Go Green to Save Green
Smart Landscaping can Save Water, Time and Money
September, 2009 - Issue #59
Summer heat always reminds us we live in a desert and we need water. Experts all agree - your green lawn drinks a lot of it. If conservation is at the top of your list these days (and who wouldn't like lower water bills?), saving the lawn in this climate can sometimes be just a matter of readjusting, reusing and conserving.

There are several options available to homeowners, said Jeff Brown from NV Landscaping (286-8888). Brown, who has been in business in the Santa Clarita Valley for over 20 years, is passionate about conserving water and helping businesses and homeowners save on water bills. Watering your lawn or - more importantly - the amount of water going into the ground is the key to conserving, he said.

Start by evaluating your current irrigation system. "A typical system puts out a lot of water very quickly," Brown said. "It's important to make sure your sprinklers are as efficient as possible. Sometimes what's already in place is good. You may just need to do some adjusting and re-programming."
Replacing traditional sprinklers in the planter area with a drip system can save up to 40 percent on water. "With a drip system you don't waste water. None of it blows away, goes on the windows or floods the sidewalk," Brown said. "Water goes exactly where we put it."

A Smart Control irrigation system will also help said Chad Curtis of Landscaping Pros (510-8867). Smart Controls will automatically adjust the amount of water used. It detects the temperature, humidity and how much water the plant needs. "It will do the work for you when you are on vacation, for example," he said.

Reducing the amount of water-thirsty grass you install is not as drastic as it seems, Curtis adds. There are beautiful ways to landscape without using lawns at all. "Put the grass in the backyard where the kids play and create a nice balance between hardscape and softscape in the front," he said. "Just using plants in the front will consume space and add color."

For his planter areas, Curtis likes to install mulch to help cool the roots of the plants and hold water. "It cut down my water bill by 70 percent," he said.

Curtis also recommends synthetic materials for play space and dog space - soft rubber mulch for under play sets to deflect falls and synthetic grass for the dogs.

"SMART CONTROLS will automatically adjust the amount of water used. It detects the temperature, humidity and
how much water
the plant needs."

"Synthetic grass has come a long way and although it can still get very hot during the summer, the dogs love it," he said. "It's easier to clean up and you can always hose it down if it becomes a problem. It's my customers' number-one reason for installing it."

Sandi Cudmore is an Advanced California State Certified Nursery Professional who works at Green Thumb Nursery (259-1072). She said people need to choose plants that require the same amount water as the plants surrounding it. "A drought tolerant plant can't take a lot of water," she said. "Also make sure plants have the right amount of sun."

Another alternative to lawns and plants are gardens. "This year there has been a huge increase in people who want to plant vegetable gardens," Cudmore said. "They want to save money and eat healthier."

Gardens do well in Santa Clarita if you amend the soil and choose the right vegetable at the right time of year. "Right now," Cudmore advises, "is not a good time to plant gardens with this heat. You can do a nice fall vegetable garden when it cools off." The bonus of vegetable gardens, Cudmore adds, is what it brings to the children in your life. "It's rewarding when you watch children who won't eat anything [healthy] and once they plant something and watch it grow, they tend to eat it," she said.

Green Thumb is available to give expert advice to weekend gardeners. Bring in your plans, Cudmore said, and know in advance where the sun hits and what type of water system is in place.

And if you think going green means using cactus for landscape, you are wrong. When it comes to selecting plants for your home or business, UCLA-trained horticulture manager and consultant Jim Roth (252-6418) said that the best resource is Sunset Magazine Western Garden. Pay attention, he said, to their rating system. "We tend to plant the wrong type of material for this area," Roth said. "Shade-only [plants] are a high gamble. The air is too hot for certain plants, but there is a lot of cool-color foliage that grows [well] here."

Once you've got the right plants, don't cultivate around them. "It looks nice visually," Roth said, "but you are chopping up the root hairs that do 90 percent of the work." Roth recommends gardeners use an organic amendment-type product to help make a richer soil. He also believes the hot winds that blow through the valley do more damage than the sun. "Be aware of microclimates around your property where the air doesn't circulate."

Roth also recommends customers visit the Castaic Lake Water Agency Garden and Learning Center situated above Central Park.

The garden holds more than 350 varieties of drought-tolerant plants, flowers and grasses. There are gardening displays and hands-on demonstrations where you'll learn about soil preparation, microclimates, plant zoning, mulches and much more. The gardens will give you many ideas that you can use to custom design your own landscape or garden.

"We don't coddle things around here," said Tom Hawes, water conversation program coordinator for the CWLA. "We literally put the plant in the ground and water it regularly and if it works, it stays. If not, it goes."

"GARDENS do well
in Santa Clarita
if you amend the soil and choose the right vegetable at the
right time of year."

The Castaic Lake Water Agency (297-1600) states that planting and maintaining a healthy garden or landscape is a formidable challenge. The CLWA can help homeowners and businesses make water-wise changes and spend less time on maintenance and save money.

There are classes on horticulture every month and tours of the garden Thursday through Sunday, year round. The Garden and Learning Center also gives tours to students. "We see 10,000 to 12,000 students a year up here," Hawes said.

Most residents are doing a pretty good job with water conservation, Hawes said, but he likes to encourage people to save now so California doesn't have to go through the reserve supply.

"The garden up here is already kind of living in [a conservation] environment," Hawes said. "The plants may look a little stressed right now because of the heat but they are not going to die."

More Water-saving Tips
It's easy to over-water your lawn! A good rain can eliminate the need for watering for as long as two weeks. If your grass springs back up after you step on it, it does not need to be watered.

Water lawns during the early morning hours when temperatures and wind speeds are the lowest. This reduces loss from evaporation.

Do you see water runoff from your yard each time you water? This could mean that the lawn needs aeration. When you aerate your lawn, you give the water somewhere to go besides down the storm drain.

Don't water your street, driveway or sidewalk. Position sprinklers so that water lands on the lawn and shrubs, not paved areas.

Install sprinklers that are the most water-efficient for each use. Microsprinklers, drip irrigation, high efficiency nozzles and soaker hoses are examples of water-efficient methods of irrigation.

Do a weekly check for broken or clogged sprinkler heads and replace them right away. Broken or poorly-adjusted sprinklers may go unnoticed since sprinklers are often set to operate during early morning hours.
Tips via Castaic Lake Water Agency's online resources found at
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