The City of Santa Monica has an excellent handout on changing your conventional spray irrigation system into a more efficient rotating nozzle spray system.
Here is a handout that helps you size and site your swales, berms, and rain gardens.
Here’s a handout that provides the basics of preparing a Site Plan.
The Watershed Approach to Landscaping is a MODEL for evaluation, standards, messaging, and metrics of a healthy ecosystem implementing Living soil, rainwater capture and retention, climate appropriate plants and highly efficient irrigation where necessary on a landscape scale.
A Watershed Wise Landscape works with the natural systems of the earth, rather than against them, to build a Living Soil Sponge. Building a Watershed Wise Landscape will:
Save water, soil and other precious resources. Grow beautiful, climate-appropriate plants. Nurture local habitat. Keep pollution from our local waterways. Recycle greenwaste on site with composting, mulching and worm bins. Clean soil, water and air by eliminating pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, and other pollutants found in traditional landscapes. Reduce maintenance time and money.
Synthetic turf is not a recommended water conservation tool because, while it may save water use in some cases, the overall environmental detriments exceed the benefits. Artificial turf should be used only in very specific situations such as under overhead structures or in subterranean or extremely shady spaces that are designated as high-traffic areas and the look of turf is desired over alternative permeable surfaces.
Artificial turf is installed over a highly compacted base of gravel and/or decomposed granite or concrete, so it’s permeability is at least as poor as regular compacted turf. Some turf manufacturers claim a storm water benefit, but this relies upon subsurface drainage. Why not just make a permeable surface to begin with?
Another detriment of synthetic turf is the material from which it is made. The plastic material degrades in sunny situations, often outgases, and gets hot, contributing to the heat-island effect around the property. This could adversely affect surrounding plant material, increase the temperature and air conditioning use of the surrounding hardscape or buildings, and in some cases, require hosing down to cool off. The infill used to keep the blades of grass looking “realistic” is often comprised of rubber pellets or the plastic punch outs from the grass backing. The infill migrates to waterways when rains are heavy. Using sand as infill alleviates this, but even sand can migrate creating sediment pollution.
Succulents are a particular kind of plant that are climate-adapted (in most cases) to an arid landscape such as Southern California. However, understanding the particular growth characteristics of each plant is important. For example, freezing temperatures will kill many succulents, and much of the foothill and desert areas experience freezing temperatures.
All succulents are not low water use plants. There are many succulents that require regular supplemental summer water in Southern California, so choose water-wisely too. But, be careful not to mix succulents requiring summer water with succulents that do not; some Dudleya species, native to Southern California, will quickly die with any summer water, and some are more garden tolerant. It’s important to do your homework.
Watershed wise plant selection emphasizes the Right Plant in the Right Place. If a particular succulent appeals to your aesthetics and is tolerant of the garden conditions you have evaluated on your site, then, by all means plant the succulents of your dreams!
We NEVER use landscape fabric in the landscape. The Watershed Wise way to block weeds is putting down a decomposable barrier such as paper or cardboard, and heavily watering it to start the Soil Party. There are several reasons we do not recommend landscape fabric:
a) Landscape Fabric encourages weeds – Soil is blown or deposited on top of the fabric, creating the perfect conditions for weeds to germinate from seed. This is especially true when the fabric is put under large woodchip mulch or rocks, as in a dry creek bed. The result is that water is held against the mulch or rocks, creating the perfect microclimate for weeds!
b) Landscape Fabric does not encourage a Soil Party – Since the Soil Party is the key to healthy soil, and the diminishment of weeds, anything that slows down the decomposition of organic mulch into soil is a bad thing. We want mulch to have a direct connection to the soil so the Soil Party can do it’s thing and keep your plants happy and healthy!
c) Landscape Fabric clogs easily – Many new studies are showing that landscape fabric and sleeves cause clogging in subterranean structures, leading to failure of the system. For example, sleeves on perforated pipe are no longer encouraged. Also, placing fabric around retention basins is no longer encouraged. The only time a non-woven geotextile would be recommended is in the installation of a subterranean cistern, in which the clogging of the material is not a factor in the performance of the system.
d) Landscape Fabric is mostly plastic – Why do we want to put plastic in our gardens if we don’t have to? When exposed to sunlight (mulch moves or rocks move), the fabric breaks down and becomes unsightly – it also isn’t working as a barrier any more.
The answer is not a simple yes or no. Any substance held against a woodframe construction building will contribute to moisture retention by that wood. Perpetually moist wood is attractive to termites. So, for sure we want to keep any mulches or even plant material away from the foundation of the building, and certainly away from touching the building walls.
Otherwise, there is no scientific evidence that organic mulches contribute to termites in a building or even to colonies of subterranean termites. There is some scientific evidence, produced by the IPM Program at University of Maryland, suggesting that inorganic mulch (rock or gravel) may favor termite colonies in certain climates; but the conclusion drawn is that the gravel conditions are at best only very slightly attractive.
The Watershed Wise recommendation is to use 2” – 4” of organic mulch at all times on your landscape (except in areas where soil boring bees are encouraged and in areas 3” – 6” from the trunks of woody plants). The optimal mulch is a mixture of small leaf litter (chopped up leaves) and mixed size natural wood material (bark, etc.) that has the majority of the pieces smaller than 2 “ – 3”. This kind of mulch will break down quickly, and needs to be replaced as often as 2 – 3 times per year. Keep mulch several inches away from the foundation of the building, and never allow it to cover windowsills or to contact wood or cellulose siding.
By using this small size mixed mulch, you are encouraging a healthy Soil Party, which will keep the various populations of microorganisms and macroarthropods in check. And, it will keep your plants happy and healthy too.
First of all, let’s all agree that we are NEVER going to use herbicide to remove the grass. There simply isn’t any good reason to do so because if you help nature along
a little bit with Sheet Mulching, you can do it without chemicals and ensure a healthy landscape for the future. First, get to know what kind of grass you have, as it makes a difference in the approach you must take to remove it.
The grass on the left is Cool Season, meaning that it stays green all year and is characterized by its finer texture and roots. The grass on the right is Warm Season, meaning that it becomes dormant in the winter, and does most of its growing in the summer time; it is characterized by tough roots or stolons, and thick, matted leaves.
Cool Season grass can be kept in place and sheet mulched with paper, compost and wood chips on top. Within just a few weeks, the whole thing will be decomposed into yummy soil that is ready for planting. See our handout on building a rain garden that includes information on “Soil Lasagna,” or sheet mulching: CFLT Rain Garden Handout.
Warm Season grass should be removed with a sod cutter and then sheet mulched with paper, compost and wood chips. Again, it only takes a few weeks to turn the whole thing into a healthy soil sponge, ready for planting your climate appropriate plants.
Attend one of our Lawn Be Gone HOWs to learn first hand how to remove your grass and replace it with a beautiful, Watershed Wise landscape.
A Garden Guru is a Certified Watershed Wise Landscape Professional who provides one-on-one landscape-related technical assistance at your home.
Becoming a G3 Certified Watershed Wise Landscape Professional requires six steps:
Complete the 16 hours of coursework and receive a Certificate of Completion
Complete an irrigation system audit including a catch-can test and siting of a rain garden (conducted during the training)
Pass an examination, including a Pass/No Pass section on Total Irrigation Run Time calculation and Distribution Uniformity calculations.
Submit a completed Site Evaluation of a landscape.
Maintain contact information on the G3 Soil Party Membership Site.
Maintain 6 Continuing Education Units and Soil Party Membership annually after the first 12 month grace period.