surrounding plants. Plants that can go longer without water should be placed in drier areas of the yard (higher elevations, more direct sunlight).
Even in very low water landscapes, new plants will need regular watering while they get established. This period will last from a few months to a year. It is important to remember that your water bill will go down significantly once the plants are established.
Creative Concepts Landscape loves using drought tolerant, water smart, and California natives in our garden design. Contact us today to find out about what we can do for your landscape!
Interested in Southern California drought tolerant plants? Below is a short list of some possibilities to beautify your landscape while keeping your water bill down:
Ceanothus, or California lilac
A vibrant flowering shrub native to North America. It’s drought tolerant, has a fragrance, and blooms from late spring into early summer.
Also known as the Channel Islands tree poppy and the Harford’s tree poppy. This plant is part of the poppy family and is drought tolerant.
Agave is a type of monocot native to the hot regions of the Americas, although some are also native to tropical areas of South America. These plants are great for southern California because they are also drought tolerant.
California Fuchsia (Epilobium canum or Zauschneria)
This plant is a subshrub growing to 60 cm tall and is drought tolerant. Flowers vary from white, pink to orange, and red with gray or green foliage.
California Redbud (Cercis occidentalis)
A small shrub or tree that’s drought tolerant and blooms from March to May. It also has thin, brown branches that bear bright pink or magenta flowers.
By Daniel Williams
Client Laison for Creative Concepts Landscape