How To Create A Drought Tolerant Yard
Living in California means we don’t have much water. Either from rain or from snow melt. Here rain helps with our plants but our drinking water comes from up north. So if there isn’t a lot of snow melting in the spring we will have less water for the summer. We are in a drought and have been for over a decade so many people are doing a drought-scape in their yards. It is a great way to reduce water consumption and save on our water bill. Added bonus, I fired my gardener and am saving $65 a month. I applied for the drought rebate program with the water company and was approved a few months later. Prior to starting work on my yard it didn’t look too great. I had a mix of random types of grass growing and lots of weeds. It didn’t look bad if it was mowed short and watered often, but since my water bill seems to always be too high I’ve been trying to reduce my watering and only water my vegetable planters and my fruit trees. Before you start a job like this it is a good idea to figure out your supplies ahead of time. We used 3 pallets of wood chips (mulch). Each pallet held 60 bags. Each bag cost $3.67 plus tax. We thought we’d have extra to return but we actually used it all up and could use about 10 more bags. If you are ordering by a pallet it is easier to order extra and return some. We bought the wood chips from Home Depot. The cost for delivery was $79. This cost was the same, regardless of the number of pallets. So it was better to order three pallets and have extra rather than order two and need more. If we had extra we could always put a few in a truck to return them. If we needed more we would have to pay a new delivery fee.
If you want to be frugal and do this yourself read more. Lots of tips and tricks I learned. I helped a few family members in their yards and they helped me do mine. Great win-win. We had 3-4 adults and two teens working so we got it done pretty fast.
Before doing the any work my yard was sorta green, not great looking grass. Lots of weeds ( you couldn’t tell if the grass was really short but it was really a mix of weeds and lots of different types of grass). I like grass, when it looks good. But comparing the grass-yard to my new drought-yard, I love the new one.
For the areas where I am keeping plants, it is important to have good topsoil, good fertilizer and some insecticide and fungicide products, incase your plants get sick. I found products from The Dirt on Dirt to work great in the garden. They are environmentally friendly, non-toxic and fast acting. My rose bushes and artichoke plants also get aphids. I found the Eco-Mite is a great insecticide Miticide and is safe for flowers and vegetables.
I’ve used the Eco-PM Fungicide on my orange tree. It was getting leaf curl and the leaves were turning brown and dying. After using the Botanical Fungicide three times (once a week or two) I noticed the leaves weren’t getting worse. Looking a few weeks later, the tree had new,healthy leaves, and the leaves are looking a lot better.
The fruit trees in the photo (and some not seen) are dwarf lemon (behind the bench), fruit cocktail (in the center), plum (behind the fruit cocktail) and dwarf orange (on the right). I want to plant a dragon fruit tree on the front-right. Since it needs less water than everything else I might put some bricks around it and make it a little raised.
Garden Vegetable Planters. Empty for winter but will soon have lots of veggies in them. The NutriRoot is a great liquid soil applied fertilizer to help plants develop a good root system. I use this every time I plant a new tree. My dad built the raised garden planters with some wood and paint. Took a few hours to cut and paint the wood then he brought them over and we assembled them, did some touch-up paint and filled each with soil. Living in Southern California means I can plant so much! Last year we had melon, corn, artichoke, tomatoes, watermelon, pumpkins, lettuce and a lot more.I’m not sure what I’m doing with this side yet. I was thinking some stepping stones leading to a bistro set. It is hard to see but there is a few plants on the left side. Right now they are blending in with the wood chips but they’ll get taller and add some dimension to the yard.
The top front yard had about 7 plants, so far. I’m going to plant two trees (left and right side) soon. The right of the driveway has a rosemary and sage (very top) and on the right of them a raised vegetable garden. I usually plant my tomato plants here that I get every year from Tomatomania. Below that is some lantana, aloe and lavender.
When adding wood chips make sure you get a LOT! Make a guess on how many you need and double it. This was our first try. But they didn’t spread out enough and it left the ground with bare patches. This was before we bought the pallets. Frugal Tip: Any bags of soil or wood chips that had rips or tears in them were 50% off at Home Depot.
In the front I want to do a dry river pathway and add a few large rocks too. Something to break up everything and add some style. I did not buy any huge plants since they are not safe close to the house (don’t want a place for potential burglars to hide) and on the parkway I was told I could not plant large plants that would block people from getting in/out of their car if they parked on the street in front of my house. All in all, my estimated budget for the whole project was about $2500 and I spent $2000, so I was under budget. Part of this was from using some potted plants I already had (to put in the space on the right of the driveway), shopping sales for plants, soil and wood chips and having family help with the labor. In the spring, when wood chips are about 50% off on all bags, I will buy some more to make the overall height of them a little higher to deter weeds and grass from growing.
On top of reducing my water bill on grass, I have a prettier yard. New raised veggie planters. Fired my gardener and am saving about $800 a year. Saving about $100 a month by using less water. It is a great win-win for the environment and my pocketbook.