Hi folks. What have you guys changed due to the water situation? What plants have you planted as a result? Have you gotten rid of your lawn, and if so replaced with what?
Do you have plans for further adapting if it gets as bad as we're all thinking it's going to?
This issue is one that is painful to gardeners, because lush gardens = water. =/
What are you doing about California's water situation?
Hi folks. What have you guys changed due to the water situation? What plants have you planted as a result? Have you gotten rid of your lawn, and if so replaced with what?
I have a brown lawn, but it has been that way for a while. I'm not going to have a garden like I used to. I'm having one tomato plant plus some squash. I have more succulents than I used to now. My neighbors have lush green lawns, one just dug up a large area and is has put down more grass seed. I guess most of them don't seem to realize how bad the water situation has become.
I've cut back on the number of days my automatic sprinklers come one and reduced the time that they water.
As of now I'm not willing to let my yard completely die and replacing all of my plants with drought resistant ones isn't an option because of the cost.
Interesting, thanks for your responses.
I have turned off the automatic sprinklers and now I turn them on by hand every 3 or 4 day. So far it is keeping it green, but I doubt that rate will last as summer rolls around.
In November we're planning/hoping to rip out this lawn and reseed with Ecolawn http://www.wildflowerfarm.com/index.php?route=product/category&path=20_71
I really don't want to do it right over the months of summer. I think giving it almost a year of cold-weather acclimation will get it set up for our heat better.
Yesterday I talked to my hubby about if we should let the lawn die over the summer if we're just planning to tear it out in October. But we have a really nice neighborhood and that would be an eyesore. I don't think we should do it. In the meantime, though, I'm determined to give this grass the bare minimum it needs to survive. We didn't water it for three months straight during the winter months, and it only started looking a bit yellowed near the end, so we'll see how little I can do during the hot months.
I've decided to start watering my garden with "grey water" - so I have a bucket in our shower to collect shower water, and whenever I draw a bath for my kids, I take bucket-fulls down to water with. I'm a bit concerned about the soap, so I'm not adding soap to my kids bath (the hot water soaking does most of it anyway) and then having them pop over to the separate shower to shampoo and rinse their hair.
I'm not really willing to forgo a garden completely, but I do want to be responsible. I think the grey water option will help.
I dislike the look of mulch, but I may have to do it to conserve water until this drought is over.
I also thought watering by hand would save money. For 3 months I watered by hand and for 3 months I used the automatic sprinklers but cut down from 15 minutes per station to 5 minutes per station. When I compared my water bills, I use a much less water.
From what I've read you can keep your lawn green by watering it once a week for 30 minutes. I'm watering 3 times per week for a total of 15 minutes.
Does the "grey water" harm birds, cats, or squirrels? I also have raccoons but they're a nuisance I wouldn't mind chasing away.
Shorty, If you're concerned about the animals, you can always put a bird bath or small water feature in your yard. I have a fountain/bird bath that uses about 4 gal. per week and a lily pot/fountain that needs about 2 gal. per week. All the neighborhood cats and wildlife use both. The bird bath holds 5 gal., and the lily pot is a whisky barrel size that holds about 25 gal. I just top them off when I water my potted plants. That being said, many of the folks on this forum are in the IE, where water is a whole different story than those of us nearer the coast. After 20 years of training in landscape practices, I wouldn't have any grass if I had a choice. Lawns are the worst use of water and energy there is.
I have a fountain/bird bath. I turned the water off because the neighborhood falcons were catching too many of the birds. I'll have to think about putting it back up.
The feral cats have a an automatic fountain as well and the birds and squirrels drink out of it too. It's on my patio and the falcons don't seem to bother the birds there.
In spite of the fountain, I still see all of the animals drinking water from the flower beds immediately after I water.
My sister lives in the IE and I'm familiar with their water story. Yes it is different than those of us closer to the coast.
Well, tried to find an answer about the animals drinking it and this article was not very encouraging:
It looks like you don't want animals to drink it, and you shouldn't use it to irrigate vegetables.
Wifeygirl, thanks so much for taking the time to find this excellent resource.
You're very welcome! Just take note that the study was released in 2006, and apparently California's grey water laws changed in 2010 and they are now more permissive than outlined in that document. I'm going to research more to figure out if my use of it (buckets to the surface of the ground) is OK. It sounds like at the very least we don't want to irrigate solely with it - we should alternate with clean "white" water so that the sodium and other stuff doesn't build up in the soil.
I'll let you know if I find out more. =)
Living in the IE, I've been keenly aware of our diminishing water supplies, and while I have access to both city and well water, we still conserve our water. We use drip lines, and mulch, automatic timers and our grey water. Sadly, DH still wants to keep his lawn. Even though it's lucky to be watered once a week. We have to turn on that sprinkler by hand, and since I am allergic to grass and dislike getting hit with water in my face, I don't turn it on often. A few years back I converted part of the front yard and most of the side yard into a mulch covered yard. I am liking it because it allows me to only spend my water on flowering plants.
I like using a straw mulch in my veggie garden. We use drip irrigation there too, and it really helps. We turn it on by hand, which is good because we can regulate how much it gets depending on the weather.
I use the grey water from my washing machine to water one of my flower gardens. It doesn't sit on the surface so it percolates right on down to the plants.
The only place I tend to overindulge with water is in the greenhouse. It only appears that way because the pool is in there. We use drip irrigation in the greenhouse on auto timers. Which frees me up to do the weeding.
Wifeygirl, I applaud your willingness to haul water from your shower to the garden. That's dedication. Water is heavy! I think that in your situation, with having kids at home, that you do need to keep a lawn. I haven't done any research on the type of grass seed you plan on using, but it sounds like a good choice.
Although, I tend to agree with OCCarol about the waste of water on lawns in general. I admit it, I'm predjuidiced. I have grass allergies. I do like dichondra, which is a huge water hog. Right now I have a couple of square feet of dichondra in the greenhouse. It feels great on bare feet. That stuff will grow on concrete if it gets enough water. That's why it's confined to a very small area. That and it's a real indulgence with our current water situation. Sigh.
Anyway, I hope I helped, and if you have questions, feel free to ask. I liked reading the info in the links you provided.
Grass is a lovely thing, but in a choice between grass and flowers, I'll take flowers every time. So we have a cottage-style garden, broken up naturally into 15 or so separate beds. Most are watered by soaker hoses with quick-connect couplers, six live solely on runoff or an occasional (very occasional) watering. Living in a temperate coastal climate helps; we don't get more than four or five heat spells a year and they break after a week. On average I water once every 3-4 weeks.
Plants with similar watering requirements are generally grouped together. I mulch with cocoa hulls; I like how they break down quickly compared to bark. Our soil is adobe clay and useless; we dug out most (not all) of it when first installing the landscaping and put in the best quality compost we could buy. 12 yrs later the clay is slowly coming back, but the plants are mostly well-established so no problem unless I'm installing new plants, which I do far too often, LOL.
Water is nothing compared to the fertilizer and mulch we use. I have 3 Meyers and a dozen roses, and they are ALWAYS hungry!
I monitor our water usage precisely and have found that approx total of 2100 sq.ft. cottage garden takes between $15-17/mo. for the dry season. That's about 11 to 15 units of water in a 2-month billing period. This has dropped quite a bit from the first few years, as with bigger plants I soak longer but less frequently.
The entire garden - front, sides, back - is designed to look good all year round, and does. Even in the winter there are at least half a dozen types of flowering plants or shrubs on every side.
Landscaping is beautiful, jkom51 I would prefer flowers to grass too. If we were lucky enough to get a little rain now and then that sure would help. At one time I had my washing machine below some small windows that faced the back yard. Bad plumbing caused me to put the hose out the window, water ran into large barrel and then we put a garden hose on the spiget on the bottom of the barrel. I let the water run into my garden area and believe me I had some great crops. In a different house now, washer & dryer in garage and no way to let water run outside. Didn't realize how good I had it at one time.
Hi Jules, glad to see you here. I'm trying to get DH healthy enough so he can drive out your way. I miss your family and being on that great farm.
jkom51 - BEAUTIFUL. Your garden is what I'm striving for! I can't believe you water all of that lushness so rarely. Good job!
I guess I'm going to need to pay closer attention to water requirements of various plants. I'm not at that level of sophistication yet, I'm afraid. I've been proud of myself that I planted seeds for the tallest stuff in the back!
SingingWolf - I have been lugging large buckets from the bathtub in our second story down to the garden, and you're right - my arms are getting a workout! I just really hope I don't drop one on the way down...our stairs are steep! My hubby teases me every time, and I have to admit that I do feel a bit like a servant filling mi'lady's bath! =)
We don't have any kind of irrigation set up yet, but it sounds like drip is the way to go. Maybe I'll have to ask for that for my birthday in June.
Overall I have developed a hearty contempt for our lawn, ever since I learned that the U.S.'s largest crop is grass. What a waste. But my hubby has visions of our children playing on huge expanses of lawn. (He has fantasized before about buying a house in the country with acres and acres of ground and turning it all into a big lawn...silly guy.) So whenever I draw up a plan for landscaping, I have to show him how I tried to get rid of as little of the lawn as possible! LOL My evil plan is to slowly dig up more and more of the edges of the lawn until it gets as small as possible. This will likely correspond with our children getting older, and hopefully by the time we have grandchildren, they'll be forced to play on our two-foot square postage stamp like SingingWolf has! LOL
Oh, you made me giggle, Wifeygirl. Yep, sounds like you divined my evil plan. I am already encroaching on DH's remaining lawn. (Evil smile on my face.) I did ask if I could use a hard to mow area around the bell post to plant a climbing Thunbergia. He agreed, so them seedlings are going in. To be fair, though, during the years when our kids were young, they and all their friends did enjoy having the lawn to play on. It's something you may find in the future to be true, when DH is working and the kids have grown and gone, you can always use the excuse that you need to nurture something and the plants is what you got. :-)
Is there some way you can rig up a hose and let the gravity carry your water for you? I worry now that you've told me about your steep stairs. :-o A stretch of old fire hose, a piece of pvc pipe that runs into a barrel downstairs would save your arms, and your back a lot of work. Then you could just pour your buckets into the hose/pipe out of an upstairs window, and not have to work as hard. PVC Pipe is probably the best way to go. They have a plumbing size that would be easy to use. You might need to attach the pipe to the building for support. I bet you could cut down a milk carton, and put it on the top of the pipe to create a funnel. That should help with the spillage. It'll probably take two pieces of the PVC to go the two stories. Honey, save your back, and put in some 'Gray Water Plumbing'. :-)
jkom, I was speechless when I saw your gardens. I can only hope to aspire to achieve what you have. Simply beautiful. Can we ask you for advice?
Since I'm getting older and stiffer, I am trying hard to not plant things on the ground. I'm for the most part switching to pots and raised planters. I've got a strawberry planter I've been working on for at least a year and a day. Will send a photo. It still needs to be tweaked, since the thing is leaning. I haven't planted the two long planters yet, because I wanted to find a rubber spacer to put between the gutter planter and the wood. DH found me something to use, and I hope to get her finished this week.
Oh my, if you look at the photo you can see the bare ground, the black plastic I cover it with to prevent weeds, and in the back hooked up to an unused drip line is a milk carton. When the auto waterer turns on, it collects the unused water so I don't waste it. I'm redoing a lot of the gh this spring. Last year it was invaded with grass and I had to rip out most of my beautiful gh dichondra. What I have left is in a flat, I hope to use the water dripping from the strawberries to water it. :-)
One last comment, Wifeygirl. Or maybe a suggestion. Anyway, take DH, and go for a trip out in the country. Lots of farms up your way. Take a good hard look at some of them working farms. See what kind of lawns they have. Most farmers are kind of busy, and the lawn isn't their highest priority. Unless it's a really old place with a multi-generation family living there, there won't be much lawn. Even then, it's usually smaller.
Personally, if you have to have a lawn, go with the artificial. Looks good if you do it right, way low maintenance. Best of all, no pollen. I really hate artificial plants, but there are exceptions.
I was rereading this and realized I can improve my water conservation by using an auto fountain for watering the critters. Will have to do some research. Thanks for the idea!
One comment about the artificial grass is that it is not as cool as real lawn. It's not giving off water which means it can overheat and be hot to the feet. My hubby's school has an astroturf field, and he says that it's a good 5-10 degrees hotter on the field. In the central valley, those degrees make a difference!
That idea about grey water plumbing is a great idea. One side of my garden is sloped and doesn't get watered by the sprinklers, so I've created little channels to make sure everybody gets watered using gravity if I just put the hose down at one place at the top of the little hill. If I could connect it to your grey water plumbing idea, that'd be perfect! I'll have to think about that...
This message was edited Jun 9, 2014 2:39 PM
P.S. SingingWolf and jkom, Shorty and Samgal, can I see pics of your gardens now? =)
Wifeygirl, I'm a beginning gardener. You can see some pictures of my gardening mistakes in the 2014 RU thread.
Living in the city, my yard space is very limited.
I'm kind of a beginner too, Shorty. I transformed a small space five years ago, but then when we left that house and went back to renting, I stopped. Now that we've bought again, I'm re-motivated to garden again. I'm kind of a sink-or-swim gardener...I tell the plants "I will plant you and water you, the rest is up to you!" =) It means I kill some stuff, but over time I end up finding plants that are hardy enough to survive my style of gardening. =)
I will be happy to post photos of my garden. First, I have to get my computer to cooperate. I take a lot of photos, and I may have too many on there. I think that the computer is constipated.
Hopefully, people will remember to take photos at the RU. I totally forgot to last year. I get busy,
Most of what grows for me should grow for you.
I just put down some cheap artificial grass in the greenhouse, til my dichondra recovers. It's good qualities are that it was cheap, it covers the ugly black plastic I have on the ground in there, and if you need to have the calluses removed from your feet, it'll do the job. I was thinking of using some on the side yard to keep down the dust. I hadn't noticed that the ground is warmer where the artificial grass is. I will have to check it out.
Once I was a little girl who loved making mudpies. I still enjoy getting my hands in the dirt. I expect you will swim, not sink. I think that the most important quality a gardener has, is patience. Don't be afraid to ask questions. Push them zones, experiment, and enjoy the happy accidents. Most gardens are forgiving. Might take a while, though.
So much work trying to save on water, then there are those who don't seem to care much. I noticed my neighbors whose sons have purchased a large above ground pool and it must have taken gallons and gallons of water to fill it up. Of course, the grown up guys don't seem to worry about using mom's water. It really would be wonderful if we could have a nice rainfall once or twice a month.
Yeah, Samigal. The other day my neighbors changed out the water in their backyard pool, so a huge hose led down to the gutter and for a full day the water was rushing down to the storm drains. My husband was very upset! He has watched me lugging grey water bucket by bucket at a time, and couldn't believe they chose this time to empty and fill an entire swimming pool. And another neighbor uses the hose to spray-wash the sidewalk and driveway almost every day.
Although we're not much better at the moment - we're back to running our sprinklers more often again, because the lawn was dying, and we can't quite bring ourselves to bring the blight on our nice neighborhood by letting it die. And I am the one who planted a bunch of thirsty, pretty flowers in the midst of a drought. So I guess we can't really complain about our neighbors!
Oh, how pretty wifygirl!! Of course, you can let those beauties die away. My front lawn is a mess, worst lawn in the neighborhood due to neglect. I hope your neighbors get a hefty water bill. Some one like that should be fined.
Gosh, that just makes you mad, doesn't it? Whenever we had to drain the above ground pool, or the jacuzzi, I made sure the hose went out to the garden. I really don't like wasting water.
I have a photo to show you what I've done to help out with the dirt that gets tracked into the house. I went out and bought some indoor/outdoor carpet for $20/6'x10' piece.
I really have a problem with the dogs digging a sleeping hole in the corner where the concrete sections meet up. So I decided to stop them from throwing dirt all over the patio, by anchoring the carpet with landscape stakes. If they can't easily pull the rug up, they won't dig. I realized after I set it in place it would also solve the problem I have on the rare occasions when it rains of mud spatter all over the patio. Mud won't spatter if the rug is there. Yea!
I put another one at the end of the patio, to try and catch the dirty feet before they get to the patio. I expect they'll last about 5 years before they deteriorate enough for me to want to change them. By them I hope to have down more concrete.I'm thinking of just continuing down the side seen in the photo, til I get to the end of the patio.
I realize that this is not the preferred option for a lot of people. But for me, at this point in my life, with the allergies to grass, and the lack of water in the environment, it seems to be the best option for keeping the dust down, and the dirt out of my house. The dogs are a lot cleaner since they aren't laying down on the dirt.
It also prevents weeds from growing, so no weeding. All you have to do is level the ground before laying it down.
Lovely photo of your garden. Don't feel guilty about the flowers. I think that having something beautiful growing in your garden is a soul healing thing.
Let's just hope that this coming winter will bring us an El Nino weather pattern. It's looking pretty good. The water temp. at the beaches down here is at 68 degrees right now. The last several El Nino's were preceded by water temps of 68 or above. Of course the warm water does bring out the jellyfish, but it's a small price to pay.
Well, I talked him into it! That is, I announced to hubby today that I'm letting the front lawn die, and he didn't shoot me down. I feel like it's just too irresponsible to feed two lawns with only one year of water left in California.
So say goodbye to this lush, green lawn.
So here's my don't-bring-down-the-neighborhood plan:
1. We're going to keep our gardener, so he will continue to mow and edge it so that no weeds will pop up.
2. I'm going to plant my wheelbarrow with bright green foliage and flowers, and then park it onto the hill on the left, below the tree. That will give the lawn a pretty focal point, and make it clear that it's on purpose.
3. Going to make or have made a little sign to stick in the lawn: "Brown for California" - to let the neighbors know that we're not just slackers.
4. Of course I'm going to keep hand watering my beautiful flowers, landscaping, and the tree.
5. Cut away as much of the lawn area as my hubby will stomach, and plant it instead.
5. If California pulls itself out of this drought, I'll plan to replant with Ecolawn or some other low-water lawn. If it doesn't, then I'll replace the "lawn" area with some kind of drought tolerant, stepable ground cover.
Sounds like you have given this some serious thought. I do like your idea of using the wheelbarrow as a focal point. I really think landscapers bark looks nice instead of a lawn. Especially if you live in a neighborhood with a home owners association. I also think having the sign up might inspire others to conserve water too.
We all need to conserve water with the drought continuing.
You might add on your sign to plant drought tolerant plants. Since the state is restricting how often we can water, it certainly won't hurt.
Keep up the good work, and keep us posted on how it's going.
Thanks SingingWolf! I'm glad you like the don't-bring-down-the-neighborhood plan LOL.
I mentioned the idea of letting it die to one neighbor, and he said "as long as it doesn't turn into a dust bowl." He indicated another neighbor of ours who has let theirs die. However they have no other landscaping plants whatsoever, so it does look like an unkempt home. My hope is that if I keep the other areas planted and green using gray water and occasional hand watering, and do my plan with the wheelbarrow, hopefully I'll avoid the dustbowl effect.
I meant to add a picture of the lawn to say goodbye to, below. Goodbye gorgeous blanket of green!
So here's something my hubby brought up after I posted last night. He has given me leave to do whatever I want, but he said that it might look bad to have a dead lawn with "Brown for California" surrounded by a lush overflowing green garden. What do you think? If you saw a dead lawn with that sign, surrounded by tons of thirsty plants, would you think that the owner was being hypocritical?
Like I said, you might have to educate people about drought resistant plants. Also it wouldn't hurt to let people know what water hogs grass lawns are. I let my lawn go years ago. Partly, because I am allergic to grass, but mostly because I'd rather use my water on flowering or fruiting plants. You can let people know that mulching means less water is going to be needed, and less weeding too.
Some people might not get it, and think you are being wasteful. I see an opportunity to educate.
I am afraid your yard may be inhabited by lots of signs before you are done. :-)
I still support your decision and hope that you encounter support from your community as well. More people should do what you are planning on doing.
Please keep us posted on your progress.
Good Bye lawn, you look really good, but you are too thirsty. Thanks for all the good times!
LOL @ your comment about lots of signs! I was thinking the same thing. I already have a sign that says "The Plants vs. Zombies Garden" for the kids' veggie garden in the back corner, and I'm going to add the "Brown for California" sign to the lawn. Then I was also considering adding a "Grey Water Garden" sign too in the garden plants on the right. This may be starting to get a little silly...LOL
I guess my thought is that killing the lawn in the front is a start in the right direction as far as conservation goes, but keeping the garden is keeping my soul alive, along with SOME of the curb appeal of the house.
But I'm starting to realize that I may be entering a land where I'm not going to please anyone. My dead lawn will displease the neighbors in our nice neighborhood, and my garden surrounding it (along with the remaining lawn in the back) will displease people who believe in water conservation! I guess I've just got to be content with the fact that other people are going to judge me either way, I've just got to do what I feel is right.
Check this new planter out. My first ever succulents! At least THIS part of my garden won't be thirsty. =)
Regarding drought tolerant plants, I still need to educate *myself* about them! I love and strive for a cottage garden style, which means tons of water. I need to take a page from jkom's book above, and figure out the balance between water needs, all-season interest, and the lush look that I'm going for.
I think at the very least, if I dig up a swath in the front of the lawn to plant, I'll try to plant lower-water-needs plants there. It'll be a start.
Here's the ground cover lawn replacement that I'm planning to try out first. It seems like it has a great balance of drought tolerance, lack of flowers so no bees for the kids to step on, and from far away it'll look like closely cropped grass. http://www.stepables.com/5/Herniaria_glabra_Green_Carpet_Rupturewort.html
I don't have a lot of money to put into it, but I figure I'll start some and divide it, and just buy more and more over time as I can.
Do you have any water comparison info about your lawn replacement? I did look at the link, and it does look like a good possibility. I just wonder how much water it takes to keep it green, compared to a grass lawn.
I really do like your vertical planters. :-)
I will see if I can find the photo I took on my phone to post. You will like it. :-)
Gorgeous SingingWolf! Love it. Plant art!!
I haven't found out exactly its water needs, but under the "key features" tab it is listed as "Low Water (Dry area little to no water)." Whatever it is, it'll be much less water than our lawn, which needed almost daily summer watering to keep it green.
My plan at this point is to road test it. I'm going to see if I can find a flat or two and plant them, and then start dividing and replacing lawn in earnest only if it is happy and I can see legitimate water savings.
I'm going all Seinfeld "soup-Nazi" on that lawn...NO WATER FOR YOU! =)
One consideration that I've discovered while researching lawn replacements and "stepable" groundcovers, is whether the blooms attract bees. With the kids out there, I can't have whole bloom times where the kids can't go on the grass for fear of getting stung.
I'm just sorry that the photo is sideways. It's a beautiful piece of living art.
I would be concerned about the kids stepping on bees too. Then again being a beekeepers wife, I've learned to keep Benedryl ointment handy. My kids found unique and unusual ways to Injure themselves. Sigh . . .
Let us know if you find out just how much water that stuff uses. :-)