After a long dry winter rains finally came! For three days the rains just came down heavily. This garden was completed right before the rains. During the rain, raindrops can be seen coming down from the two down spouts, going right into the the soil of the garden. The plants waved gently in the rain, as if saying: “Thank you!”
Before – brown lawns
The owner has been at this place for some time. Ever since he moved here, he had not done anything to the front and back yards. The lawns went brown during the drought, looking quite barren. Even after the very wet year of 2017, they did not come back. Finally, when the owner heard about the Santa Clara Landscape Rebate Program in his city, he decided it was the time to start doing something.
He wanted to build a garden that will meet all the requirements of the rebate program. After he did some searches online, he found the website of Water Efficient Garden, where he got exactly the information he needed.
In the backyard there is an olive tree. It is a large tree with lots of black olives lying on the ground.
Designing the Garden
The owner wanted to have a simple and easy conversion which would meet all the requirements of the Rebate Program. Luckily, there are a large number of attractive drought tolerant plants to choose from. When selected carefully, even just with a few, the plants can make an elegant and water efficient garden.
In Mediterranean areas like Spain where the olive trees originate from, the tree can be seen everywhere: in the open fields, at the hill tops, etc. There, lavender, rosemary, and other Mediterranean natives also grow in abundance. They are well adapted to the climate there, very drought tolerant, yet with attractive flowers and aroma.
California shares the same Mediterranean climate, so these plants also do well here. For the backyard design, it was decided some of these plants will be used, keeping the Mediterranean vibe alive.
Capture every drop in the garden
The front yard sits next to the side of the house, with thick bushes almost completely blocking out the wall. When the project started, the grasses were removed, the bushes cut, exposing the wall. On it there are two down spouts, pointing to the yard below (only one is shown in this photo). So, when it rains, all the rainwater from the roof will go into the yard, not driveway or other impervious surfaces, which is excellent.
After the historical drought that ended just last year, people all realize now how valuable water really is. With population increase and climate change, our demand for water will only increase. On the other hand, as the Sierra Nevada snowpack will “very likely” shrink by 30% in the next 20 years, the supply will decrease. How can we have enough water to meet our demand?
A big chunk of water do come to us every year, but in the past we send a large part of it away right away – the rain water. Rainwater is not a waste, but a very valuable resource of water. Steven Moore, a member of the State Water Resources Control Board, said, “Stormwater could be a significant addition to California’s water supply. Los Angeles estimates that rainfall could provide nearly half a million acre-feet (620 million cubic meters) per year. Stormwater could make a difference, it could see us through seven years of drought instead of five.”
If the rain water is directed to impervious surfaces like driveway, the water will just become runoff and be sent right away, which is a waste for this valuable water resource. In places with natural ground cover, 50% of the rain water can go back in the soil. In urban areas where a big chunk of surfaces are impervious, only about 15% of water goes back. Specifically, only 5% of the water infiltrates deep down, versus 25% with natural ground cover, which seriously deprives the ground from water recharging that is badly needed.
So, when it rains, we should direct as much water as possible to our garden, let it water the plants, soak into the soil, and recharge the ground water. By capturing every drop, we can make the best use of the water that fall on our roof every year.
After – drought tolerant landscape
The garden projects are done! This is how the front yard looks now:
To further absorb the rainwater, a small ditch was made in the middle of the garden. Filled with pebble stones, the “river” can take all the rain water coming down the two down sprouts when it rains. In addition to capturing the rain water, it adds a vivid element to the landscape, making it look more lively and appealing. The rocks scattering across the garden add yet more textures and balance out the “river” in the middle.
All the plants are drought tolerant. They sport pink, purple, yellow and white blossoms, making the garden not just water efficient, but also cheerful.
For the backyard, in front of the Olive tree, another Mediterranean native – the lavenders, add color and aroma.
Close to the patio, a native plant from California flank the pathway with their tiny blue blossom and dark green leaves.
Irrigation controller and drip irrigation was done for all the plants. In addition, a rain sensor was also installed, which is connected to the irrigation controller. When it rains, the rain sensor will send signal to the controller, which will delay the irrigation scheduled until the rain stops. A simple device can save even more water for the garden.
How does it do in the rain?
Right after the garden was installed, a much-waited-for rain came. For 3 days rain kept pouring down. How did the garden do?
Very well. While the rain that fell on the driveway inevitably runs off, every drop of the rain that fell on the roof all went into the garden from the two down spouts. Plants love the rain water, which is not treated with chemicals, as is the case for in-house water. Plants grown up with rain water usually grow faster, stronger, and have better and larger blossom.
After the project was finished, information such as garden photos were submitted to the Rebate Program, which issued a rebate promptly.
By converting a brown lawn into a water efficient garden, the space looks much more appealing. In a dry place like California, it can save 30-60% of water comparing with a lawn, saving cost and maintenance work. On top of it, when it rains, it can absorb every drop of the rain water, feeding the plants, and saving even more water. For all these these great benefits, you can receive a rebate of $1-$2 per square foot.
The owner was happy with the project. “It looks very good. We are really happy with the design. ”