The New California Garden

How to be water smart
and keep your yard green year-round

 

It’s January on the Central Coast and we’re starting to see some of the rain El Nino promised to bring us this year. However, we are still enduring yet another season of this continued and severe drought cycle. By now most everyone in the Golden state has realized that we are running extremely low on our precious fresh water resources and more and more drastic measures are being taken as water companies big and small enact water usage restrictions to keep the taps flowing. Lawns everywhere are browning out and gardens beds are dying off. Nevertheless there is some relief to the situation in the form of rebate programs, smart irrigation technologies, and greywater and rainwater harvesting.

Most local towns and cities have for several years now offered a cash rebate for lawn removal for homes and businesses. These “Lawn to Landscape” projects are great for California as it allows for low maintenance, drought tolerant flowering gardens to add more curb appeal and property value to our communities than a plain green (or brown) lawn ever could. Not to mention more much-needed beneficial habitat for birds, butterflies, and bees. The switch from overhead sprinklers to more efficient drip irrigation can save thousands of gallons of water per month in water use. Also installing a “smart” water timer with a weather based sensor or a greywater irrigation system will push the savings even higher.

This home’s narrow, slanted front lawns were turned into a flowering edible garden full of yarrow, penstemon, citrus, pineapple guava, and Alpine strawberries among others. This adds great curb appeal, lower water use, and less garden maintenance for the homeowners.

This home’s narrow, slanted front lawns were turned into a flowering edible garden full of yarrow, penstemon, citrus, pineapple guava, and Alpine strawberries among others. This adds great curb appeal, lower water use, and less garden maintenance for the homeowners.

The state is now offering up to $2000 for any resident to join in, no matter your water source or location with its new Save our Water Rebate Program (www.saveourwaterrebates.com).  To start the process, continue to water your lawn until you contact the state water department and complete the application process. The rebate amounts can vary per project, but they will send approval within two weeks and the rebate within 8-10 weeks. Then you will have a 120 day window in which to install a new low water use garden plan.

Another local rebate available now to landowners in San Luis Obispo, Arroyo Grande, and Nipomo is through the Storm Rewards Program (www.stormrewards.org) sponsored by the San Luis Coastal Resource Conservation District. This group gives up to $999 per applicant to keep as much storm water on site as possible for residential and commercial properties. Their goals are focused at reducing water quality pollution in our local creeks, but this creates a great opportunity to further conserve this much needed resource for irrigation and aquifer recharge. They will fund permeable paving, rain garden, and rainwater tank collection projects.

Rainwater harvesting is quickly becoming a smart trend nationwide as people are looking to save money, protect water bodies, or keep their wells from drying up. There are many ways, simple to complex, to store rainwater for future irrigation use. Be it in tanks or allowing it to infiltrate directly into the ground in a rain garden or bioswale. These are both great ways to irrigate your garden with an environmentally friendly water source year round. You will appreciate the lower water bills as most all of your irrigation needs will fall from the sky for free and you’ll have enough water saved to grow your summer vegetables too. Happy gardening!

This is part of rain garden planting in Atascadero using California native trees, grasses, and flowers. It is designed to be irrigated by seasonal run-off, slow down storm water flows, and catch floating debris before the water overflows to a natural creek area below the property.

This is part of rain garden planting in Atascadero using California native trees, grasses, and flowers. It is designed to be irrigated by seasonal run-off, slow down storm water flows, and catch floating debris before the water overflows to a natural creek area below the property.

This 5000 gallon Bushman rain tank was installed to catch the roof run-off of a home in Cambria. It filled up this spring on 4” of rainfall alone and is the sole source of outdoor irrigation water used in the gardens. 1000 sq ft of roof top yields approx. 600 gallons of water to store per 1” of rain.

This 5000 gallon Bushman rain tank was installed to catch the roof run-off of a home in Cambria. It filled up this spring on 4” of rainfall alone and is the sole source of outdoor irrigation water used in the gardens. 1000 sq ft of roof top yields approx. 600 gallons of water to store per 1” of rain.

Josh Carmichael is the owner of Carmichael Environmental, a local landscape design & build firm located in San Luis Obispo. For more info on sustainable landscaping, water conservation techniques, or green building projects contact our office at (805) 544-3214, visit our website www.carmichaelenvironmental.com or follow us on Facebook today