Is Native Enough? (2/2)

4 Ways to Save Water and Improve Plant Health with Smart Irrigation


When it comes to plant choice, not only is going native enough, it is the most broadly beneficial option. That said, plant choice is just one part of an integrative landscaping process.  Native plants are adapted to low water, but most of our water delivery systems are not.  Without adapting our choice of irrigation, water savings will not be captured, and natives will fail to thrive.

To optimize water savings and ensure native plants thrive, it is critical we also consider irrigation infrastructure and management.  Raul W. Gonzalez, vice president of landscape industry relations with Ewing Irrigation and Landscape Supply, notes 4 ways to ensure your irrigation helps instead of hinders your water-saving success:


1 – Improve sprinkler performance: Do you have brown spots, overspray or runoff?  Irregularities in your water bill?  All of these are signs that settings in your water delivery system are not optimal.  Look to ensure the system is properly pressurized, that nozzles are correctly adjusted, and that the schedule is optimal for your garden.  These irrigation system components should be inspected and adapted monthly, if not more frequently.

2 – Know your soil profile:  Sand requires faster water application rates than loam or clay.  Knowing your existing soil and working to improve its water retention by applying mulch is a simple, DIY way to generate water savings without sacrificing the needs of your foliage.

3 – Manage irrigation control: Check with the California Irrigation Management Information System to determine peak watering periods for the month, and know the regulations related to watering in your community.  It will likely require multiple schedules to protect slopes and meet requirements.  Overhead spray delivers water the fastest and, therefore, run times should be limited to 4-7 minutes
and then repeated.  This allows the soil time to adequately absorb the water.  This strategy is
especially effective on traditional lawns and slopes.

4 – Install drip irrigation: Both Ewing and FormLA Landscaping recommend Netafim subsurface, low flow drip irrigation.  By applying just the right amount of water direct to roots, it helps plants establish drought tolerance and minimizes the chances of waste through evaporation and runoff.  It is worth checking your local codes – drip irrigation is exempt from many municipal water restrictions.  One caveat: drip should be installed by a professional.