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April 23, 2021

Rethink the lawn and save money too

Water is a precious and vital resource. Our bodies are about 60 percent water and our brain—a whopping 70 percent. Less than 1 percent of the water on the Earth, however, is suitable for human consumption. With the population increasing and the water supply staying the same, water conservation indoors and out is important. A well planned landscape makes water conservation outside the home even easier. Since up to 70 percent of summer water use comes from landscape irrigation it’s a good place to start. 

Both San Lorenzo Valley Water—www.slvwd.com—and Scotts Valley Water Districts—www.svwd.org—offer many tips and incentives to conserve water. Scotts Valley Water District is even having a limited time offer to double your Lawn/Turf Replacement Rebate from $1 to $2 per square foot when replacing with low water-use alternatives. All sites must have a pre and post inspection completed my June 30 so don’t miss out on this great opportunity. You can apply on their website by requesting a pre-inspection lawn measurement before April 15.

The fun part begins when you redesign the area where you took out the lawn or modify the plantings in other beds to include the same water use plants. It doesn’t make much sense if you have some plants that require more water than others in the same bed. You have to water to the highest water-use plant to keep everybody happy. 

Hydrozoning is the practice of clustering together plants with similar water requirements to conserve water. A planting design where plants are grouped by water needs improves efficiency and plant health by avoiding overwatering or underwatering. And as you move farther away from the water source your plantings should require less water. 

When redesigning your landscape start with simple things. Rock, stone and permeable paths and driveways add visual interest to the landscape and don’t require irrigation. Improving your property’s soil quality aids in saving water regardless of the plants grown there. Organic materials added to the soil help establish a strong root system for plants. Nutrients in the soil allow the plants to become stronger, too. Adding a layer of mulch increases the plant’s efficiency by retaining moisture and keeping the soil temperature stable.

Choose the right plants for your location. California natives or plants from similar climates in the world are low maintenance, low irrigation plants and usually need less tending, fertilizer and pruning. Your choice of groundcover can make a big difference, too, in how much water the landscape saves. Keeping grass areas to a bare minimum  reduces the amount of water needed to keep the landscape looking green and fire safe.

Your method of irrigation helps conserve water. Hand watering where possible, especially new plantings, directs the water exactly where it needs to go and you can shut off the hose as soon as the plants receive enough water. A soaker hose is another efficient option that reduces evaporation during the watering process. An automatic irrigation system with a rain sensor, weather based controller or soil moisture sensors is the newest way to save water.

There are lists of drought-tolerant plants and water smart grasses, as well as replacing lawns with drought tolerant or native plants on the Scotts Valley Water District website. Permeable landscape materials such as mulch, decomposed granite, permeable pavers are other ways you can keep your yard looking beautiful and also be water efficient. 

Now is the time before it gets hot to look at your irrigation system, plant choices and rebate options to save water and money and recharge our aquifers.

Jan Nelson, a landscape designer and California certified nursery professional, will answer questions about gardening in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Email her at [email protected], or visit jannelsonlandscapedesign.com.

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