Measure and calculate the size of your yard

Saving water by converting a lawn to a water efficient garden

We are still in a drought, and still need to conserve water.  One of the most effective ways to conserve water is to convert a lawn into a water efficient garden.  By doing so, not only will you save water, you might also be eligible for receiving rebate(s) from various rebate programs offered by water agencies or cities you live in.

Find out the size of your garden

The first step of any garden planning is to find out its size.  Here is a simple guide.

1. Find out the yard’s shape

Most yards are of the shape of rectangle, triangle, circle or semi-circle, or a combination of these shapes.  If the shape is a combination, break them into separate shapes.

2. Determine which measurements are required for the calculation, and obtain them. For example, length and width are required for a rectangle.

3. Do the calculation.

Below are some sample garden shapes and how the sizes can be calculated.

a. Size = a*b


b. Size = (a*b)/2


c.  Size = (a*b) + (a*c) /2




Actual Examples

Here are some actual examples.

This yard basically can be considered as a rectangle.  The measurements can be obtained along its long and wide borders, then the size can be calculated.


This yard can be broken into a rectangle and a semi-circle.  It can be calculated using the formula in d) above.


A fun math project

If you have teens at home who just studied their geometry, this can be the perfect opportunity for them to apply what they learned!

After you determine the shape, take the measurements, and apply the formulas, you can easily find out the size of your yard.  With the size known, you can proceed to the next step of the planning for a water efficient garden.


Rockrose – a beautiful drought tolerant perennial from Mediterranean

Beautiful blossom

I planted a rockrose in our garden, in the San Francisco Bay area, about 2 years ago.  Since then, it just remained a quiet small shrub.  All leaves.  No blossom.  Never thought anything about it until a morning in March, after a full day of heavy rain and a pretty heavy rainy season brought by El Nino.

Voila!  flowers!  So it does blossom, after all! Look at those dark pink dots on the pink patals – making the flowers look like small smiling faces!

The rockrose stood proudly with its smiling faces for about a week, then I packed my stuff and left for a trip in Europe.  Before I left the house, I waived it a silent goodbye:  so long, my rockrose!

Same smiling face in Barcelona

The first week in Europe was like a wind whirl, then I landed at Barcelona.  There were so much to see, so much to do.  The day before I left, I went to this big park with other people.   As everyone was just rushing to the entrance, I saw this on the slope along the road:


Rockroses!  So glad I can see you here half the globe away!  The blossom, the leaves….you are truly sisters!  The only difference is this variety does not have the dark pink dots on their petals, nevertheless they smile the same bright smiles in the spring sun. 

A perennial from Mediterrarean

This is what I found on Wikipedia when I searched for the word “rockrose”:

“The Cistaceae are a small family of plants (rock-rose or rock rose family) known for their beautiful shrubs, which are profusely covered by flowers at the time of blossom. This family consists of about 170-200 species in eight genera, distributed primarily in the temperate areas of Europe and the Mediterranean basin, but also found in North America; a limited number of species are found in South America. Most Cistaceae /are subshrubs and low shrubs, and some are herbaceous. They prefer dry and sunny habitats. Cistaceae grow well on poor soils, and many of them are cultivated in gardens.”

No wonder I see rockrose in Barcelona…they come form here!

Plant a rockrose in your garden

Rockrose is a great perennial to have in a water efficient garden.  Beautiful blossom, multiple species and blossom colors to choose from – purple, yellow, white, pink, etc., and needs very little or no water once established.  Rockrose qualifies for landscape rebate programs, such as Santa Clara Water District Landscape Rebate Program.

Rockroses needs full sun, and can grow in almost any soil type.  Water regularly until it establishes, then just leave it there.  It will serve up pretty blossom when the time arrives, just like the ones at my garden.

Visit for more info about the water efficient plants and gardens.

California’s drought over?  Not yet; Still need to conserve water?  Yes

Do all the rains brought about by El Nino end California’s historical drought?  The answer is No.   While the rains definitely helped ease the drought, they did not end it.  As you can see from the graph below, statewide snowpack stood at way lower than average from 2012-2015;  in 2015, that level went down to a really low 5%.   In Spring 2016, while the rains brought by El Nino helped put the level back to 85%, one season of rain fall simply is not enough to offset the deficits accumulated from 4 years of drought. During the past 4 years, groundwater levels dropped to historical lows; in parts of the state it was as low as 100 feet below previous historical lows.  It will take much more than what we receive so far to recover the storage.


We still need to conserve water

Governor Jerry Brown declared a drought State of Emergency in 2014; in 2015, he made it mandatory that statewide urban water use be reduced by 25% starting June.  Earlier this year, California Water Board extended the emergency and the restriction on urban water use till Oct 2016.  It is clear: We still need to conserve water, and conserve by 25%.

In the 9 months from June 2015 to Feb 2016 when the original 25% reduction mandate was effective, statewide California residents conserved water by 23.9%, just shy from the 25% target.  The data means collectively we have done a pretty good job, but we need to continue the effort, and we can still improve.

Ways to conserve water

One of the most effective ways to conserve water is to convert a traditional lawn to a water efficient garden.  Other ways include using a high efficiency toilet, shortening bath time to 5 minutes or less, collecting and using rain water, etc.