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And I will walk and talk in gardens all wet with rain….

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California dreamin?

Or maybe not. With the drought “over,” many people have already asked what that means for them regarding their landscapes.. First things first, at the very least we can assume that mandatory irrigation cutbacks will be in the rear view mirror for the time being, and that’s a good thing! But before we carpet the ground in lawn, there are a few things to consider. First and foremost, we’ve spent almost half of the last 40 years in drought, and I’m thinking the one that just ended won’t be our last, regardless of climate change. Second, we live in a climate of yearly drought, period. The record rainfall will not have any effect on your lawn in July, other than the fact that there will be more water stored in reservoirs in order to water it. Slowly but surely, there has been a shift in thinking towards planting things that WANT to grow where they’ve been planted. And turf grass down not want to grow here- not without a lot of help.

With that in mind, here are Geared for Growing’s thoughts on water conservation in 2017:

Should I still replace my lawns?

Keep (or add new lawn) only where it will be used. Remove any small, unusable strips of turf, turf on a moderate slope, or turf that does nothing more than take up space. If you spend more time mowing your lawn than playing on it, yes, you should remove it. This also means that if you are thinking about reducing your lawns, don’t reduce them by so much that they are no longer usable.

What are the alternatives to lawns?

If you desire the look of a lawn, think about a “no mow” lawn or meadow. If you need the use of a lawn, there is artificial turf, but that comes with some issues as well, such as reflected heat and cost. Other ways to cut down on water use and keep your lawn is to use varieties that use less water, and utilize underground irrigation instead of overhead.

Native meadow in Healdsburg with underground irrigation


I’ve heard a lot about greywater and rainwater capture. Should I do that on my property?

While we try to utilize green technologies whenever possible, sometimes things don’t make sense. Capturing rainwater only makes sense in our climate if you are willing to devote a very large amount of space (and money) to water storage. If your roof is 2000 square feet, it will fill up a 1,000 gallon tank with less than an inch of rain. The rest of the rain for the year will go into the street, and when you finally need to use the water, you’ll find 1,000 gallons doesn’t go too far. So if you are going to store water, you need to think in terms of tens of thousands of gallons. In climates that experience rain in the summer, it’s a great option!

Regarding greywater, storing it is a complicated process. Using it immediately is an easy process, but it’s so full of particulates it cannot be used in sprinkler or drip systems, only in trenches. It’s not a bad idea for an orchard, but is pretty difficult to use for ornamental plantings and lawns, i.e. “landscaping.”

What else can I do to help?

Try to direct stormwater into the ground. We are starting to find that covering the ground in impervious surfaces and directing all of our stormwater into first streets, then creeks is not really a good practice. Firstly, it doesn’t put water back into the ground, where wells pull the water out far faster than gets replenished. Wells are not a never-ending resource unless the water makes it back in. Second, it causes flooding. The more water that enters out creeks, the higher they rise. If we keep adding asphalt, concrete and roofs, this will only get worse. Third, the fact that every drop of water that falls on a roof rolls over a section of road before meeting a creek is not without obvious environmental concerns. Admittedly, a single person converting their drainage system to one that directs water into the ground using dry wells will not make much of a difference. But when everyone does it, it will make a huge difference.

Flo-Well by NDS directs strormwater into the ground

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