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Easy Water-Wise Gardening - San Diego, California


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Easy Water-Wise Gardening - San Diego, California

Easy Water-Wise Gardening - San Diego, California

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  • 1. Where to get help Many professionals can help you Favorite websites design and implement a water- Low-water landscape Easy water-wise conserving landscape. Before deciding design ideas, irrigation advice, and on anyone, get several bids and talk links to local water agencies. with previous clients. Contra Costa Local water districts usually offer Water District’s website provides infor- a wealth of information, including mation on water conservation, land- gardening recommended plant lists, watering scape design, and maintenance. guidelines, and water-saving tips. Information on smart Landscape architects design entire controllers and efficient irrigation, and outdoor environments, from plantings tips for hiring an irrigation contractor. to structures like patios and decks. Information on Licensed and university-trained, they irrigation equipment and efficient can provide the whole package, from design to installation. Or they can help watering. Tips for backyard Advice and design ideas in specific trouble spots, such as steep slopes or areas with poor drainage. conservation. The Saving Water Part- for the 21st Gardening ideasSubscribe to Sunset magazine for landscaping inspiration Landscape contractors are trained and licensed in methods of earth nership’s website provides water- conserving information for the From the editors of  Aand gardening advice tailored to your climate in eachmonthly issue. Visit or call 800/777-0117. moving, construction, irrigation, and Northwest. planting. They are very useful for diffi- The Southern Nevada Water cult projects. Authority’s website provides informa- Landscape or garden designers tion on low-water plants, landscaping, have varying degrees of education but and irrigation. are usually not licensed. The focus of Sunset’s website offers their work is likely to be residential landscape ideas, planting plans, and gardens. Often they work in conjunc- detailed information about local tion with a landscape contractor. climate zones. Irrigation consultants are California Department of usually licensed contractors associated Water Resources’ website provides with an irrigation-supply store (another information on drought in California, good source of information). They can unthirsty plants, and efficient irrigation. help design and install efficient irriga-Use these companion books from Sunset to help you tion successfully in your climate zone. Available at Local nurseries can offer usefulyour local bookseller and home and garden center. information and assistance in choosing plants and irrigation equipment. Many have design services.Sunset Plant FinderLooking for the right low-waterplant for your climate and gardeningstyle? Go to A Thomas J. Storyand search by type, growing condi-tions, and color. Copyright © 2009 Sunset Publishing Corporation ER-64132   Sunset Easy Water-Wise Gardening   1
  • 2. Great gardens for a new era In the West, water is as precious as gold. Most of our rainfall comes in winter, yet many garden plants need irrigation in summer, during our driest months. Seasonal droughts, groundwater pollu- tion, and population growth stress this valuable resource. If we are to have enough water in the future, we must avoid wasting water in our homes and gardens today. Of the water Westerners use at home, about 50 percent goes to gardens. So the most important place to start a conserva- tion program is right outside our doors. Fortunately, water conservation doesn’t mean settling for a barren landscape; it means practicing good gardening. Choos- ing plants well adapted to your climate, improving your soil, watering efficiently, and taking advantage of the latest irriga- tion technology all help save water. Plants that require less water are widely available at nurseries. The Sunset Western Garden Book, Sunset Western Land- scaping, and the online Sunset Plant Finder tool ( can provide you with lists and plans. In this booklet, we offer many ways to save water in your garden, including watering strategies based on soil type, smart use of watering devices, and advice about selecting an efficient irrigation system for your garden. Contents A gorgeous mix of 4 Low-water landscape design low-water plants, Elements of a dry garden, plants including California fescue, carex, catmint, for all climates, planting plans, erigeron, ‘Garnet’ permeable surfaces penstemon, lavender, 4 1 Efficient irrigation Mexican bush sage, ‘Morning Light’ Manual watering, sprinklers, drip miscanthus, and systems, choosing the right system rosemary. 6 2 Water savings Mulch basics, rainwater harvesting, putting it all together 2 3 Where to get help Saxon Holt Professionals to consult and websites to browse2   Sunset Easy Water-Wise Gardening   3
  • 3. DesignElements of 8 Water-saving basics 5. Upgrade your irrigation system Adda low-water Follow these guidelines for elements such as smart a water-efficient garden controllers connected to 1. IMPROVE THE SOIL weather stations andlandscape Routinely cultivate the soil in your vegetable and annual beds, incorporat- new, highly efficient sprinklers or drip emitters to make precision water-A dry garden can be as ing organic matter such ing much easier. (Seeinviting as any other as compost. Doing so improves the soil’s ability pages 16–21.) 6. WATER DEEPLY IrrigateDrought is a fact of life in the West. to retain moisture. Most established plants thor- landscape plants (trees, oughly but infrequentlyIt’s part of the natural weather cycle. shrubs, and native plants to encourage roots toThats why water conser­vation should be a especially) establish grow downward; they willpart of every Westerner’s lifestyle. Happily, faster when planted in be buffered from the wet-a well-designed water-wise land­scape can native soils without the dry cycle typical of the addition of amendments. upper soil area and maybe lush and colorful and will make your If your soil is sandy or tap into groundwater.home a beautiful and inviting place. rocky, you may need to 7. IRRIGATE EFFI- Start by leaving more areas unplanted add compost. CIENTLY Make sure yourthan you would if you lived in a wetter 2. plant in the right watering practices and place Locate unthirsty devices are as efficient asclimate—a big water savings right off the possible. Water plants plants where they’ll gettop. Make the paths generous and put the sun (or shade) expo- only when needed, not bygravel under seating areas instead of sure and soil drainage the calendar or clock.planting a groundcover. Use decomposed they need. Group plants Water at night, when that have similar water evaporation is muchgranite in place of thirsty lawn grass. Then lower and the air gener- needs so none gets tooplant the remaining spaces with ornamen- little or too much water. ally calmer. Tightentals that are adapted to arid climates. 3. Shrink the lawn faucets so they don’tFinally, to highlight water’s revered status Most lawn grasses need leak. Avoid runoff and enormous amounts of wasteful the unthirsty garden, add a few traces water to stay green and 8. MULCH Cover bareof it, some real, some illusory: a fountain lush. Reduce your lawn’s ground around each plantthat barely trickles, a dry streambed that size, or—unless you need with a 3-inch layer of it for kids to play on— mulch to help conserveawaits the next downpour, or a lovely urn. eliminate it altogether. soil moisture, suppress 4. CONTROL WEEDS weeds, and keep the soil These garden intruders cooler; renew annually. steal water needed by Organic types such as desirable plants. Regu- bark chips, shredded larly hoe or pull them out bark, or compost improve when they’re young, or the soil as they break use landscape fabrics and down, and encourage mulches to discourage beneficial microbes. (See growth. pages 26–27.) No lawn Drip irrigation Permeable paving Xeric plants Mulch Using a tapestry of groundcovers Low-flow irrigation is the most Strips of elfin thyme and Armeria Native and Mediterranean plants, A thick layer of mulch helps preserve instead of thirsty turf to landscape efficient way to water plants— maritima dissect the flagstone paving such as the manzanita, yarrow, soil moisture. But it can also enhance Steven A. Gunther the front yard saves precious water. there’s no runoff or evaporation. leading to the front door, soaking up Euphorbia, and Kniphofia pictured, design, creating negative space that design Jeffrey Gordon Smith It’s also the healthiest system for rainfall and directing excess to the are well adapted to the West: They makes plant groupings or individual Landscape Architecture, Los Osos, plants because the water penetrates yard on either side. require little water and maintenance, specimens stand out. CA ( deeply into the soil, encouraging and their blue-green, gray-green plant roots to do the same. foliage looks right in our light.4   Sunset Easy Water-Wise Gardening   5
  • 4. Design 5 great water-wise detailsLow water, 1. BRIGHT COLORS Yellow columbine, red valerian, and lavenderhigh style catmint bloom amid a sea of mown buffalo grass in a New Mexico garden. ACombine flowering and cluster of aspen trees provides light shade forfoliage plants for a colorful, the columbine.all-season garden 2. FOLIAGE TEXTURE Strong architecturalWater-thrifty gardens deliver all the details set the stage forbold forms and colors of traditional land- this Seattle garden filledscapes, but with minimal resources and a with billowy grasses andlot less effort. As with any garden, they perennials. Along the gravel path, giant featherincorporate all the elements necessary for grass (Stipa gigantea) andoutdoor living and entertaining: Paths and maiden grass createpatios to give the garden form and direc- clouds of strappy foliagetion. Arbors and trellises to help divide the beside catnip and Span-garden into rooms, and to create shade.Benches and outdoor furnishings for ish lavender. 3. BOLD SHAPES Golden barrel cactus appear to 2 3comfort. But that’s where the similarity to march along the top of a rock wall between fine-conventional landscapes ends. textured purple Dalea The gardens pictured here are designed greggii plants. An Agaveto thrive on little more than rainfall, but weberi adds drama behindthey offer many other advantages beyond them, while blue palo verde and desert iron-conserving moisture. Drought-tolerant wood trees soften theplants don’t require much, if any, fertilizer, house walls. clockwise from top left: saxon holt, andrew drake, d.a. horchner/design workshop, bob wigand, saxon holtso they tend to grow at a rate that’s easy 4. LUSH PLANTINGS In ato manage without constant pruning. San Diego garden, a dense border on a slope isBecause they produce less green waste, filled with large nativethey contribute less to landfills. In addi- boulders. From the fronttion, many drought-tolerant plants, espe- are bright green aeonium,cially Western natives, attract birds and yellow pincushion (Leucospermum), yellowbutterflies, which come to dine on insectpests or to sip nectar. Cotula coronopifolia, varie- gated Furcraea foetida 1 It’s possible to have a garden that’s ‘Mediopicta’, and a red-both water-conserving and beautiful, with flowering ivy geranium. 5. TWIST ON TRADITIONplenty of lush foliage and a generous dose A suburban front yard inof seasonal flowers. All of the gardens Long Beach, CA, plantedpictured are rich tapestries of color and with dark green Carex pansa, is watered onlymotion, thanks to their diverse palettes of once a week in summercarefully chosen natives, perennials, orna- and mowed just fourmental grasses, shrubs, or succulents. times a year. Water-wise gardens take a bit moreplanning than ordinary landscapes, butover time they offer significant savings inlabor costs—and, of course, water. 5 46   Sunset Easy Water-Wise Gardening   7
  • 5. DesignPlants for 7 great water-wiseall climates plantings 1. LOW SPREADING Cean- othus griseus ‘Kurt Zadnik’Choose ornamentals that is a colorful groundcover that grows 2 to 3 feet tallthrive in your region and 6 feet wide or more. Spring flowers are deepWhile local natives are best suited to blue.most sites, other good choices include 2. WATER-WISE ANDdrought-tolerant plants from all corners of FIRE-WISE In a San 2 3the world. Some of the most water-wise Diego–area garden, spaces between bouldersoptions are native to the Southwest are filled with a deep pinkdeserts. Others are from the five Mediter- rose-scented geranium,ranean climate regions—California, the white nutmeg-scentedMediterranean basin, South Africa, south- geranium, and purple sweet-pea shrub.western Australia, and the central coast of 3. wildlife magnetChile—where rains are spare and summers Coneflower (Echinacea) isare warm and dry. a tough perennial with Many of these plants share characteris- daisy-like flowers in pink, lavender-purple, yellow,tics that help them survive periods of orange, and white. Beesintense heat and low rainfall. They may and butterflies love tohave gray or velvety leaves that reflect visit the beehive-shaped centers for nectar; finchesheat; succulent leaves, stems, and roots visit later for seeds.that store water; or needlelike leaves 4. EASY TO GROW Hornedwhose small surface area limits the poten- poppy (Glaucium flavum)tial for water loss. Or they may go dormant produces rosettes of crin- kly gray-green leavesduring the hottest months of the year. topped by orange to Water-wise plants have different bright yellow blooms.degrees of drought tolerance. Plants that 5. BRIGHT BERRIES Tall (usually to 10 feet), dense clockwise from top left: bob wigand (2), Steven A. Gunther, bob wigand (3), jim mccauslandthrive on 30 inches of rain in the Northwest, Toyon puts on a brightfor instance, will wither in a Southwest show in winter, when redgarden where the average rainfall is 10inches or less. Do your homework before berries envelop the shrub. 6. BOLD FOLIAGE Clouds of lime-colored flowers 1 4finalizing plant choices, then group plants on Euphorbia characiasinto zones by their water needs. Place wulfenii contrast withthirstier (and often showier) plants near- chocolate-hued Aeoniumest the house or in other high-visibility arboreum ‘Zwartkop’ tospots, less thirsty plants in the background. create drama in a San Clemente, CA, garden.Make sure your irrigation plan supports 7. SHAPE AND TEXTUREeach zone independently of the others. Mediterranean-climate Avoid the mistake of thinking that some plants fill a garden border in a rain shadow alongtypes of plants never need watering. All Washington’s Pugetplants, native or not, need regular, deep Sound. They include Asterirrigations through the first year to help ‘Mönch’ and Schizostylistheir roots become established. Some need coccinea ‘Oregon Sunset’, framed against ‘Goldmoisture into the second year, but by then, Sword’ New Zealand flax.many do fine with only an occasional deep Behind is tall, airy Verbenawatering. A bit of research and consulting bonariensis.with your local nursery or cooperative 7 6 5extension service will help you figure outhow much water your plants need.8   Sunset Easy Water-Wise Gardening   9
  • 6. DesignLow-waterplanting plans E f gBrighten a garden bed with Dherbs for your kitchen or i bberries and flowers for birds aThe best plants for low-water gardens h c jnot only enliven the landscape and thriveon little water once established, they have Chives Lemon thymeother benefits as well. Woody perennial Planting area: 8 x 6herbs such as rosemary, sage, andthyme—all native to the Mediterranean Pocket-size herb sampler Plant listregion—produce leaves that can be used Just 48 square feet is space enough for a diverse assortment of A. Chives (Allium F. Rose (‘Sunsprite’); 1fresh or dried to flavor meat, soups, and scented herbs plus a compatible fragrant rose. Seven of the nine schoenoprasum); 3 G. Rosemary (Rosmari- B. French tarragon nus officinalis); 1stews. In beds and borders, they combine herbs have culinary uses, making this planting especially appeal- (Artemisia H. Common sagewell with blooming perennials such as ing to cooks (particularly if it’s located near a kitchen door). The dracunculus); 4 (Salvia officinalisblue-flowered catmint and sunny yellow two nonculinary choices—lavender cotton and catmint—add to C. Catmint (Nepeta x ‘Icterina’); 1patio roses. the plot’s beauty with their soft textures and equally soft gray- faassenii); 3 I. Lavender cotton D. Sweet marjoram (Santolina chamaecypa- Unthirsty shrubs and perennials that green to gray-white leaf color. In fact, much of this garden’s (Origanum majorana, rissus ‘Nana’); 3pump out flowers, berries, or seeds invite charm derives from its varied foliage colors and textures; conspic- Majorana hortensis); 1 J. Lemon thymeall kinds of birds to your garden, bringing it uous flowers appear chiefly on the chives, catmint, lavender E. Oregano (Origanum (Thymus x citriodorus) Catmint Common sage vulgare); 2 ‘Aureus’; 1alive with beauty and motion. (Birds also cotton, rosemary, and rose.feast on pest insects.) You can re-create one of the borderspictured at right in your own garden. Thebest time to plant is early fall, before rains opposite, clockwise from top left: david cavagnaro, thomas j. story (3), ben woolsey, claire curran,come (they’ll help irrigate the new trans- c bplants for free). Locate both beds in full asun. The bright herb sampler is designed hto fit a small (8- by 6 -foot) space. The f gbirdscape is backed with three billowy f norman a. plate (2); illustrations, from top: lois lovejoy (2), erin o’toole (2)shrubs that need more room to sprawl. e i The total number of each plant needed dis indicated after each plant in the “Plant g cLists,” far right. Blanket flower Black-eyed Susan Planting area: 25 x 18 Western birdscape Plant list This small planting design is suited to mild-winter areas of Cali- A. Elaeagnus x F. Black-eyed Susan ebbingei; 1 (Rudbeckia fulgida sulli- fornia and the Southwest deserts. Though it lacks trees and a B. Firethorn (Pyracan- vantii ‘Goldsturm’); 11 watering hole, it offers most of the inducements that birds crave: tha coccinea ‘Kasan’; 1 G. Fountain grass berries, seeds, and shelter. The irresistible lure—as legions of C. Lantana (Pennisetum gardeners have come to know—is the yearly crop of firethorn ‘Radiation’; 3+ setaceum); 6 D. Heavenly H. Blanket flower berries, but the garden’s feathered patrons will also feast on the bamboo (Nandina (Gaillardia x grandi- fruits of lantana, heavenly bamboo, cotoneaster, and Elaeagnus. domestica); 2 flora); 5 Seed-eaters will appreciate the bounty of coreopsis, blanket E. Willowleaf coto- I. Coreopsis grandiflora flower, black-eyed Susan, and fountain grass. The shrubs all neaster (Cotoneaster ‘Sunburst’; 4 salicifolius ‘Emerald Fountain grass Firethorn afford ample shelter. Carpet’); 2+10   Sunset Easy Water-Wise Gardening   11
  • 7. DesignPermeable 7 ways to use porous pavingsurfaces 1. golden gravel In this Los Angeles garden, a base of warm-tonedLet rainfall percolate down 3/4-inch gravel makes a bold visual distinctionto plant roots from surrounding green- ery, including drought-Paths and patios that are paved with tolerant blue Seneciogravel, decomposed granite, spaced flag- mandraliscae.stones, or porous concrete are the best 2. shale and pavers 2 3choices for water-conserving gardens. Fractured shale fills gaps between concrete paversPermeable paving materials add beauty in a garden in Alamo, CA;and structure to the garden and, of course, yarrow and grassesrequire no irrigation themselves. More- soften path’s edges,over, they allow rainwater and irrigation to 3. classic filler Drought-tolerant creep-pass through them and into the soil, ing thyme grows 3 inchespreventing runoff that can clog storm tall and roots as it spreadsdrains and pollute nearby lakes, streams, to fill spaces betweenand coastal waters. flagstone pavers. 4. woodsy path Spaced If you’re considering gravel, visit your concrete “stones” curvelocal landscape supply yard to experience through a garden in Gigthe look and feel of different types. Gravel Harbor, WA. 5. fit for a firesiderefers to rocks ranging in size from 1/8 inch ‘Paprika’ yarrow andto 11/2 inches. It comes in two forms: ‘Walker’s Low’ catmintManmade crushed rock has sharp, irregu- edge a secluded gravellar edges; nature-made river rock (also seating area in Califor- nia’s wine country.known as natural pebbles) is rounded. 6. paired materialsThink about where it will be used. For Edged with pale flag-high-traffic areas, such as paths and stone, a half-inch ofpatios, use manmade crushed rock. decomposed granite over a compacted base formsBecause the pieces bind together well, a well-draining surface inthey create a more stable surface for walk-ing. The most common size is 3/8 inch, an this garden in Rancho Mirage, CA. Palo verde, agaves, opuntia cactus, 1 4all-purpose gravel that’s also good as a and barrel cactus thrivemulch around plantings. For a softer in the flanking gravelsurface under bare feet, use 1/4-inch or patches.finer natural pebbles. For low-traffic areas, 7. Pocket patio A 7-foot Clockwise from top left: Steven A. Gunther, Thomas J. Story,river rock is an attractive choice, but the circle of bricks set into a base of compacted sandlarger, smoother pieces are less stable is easy to move and adapt Thomas J. Story, Steven A. Gunther, Thomas J. Storyunderfoot than crushed rock. for different purposes. jennifer cheung/Jupiter Images, jimmccausland, You can green up surfaces covered withstone or cobbles by planting mat-forminggroundcovers between the pavers. Goodchoices for this use include creeping thyme(shown at far upper right); Dymondiamargaretae, which forms a tight mat ofnarrow, gray-green leaves and tiny yellowflowers in summer; and snow-in-summer(Cerastium tomentosum), a dense, tufty mat 7 6 5of silvery gray foliage with small whiteflowers in early summer.12   Sunset Easy Water-Wise Gardening   13
  • 8. IrrigationEfficientwatering 101Learn about your soil,watch your plants, and getthe right toolsWhen determining how you shouldwater, first consider your plants. Because How to chooseplants with deeper roots are better able to the right hosewithstand periods of drought, your goal A cheap hose prone to kinks and cracks makesshould be to apply enough water to wet gardening a chore. It pays to invest in quality.the entire root zone and to encourage nHoses may be made of rubber or vinyl or adeep rooting. Shallow watering leads to combination of the two. The best models incor- porate multiple layers of reinforcing fabric suchshallow roots and plants that are very as nylon or rayon. Hose couplings and swivels aresusceptible to drought and fluctuatingtemperatures. You should also avoid 1 another indication of quality. The strongest couplings are made of brass—the thicker the better—and the best swivels are hexagonal forapplying so much water that it penetrates easy gripping. Also look for a protective collar justdeeper than roots actually grow. That below the coupling; it’s designed to prevent thewater is wasted. hose from kinking at the faucet. n Garden hoses vary in length (25, 50, and 100Watering checklist feet) and diameter (1/2, 5/8, and 3/4 inch). A 1/2-inchHydrozoning. Organize your landscape hose can deliver about a third as much water as a 3/4-inch hose. If you have low water pressure or ifinto “hydrozones”—groups of plants with you must run your hose uphill, buy the shortest,similar water, soil, and exposure needs. By largest-diameter hose that’s practical for yourdoing so, it’s possible to apply water very situation. CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Thomas J. Story, craig d. wood, Norman A. Plate, Thomas J. Story, darrow m. wattefficiently and allocate more water tothirsty plants and less to unthirsty ones. use a hose in furrows 1. Basins 3 to 6 inches deep hold water aroundFor example, you should separate low- plants. On level ground, link basins to makewater users, which thrive on rainfall alone watering easier.or with minimal supplemental water (such 2. Furrows 3 to 8 inches deep help a hose-endas native plants, or ones similarly adapted bubbler attachment irrigate straight drought) from high-water users (suchas lawns, annual flowers, and vegetablegardens). As much as possible, maximize 1 2 3the amount of garden space dedicated tolow-water users.Observe your plants. Get to know thesigns of moisture stress, such as droopy, manual watering devices penetrating, push a stiff metal rod into the water until puddles appear, stop until the 1off-colored foliage. Hand watering can be very efficient: You can pinpoint individual plants and vary watering times based soil after watering. It will move easily water is absorbed, then repeat the cycleKnow your soil. Examine it frequently, on plant needs and weather. The right devices make it easier. through wet soil but will stop or be harder until water penetrates to the desiredmaking sure it is not too wet or too dry 1. Portable sprinklers 2. Soaker hoses Flat hoses 3. Hose-end nozzles to push when it hits dry soil. Before water- depth. Use drip or low-volume irrigationbetween waterings. If necessary, add They feature different spray perforated on one side or Nozzles turn water flow into a ing again, let the top few inches of soil dry (see pages 18–21). methods: oscillating, rotating, porous “ooze” types work best variety of sprays, from strongorganic matter to new planting areas to impulse, or traveling. Choose a on level ground. Run them jet to gentle mist. Those with out, depending on the size of the plant. Adjust watering schedules with theimprove soil texture or to hold moisture heavy-weight model with a along rows of vegetables, long handles are especially Avoid runoff. Don’t apply water faster weather and seasons. Water less often inbetter. pattern that matches the shape of the area to be watered flowers, or hedges; spiral around trees; or use to helpful for watering hanging baskets. (If the nozzle doesn’t than the soil can absorb it. Direct water to cool weather, more frequently during hot 2Water deeply, then let the soil partially plant roots by building basins or furrows of weather. Irrigate early in the morning, and that applies water evenly moisten beds of seedlings. already have a shutoff valve,dry before watering again. Irrigate long over the entire area. you can connect one between soil around plants. Use terraces or basins when winds are calm and evaporation isenough to wet the entire root zone. it and the hose.) to avoid runoff on slopes. Pulse-­irrigate low. (See “How season affects watering,”To determine how deep the water is plants in clay soil or on slopes: Apply page 25.)14   Sunset Easy Water-Wise Gardening   15
  • 9. Irrigation Isolate sprays. Position sprinklers to elements of a prevent overspray into neighboring hydrozones or paved areas. sprinkler system Hose bibbEfficient Simplify the course. Plot layout of under- Systemwatering: ground pipes with fewest turns. shutoff Control valve and valve backflow preventerwith sprinklers Group by valve. Plot circuits—a group of Nozzle sprinklers controlled by the same valve— to correspond to the hydrozones. Every-A good choice for overhead thing on one circuit (valve) will be watered Schedule 80 riserirrigation of a large area at the same time. Your water pressure andFor large lawns and some vegetable flow rate will determine how many sprin- Pop-up sprinkler Sprinklerand flower beds, underground sprinkler klers you can have on each circuit. Each headsystems are a good option. To operate circuit should comprise the same type ofproperly, they need high pressure (40 psi sprinklers: spray or rotor. Don’t mix the two.or more at the water source). You may Cutoff riserwant to hire a professional to plan and Maintain your PVC slip byinstall the system, which entails much sprinkler system PVC slip by thread T Swing joint thread elbowphysical labor. However, sprinkler manu- To make sure your system operates effi- PVC pipefacturers provide good instructions, ciently, often watch it run to check forand many people decide to do the job signs of leaks, malfunctions, or poorthemselves. performance. Adjust sprinklers when Use the right components Nozzles These determine a sprinkler head’s necessary, and unclog heads with a knife Control valves These include backflow (anti­ pattern of spray, radius of throw, and amountDesign your system or piece of wire. Replace broken sprinklers siphon) devices to prevent water from flowing into the home water supply. of water delivered. Choose the pattern carefully to fit the shape of the area. Most spray headsTo design an underground irrigation or risers. Water-filled valve boxes or leak- Tip: Valves are usually grouped together so they have nozzles that emit water proportionately:system, follow these steps: Sprinkler ing sprinklers may be a sign that valves can easily be wired to electronic controllers. a 90° nozzle delivers a quarter of the water aMake a scale drawing of your property. need to be repaired or replaced. Wet spots Pipes These are made of rigid, white polyvinyl full-circle nozzle delivers. Variable-arc nozzles chloride (PVC). To glue or thread sections of pipe (pictured below) can be adjusted from 0° to 360°Include new or existing landscaping, hard- and a constantly running water meter are together, you’ll need fittings that come in various of spray; nozzles are also available for small areasscaping like paths and patios, and any other signs of problems. In freezing configurations (including T and elbow) and types and irregular shapes. All rotors have adjustableexisting underground utilities. Divide your climates, install a drain valve at the (slip and threaded). arcs, although how you make the adjustment Risers These vertical pieces of pipe connect varies by model and into hydrozones. lowest point in each circuit. Before winter sprinklers to underground pipes. They may be Tip: Easy-to-change nozzles adjust application Spray overlap freeze, drain the system through the drain 12 to 18 inches tall to clear shrubs, 6 inches or less rates between heads with different arcs.Visit an irrigation supplier. Take time valve, and hire a professional to blow for lawn familiarize yourself with components compressed air through the system to Tip: You can buy adjustable polyethylene risers at the desired height, as well as cutoff types that Variable-listed and shown in the photograph on the clear remaining water. arc allow a choice of heights. (A swing joint makes itfacing page. Pay attention to sprinkler easy to adjust the height and angle of sprinkler nozzleoutput rates and nozzle spray patterns. heads.) A simple twist changes the CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: GEORGE OLSON, THOMAS J. STORY, EM AHART (2) Sprinkler heads There are two basic catego- spray patternSketch your system ries: spray and rotary (rotors). Spray heads emit a fixed spray, whereas rotors—both gear-driven of a variable-Stores or nurseries that specialize in irriga- Sprinkler and impact types—move as they shoot out single arc nozzle totion supplies can help you plan and draw coverage Nozzle or multiple streams of water. Spray heads are the desired This illustration spray generally for smaller areas, throwing water in segment ofan irrigation system, or you may prefer to patterns a circle. shows how to about a 15-foot radius. Rotors cover up to about ahave a professional do the design. Regard- position sprin- For proper 45-foot radius but need more pressure to operate.less, it makes sense to be involved with coverage, 90° 120° klers to ensure Because they apply water at a slower rate than even coverage. typically youthe design process. Here are some basic must set some spray heads, rotors must run for longer periods Sprinkler heads to wet an area, but they are less likely to causetips when planning a system. nozzles to in the corners runoff. cast water in an different arcs Tip: Both spray heads and rotors are available inLimit heads. Use as few sprinklers as arc, while the than others. 180° 240° stationary sprinklers and pop-ups.possible to achieve head-to-head cover- center head waters in aage: Spray from one sprinkler should reach circle. Dark tintthe head of the next sprinkler. For full indicates watercoverage, each area should be covered by overlap. 270° 360°three sprinklers.16   Sunset Easy Water-Wise Gardening   17
  • 10. Irrigation elements of a drip system Hose bibbEfficientwatering: System shutoffa drip system Control valve valveThe wise choice for focused, Pressurelocalized irrigation Filter regulatorWhile underground rigid-pipesprinkler systems use high water pressure 1/2-inchand volume to dispense water over a large ­polyethylenearea, drip or low-volume irrigation delivers Pop-up tubing microspraywater at low pressure and volume (in End capgallons per hour) to specific areas, oftenjust to individual plants. Penetration ofwater is slow, its depth regulated by the Emitter Automaticlength of time the system is on. controller The result is well-watered plants,using less water than with sprinklers. Drip PVC pipeemitters, which release water directly tothe soil, waste virtually no water; evenmini­sprayers and mini­sprinklers, which Use the right componentsspray water into the air, deliver less water Control valve that runs each zone or station on the systemthan ordinary sprinklers do. Emitters and This landscape in Backflow preventer (antisiphon device) formini­sprinklers are available in many Encinitas, CA, thrives each zone (may be part of the control valve setup) on rainfall in winter anddifferent styles, varying primarily in spring; an all-drip Pressure regulator to reduce pressure ofoutput (gallons per hour) or, in the case of incoming water so setup won’t blow apart system takes over in Filter to remove dirt particles from waterminisprinklers, in the size and shape of summer. Low-water PVC pipes to transport water to your planting plants include Aloewatering pattern. arborescens (with areas A drip-irrigation system can be orange spires), Polyethylene tubing (1/2 inch) and microtub-connected to your main water line or oper- Aeonium arboreum ing (1/4 inch) to deliver water from the main line to (with yellow cones), emittersated from a hose bibb or the end of a hose. and purple statice. Fittings (compression, barbed, and locking,It is possible to convert an existing rigid to connect the components) and end capspipe system to a drip system (see page 20). Emitters, minisprinklers, and ooze tubes Subsurface irrigation. Using in-line drip Irrigation controller: Best needs. Programs allow you to set when tion schedule at least monthly to reflect to apply water to plants Flush valve to aid in cleaning dirt out of your emitters enclosed in black polyethylene friend or worst enemy? the system comes on (say, Tuesdays and changes in weather and day length. For system (in areas with dirty water) or to drainState-of-the-art tubing (also called emitter line) is an When connected to a well-designed irriga- Fridays at 6 a.m.) and how long it runs (run example, a lawn that requires watering 4 water out of the system (in climates with freezingirrigation systems alternative way to water lawns. The tion system, a properly set automatic time). Multiple start times allow the water days per week in July will generally need temperatures)Irrigation technology is evolving rapidly, tubing is buried 4 to 8 inches below the controller can reduce waste and do a to be delivered in shorter spurts. For watering only 3 days per week in Septem-making watering easier and more efficient. turf and usually spaced 12 to 18 inches better job of watering than most garden- example, the controller can water the ber and 1 or 2 days per week in October. FROM LEFT: Steven A. gunther, Thomas J. StoryIf you consider yourself technically adept, apart, depending on the soil type. Within ers can. But controllers are only as good as lawn for 10 minutes, turn off the water foryou might want to include some of the the tubing there are individual emitters the people who use them. Many home- an hour, then water for another 10 Doing it yourselflatest products in your system. Most need spaced every 12 to 18 inches. One manufac- owners don’t know how (or have forgotten minutes. This pulse-irrigating translates Some homeowners prefer to install smallto be monitored very carefully to operate turer infuses emitters with an herbicide to how) to set them properly or don’t make into very little waste due to runoff. Water drip systems by themselves. For detailedproperly, so there is a commitment prevent grass roots from growing into and adjustments with the seasons. If that budgeting features allow you to step up or instructions, consult the informationinvolved, but they can be very useful. clogging the openings. sounds familiar, spend some time reac- step down the run time with the seasons provided by suppliers. If you install a To find out more about moisture quainting yourself with your controller. or weather. system yourself, you’ll need to create aRain sensors. They’re hooked into auto- sen­sors and subsurface irrigation, consult Multiple-program controllers provide But it’s important to get used to repro- scale drawing of your yard to calculatematic controllers to override irrigation suppliers that specialize in irrigation the most efficient way to irrigate different gramming the controller to suit plants’ equipment needs. For an extensivewhen significant rainfall occurs. equipment. areas of the garden with differing water changing water needs. Adjust your irriga- system, it’s best to hire a professional.18   Sunset Easy Water-Wise Gardening   19
  • 11. Irrigation Beginning of the season Replace or clean clogged emitters and Troubleshoot n Open the end caps or flush valve. minisprinklers. your drip system n n Clean filters. n Move emitters farther from plant’s base The problem: One plantThe right emitter depends on your n Run water through system to clear; as the plant grows; add emitters. looks thirsty.plants and soil type replace end caps. n Clean the filter as needed. The solution: Dig into root zone and, if soil is dry, checkThe heavier the soil, the slower it absorbs water. n After the first couple of uses in spring, n Adjust timer with the changing seasons. to see if the emitter isSo for heavier soils, you should irrigate with lower make sure wetting pattern is as expected. clogged. If emitter works but If emitter isn’t working, clean or replace it. Winter­gallon-per-hour (gph) emitters. Then run the Punching n Inspect lines for leaks. In cold-winter areas, remove end caps there are extensive dry areas, there probably aren’t enoughsystem longer to supply enough water to plants. n drip holes emitters around the plant. n Adjust automatic controller if necessary. and caps on filters and drain lines. The problem: Plants on one n In freezing weather, shut off pressurized PLANTS SOIL WHICH EMITTER AND WHERE line look thirsty. Peak season water, bring battery-operated timers The solution: Look for a Low shrubs Sandy One 2-gph; next to plant Punching pointers nCheck for evidence of leaks, such as indoors, drain valve assemblies (antisiphon break in the line be­tween Loam One 1-gph; next to plant last healthy plant and first When making holes in drip tubing for puddles or eroded soil, and secure loose control valve, filter, and pressure regulator), thirsty one. Clay One 1/2-gph; next to plant emitters and barbed fittings, use a punch tubing. and open end caps. The problem: Plants on one designed for that purpose. Be sure the valve look thirsty. Medium Sandy Two or three 2-gph; evenly around plant The solution: If emitters Loam Two or three 1-gph; evenly around plant tubing is straight—if it is twisted, the to large are working, you may be Clay Two or three 1/2-gph; evenly around plant emitter could end up on the top, causing Emitter shrubs underwatering. water to run along the tubing instead of The problem: All plants dripping down onto the soil. The hole Stake look thirsty. Small trees Sandy Three to six 1-gph or two or three The solution: Check your (6- to 8-foot 2-gph; on J-loop or two lines on should be positioned so that the emitter controller and the on-off or canopy) opposite sides will drip to the side or downward. Hold rain shutoff button and reset Loam Two or three 1-gph; installed as above the punch at a right angle to the tubing to if necessary. If they are fine, Clay Two or three 1/2-gph; installed as above ensure a round hole that will seal tightly check moisture around roots. against the emitter’s barb. You may find If soil is dry, look for a break Larger trees Sandy Four or five 2-gph; on J-loop or two lines in main water line before the (10- to 15-foot on opposite sides the piercing process easier if you slowly valves. If system is in good canopy) Loam Four or five 1-gph; installed as above twist the punch as you push it into the repair, increase watering Clay Four or five 1/2-gph; installed as above Hose bibb tubing. On some punches, the tip may time. Timer The problem: Plants look become clogged with extracted tubing; Emitter Ground­ Sandy or One 1-gph; at rootball clear it out before punching again. Pressure yellowish; soil is wet. loam The solution: You are covers, Clay One 1/2-gph; at rootball regulator overwatering; reduce water- spaced at least and filter 2 feet apart Convert your sprinklers Anti- Branch ing time on valve. to drip siphon line The problem: Water puddles on the surface. Ground­ Any soil Overlapping minisprays or minisprinklers If some circuits of your conventional sprin- device The solution: You probably (or follow drip guidelines below for “Beds of kler system are watering plants that could covers, flowers or vegetables”) have clay soil; change emit- closely spaced be more efficiently irrigated with drip, you ters to a lower gph, or run the system for a shorter time can retrofit your system by making use of Main line Connector End clamp and repeat cycles. Beds of Sandy Several 2-gph; about a foot apart in a row the existing underground pipes. Loam Several 1-gph; about 11/2 feet apart in a row flowers or Clay Several 1/2 -gph; about 11/2 feet apart in a row The various conversion systems call Drip kits for pots vegetables for removing all the conventional sprin- A hassle-free way to water container plants automatically klers on a circuit, connecting drip compo- Using a timed drip-irrigation required by many localities. system, the plants should have Containers Potting soil One or more 1/2- or 1-gph nents at one or more risers, and capping Above: craig d. wood; Illustration at right: Nik schulz system to water containers If your kit doesn’t have these similar water needs; try to use all risers that aren’t used. In most cases, ensures your garden-in-pots components, purchase them containers in the same sizeHow deep How wide gets the water it needs—with- separately. Different manufac- range. After you set up, turnShading shows vertical wetting Horizontal coverage is also impor- you must add a filter and pressure regula- out waste—even if you’re turers’ components usually your system on and monitor itpattern; notice how much deeper tant; below we list the area covered tor to the line. neglectful or on the go. aren’t interchangeable, so if for a couple of cycles to makewater goes in sandy soil than in clay. by drip emitters. You can choose a prepack- you think you may need extra sure everything works prop- EMITTER Sandy LOAM CLAY Maintain your drip system aged kit; many are easy to put together. Get one that includes parts, it’s best to buy from a vendor that sells individual erly. Look for leaks and assess flow, adjusting as necessary. FLOW RATE Soil SOIL SOIL As your garden matures, you’ll need to a timer, a filter, a pressure drip-irrigation pieces. SOURCES DripWorks (dripworks 1/2 gph install new emitters and increase the regulator, and an antisiphon Position containers where and Raindrip (raindrip. 1 sq. ft. 5 sq. ft. 11 sq. ft. device (also called a backflow you want them before you com) sell kits; the Urban number of emitters watering your plants. 1 gph 5 sq. ft. 11 sq. ft. 18 sq. ft. preventer or vacuum breaker), lay any tubing (and measure Farmer Store (urbanfarmer Sandy Loam Clay You’ll also need to check your system which keeps irrigation water carefully since it’s hard to sells separate 2 gph 11 sq. ft. 18 sq. ft. 31 sq. ft. occasionally to look for clogged emitters from being drawn back into remove fittings once they’re components and offers advice or broken lines. Here’s a season-by-season the public water system and is connected). On a timed for customized systems. guide to drip-system maintenance.20   Sunset Easy Water-Wise Gardening   21
  • 12. Irrigation Choose the right professional Hiring a professional to helpThe right Groundcovers (D) install an irrigation system is n Use underground sprinklers; select like hiring any other skilledwatering stationary heads for plantings more than a contractor. foot tall and low-precipitation-rate heads n Get several quotes.system for groundcovers on a slope. nAsk for client references, n Drip emitters are suitable for shrubby and contact them to make sure they were happy with groundcovers.Which irrigation system n Drip minisprays work well for mass plant- the best for you? ings of small groundcovers. n Ask to see a contractor’s A F license, certificates of insur-Lawn (A) ance, and proof of anyn Hose-end sprinklers can work well for a Roses (E) special irrigation training.small lawn. n Soaker hoses work well on level ground. n Make sure you will get then Underground sprinklers attached to a features you want. Find out n Underground sprinklers with flat-head which brands and models ofcontroller will water a large or small area sprayers run early in the day keep leaves irrigation equipment (espe-more precisely. dry, helping to prevent disease. cially sprinklers and timers) n Drip irrigation with emitter line works will be used and why.Annuals and perennials (b) well with closely spaced bushes. Or use n Ask about plants in each hydrozone and how then Overhead watering may cause flowers to individual emitters for each bush. system will need to bedroop or spotting on petals; certain changed or updated as plant-spe­cies are more subject to disease if not Trees and shrubs (F) ings mature.carefully watered. n Use soil basins to direct water to roots nIf your landscape usesn Underground sprinklers with pop-up and avoid runoff (see page 15). native plants, make sure the B D contractor has experiencerisers work in extensive flower beds. Risers n Soaker hoses work for occasional deep- designing systems that suitshould be tall enough that foliage doesn’t watering of established trees. the plants’ special needs.block spray. n Low-volume systems with emitters or n Discuss the main principlesn Choose drip-emitter lines for beds with microsprinklers are most efficient, espe- of irrigation and judgeclosely spaced plants, individual emitters cially on sloping ground. whether the potential installer knows up-to-datefor widely spaced plants. systems. Here are some good Natives and drought-adapted questions to ask:Vegetables (C) plants (G) Clockwise from top right: Sandra Lee Reha, Thomas J. Story, Norman A. Plate, Jim McCausland, What are the best sprin-n Hand-water with basins and furrows. n Use ooze-type soaker hoses at low klers for the lawn? Aren Use soaker hoses on flat ground. ­pressure. sprinkler heads a minimumn Install a low-volume system with emitter n Use low-flow drip with a manual shutoff of 4- to 6-inch pop-ups? Will they be properly spaced forline for closely spaced plants, individual valve. head-to-head coverage?emitters for widely spaced vegetables. n Natives and drought-adapted plants Will the system needn Position plants with similar watering need little to no water after they are built-in check valves and B E G pressure-regulating valves?needs. Bigger plants need deeper irriga- established.tion than small plants or seedlings do. Can the irrigation systemPlants that are flowering or setting fruit Container plants (H) be tailored for the various norman a. plate, Thomas J. Story, Norman A. Plate (4) plantings (hydrozones) in theneed more water. n Hand-water gently with a nozzle. yard? What is the best way to n Submerge pots for a half-hour in tubs of water each zone? water to saturate soil. n Use drip for pots. Water small pots two to five minutes several times a day. Big pots require more water per application but less frequently (see page 21). C F H22   Sunset Easy Water-Wise Gardening   23
  • 13. Irrigation Minutes 50 40How to manage 30thirsty plants 20 10Annuals, vegetables, roses,and lawns usually need a lotof watering. Here are waysto save water but also havea better-looking lawn and How season affects wateringhealthier plants Plants use more water during hot, dry weather, so you need to irrigate more in summerAnnuals than in spring or fall. (InUse less-thirsty types. African daisies, winter in many areas, you don’t need to water at all.)California poppies, celosia, creeping Also, wind dries out plantszinnia, cosmos, dwarf morning glories, faster than still air, so plantsgaillardia, marigolds, nicotiana, petunias, require more water duringportulaca, salvia, snow-on-the-mountain, planting times, check the Sunset Western windy weather. Day length also influences waterverbena, and vinca can all get by on less Garden Book. requirements. From Januarywater than most other annuals can. Plant in furrows. Dig furrows 6 to 8 inches until June 21 (summerPlant only for visual impact. Limit plant- deep, then sow or plant in the bottom of solstice) days grow longer, while from late June untilings to areas where they’ll be seen up the trench, not on the sides or top of the It’s natural to want a lawn if your December 21 (winterclose, such as near entryways or around furrow. solstice), they grow shorter. household includespatios and decks. Build basins around vegetables that need active kids. But That’s why in July, during aStart with small plants, or sow seeds. wide spacing—squash, melons, and choose the right week of longer, 80° days, grass and keep the your landscape will requireThese will develop more extensive root tomatoes. more water than during a lawn small andsystems than larger plants, using less Plant tomato seedlings deep. Leave just well managed to week of 80° days in Decem-water over the long haul. the top two leaves exposed; plants will minimize water use. ber.Plant in part shade. Particularly in develop better root systems. As obvious as this sounds, gardeners ofteninland areas, provide shade from hot Plant close together. Space plants so the forget to adjust automaticlate-afternoon sun. foliage will eventually touch; this will Lawns for 15 minutes, then measure the water in During drought or water shortages, let the controllers according toWork the seasons. Plant when the weather shade the soil and discourage weeds. Still firmly rooted in backyards across the each cup. For example, if 1/4 inch of water lawn go dry. Many lawn grasses, including weather and seasons:is ideal for quick establishment (in most Plant early-ripening varieties. They will West, lawns are responsible for as much collects in 15 minutes, your sprinklers Ber­muda, tall fescue, and zoysia, will Gardeners should water less in cool weather, turn sprin-cases, fall is the ideal time to plant). For need fewer irrigations. as half of outdoor residential water use, deliver 1 inch an hour. If necessary, make green up when they can be watered again. klers off altogether in winterplanting times, see the Sunset Western and studies show that most are signi­ adjustments. Also watch sprinklers run, Otherwise, you can always replant. or during rainy spells, andGarden Book. ficantly over­watered. and fix leaks, clogs, obstructions, and Replace difficult-to-water narrow strips of increase watering when it’sGroup plants close enough that mature Roses Mow higher. Set your mower at 2 to 21⁄2 broken heads. lawn or grass growing on slopes with less windy or hot. The illustration aboveplants will completely shade the soil. Plant bare-root. Winter planting gives inches for bluegrass, 2 to 3 inches for tall Cut back on fertilizer. Too much nitrogen thirsty groundcovers. Choices include shows the maxi­mum weekly bare-root roses plenty of time to get fescue, and 1 inch for warm-season encourages water-thirsty new growth. Coprosma kirkii (Sunset climate zones 14–17, water needs of some lawns inVegetables established before hot weather. grasses such as Bermuda and zoysia. Water for short intervals. This way, the soil 21–24); dwarf coyote brush (Baccharis Northern California. The from left: Norman A. Plate, Steven A. Gunther sprinkler run time (theWhenever possible, start plants from Cut back on watering after spring bloom. Check evapotranspiration (ET) guidelines can absorb the moisture without wasteful ­pilularis, zones 7–9, 11, 14–24); star jasmine minutes column) is based onseed. These plants usually develop stron- Many established roses—especially old with your water department. Many lawns runoff. (Trachelo spermum jasminoides, zones 8–9, an application rate of 2ger and deeper roots. shrub and species kinds—can get by on can stay partially green at even half of the Switch to low-volume sprinklers. These 11, 13–24); and trailing African daisy (Osteo- inches per hour spread outBuy small transplants. Avoid seed­ ings l surprisingly little water. recommended rates. Adjust watering apply water at a rate slow enough for the spermum fruticosum, zones 8–9, 13–24). over a week. It peaks in July, and dwindles to nothing inthat are obviously rootbound. Mulch heavily. Use at least 3 inches of times according to the seasons. soil to absorb. Switch to drought-tolerant grass, such as midwinter.Try heirloom varieties. These include organic matter; replenish often. Know your sprinkler system. To find out Increase water penetration. Use a power tall fescue or hybrid Bermuda. Or better‘Anasazi’ beans, which are well adapted to Remove suckers. Wait until next winter to how much water your sprinklers apply, aerator (available in rental yards); this also yet, plant a locally native, low-waterhot, dry climates. do other pruning. place five straight-sided cans or cups reduces thatch and runoff. grass. Choices vary by region, but mightTime planting to let vegetables get well Don’t deadhead. Let hips develop to (more cups will give a better reading) Reduce irrigation in shady areas. Stretch include Pacific hair grass, creeping redestablished before warm weather. For suppress growth. randomly on your lawn. Run the sprinklers the time between irrigations. fescue, or buffalo grass.24   Sunset Easy Water-Wise Gardening   25
  • 14. Savings Mulch: more than a pretty face Six of our favorites, plus the basics you need to know Add mulch and Straw save water Light, loose option lets water pass through easily; QA: the basics good around vegetable No matter what condition your garden is Q: How thickly should I apply the mulch? and strawberry beds. Buy How a water meter at livestock-feed stores. in, adding a layer of mulch will give it a A: In general, the denser the mulch parti- can track water use Don’t use hay, which has clean, freshly planted look. But the bene- cles, the less you need. Your water meter can tell you how much water you seed heads that may fits of mulch are not just cosmetic. Mulch- Q: Any application tips? are using during a given time period, and can help germinate into weeds. you monitor the amount of water you use indoors Hazelnut Apply 4–5 inches. ing is one of the best ways to maintain soil A: Spread mulch to the appropriate thick- and outdoors on a daily basis. It can also help you hulls moisture (and to save on your water bill), ness, taking care to keep it a few inches figure out how much water each appliance uses, Good for general use and insulate roots from both heat and cold, away from tree trunks and the crowns and and whether there’s a leak inside or outside the ideal for paths because house. But first you’ll need to learn to read your hulls let water through and minimize the need to weed. stems of plants. If placed too closely, meter. easily and don’t stick to Depending on your garden situation, mulch can retain moisture and cause shoes. Most readily many materials can make great mulches. plants and trees to rot. How to read your water meter available in and around Most water meters are located in in-ground Oregon’s Willam­ette At left is a sampling of our favorites, which Q: How can I keep my mulch clean? concrete boxes toward the street curbs. To Valley. Apply 2–3 inches. are widely available in bags or in bulk from A: Inevitably, leaves and other debris will expose the gauge, remove the cover and flip open Cut bark nurseries and landscape supply centers. fall on your mulch. You can remove litter the meter’s cap. Made from different types of wood based on where Here’s what you need to know to get with a small hand rake. Some people use Straight reading meters (the simplest, most you live; a good all- started. blowers, but lighter mulches may blow common type) can tell you how much water purpose choice. The mini you’re using in a given period. Simply record the Q: What exactly is mulch? away along with unwanted material. figures shown on one day and then again a day or size shown here gives landscapes a polished A: Generally speaking, mulch is any mate- Q: When should I mulch? week later, and subtract the original reading from look. Apply small size 2–3 rial that protects soil surface and allows A: At least once a year in early spring the new reading. To convert cubic feet to gallons, Decomposed inches; larger, 4–5 inches. air and water through. Mulch is useful before weeds sprout. You can also add a multiply by 7.48. Using the same process, you can test the amount of water used to take showers or granite (DG) over an area of bare soil and around second layer as a top dressing in late fall. irrigate your garden. Turn off all water inside and Compacts quickly and planted areas. Organic mulches (derived Q: When do I remove it? outside the house, read the meter, then run sprin- doesn’t tend to blow away. Especially attractive from plant material) add nutrients over A: You can leave mulch in place indefi- klers; take a new reading. time and enrich overall soil composition, nitely. Just scrape it aside if you want to Many new water meters, including the one in Southwestern and desert landscapes, but can pictured, come with a leak detector—a small so they’re hard to beat. Compost, aged plant in a mulched area. triangle in the center of the meter that rotates be prone to weeds. Apply 1–2 inches. manure, raked leaves, pine needles, and Q: What’s the best way to mulch container when any amount of water is used. If the triangle thin layers of lawn clippings (as long as plants? rotates even when all the water is turned off, Shredded they’re herbicide- and pesticide-free) all A: Use the same depth and application there’s a leak somewhere. bark work for various situations. You can also technique as for mulching on the ground. If your meter is of a different style from those Slow to decompose, with mentioned here, call your water agency for help a more woodsy, natural opt for an inorganic mulch such as gravel, reading it. look than cut bark. granite, or stone. Irregular bits and How your meter can help you shredded pieces knit Q: Will manure burn my plants? check for leaks together so it stays in A: It can burn the roots of your plants if it’s To check for leaks, turn off all water faucets place. Useful on slopes not well composted, so look for bag labels (including your ice maker). If your meter doesn’t Tumbled and in windy areas. Apply that specifically say “well-composted have a leak detector, it will have a sweep hand. glass 2 inches. Record the meter reading or mark the needle Pricey ($3–$7 a pound or manure.” Be sure to ask your supplier if position with a pencil or piece of tape. Keep the you are purchasing in bulk. From Left: Rob D. Brodman, E. Spencer toy more), so used mainly to water off. Wait at least 15 to 30 minutes (some add color and punch to Q: How much should I buy? leaks have a cycle). small areas. Reread the meter gauge to determine if any A: Determine the square footage you want water has been used. If a leak is detected, likely to cover and use the following as a guide: culprits are toilets and irrigation systems. A 2-cubic-foot bag covers an area of 8 square feet to 3 inches deep; 1 cubic yard of mulch covers an area of 108 square feet to 3 inches deep.26   Sunset Easy Water-Wise Gardening   27
  • 15. Savings Storing up on a rainy day Four ways to harvest and store precious rainwater  FIRST, A COPPER RAIN CHAIN CHANNELS RAINWATER FROM THE ROOF … Hang a rain chain THE WATER SPILLS Rain chains replace downspouts. FROM THE PIPE INTO A PLANTED The 81/2-foot chain pictured INFILTRATION BASIN. spills into a 16-inch-diameter INSTALL A RAIN BARREL bowl (it attaches to the bowl so Rain barrels typically hold about 50 to 60 gallons each—enough to it won’t whip in the wind). The irrigate houseplants or pots on the deck. The best type is made of water then overflows slowly recycled food-grade plastic (or use a recycled wine barrel like the one into a rock-covered catch basin. pictured), with an intake line, spigot, overflow attachment, screen INFO Copper Bells rain chain cover to keep out leaves, and removable solid cover. Position the ($169) and hammered-copper barrel beneath a downspout; to keep the rainwater pure, remove the dish ($45; solid cover an hour or two after rainfall has washed pollen and other pollutants off the roof. Rain barrels cost about $100 to $150 each. Clockwise from Far left: Camille Nordgren (2), Rob d. Brodman, Jim McCausland (2) THE PIPE RUNS THE THE WATER MOVES LENGTH… INTO A PLASTIC CATCH BASIN ATTHE BASE, HIDDEN THROUGH A hidden 4-INCH- OF THE CHANNEL ADD A CISTERN BENEATH RIVER WIDE FLEXIBLE AND UNDER An inch of rain puts about 600 gallons PLASTIC PIPE. A PERME- ROCKS. of water atop a 1,000-square-foot ABLE PATH. house. Rain gutters capture it; from a downspout, you can direct it into a cistern to help water your garden. At Islandwood Environmental Learning Center on Bain­bridge Island, Washing- ton, three steel cisterns store rain­water from a nearby roof. By the time vegeta- Plant a rain garden says landscape designer Malissa Gatton. rainwater from the roof into a shallowly bles start growing in spring, the tanks When rain falls in Seattle, homeowner Lyn “The garden helps reduce this household’s buried pipe that empties into an infiltra- are full and the water travels through a Dillman smiles: Water that used to run environmental footprint. Anybody could tion basin or swale at least 10 feet away gravity-fed drip system to irrigate crops. down the street now pools in a thickly do it.” from your house, where it can replenish INFO Pictured cisterns are from Texas planted infiltration basin at the garden’s If you have soil that drains well, a rain groundwater. Grow water-tolerant plants Metal Cisterns ($380 for 200-gallon size edge, where it percolates into the ground- garden is a satisfying way to take advan- such as shrub willows in the basin. to $1,070 for 1,200-gallon size; texas water below. “It’s a win-win situation,” tage of a free natural resource. Channel DESIGN Malissa Gatton ( 28   Sunset Easy Water-Wise Gardening   29
  • 16. SavingsPutting it all Water landscape plants near lawns Plants how to fight growing in or near a well-watered lawn become drought dependent on that irrigation. If lawn irrigationtogether When drought comes, and with it the possibility of local bans on lawn watering or punishing is abruptly cut off, those plants will suffer and need supplemental water.Eleven elements of a water- PLANTS GROUPED BY hikes in water bills, what can you do? It’s too Monitor shallow-rooted shrubs On azaleas, rhododendrons, and young camellias, watch forconserving landscape PERMEABLE DRIVEWAY Use decomposed granite or pavers WATER NEEDS late at that point to install a water-conserving landscape, since even drought-tolerant plants wilting or drooping of new growth. Build basins Place thirstier plants together and around them (make sure water won’t poolWhen winter rains come, it may be tempt- with spaces between; this allows drought-resistant plants elsewhere. need water to get established. But you can take against the trunks), and give them a deep soak rainwater to pass into the soil, rather Then put plants that need regular steps to save the plants you to dream of planting large lawns and than running off down the street in April with clear water (soapy water, on water on separate irrigation systemslush flower beds. Yet many regions of the Save established trees and shrubs first These rhododendrons, can cause leaf burn). and schedules are costly to replace and have the greatest Mulch It bears repeating: A layer of mulchWest receive less than 10 inches of rain per LOW-WATER TURF impact on your landscape. (A lawn can be helps keep moisture in the soil (see page 26).year, and periods of drought are part of the If you must have a patch of lawn, replaced in an afternoon from sod, but a The best mulches (bark chips, for example)West’s natural cycle. Keeping the big keep it small and choose a native 70-foot-tall redwood can take 20 years or more don’t compact easily, but allow sufficient airpicture in mind can help you make smart grass that’s appropriate for your to replace.) Landscape trees such as ash, birch, and water to reach plant roots. region. Examples: Blue grama, poplar (riparian trees that in nature grow nearlandscaping decisions. Any of the land- buffalo grass (desert areas), RAIN-HARVESTING water), alder, coast redwood, magnolia, and Irrigate fruit trees Most stone-fruit trees canscape features described here can result in Creeping red fescue, Pacific hair grass survive some drought, although they’ll produce SYSTEM Japanese maple are often the first plants to smaller fruits, and fewer flower buds next year.substantial water savings. (Deschampsia cespitosa holciformis) show signs of drought stress. Weakened trees Channel rainwater from your home’s But they’ll be better off with a deep irrigation in downspout into a subsurface like Monterey pine may not die directly from April and again in June. (Citrus may need addi- catchment basin where it can drought but invite borers, which can finish them. tional deep watering in summer; watch for wilt-SHADE TREES ON THE replenish the groundwater Give the trees a deep irrigation in late spring ing, yellowing, or curling leaves.) and they’ll be far better equipped to withstandWEST SIDE OF THE HOUSE drought. The roots of various plants grow to Apply water slowly and deeply at the dripChoose deciduous types that shade line with soaker hoses as described for big different depths; the trick is to apply justand cool the house during summer, trees; or make a basin 4 to 6 inches deep underthen drop their leaves to allow in enough water to moisten the roots without going beyond. Most tree roots are located in each tree, extend it to the drip line (3 inchessunlight during winter. Unthirsty beyond if you can spare more water), and usechoices for mild climates include the top 2 feet of soil. The drip line of a tree or shrub runs around the perimeter of the canopy a hose to fill the basin slowly.Chinese pistache and honey locust and virtually outlines the root zone on the Cover swimming pools A good practice even ground below. Once you identify the root zone, when water use is unrestricted, covering an focus your resources on that area. To increase unused swimming pool during times of drought IRRIGATION is especially important. A pool cover can stop water penetration before watering, drill 1-inch CONTROLLER holes 1 to 2 feet deep every few feet around the 90 percent of water evaporation waste, even Install an automatic controller to allowing for times when the pool is in use. drip line and fill them with organic mulch, or schedule irrigation times. Reset Many styles and materials are available, includ- use a spade or pitchfork to rough up the soil programs seasonally and after ing translucent air-cell plastic types, sold at power outages surface. If the soil is dry at a depth of 10 to 12 inches (check it with a sampling tube), moisten swimming-pool supply stores. To avoid acci- the soil 18 to 24 inches deep. dents, entirely remove any cover before jump- Coil soaker hoses around the tree at the drip ing into the water. PAVERS WITH SPACERS line and halfway between the drip line and the AND UNTHIRSTY PLANTS trunk; apply mulch over the root area, then For patio surfaces, opt for pavers allow hoses to run slowly overnight. For most such as flagstones or recycled DROUGHT-TOLERANT big trees, you’ll need about 10 gallons of water concrete pieces. Grow unthirsty plants such as creeping thyme or GROUNDCOVER per inch of trunk diameter; riparian trees need For areas that don’t get foot traffic, twice that amount. snow-in-summer in spaces between choose unthirsty groundcovers such Reduce lawn watering To stay green all as Arctostaphylos uva-ursi, Carmel summer, lawns need 1 to 2 inches of water per Creeper ceanothus, low-growing week. Turn on the sprinklers for about 10 minutes COMPOST BIN junipers, or creeping thyme Install a bin to turn your garden’s once a week, turn them off to let moisture soak brown plant waste into deep rich in, then turn them on again for another few compost. Dig finished compost into minutes. Or cut back to 1 inch of water every the soil to improve the soil’s water- two weeks; under this regimen, lawns turn absorbing capability straw-colored and go semidormant but bounce TOUGH SHRUBS back quickly after weather cools in fall. Also, N E Fill borders or spaces along fences with mow high and keep the mower blades sharp. DRIP-IRRIGATED RAISED undemanding, low-water beauties such Don’t overfertilize; too much nitrogen encour- as chuparosa, lavender, rosemary, or ages the production of thirsty new growth. BEDS FOR VEGETABLES Annie Bissett smoke bush (Cotinus coggygria) Use drip tubing or soaker hoses in raised beds; they put irrigation water W S right where plants need it, with no runoff or waste30   Sunset Easy Water-Wise Gardening   31