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Water-wise landscaping

The shortage of water in California is a fact almost taken for granted by most of us. No life can survive without water. Never the less, with the snow pack on the Sierras in short supply again, many citizens in the Bay Area continue to pour water on landscapes that are not adapted to our Mediterranean climate.

California is currently in midst of a drought that has been on going for several years. With water in short supply it is vital that we remove aqua thirsty landscapes from our yards. The struggle for enough clean water could become a major world problem during the 21st century if we donít handle our resources with care. Installing water conserving landscaping in our yards will go a long way to help prevent a potential global crisis.

The style of landscape we see in most suburban yards is a throw back to the English manor where sheep grazed the grasses around homes and made nice lawns. England had enough natural precipitation to keep the grass green without sprinklers. It was a nice system, if you didnít mind sheep droppings, but it really has no place in current day California suburban yards.

Lawns have a place in the landscape; I am not trying to imply that they should be removed entirely. Lawns are good for city parks, golf courses and play areas for pets and children. I am simply stating that lawns are over used and that we donít calculate the strain placed on the Earth that this causes.

Our lawns use more water per square foot than a vegetable garden or fruit trees combined. Home food production uses less water and has a smaller carbon foot print than large industrial farming operations. If we could replace our lawns and ornamental plantings with landscapes that thrive in Californiaís Mediterranean climate and redirect the water to home food gardening we would save money and take a load off of our over burdened planet.

Uniformity is the rule in landscaping. Our nationís yards look much the same from coast to coast. Changing the appearance of your own yard can take courage. Removing the lawn from your front yard can some times bring the neighbors to question your dedication to our nation. Having a lawn in the United States is sometimes held to heart in a fashion similar to patriotism. Just remember that Californianís often lead the nation in change. Fear not the wrath of your neighbors, never forget that the lawn is but a symbol of England and we have already won that revolution for our freedom. Now is the time for a revolution to free the waters from the tyranny of our lawn sprinklers. Muster up your courage, be brave, remove that lawn, compost it, and bask in the glow of freedom as you save our life giving water! Or at least check to see if the irrigation timer is turning on your sprinklers in a rain storm or if you have any leaky faucets!

I am available to help you save water in California by starting in your garden. I offer services from fixing leaky hoses to complete water-wise landscape design.

This article was written by Bill Merrill, Certified Nurseryman, and owner of Green Garden Service in Fremont. I can be reached for question or comment at (510) 505-9275 or email