Our late 2011 move to a beautiful, albeit neglected, 1.7 acre Southern California property was an eye-opener on water and waste. Five years of drought, 3 years of rationing, and multiple redos later, our 1-acre zone 10 gardens can now be described as sustainable and lush with a touch of whimsy. Thriving plants after this… Read More My plants
In yet another dry summer in year 5 of a drought, I’m reminded how names influence perceptions and actions. Shakespeare’s Juliet argued “That which we call a rose / By any other name would smell as sweet.” Maybe for Romeo, but not for amorphous concepts to transform water-intensive landscapes. Take ‘drought-tolerant,’ the industry-standard coinage for… Read More What’s in a name?
‘Drought tolerant’ misses the point. Yes, these plants and their gardens withstand a drought better than others do, but the lasting value is relatively low consumption. How about naming them what they are: ‘low-water’ or ‘waterwise’? ‘Dry-climate appropriate’ works too, but that’s a mouthful. Now that we rectified that misnomer, three geographies offer diverse choices:… Read More A world of waterwise choices
Yogi Berra could have been describing water-wise landscaping when he proclaimed “Little things are big.” It may seem counterintuitive, but that is particularly true for irrigation leaks. The big culprit is not the once-in-a-blue-moon, attention-getting gusher but rather a myriad of little, insidious leaks. A gusher can waste thousands of gallons in a few hours… Read More Four smart sleuthing skills
In March 2013 we installed 1,200 plugs of Carex flacca – Blue Sedge by the pool area right outside our door. Ostensibly a beautiful, low-water alternative to grass that could take foot traffic, it did not live up to its billing. It used just 25% less water than turfgrass and was unsightly up close. Walking… Read More Grass be gone #2
Ever wonder why some plants survive and even thrive with little water, high heat, and intense sun, while others struggle and die? The answer lies in their anatomical characteristics. Plants dubbed ‘’drought-tolerant,’ or what Sunset Western Gardening Book terms ‘water-wise,’ need little supplemental watering. Broadly speaking, these troopers have adapted their biology to: store water… Read More Choose wise plants wisely
Garden guides, both online and printed, specify plant height, width, exposure, and water needs. Some even list soil conditions or vary water needs by specific geography. What is missing, though, is water per square foot, the single-most revealing sustainable gardening metric. While water use of an individual plant matters to overall consumption, my analysis these… Read More Gauge plants by water/sq. ft.
Every gardener knows that plants sometimes struggle. You try to coax them back to health. If they die, you generally replace them with the same variety, especially if mates are in the same bed. A drought upends that “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again” mentality. Some plants in some places are simply… Read More Pack it in when plants die
Early 2014’s rationing to less than half our prior consumption was a turning point. Overnight I went from blissfully unaware of how we used water to resolutely committed to sustainable landscaping. Wanting a sound basis for tough decisions, I recalled life cycle assessment (LCA), a systematic evaluation of product stages from cradle to grave. I… Read More Follow the water