In the past decade, California has been living under mostly drought conditions. Sure, we had a wet 2005-2006 year, but that was nearly 9 years ago! Since then, we haven’t even come close to getting our usual 15-inches of rain each year in Southern California and our snow-pack has been severely limited. I’m not going to take sides about climate change or global warming, instead I’m just stating a fact; high pressure systems sitting off the coast of California have been altering our weather patterns (and that of the nation) over the past couple of years, and if something doesn’t change soon, it looks as if this might be the new normal.

I also don’t predict a mass migration out of California any time soon, which means the population of California needs to alter the ways in which we conserve and use our precious water supply. Obviously, drinking water and irrigating crops comes in as number one and two on the scale of importance,which means all other water purposes need to be drastically reduced.

One such area where conservation needs to be occurring is landscaping. At this point, anyone who still has a lush, green lawn should be fined heavily. We just don’t receive enough rain to justify water-hungry grasses. That doesn’t mean we all have to swap out our lawns for rock or gravel. Instead, there are plenty of native and drought tolerant plants and grasses to choose from that are just as attractive as traditional varieties.

If you must have grass, two varieties do well in sunny, drought susceptible areas: Blue Fescue and Buffalo Grass. Both grass types require minimal water. Buffalo grass can handle some foot traffic, but prefers sunny areas. Fescue grows in clumps and requires de-clumping every two years or so. Of course another alternative I’ve started to see more frequently is imitation sod. It’s basically the newest version of fake grass which has come a long way.

A great way to landscape in for drought.
A great way to landscape for drought.

Keeping grassy areas to a minimum, spruce up the yard with paving stones and succulents. Using paving stones embedded in your lawn reduces the total amount of grass. If you select a no-mow variety, you don’t need to worry about mowing over the stones. Add raised beds and borders of succulents; lavender, kangaroo paw, and ornamental grasses to name a few.

Clay pots called Ollas - an ancient drip irrigation technique - not to be used near shrubs or trees (root rot could occur).
Clay pots called Ollas – an ancient drip irrigation technique – not to be used near shrubs or trees (root rot could occur).

Keep watering simple by relying on the sparse amount of rain we receive annually and in-ground irrigation. A great way to irrigate your borders and beds is a 4,000-year-old method of drip irrigation – the clay pot, also known as Olla. Planted within 18-inches of plants, you bury the clay pots in the soil so that only the neck of the pot is above ground. Fill the pot once or twice a week with water and the pot slowly releases the water, little to no evaporation occurs making it a very effective way to water. You can plug the top up if you worry about breeding mosquitoes or small animals falling inside.  Also, if you have a dog that likes to chew, they won’t chew up your pots the way they might chew up a soaker-hose!

Do you live in a drought area? Have you made some changes to your landscaping practices?


  1. Jon @ Money Smart Guides Reply

    I don’t live in a drought area. I do see the issue of droughts in California continuing though. That part of the country just doesn’t have the resources needed to sustain consumption by so many people. Until we find a better way to provide water out there, this issue will continue.

    • @Jon – Definitely a lot of people with such a limited water supply. However, there has been renewed talk of building desalinization plants to assist with our water. Not sure if this is something in the works or just discussion phase.

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