Landscaping During a Drought: You Can Do It!

Could El Nino end California's drought? That remains to be seen. But we should all know by now that water conservation is a good thing, and your lawn might be the best place to start. But what's the best way to landscape during a drought?

Between the strict water restrictions, lack of rainfall, and environmental responsibility issues, having a grass-covered yard doesn’t make sense. So instead of going yet another season hating your brown, dead yard, why not use your landscaping skills to make a beautiful, drought-resistant yard? Start with these tips!

Go local.

Plants that are native to your area are going to do a lot better living off the rainfall than imports. Check with your local extension office for advice on what plants are going to do best in your climate. many extension offices offer free advice or even classes for people who want to go the DIY route and want to learn more.

Rock out.

Create eye-catching flagstone paths from the door down to a focal point in your yard. It might be your back gate, a patio, or a table. Don’t feel like you need to cover the rest of the yard in grass. Use some gravel or pebbles instead. Not only is it low-maintenance, it lets the rain water soak into the soil underneath instead of running off into the roads. Now all you need are some ornamental grasses and beautiful succulents to add some color. Cut down on your workload by looking for succulents that propogate easily. Or do what I did, and wait in the sale section at Lowe's until some nice older lady, who also happens to be a master gardener, comes along and tells you what to buy. This method was inexpensive, but it could take a while.

If you do want to see some green…

Ditch the grass. Consider using drought resistant plants and ground cover, like these:

  • kangaroo Paws

  • New Zealand Flax

  • Lomandra

  • Dymondia Margaretae

  • Leucadendron

  • Permeable paving

  • Native fire retardant plants

  • Thyme (Bonus: It smells good, and can handle moderate foot traffic. You can cook with it, too, but you might want to wash off that foot traffic first.)

  • Sedums

  • Hens and Chicks (The succulents, not the animals.)

  • Sweet Woodruff

  • Bishops Weed

  • Ajuga

  • Lamium

  • Brass Buttons

  • Mondo Grass

  • Lambs Ears

Weed regularly.

Weeds aren’t just an eyesore, they’re taking up valuable water resources from the plants you actually want in your yard. Make sure you weed regularly so your favorite plants don’t need to battle for water.


You don’t want your plants' roots to be naked. Think of the scandal! If you spread organic mulch or compost around your trees and bushes it will help lock in the moisture (and help your plants maintain their sense of decorum).

Be water smart.

There are a lot of very smart people out there researching all the best ways, times, and technologies to help maximize your efficiency when you’re watering.

  • Rain sensors and rainfall shutoff devices: There’s no point in watering the yard if Mother Nature is going to do it for you. These devices will make sure you don’t, even if you’re not at home.

  • Drip irrigation: This is a good way to put water directly on the plants roots. It also helps protect the water from wind, runoff, and evaporation.

  • Soil moisture sensors: These neat little gadgets tell your irrigation system how much water is in the soil and how much--or how little--water your plants need to get to that sweet spot.

  • The right sprinkler head: Not all sprinklers are created equal. Ones that use a thicker stream of water are more efficient, because you’re losing less to evaporation and wind than you would with a mist spray.

  • Water early: If it’s really hot when you water, you’re going to lose some to evaporation before it even hits the ground. Make sure you water before 9:00 am, so as much water as possible gets to your thirsty plants.

Your neighbors are going to be jealous of your new yard. And when it comes time to sell, you can talk up how your yard always looks great, no matter what the weather’s doing--a great home value.

As we look towards spring, what are you doing to prepare your yard?

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