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.
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.
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.
During the rainy season (generally December through March) you can turn your irrigation completely off. These very low water landscapes look great, thrive in our climate, and help to bring your water bill down. Contact us today to discuss what can be done for your landscape!