When designing your landscape, it is important to keep your goals in mind, as they will guide the development of your plans. Is your goal to grow food? Attract pollinators? Reduce water usage? Have year-round color or create a relaxing outdoor sanctuary? Landscapes once considered to be for recreation only can be expanded beyond adding beauty, to provide cleaner air and water, provide organic food, and support wildlife. Thinking through the outcome you wish to achieve with your landscape in advance will help to determine plant selection, irrigation layout, and maintenance needs.
A few links are listed below to help you start your planning. More resources on planning landscapes and irrigation can be found at SaveDavisWater.org under Helpful Links in the green menu on the right side of the page.
- UCD Arboretum: Life After Lawn
- UCD Arboretum All Stars
- UCD Arboretum Sustainable Gardening Toolkit
- UCD Arboretum Planting Plans
- UCCE Master Gardener Program of Yolo County
- River Friendly Landscaping
Consider ways to reduce water run-off from your property into the stormdrain and retain rainwater onsite.
- Redirecting downspouts to landscape areas, so that rainwater is filtered through your landscape, infiltrating into the soil and helping to recharge underground aquifers.
- Incorporating rain gardens, dry creek beds or swales into your landscape allows rainwater to soak into the soil and helps slow the speed of water running off your property, reducing erosion and the pollutant load in the runoff.
- Consider permeable pavements that allow water to soak into the ground rather than pool up or run off. This can be done using a variety of different materials, including pavers, gravel, sand, etc.
- Consider adding rain barrels to your garden. Rain barrels are a great way to collect and store rainwater for irrigation use later.
- Plan your landscape to keep soil and mulch onsite. Create impermeable borders around your landscape so soil and mulch are not washed away by rain or spread by wind.
- Stormwater Program
- US EPA: Soak Up the Rain: Rain Gardens
- UC Master Gardener Program of Sonoma County: Landscape Design to Minimize Runoff
- In your plan, consider plant water needs. Hydrozoning, or grouping plants by water usage, ensures that plants receive the appropriate amount of water.
- If you haven’t already, consider switching your irrigation system to drip irrigation to provide water directly to plants and reduce runoff.
- Test your irrigation system to make sure it's functioning properly. Problems are not always visible unless the system is running. Look for broken and/or misaligned sprinkler heads (to avoid water on driveways and sidewalks) and leaking pipes. Check drip irrigation for broken and/or missing emitters, breaks in the drip lines, and any other damage.
- Check the batteries in your irrigation controller. Irrigation controllers sometimes revert to factory settings after even a brief power outage. Check the batteries in your controller every 6 months and replace as needed to ensure your controller continues to run properly.
- Consider alternative ways of collecting water for irrigation purposes. Adding a laundry-to-landscape greywater system is an option to use an alternative water supply for your landscaping and reduce your overall potable water use. With a laundry-to-landscape system, water is discharged directly from the washing machine though a discharge hose to outdoor landscapes.
- Check soil moisture. The soil may look dry on the surface but it can be wet at root level. Use a soil moisture meter or screwdriver to go down a couple of inches into the soil and see if the soil is still moist.
- Add a layer of 3 to 4 inches of mulch around your plants to retain moisture, protect against the summer heat and suppress weeds.
- Above all, careful, water-use management is the best tool to use. You can sign-up for AquaHawk, the city’s online water-use portal, to track your water usage and see how much water is used for irrigation.
Building sustainable soils will help to ensure the continued health of your landscape.
- Prior to planting, incorporate compost, manures and/or other natural fertilizers into your soil to provide needed nutrients for plant growth.
- Use mulch around your plants to increase soil water retention, to keep soil and plant roots cool and to reduce weeds.
- Try in-ground composting—burying food scraps in the soil—to add organic matter to the soil in areas where you haven’t planted yet. This is a great way to prepare your veggie garden beds for spring planting!
- Start a compost pile so that you can recycle nutrients and organic matter back into your soil. Remember: Backyard composting can only handle a small amount of food scraps. If you want to compost larger quantities of food scraps, try a food scrap composting system instead of a backyard compost pile.
- Backyard composting
- Food scrap composting
- Worm Composting
- Composting resources
- CalRecycle: Backyard Composting
Residential landscapes can serve as wildlife corridors and encourage residency of beneficial species.
- Consider pollinator plants that help support native bees, butterflies and birds.
- Install bat and/or barn owl boxes as bats can help to keep insects under control and barn owls help to control rodent populations.
- Create a “bee drinking station” so bees can drink water without drowning on hot days. Collect small stones or pebbles and place them in a shallow bowl. Fill the bowl partially with water, making sure that the pebbles are only partially covered with water. Place the bowl in a shaded area of your yard where you have seen bees, and make sure to refill it as needed.
- Urban Wildlife Program
- Audubon At Home: Creating a Healthy Yard for Habitat
- Audubon At Home: Attracting Birds and Wildlife
- California Native Plant Society: Gardening with Native Plants
- UCD Arboretum Pollinator Gardening
- River-Friendly Landscaping: Create & Protect Wildlife Habitat
- When choosing plants, consider how much work you want to put into maintaining your landscape and the amount of yard trimmings different landscapes might generate.
- To minimize maintenance work, select plants that grow more slowly and don’t require frequent pruning.
- Be sure to choose the right plant for the space available. Placing a large plant in a small area results in more frequent pruning.
- Consider “leafing” your plant trimmings onsite as an alternative to mulch.
- Instead of bagging grass clippings, try using the mulch feature on your mower. Mulch mowers chop grass into tiny pieces that fall between the blades of grass and are recycled back into the soil.
- You can also try composting yard trimmings on site in a backyard compost pile.
- UCD Arboretum: Life After Lawn
- UCD Arboretum All Stars
- River-Friendly Landscaping: Less to the landfill
Another way to reduce waste is by incorporating reused materials into your landscape and garden. Here are a few ideas:
- Using reused lumber to build planting beds. The Yolo County Central Landfill sells reused lumber at a reduced rate.
- Use wood chips from tree removal companies as mulch.
- Use old fencing materials to build a trellis, raised beds, or planter boxes.
- Use an empty milk jug to protect seedlings from cold weather. Cut the bottom off, remove the cap, and place it over seedlings.
- Save cardboard boxes use use in sheet mulching.
- Start seedlings in empty paper egg cartons.
Integrated Pest Management is a is a broad-based approach to managing pests that combines biological, cultural, physical, and chemical tools to minimize health, environmental, and financial risks.
- Consider managing weeds by mulching, flame weeding, or soil solarization.
- Choose less-toxic methods to control pests.