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You are tempted to change your lawn to a drought tolerant garden in order to reduce your water bill and alleviate the water problem California is facing. Before you run to cash in on your local city or water department rebate, you want to evaluate a few things.

Design.  Work on creating a landscape design that will enhance your residence as well as be aesthetically pleasing to the eye. Many drought tolerant gardens resemble a crazy quilt of uncared wilted plants. Careful design does not need to be difficult. Choose a few plants that will grow well and flourish in our Sothern California climate. Check for plant habits and needs at your local nursery.  You should also consider how your plants would look once they reach their full size and what are the best ways to prune them.

Irrigation and soil conditions. Once you have completed your design, invest in the proper irrigation system. In some cases, no changes will be required, except for adjusting the water frequency. For best  water-efficient use, consider creating a hydrozone where plants with similar water needs are grouped.

Drip irrigation uses a system of tubes looped around each of your plants at the soil level so that water can seep into the ground for instant moisture. They help reduce weeds by concentrating irrigation on the drought tolerant plants. Makes sure drip systems water properly and allow to develop deep root systems. Check periodically from debris that clog tubes and cover tubing with mulch to increase the tubing lifespan.

Many drought-tolerant plants are also tolerant of poor to average soils. Before you plant, amend the soil with plenty of organic material to provide natural nutrients and proper drainage. Good drainage is important for drought-tolerant plants. Add mulch to your garden to help suppress weeds and retain moisture. A 2-3 inch layer of mulch is more than sufficient for most areas of your garden.

Greenness. In Southern California, we love our blue skies and green laws.  Although arid landscapes can be beautiful, we have many levels of green that you can create with drought tolerant plants. Among the number of plants your have picked, one or two should be good grown covers. Select grown covers and succulents that adapt well and extend easily over a wide area. Create small islands of other drought tolerant plants and complement with accent items or pathways.

Having greenery reduces the amount of heat in your house. Vegetation carefully distributed around the house to provide shading will mitigate heat gain through the building envelope. Scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Naboratory (LBNL) estimate that planting trees and vegetation for shade can reduce a building’s cooling energy consumption by up to 25 percent annually. In addition to direct shading, trees and vegetation cool the air through evapotranspiration. Urban vegetation also provides economic, environmental, and social benefits such as enhanced storm water management and reduced air pollution.1

1 http://www.epa.gov/heatislands/resources/pdf/HIRIbrochure.pdf

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