Tag Archives: native ca plants

Replace Your Lawn with CA Natives

Looking for a way to reduce your water consumption?  A garden of native plants offers color, texture, pollinator and bird habitat, seasonal interest, and the single biggest opportunity for water savings for most homeowners.

No argument: lawns make an unbeatable playing surface.  But many lawns, especially front yard lawns, are rarely tread upon.  Too often, they are grown by default for their reliable greenery.  But that greenery comes at a high cost.  Landscape irrigation accounts for 75% of residential water use in Butte County.  Replacing lawn with drought tolerant native plants can cut landscape water use by over 80%, resulting in potential savings of around 750 gallons per week during the peak of summer for every 1000 square feet.

A Native Rich Garden Save A lot of Water

A Native Rich Garden Saves A lot of Water

Keeping lawns lush and healthy expends resources in addition to water.  Pesticides, fertilizers, and herbicides applied to lawns can pose health risks to humans and leach into waterways.  Gas-powered lawn mowers produce as much as 5% of the nation’s air pollution each year.  Native gardens, in contrast, provide beauty that is truly green.

The following three steps can guide you in successfully converting your lawn into a native garden.

First, observe.  What existing trees and plants, besides your lawn, do you want to keep or remove?  What are the sun and shade patterns?   What types of grass grow in your lawn?  Do you have an existing irrigation system that can be used for your new plantings?

Next, kill your lawn. Homeowners can use either of two eco-friendly methods to kill their lawns.  Solarizing is done in full sun during summer and takes 4-6 weeks.  It works best on fescue, ryegrass, and bluegrass, with limited success on Bermuda grass.  Sheet mulching can be started any time of the year.  It takes 6-12 months, works in sun or shade, and is effective on all grasses, including Bermuda grass.  See my earlier posts for step by step instructions for solarizing and sheet mulching.

Finally, replant.  Whichever method you choose, time implementation so that you are ready to replant in the fall through early spring when cool temperatures and moist allow native plants to develop the healthy roots they need to thrive with little water during the heat of summer.

Sticky Monkey Flower: great for pollinators and your water bill.

Sticky Monkey Flower: great for pollinators and your water bill.

Select a mix of trees, grasses, perennials, and shrubs for your native garden.  Trees such as Western Redbud and Desert Willow add shade, privacy, and colorful blossoms.  Dramatic bunch grasses like Deer Grass, California Fescue, and Blue Gramma grass enliven with texture and movement.  The flowering evergreen shrubs Ceanothus ‘Concha,’ Cleveland Sage, Coffeeberry, and California Buckwheat provide definition and screening.  Perennials such as yarrow, BOP Penstemon, Naked Buckwheat, and California Fuchsia bring pizazz and pollinators into the garden.  Sticky Monkey-flower and Hummingbird Sage brighten part-shade areas beneath existing trees. And, for those who miss the year-round green of their former lawn, there are evergreen groundcover manzanitas such as ‘Emerald Carpet’ and ‘Green Supreme.’

It’s a fine balance: a native garden can add so much to your garden while subtracting a chunk from your water bill.

Drought in the Landscape: What To Do Now

I’m getting lot’s of calls from people asking how to decrease landscape water use.  Here in Butte County, 75% of residential water use goes to landscaping.  ‘Droughtifying’ your landscape is a simple way to exceed Governor Brown’s request to reduce residential water use by 25%.  Get started with the following steps:

Sheet Mulching: Brown is the New Green

Sheet Mulching: Brown is the New Green

  1. Get rid of unneeded or under-used lawn.  Use solarizing or sheet mulching to kill your lawn – see my earlier posts for step by step instructions for these effective, non-toxic methods.  Starting now will set you up for replanting this fall.  Yes, your yard will look funky this summer.
  2. Water remaining lawn (do you really need it?) deeply and less frequently.  Your lawn will actually be better off being watered twice a week rather than daily.  Deep irrigation encourages deep root growth, which results in better drought resistance and reduced fungal diseases.
  3. Also, mow less and set your mower to cut at a minimum 4″ height. Less stimulation of new, thirsty growth and decreased evaporation means lower water use.
  4. Replace spray irrigation with drip irrigation.  Less water use, less loss to evaporation, reduced weeds, water applied right to the root zone; what ‘s not to love?
  5. Water in the wee hours of the morning.  For lawns, water between 2 and 5 am.  For drip irrigated plants, water before 9 am.
  6. Apply a 4″ to 6″ thick layer of wood chip mulch to all planting beds.  See my earlier post for many great reasons to become a mulch fanatic.  Make sure you keep the mulch about 8″ away from plants stems.
  7. Beautiful Foothill Penstemon

    Beautiful, Drought Tolerant Foothill Penstemon

    Phase out thirsty landscape plants.  Water-loving Chico favorites such a azaleas, rhododendrons, hydrangeas, Japanese Maples, annual flowers, and roses are dangerous beauties.  They are simply not appropriate for our dry summer conditions.

  8. Next fall, after the rains start, replant with drought tolerant native and well-adapted non-native species.  For a sunny garden that uses very little added water, even in our extreme

    Deer Grass, Cleveland Sage, CA Fuchsai, and CA Buckwheat make a lovely, dry garden

    heat, turn to CA Buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum), Naked Buckwheat (Eriogonum Nudum), Coffeeberry (Rhamnus californica ‘Eve Case’), Foothill Penstemon (Penstemon h. ‘Margarita BOP’), Deer Grass (Muhlenbergia rigens), CA Fescue (Festuca californica), CA Poppies (Eschscholtzia californica), Moonshine Yarrow (Achillea ‘Moonshine’), Common Yarrow (Achillea millefolium), Blue Gramma Grass (Bouteloua gracilis), Scarlet Mallow (Spheralcea munroana), Rosemary (Rosmarinus spp.), Black or Cleveland Sage (Salvia mellifera or clevelandii), CA Fuchsia (Epilobium californica), Autumn Sage (Salvia gregii), and Russian Sage (Perovskia ‘Little Spire’).

  9. Check out Chico’s own native CA plant grower, Floral Native Nursery, for many other drought tolerant plants.
  10. Limit pruning.  Pruning stimulates new growth which increases a plant’s water needs.

Drought tolerant landscapes are beautiful down deep.  Start creating your own today!