Drought Tolerant Landscape Elements

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A drought tolerant landscape is not a style, it is a careful selection of native and non-native plants that requires low to moderate water also know as xeriscaping. Sustainable landscape practices are not only important during a drought but at all times and for all climate conditions – drought or not. In California and other areas of the country the interest in landscape elements that are drought tolerant and/or drought resistant has increased drastically with the experience of one too many hot summers with temperatures climbing higher then ever experienced before and lack of substantial rain throughout the year. On January 17, 2014 Governor Brown formerly declared that California is in a serious drought. Here are some sustainable landscape practices that should be applied when designing a landscape or renovating an existing landscape:

Plant Selection and Hydrozones

Plants that have been designated as drought-tolerant or drought-resistant, also known as water-wise, eco-friendly and California-friendly, cannot be planted just anywhere in a garden. Every plant has it’s own sunlight and water requirements. A “Hydrozone” is the grouping of plants together by water and light needs. A sustainable landscape designer will be able to help you plan the landscape and identify the sunlight exposure for each area of your yard and select the appropriate plants. For extreme drought areas plants that have low water requirements that can survive in higher temperatures, and sometimes lower then normal temperatures, will be the challenge and responsible choice. Climate change is happening and temperatures and rainy seasons are no longer predictable. Selecting plants that do well in your planting zone and microclimate is the first consideration. Be aware that not all California native plants are low water – that is a misconception. Also many native plants from other countries with similar microclimates do well here in southern California and so they can be used in the California landscape. Native plants from other countries are known as “exotic”.

Efficient Irrigation

What is efficient irrigation: an irrigation system that distributes water efficiently with little or no run-off and uses weather-based automatic irrigation controllers. For example, drip irrigation emitters in the shrub borders, bubblers for trees and rotary nozzles along with specified irrigation zones all support conservation of water when implemented properly and aid in the growth and life of the plant material. Efficient irrigation techniques can be applied to plants that require low, moderate or regular watering. Many homeowners already have plants that require regular watering and these techniques can be applied to minimize water waste. Drip irrigation systems deliver water directly to the root systems of plants. Spray irrigation has its place in the landscape for slopes, large areas of turf and ground cover. Overhead spray should be designed with the appropriate rotary head. Landscape plants can be irrigated using gray water, which is untreated household wastewater.

Sustainable Materials

Stones, pebbles, decomposed granite, pavers set in sand, recycled landscape glass and artificial turf are some examples of permeable materials. These materials allow for rainwater to percolate down into the soil and replenish ground water instead of running off. Using sustainably harvested timber supports replenishing of forests.

Some of the ways we can responsibly beautify our homes and commercial sites include landscape design that incorporates microclimate-specific plants, efficient irrigation and sustainable materials that relate to architecture and selected garden style.

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