Tag Archives: water conservation alternatives

Turf Conversion & Smart Water Management in Times of Drought

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Dry-GrassHere is an excellent article that came from Valley Crest Water Management that ties in perfectly with my recent newsletter/blog No-Mow Grass – A Lawn Saver. If you’re considering replacing your grass, this is invaluable information.

We’ve all seen it—the brown, scraggly patches that were once lush, green grass. With the drought now almost four years into its fury, that sight is becoming all too common and if current projections are correct, there isn’t much relief in sight for much of the western United States.

So, it’s time to bid drought-battered turf good-bye and ideally, replace it with drought-tolerant plantings (xeriscaping and/or hardscaping) with water management in mind. Below we’ve rounded up seven alternatives, listed in order of worst to best in terms of water conservation.

Take a look and see if there’s an alternative that fits your needs. Also, before you begin your turf rehab, consider your entire landscape. Choose an alternative that meshes with your environment and matches your budget. Keep in mind the savings that will result from water-wise planting and hardscape, and factor that into your decision-making process.

Here, from worst to best, are seven turf conversion alternatives to consider:

 1. More of the Same – Re-Sodding

Undoubtedly, this is the quickest fix to that brown patch but it’s also the most costly in terms of dollars and the environment. In fact, with continued drought conditions, this option may also be the costliest in terms of labor and water, as you may well have to re-sod again before too long. On a more positive note, sod and seed suppliers are offering more and more low-water-use varieties, so if you must re-sod, use one of the xeriscape-friendly turf options.

2. Slightly Better but Water Intensive – Re-Seeding

Onyx1-282x179Re-seeding is definitely less expensive than re-sodding but again, it’s just a band-aid solution when it comes to long-term sustainability. Recently re-seeded turf requires constant moisture, which, depending on the season and temperature, doesn’t help when it comes to smart water management. And like the option above, with predicted continued drought, if the re-seeded turf suffers more due to ongoing drought, you may end up right back where you started.

One note: if you choose to go the route of either of the two options above, choose this opportunity to update your irrigation system. Check your sprinkler coverage and improve as needed with upgrades such as matched precipitation-rate nozzles and/or high-efficiency nozzles.

Both of the above options are not ideal for properties in areas where water restrictions are in effect. For those areas the options 3 – 7 are better suited.

3. Most Affordable, Least Aesthetic – Mulching

The cheapest way to cover up drought-ravaged turf is to mulch—or sheet mulch—the impacted areas. In terms of water management, this is the most desirable of the first three alternatives we’ve presented, but just like the others above, it’s probably just a short-term solution since the aesthetics of the mulched areas will most likely detract rather than add to your landscape visuals.

4. The All New Approach – Planting Xeriscape-Friendly Shrubs

Onyx2-282x179Another option is to remove the turf completely and replace it with clusters of low-water-use shrubs like Abelia, Phormium, Coleonema, Nandina’s and Oleanders. Of course, when choosing drought-tolerant plants, consider how they’ll blend in with existing landscaping.

You might also consider removing overhead spray or rotor sprinklers and replacing them with drip irrigation at the same time. Depending on the area you’re renovating and the existing configuration for your landscape and irrigation system, this might be challenging. Going with all new plantings to replace dead or dying turf makes sense if it works aesthetically or if it jibes with your long-term plans for the entire landscape. If not, this patch job could just end up looking like an ill-planned patch.

5. More of the Same – Extending Existing Shrubs

If it works with your landscaping, you could simply extend surrounding or adjacent shrub beds, filling in the drought-challenged turf with similar plantings. Again, if possible, you’ll want to replace any old or high-water-use irrigation with a drip system designed for good water management.

In terms of the options we’ve presented, this may just be the best value as it could just look like part of your original design. On the downside, if your original plantings are not low water use, it won’t help you long term in the way of sustainable xeriscaping.

6. Mix it Up –Blending Xeriscape-Friendly Shrubs with Existing Shrubbery

Onyx3-282x179A smart transitional approach involves extending surrounding or adjacent shrub beds into the drought-challenged areas and throwing some low-water-use shrubs into the mix. At the same time, replace old irrigation with drip for better water management throughout existing and new shrubbery. This is by far the most appealing alternative presented thus far as it updates tired, worn out shrubbery that’s grown woody and scores points for smart water management.

7. Make it Architectural – Adding Hardscaping to the Mix

Finally, perhaps one of the smartest moves is to think long-term and incorporate decomposed granite, cobblestone or some kind of decorative paver or stone as well as drought-tolerant plantings into the areas you’re rehabbing. Obviously you’ll want to consider the surroundings, traffic patterns and your overall landscape before doing this but if it is an option, this is by far the most water-efficient and aesthetic choice. It’s also the costliest but money spent on this project could be savings gained in terms of water use and increased property value.

A Few Final Words

When undertaking turf conversion, be sure to check in with your local water authority to see if your project qualifies for any of the cash-for-grass rebate programs. Typically these programs require that you replace existing turf with qualified low-water-use plants and xeriscaping. Every water authority differs in terms of their requirements and rebates so check in with yours before undertaking any extensive turf conversion work.

Also, don’t wait. As drought conditions continue, the more you do to conserve water and think ahead, the greater the likelihood that your landscape and budget won’t suffer in the months and possibly even years to come. The drought outlook is not a pretty picture, but the more we practice smart water management, the better off all of us—and the environment—will be.

No-Mow Grass – A Lawn Saver

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no-mow-residential-1With California facing the worst drought in its history is it possible for a responsible home owner or property manager to turn a water-consuming landscape into a drought tolerant one and still include grass as part of it’s design?

The answer is …YES!

No-Mow Grass (a collection of fineleaf fescue “grass” species that have been developed over the last 40+ years) is the answer for low-maintenance, low-input, environmentally friendly grassy ground covers. No-Mow is ideal for home, commercial and industrial landscapes that include slopes, median strips, golf course roughs, cemeteries and untrafficked areas of parks.

To continue reading … Eva’s Notes & News

Birmingham Largest Green Wall in U.S. Airport

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When I saw this article in the blog,  Total Landscape Care, I thought, “What a brilliant way to greet passengers coming off a claustrophobic  flight.”

Birmingham Airport Garden-Wall
Birmingham Airport Garden Wall

While I love to travel, I, as I am sure most of you who don’t fly First Class, have come to dread the prospect of getting from here to there shoe-horned into those sardine cans in the sky. And when you do get to where you’re going and join the rest of your cabin mates pouring into the terminal, you’re most often greeted by a noisy, advertising-filled environment you can’t wait to get out of.

I am a great advocate of green walls whether you want to cover a boring piece of concrete or make a statement in your entrance hall. Green walls can be constructed in any number of ways, out of a range of materials and can host a diverse selection of plants.

The Blog

Flowers-Green-WallThe first thing travelers see when they get off of a plane at the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport in Birmingham, Alabama, might not be welcoming faces. Instead, they will be greeted with the largest green wall in a U.S. airport.

The 1,400-square-foot living wall, called “Earth, Wind and Water: The Landscape of Alabama,” features 8,000 plants belonging to 60 species indigenous to the state, according to AL.com.

Living-WallDuring the past few years, the airport has undergone several renovations, and the wall goes toward the $201.6 million terminal modernization project. The green wall ties together themes from four regions in Alabama, showing plant life from the North Alabama uplands through the state’s river valleys and farmland to the coast, according to the site.

A few inches thick, the wall is covered with a layer of recycled fabric and an auto-irrigation system. Some of the species include orchids and insect-eating plants.

They also added hybrid pineapples, which will be harvested. The wall will be open to the public this month in Concourse C. 

One Of My Walls

Recently installed, this green wall was designed for full sun and uses a range of drought-tollerent plants. It serves as the visual backdrop for a fountain and  sculpture, helping to focus the eye in what is a large and very bright terrace.

Garden of Eva-2
Los Angeles Office of Homeland Security

 

California Approves Mandatory Water Conservation

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Folsom Lake Reservoir
Folsom Lake Reservoir

While this may not be news to some of you, it’s important that as many people in California are made aware of how serious a drought we are facing and how little is being done to conserve water. “People really don’t understand the gravity of the drought, particularly in urban California, where people are hundreds of miles from their water source,” said Felicia Marcus, chairwoman of the State Water Resources Control Board, which voted on Tuesday (7/15/14) to impose the following regulations, which are scheduled to take effect around August 1st.

Water Regulations

  • outdoor watering limited to two days a week
  • washing of sidewalks and driveways prohibited
  • washing cars banned without a shut-off nozzle on the hose
  • fountains using non-reciruclated, potable water are banned outright

Violations may be punished with fines of up to $500 per day

Beverly Hills Landscape
Beverly Hills Landscape

South Coast Region Water Use Has Increased

While none of the state’s 10 hydraulic regions have conserved as much as the governor asked for, most cut back at least 5 percent in May. The biggest exception is the South Coast region, which includes the Los Angeles and San Diego areas, as well as Orange County. There, water use increased 8 percent over previous years.

Almond Orchard
Almond Orchard

80% Of California In Extreme Drought

New National Weather Service data show that more than 80% of California is now in an extreme drought and is probably headed into a deeper drought this summer, making it harder to escape in the future.

The drought has already pummeled farmers in California, which is home to the nation’s largest agricultural sector. So far this year, about a third less water than usual has been available to the state’s farmers, according to a report released Tuesday by the Center for Watershed Sciences at the University of California, Davis. The report projected that the drought would cost about $2.2 billion in statewide revenue this year, and that 17,100 farm-related jobs would be lost.

Drought-Tolerant Landscape Design
Drought-Tolerant Landscape Design

What You Can Do

For more information on sustainable landscape design, water management and plant selection, here are links to articles I’ve written on the subject :

May 13 – 7 PM – Drought-Tolerant Landscaping Revealed

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Larchmont Village Neighborhood Association May 13th MeetingAt the invitation of the Larchmont Village Neighborhood Association I will be speaking on sustainable (“Green”) landscape design and the use of drought-tolerant, Mediterranean and native California species. The focus of the talk will be on how their use can save you money on your water bill and make a positive contribution to the serious drought California currently faces, as well as help ease our state’s ever-diminishing water supply.

If you’re interested in learning about drought-tolerant design and intelligent-water management, you are cordially invited to attend the meeting (no reservation required) on Tuesday, May 13th at 7:00 p.m. at the Van Ness Elementary School, 501 N. Van Ness Ave., Los AngelesSEE MAP

A couple of the topics I’ll touch on are:

  • How sustainable landscape design can be beautiful, provide curb appeal and integrate with your home’s architecture.
  • How to save money by replacing water-guzzling grass with a drought-tolerant landscape.
  • How to water drought-tolerant species.
  • How to prepare the ground and the kind of fertilizer to use.
  • Drought-tolerant plant selection?

In addition, I will provide handouts on the use of drought tolerant plants, the intelligent use of water and a landscaping design check list.

Garden of Eva Landscaping Design Group

For more information on sustainable landscape design, water management and plant selection, here are links to my website and newsletters:

To understand just how serious our water shortage is and how important water conservation plays in our environment’s sustainability, here’s an update from the L.A. TIMES date April 25, 2014 by Jason Wells.

Drought covers 100% of California for first time in 15 years

2014 California Drought

A prolonged period of below-average rainfall has put the entire state of California under some level of drought, ranging in severity from moderate to exceptional, for the first time in 15 years.

The latest drought monitor released by the National Climatic Data Center this week shows that the entire state is under moderate drought conditions, but within that map, 76.6% of the state is experiencing extreme drought conditions, and for 24.7% of the state, the level of dryness is “exceptional.”

During the same period last year, none of the state was considered to be under extreme or exceptional drought conditions, and just 30% fell under the “severe” category, according to the assessment released Thursday.

“This is a really serious situation here in California and people need to be cognizant of that and start conserving water as much as they can,” said Jayme Laber, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service who is part of a team of scientists who contribute to the weekly drought monitor.

The lack of substantial precipitation over the last three rain seasons has affected every part of the state, “some worse than others,” Laber said.

While many municipalities across the state have instituted voluntary conservation measures, some have gone further. As of May 1, customers in Santa Cruz will have to cut their water use by 25% or face stiff financial penalties. The mandatory restrictions are the first for the city in 25 years, CBS San Francisco reported.

The statewide situation eased somewhat after soaking rains in Northern California earlier this year allowed the State Water Project, which supplies a majority of the state, to announce that it would make 5% of the system’s allocation — a minor bump from the zero allocation that customers had been expecting.

Still, NOAA reported last week that half of the Sierra Nevada’s snow pack liquid water equivalent melted in one week, spurred by statewide temperatures that were as much as 12 degrees above average. The melt did little to boost reservoirs.

Unable To Attend?

If you’re unable to attend the meeting, the presentation will be videotaped and posted on my website, Garden Of Eva Landscape Design Group, and on my blog, A Gardener’s Thoughts & Fancies, or you can subscribe to my newsletter, “Eva’s Notes & News,” as it will be included in next month’s edition.

Water Conservation Can Be Beautiful

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While this is probably not news to most of you, I believe it’s well worth repeating and considering. Last year, 2013 became the driest year on record in California; San Francisco had the least amount of rain since record keeping began during the gold rush of 1849, and here in Southern California, Downtown Los Angeles saw the driest calendar year on record.

Sustainable Water-Wise Garden

We have had virtually no rain this winter (our rainy season) and on January 17, Governor, Jerry Brown, declared a statewide drought emergency. He has urged a voluntary 20% reduction in the use or water saying, “We ought to be ready for a long, continuous, persistent effort including the possibility of drinking-water shortages. I think the drought emphasizes that we do live in an era of limits, that nature has its boundaries.” The department of Water and Power has announced that water rates will be going up and inspectors will soon be on the street checking to see that the thee-day water rationing is being respected and that sprinkler systems are in good working order.

I have written a number of newsletters and blogs about our diminishing water supply with ideas and suggestions on how to deal with it; I even have a page of my website devoted to Sustainable Green Landscape Design. Should you want to read what I’ve had to say over these past three years, here are their links.  There is a lot of valuable information in them on how you can save money and help protect your home from fires, which is also of serious consideration, since the Santa Ana winds are now blowing year round.

Creating A Beautiful, Water-Wise Garden

A drought is a perfect opportunity to change habits by re-conceiving your yard or garden as a landscape that reflects the reality of the environment we now live in.

To continue reading … Eva’s Notes & News

How to Repair Bare Patches of Grass in Your Yard

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bare-patches-grassWith summer coming to a close and kids returning to school, now might be the time to consider dealing with those bare spots of grass in the yard. A yard is an eco-system unto itself and the reason behind the bald patches of grass need to be dealt with before the replanting or re-sodding begins.

What’s Causing the Spots?

There may be a number of causes: lack of water (irrigation is broken or not properly calibrated), rocky or non-draining soil, grubs, dog urine, disease, shade, and compaction. Before you waste time and money you need to figure out what’s causing the problem, deal with it and then proceed.

If your problem is too much traffic, consider rerouting traffic or laying stepping-stones to discourage stepping on the lawn. If shade is the trouble, select a shade-happy variety of lawn seed or sod. If your dog’s urine is the problem, take it for a walk.

Available Alternatives

In addition to planting grass seed there are several alternatives to restoring your lawn:

InstallingSodStep1_300x242.ashx_Sod

If you don’t want to wait for the grass to grow, re-sodding the area is always an option. Home improvement superstores sell sod by the piece and it’s relatively inexpensive. The ground should be properly prepared, fertilized and leveled before cutting the sod to fit the exposed area.

Seed Pads

If you don’t want to spend a lot of time fixing up the lawn, there are some great products that incorporate seeds and a mulch-like covering in one easy application. These products work very well because the shredded paper and pulp that is mixed with the seeds is very effective at keeping the ground moist and the birds at bay. The filling is usually colored blue or green so you can easily see if you have the entire area covered.

Soil Preparation

The health of your lawn and new plantings depend upon the soil in which it is planted.

  • Dig up and remove the grass in the problem area. Remove the top layer of remaining turf and soil
  • Turn over the soil using a spade shovel (has a rounded or pointed end). Be sure to go down  4″ in depth. This breaks up soil compaction making it easier for your new seedling’s roots to grow deeper with more ease. Remove any stones, roots or other plant materials that may hinder the growth of your new grass as you work.
  • Amend the soil by placing compost or a commercial bagged product from your garden center into your loosened topsoil. This can greatly improve the growing conditions for your lawn’s roots. The darker the color of the soil more organic material and nutrients there are in it. Work the organic material into the soil using the spade and or garden rake.
  • Level the surface by using your garden rake to level and create a smooth surface. The soil surface should be the same level as the surrounding soil (or slightly higher to allow for settling). If you are using sod, the soil should be 1″ lower to allow for the depth of the sod’s soil and roots. Take care the surface is even with no low or high spots. This will create a lumpy end result and depressions can collect water, which may lead to disease.

Spread the Seed

Pick a quality grass seed that matches both the type of grass currently growing in your lawn and the requirements of the area it is to grow in.

With the soil prepared, lightly sprinkle the grass seed over the exposed area. Be sure to spread it at the rate as described on the seed packaging. Rake a thin layer of soil over the seeds. Apply a starter fertilizer to assist with jumpstarting the seed growth and ensuring strong roots.

Apply Mulch Covering

Cover the seeded area with a protective layer of mulch. Typical materials include straw, peat moss, or other commercially available products made of recycled newspaper, which conserve moisture and contain starter fertilizer. The covering used is not as important as what it does: conserve moisture, increase turf density and minimize weed seeds from finding your freshly prepared fertile soil.

Keep Soil Moist Until Seeds Sprout

Lightly water the seeds every day, multiple times a day if it is warm, sunny or windy. Keep them moist until you see the seeds germinate and begin to root into the soil, then reduce the frequency of watering. Allow your grass to grow and fill in before you mow. Mowing it too early or too short can damage the grass and possibly uproot it.

Grass Alternatives

Grass consumes an extraordinary amount of water and there are so many alternatives to its use that I suggest, before you spend time and money trying to maintain a perfect lawn, you consider replacing your lawn or a considerable portion of it with drought-tollerent, sustainable native plants and succulents. I’ve written a number of blogs on this subject including my last post, Arid Southwest Cities’ Plea: Lose the Lawn. Help save water and save money by re-thinking how your garden grows.

Arid Southwest Cities’ Plea: Lose the Lawn

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Malibu_11An important article appeared in the New York Times this past Sunday, August 11, 2013, by Ian Lovett, entitled  Arid Southwest Cities’ Plea: Lose the Lawn. As detailed  in the article and quoted in this blog, it examines a very serious concern––lack of water––and how the Southwest and California and Los Angeles, in particular, are dealing with it.

This is a cause that is near and dear to my heart, aspects of which I’ve written about on a number of occasions, which you’re more than welcome to check out:

Help Save Water & Save Money

Are You And Your Garden Stressed Out

Five Water-Conserving Tips For Summer Gardening

Water, Water Everywhere … So Where Did It Go?

Southern California’s Most Pressing Problem

A Drought-Resistant Lawn … Is It Possible?

residential-sustainable-1

In the article, it was noted that since 2009, when the Los Angeles’ rebate program began, the city has paid $1.4 million to homeowners willing to rip out their front lawns, and more than one million square feet of grass has been removed and replanted with succulents and drought-tollerant native California plants. New city parks provide only token patches of grass, surrounded by native plants, and the park outside City Hall, which was once a field of grass, has been transformed into a garden of succulents.

The first five months of this year were the driest on record in California, with reservoirs in the state at 20 percent below normal levels. The lawn rebate program here will save approximately 47 million gallons of water each year, according to the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. So concerned about this issue, Los Angeles, last month, raised its rebate from $2 a square foot of grass removed to $2.50. Long Beach now offers $3 a square foot.

“The era of the lawn in the West is over,” said Paul Robbins, the director of the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin. “The water limits are insurmountable.”

City officials across the region have hailed turf removal as vital, given the chronic water shortages.

Las Vegas Made It Work

Las VegasLas Vegas presents a model of how quickly the landscape can change when a city moves aggressively. In 2003, after a drought wiped out the city’s water resources, the Las Vegas Valley Water District offered what officials believe was the first turf removal rebate program in the country.

Since then, the water district has paid out nearly $200 million to remove 165.6 million square feet of grass from residences and businesses.

In the winter, watering is allowed only one day a week. Homeowners who take advantage of the city’s rebate must sign a deed restriction stating that even if the property were to be sold, grass could not be reinstalled unless the new owner paid back the rebate, with interest.

The city’s investment has paid off. In the last decade, 9.2 billion gallons of water have been saved through turf removal, and water use in Southern Nevada has been cut by a third, even as the population has continued to grow.

“The landscape in Southern Nevada has changed dramatically,” said Patricia Mulroy, the general manager of the Las Vegas Valley Water District. “If you had driven through a single-family development in the 1990s, it would have had grass all the way around. Today, you find desert landscaping. You see very little grass.”

Save Water & Save Money

If you would like to examine the possibility of re-landscaping your home with succulents and drought-tollerant native species, and save water and money, give us a call––we are specialists in creating beautiful, sustainable landscapes.

Green Walls & Woollypockets

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Garden-of-Eva-1I recently completed creating a green wall in downtown Los Angeles for the building that houses the Department of Homeland Security.  No, I didn’t have to be frisked or the plants patted down, but the piece to your right did stir up some interest.

Green walls are definitely stirring up interest and they’re popping up all over the place since all you need is a wall, some sun and a little water, particularly if you’re creating a wall out of succulents, which is what the wall I created consisted of.

What holds all these plants in place is a living wall planter made by the company, Woollypocket. They specialize in providing vertical gardening systems that can be used anywhere and you would be amazed at the range of products that can hang on a wall.

So if you’re interested in hanging plants on a wall that will grow and thrive, check them out, www.woollypocket.com. If you go to their Professionals & Case Studies, you’ll see their products in situ and learn what was involved in their creation including Overview, Pockets, Plants and Irrigation.

Go Green!

Garden of Eva-2img_3933_1 wgw-splendid-store-suthi-picotte-hires1_1 Green Wall

Help Save Water and Save Money

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While I have written about the importance of saving water, “Southern California’s Most Pressing Problem”“Water – Water – Everywhere … So Where Did It Go?”, the reality is that this very serious problem threatens Southern California’s very existence and it isn’t going away! In fact, it’s getting worse. And as we are already in “fire season” (“Firewise Your Landscape“) I thought I would bring to your attention some of the money and water-saving programs and approaches currently available.

Water Conservation in Los Angeles

The City of Los Angeles recently implemented Phase II of its Water Conservation Ordnance, which requires the following:

Summer Fun

  • Outdoor watering with sprinklers is restricted to three days a week with different watering days assigned to odd-numbered and even-numbered street addresses.
  • Customers with odd-numbered street addresses – ending in 1, 3, 5, 7 or 9 – are allowed to use their sprinkler systems on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
  • Customers with even-numbered street addresses – ending in 0, 2, 4, 6, or 8 – are allowed to use their sprinkler systems on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays.
  • Watering with sprinklers is limited to one eight-minute cycle per watering day for non-conserving nozzle sprinkler systems (typical residential system), or two 15-minute cycles per watering day for conserving nozzle sprinkler systems.
  • All outdoor watering is restricted to hours before 9:00 a.m. and after 4:00 p.m., regardless of the watering day.

To continue reading … Eva’s Notes & News