Drought Tolerant Garden

garden2By Crestview resident Larry Hess,
landscape architect.

As you probably know, California is in a serious drought. The much-welcomed rains in November and December haven’t put a stop to our current situation. On November 1st, 2014, The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power unleashed their most aggressive rebate program yet to help consumers conserve water. Qualified customers can now receive up to $3.75 per square foot for the first 1500 square feet of turf removed, then $2.00 per square foot thereafter. Pre-approval is necessary. The process requires photos of the areas to be removed, accurate square feet measurements and a copy of your LADWP bill. Once you are approved, you have 120 days to install your new garden and submit documents to the LADWP for the rebate application phase. Parkway turf replacement is included as long as it’s being replaced with a “standard parkway planting material”. UC Verde Buffalograss is a popular approved replacement. Should you wish to replace your parkway lawn with a “non-standard” material, a
permit or permit waver will be necessary. The DWP provides a list of 14 non-standard materials, which includes Yarrow, Thyme and the very popular Dymondia. For further information, go to www.ladwp.com, click on ‘Rebates’ under ‘Residential Customers’, and then select the ‘California Friendly Landscape Incentive Program’. Further turf removal instructions are found under ‘The SoCal Water$mart Residential Turf Replacement Program’ link and Parkway turf removal instructions are found under the ‘Parkway Landscaping’ link on the left side column. There are several ways to remove a lawn: 1) Kill and Dig 2) Solarization or 3) Smother & Mulch. The first method is the quickest and therefore the most popular, but it requires using controversial poisons. Most homeowners are forgoing the kill and simply removing turf then fighting the weeds later by hand. Solarization requires covering wet lawn with clear plastic for up to 8 weeks. Although effective in killing the lawn and germinated seeds, it also kills beneficial microoganisms. It is also a bit unsightly and can be messy. Smother and Mulch is the least popular method as it takes 6 months to a year. It requires laying newspaper or cardboard on the lawn area then covering with 6” of mulch. The advantage to this method is you can plant directly into it once you’re ready. Traditional Irrigation will need to be removed and replaced with a drip irrigation system. There are many different types of drip systems sold at all home improvement stores and irrigation stores. All involve a method where each plant would receive a water emitter attached to black tubing. Another more advanced drip system is Netafim Techline. Although more expensive, it works very well with little or no maintenance. It’s also more effective in areas with many plants.
The fun part begins with selecting plants. LADWP has a link to a database of over 50 pages of plants…some native but all drought tolerant. Here are some of my favorites.

Abutilon palmeri
Dudleya pulverulenta
Salvia clevelandii

I’ve heard some clients lament that they don’t like the look of drought tolerant gardens, saying they look dry and dead, or they simply don’t like cactus or succulent gardens. However, there are plenty of plants to choose from. And don’t stop there. An exciting garden can have other design elements too like a Dry River Bed, Benderboard edging, Flagstone, Pea gravel, Decomposed Granite, etc…and of course, Mulch.

Happy Planting!!