Visions of lush green lawns, English gardens bursting with color and a sparkling fountain filling the air with the tinkling of thousands of water drops may float through your head when dreaming of your ideal home. Sounds great- but we're in San Diego and this kind of garden is no longer an option!
Hopefully, you're aware of the issues we all face in San Diego, so you've planned for your new home to be efficient: changing outdated toilets for modern low-flow versions, installed sustainable flooring, energy-efficient windows and natural gas appliances and maybe added extra insulation and solar panels. So your yard, naturally, should be just as ecologically sustainable.
Plan to replace that voraciously thirsty lawn with a beautiful, low-maintenance dry-scape. Dry-scaping (also called desert-scaping, or xeriscaping) is landscaping that uses less water, protects local wildlife and conserves energy while naturally fitting in with the regional environment. Since most climates support a wide variety of plant life, you'll want to be sure to choose native plants. Before tearing up the existing lawn, however, consider the ways you'll use the outdoor spaces, the slope and lay of the land and the effort you want to put into maintaining it. Check out the Santa Fe Irrigation website www.sfidwater.org. Not only do they offer rebates for tearing thirsty lawns, they'll even send someone out to give you site-specific recommendations for saving water.
Carefully plan your site
Take time to determine how wind, sun, shade and water naturally factor into your property. Hire a professional to test the soil. When property slopes even a slightly, water naturally flows differently than on a flat elevation. You'll want to place play or entertainment areas at a higher point so that water doesn't pool in them. Use a lower area for a water feature or for plants that would benefit from the runoff.
Conserve water and soil
A professional landscaper or local gardening shop can offer the perfect plants to conserve water and soil. When plants require added water, install a drip-irrigation system that slowly adds water directly to the plant. a drip-irrigation system reduces waste as compared to sprinklers. Drip systems also prevent both evaporation and overwatering. Be sure to preserve any natural existing trees, but replace high-maintenance ones with quick-growing climate positive varietals. Install shade-tolerant plants in the shadow of trees. Consider replacing lawn with heavier ground cover (larger gravel, lava rock, or native plants) to reduce water consumption and protect from erosion.
Create a functional space
Because lawns offer activity and play area, carefully use materials and designs to enhance the usefulness of your landscape. If you replace turf grasses with pea gravel for a play area—or even mulch, sand, or recycled materials designed especially to use in playgrounds your children's area can be both easily maintained and functional.
Design your entertainment areas with gravel and paver stones in artful combination to beautiful and protect from erosion while requiring less water. Check out these images for some great ideas.
Contemplate alternative materials
Enhance natural landscaping materials like mulch and gravel by using alternatives such as recycled concrete and brick for rock garden and retaining walls, re-purposed rubber tires for playground areas, and tumbled glass "mulch" to add color to raised flower beds and garden walkways.
Consider maintenance needs
No matter what landscape options you choose, if your yard becomes a haven for weeds or requires lots of effort, its use and your pleasure in it are diminished.
- Check local requirements for herbicides that work best and are safe for the local environment.
- Cover bare soil with water permeable barriers or fabric. Layer your gravel or mulch over the fabric making sure it is completely covered.
- Set timers on irrigation systems.