With each new water use restriction, wildfire danger and concerns by safety officials continue to rise as the heat of summer approaches. Read on to learn how to improve your landscapes and guide your clients through the challenge of limited water availability.
Growing concern for Bay Area water availabilityAccording to tree-ring records analyzed by researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles | UCLA, experts point out that California is experiencing the driest drought period in over 1,200 years. This data supports our collective experience of drought as rain continues to elude the Bay Area.
The National Drought Mitigation Center in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration + the U.S. Agriculture Department created a joint effort to measure the scope and reach of this historic drought.
The result is a new US Drought Monitor that reveals 76% of land in the western U.S. is currently experiencing severe drought conditions—including the Bay Area.
In addition, January through March of 2022 revealed stastics that include:
- | driest first three months in CA’s recorded history
- | largest reservoirs are currently at 50% of historical average capacity
- | CA snowpack is 14% of annual average
In a challenging environment like this, Governor Gavin Newsom is urging all Californians to take more aggressive actions to combat drought and ensure everyone is doing their part to save precious water resources.
Gavin Newsom | Governor, California
How Landscape Pros can face the drought challengeAs a Bay Area Landscape Pro, these are challenging times for you and your clients. Because water is the sustaining lifeblood of gardens and landscapes, a future where it’s at risk means it’s time to take action.
Fight drought by avoiding these 10 water-wasting mistakes
The high price of a lawn of any size in a landscape makes alternatives look very attractive. That’s because lawns require the use of horrific amounts of water, unending maintenance, frequent need for chemical fertilizers, and high susceptibility to weed + pest intrusion. And let’s not forget the never-ending mowing and trimming.
Ensure that your customer’s landscapes can adapt and survive the challenge of this drought by removing and replacing a water-intensive lawn.
The addition of 40% or more amendments by soil volume also improves soil structure, available nutrients, and support for essential organisms that foster plant growth.
So if you want plants to survive in limited water and drought conditions, enhance the water retention capability of the soil by adding amendments before you plant.
When you bring new plants into a landscape when water restrictions allow it and when fall weather conditions are more moderate, you enhance the opportunity for them to flourish. However, it’s important to recognize that even CA native plants aren’t drought-resistant until they become well established in the landscape.
Planting during this seasonally cooler time period allows new plants to establish their roots with winter rains. And by selecting drought-tolerant, CA native varieties that are appropriate for your climate zone and location, you improve the opportunity for the plants to not only survive but also thrive in limited water conditions.
Removal of low-priority plants in crowded beds or areas is a best practice in a hydrozone landscape. When these excess plants are left in place, they compete for soil moisture and nutrients that can impact plant health and performance.
For installations that require low maintenance plants that are stingy on water needs, nothing could be better or easier than water-wise succulents. With an astounding leaf variety and color, succulents provide visual interest and beautiful texture focal points in a landscape. Replacing thirsty perennials with water-wise succulents can be an excellent approach to implementing a successful hydrozone.
When you add a 3—4″ layer of mulch, you can greatly reduce water evaporation and improve the condition of the underlying soil. Generous amounts of mulch also protect roots from excessive heat and drying out.
With the addition of mulch, weed proliferation that competes aggressively for limited water resources can be also significantly reduced.
Laura Frost | Laura Frost Design
In late afternoon, warmer conditions and temperatures cause faster evaporation on leaves and results in less water absorption. Plant foliage that remains too wet when watered can develop fungal diseases which are often exacerbated in drought conditions.
Over irrigation of landscape is a frequent problem and reduction of water use by 20-40% is often achievable with little impact on landscape health and appearance. Whether you use drip irrigation or conventional above-ground methods, reducing the amount of water applied at the right time over a few weeks can give plants and trees time to adjust to a leaner amount of water.
The University of California, Davis recommends a key strategy to increase watering efficiency is matching water supply to plant needs. By supplying only the amount of water needed to maintain health and appearance, unnecessary use of water that exceeds plant needs can be avoided.
Their Water Use Classification of Landscape Species | WUCOLS database provides helpful evaluations of the irrigation water needs for over 3,500 taxonomic plant groups. Based on extensive field experience, this granular tool provides useful guidance for the selection and care of landscape plants and their water needs in a particular city.
By adding generous amounts of mulch, you can prevent the proliferation of weeds, improve soil structure, and add vital nutrients to soil. Adding ground covers and native grasses that reduce or eliminate the need for heavy irrigation or toxic chemical use are also great solutions for preventing the appearance and spread of weeds.
Ground covers also spread easily in even the toughest sites. They provide thick coverage that over time, enriches the soil beneath. With fine textures and varieties that feature abundant seasonal blooms, ground covers make easy-care and attractive alternatives to unsightly and water wasting weeds.
Too much water is the most common cause of a decline in landscape trees and shrubs. So before you consider the addition of fertilizer, determine the actual cause of unhealthy-looking plants. Nutrient deficiency symptoms are often due to unhealthy roots, poor soil conditions, or improper care.
When using fertilizer in the landscape, choose a slow-release organic fertilizer that will feed the plant throughout the season. It’s also critical to prevent runoff of water, pesticides, or excess fertilizer. When fertilizer runs off into storm drains, it not only pollutes waterways, it harms local ecosystems and puts native wildlife and habitat at risk.
These guidelines and others from local public resources like Marin Municipal Water District | MMWD recommend that sidewalks, walkways, driveways, parking lots, or any other hard-surfaced areas eliminate washing with a hose.
These new rules and guidelines designed to reduce year-round water waste also include:
- | Water leaks must be repaired within 48 hrs of discovery
- | All hoses must have shut-off nozzles
- | Non-recirculating decorative water fountains shall not be refilled or topped-off
Now more than ever, it’s time to forget the hose and pick up a broom or reach for your blower to clean off hardscape.
Interested in improving your landscape’s drought tolerance?If you want to save water and improve your landscape’s resilience to drought, just contact one of our experts online at Pacific Nurseries to learn more about the drought tolerant plant solutions that we produce. Or just give us a call at 650.755.2330.
You can also check out our Growing Plant List. This comprehensive, alphabetized and searchable list includes all of the plants that we’re growing right now in available sizes. And if the plant you want is not on our list, we’ll do all that we can to get you what you want, when you need it.
Just attach your Microsoft Excel .xlsx plant list to our online form to PLACE AN ORDER. We can also provide an Estimate for one item or for an entire installation.
As Director of Operations, Will Baldocchi focuses on operations management, sales, and how to improve the customer experience at Pacific Nurseries. He also continues a proud family tradition of helping Bay Area Landscape Professionals succeed with high-quality landscape material and great service. Email Will or give him a call at 650.755.2330.