Top 10 myths, dispelled

Dry-climate landscaping in general, amid a drought in particular, perpetuates a surprising number of myths and misconceptions.  Ten of the most common ones are listed below, followed by the facts with links to more details. The sooner these myths are debunked, the sooner more gardens will become sustainable.

Myth #1. The current weather pattern is an aberration.

The facts. Western states have had three disastrous droughts in 13 of the last 28 years. Temperatures are steadily rising too, with 2014 the hottest year on record and 2015 on target to be even warmer.

Myth #2. Drought tolerant plants are the most water-efficient alternative to grass.

The facts. Drought-tolerant plants use less irrigation than grass, but non-organic material such as gravel and stone or even natural terrain use none. Mix it up to gain overall efficiency.

Myth #3. Low-water plants are always better than moderate-water ones.

The facts. Water/square foot is a more meaningful metric than water/plant. One wide moderate-water plant consumes less than multiple narrow low-water plants do in the same space.

Myth #4. Plants get more water with bigger emitters and longer run times.

The facts. Water rolls off slopes or clay, so small emitters’ slower drips enable roots to absorb more. Water passes through sand, so big emitters run briefly are more effective there.

Myth #5. Pick an emitter flow rate and stick with it throughout the system.

The facts. Plants vary greatly in water needs, soil type, sun/shade exposure, and slope. Mixed flow rates, unlike a single one, can optimize both health and conservation.

Myth #6. Once the irrigation is inspected, it’s good until the next annual inspection.

The facts. Monitoring is ongoing. New leaks surface, plants die, new plants go in, weather changes.

Myth #7. A hose is the most efficient way to water.

The facts. Hoses, except for rare spot watering with nozzles, are extraordinarily wasteful compared to drip irrigation on plants and brooms on hard surfaces.

Myth #8. Prune trees and hedges during a drought so they take less water.

The facts. Pruning drought-stressed plants increases susceptibility to disease, insects, and sunburn. It saves little water until half the foliage is gone and can be fatal in hot, dry periods.

Myth #9. Uniformly adjust irrigation times to survive a drought.

The facts. Sustainability demands many systemic actions, not a one-off reaction. Activities should be scrutinized, plants prioritized, waste eliminated, designs changed, and behavior modified.

Myth #10. We can go back to normal after the El Niño this year.

The facts. While experts predict a strong El Niño soon, they also warn the water crisis will continue, as reported by the International Business Times, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, among others.