A good overall plan for your project should include an irrigation system that can accommodate your landscape as it is now as well as the design of your renovated landscape. Install it using these guidelines:
· Use separate irrigation valves and timing schedules for areas of low, moderate, and high water use.
Your high water-use lawn will be most water efficient if your sprinklers are on automatic timers.
· Moderate and low water-use areas should be irrigated using drip, ooze, or bubblier systems. (Your local do-it-yourself store, hardware store, or nursery should have brochures outlining how to install these.)
· Experts point Out that all irrigation is more efficient on some type of automated timer - as long as you reset your timer as the seasons, and your yard's water requirements, change.
· Proper forethought will help you avoid having to figure out how to install a watering system around any new hardscapes you might add. (You can put PVC sleeves under them if you plan ahead.)
Next add in the hardscape areas that will help you reduce the size of your lawn. Use hardscapes like decking and walkways in conjunction with larger areas of low water-use plants. Hardscape materials include wood, flagstone, river stone, pavers and concrete. Planting just before or during the rainy season is best because it reduces transplant shock and allows the plants' roots to establish at greater depths so that summer drought is not as damaging. Remember that even non-thirsty plants require water until they are established. It's important to group plants with similar watering, sun, and soil pH needs together. If you disperse low water-using plants with plants requiring more water, you may end up over-watering the less thirsty plants. If in doubt, ask a professional which plants "go together" in the different areas of your landscape. When choosing plants, think in terms of their ultimate size. If you are concerned about the barren look of your landscape before it "grows in," and want more of an instant effect, consider planting fast-growing temporary plants with the permanent ones.
As the Permanent ones fill out, you
can then remove the temporary ones. Mulch, material
added on top of the soil, buffers the soil from extreme temperatures,
traps moisture and keeps water-robbing weeds down. Mulching materials
include wood chips, fir bark, and fine gravel. To be efficient,
mulch should be applied to a depth of two to six inches.
Water according to your plants' needs and adjust irrigation timers to match weather patterns. Contact your local water utility, county cooperative extension office, or nursery for tips on watering schedules in your particular area.
Many of the projects undertaken in a landscape renovation are well within the abilities of do-it- yourselfers. A little elbow grease and commitment can help you save on the costs of labor and leave more money for plants. But doing it yourself has disadvantages, too. A project that might take a few weeks in the hands of a landscape contractor can stretch into months or years if you only have weekends to devote to it. Remember, too, that certain design elements, like decking and irrigation systems, may require building permits. If the idea of doing it all yourself seems a little overwhelming, consider, at the very least, having designs drawn for you by a professional. You might also opt for finding a professional who will allow you to do some of the labor yourself. Also, many pros will do "consultation" visits, offering information to get you started.
If you do opt for working with a professional, you'll need to know how to select one. There are two types of licensed professionals with whom you might want to deal on your renovation project: landscape architects, who usually design large outdoor spaces; and landscape contractors, who build landscapes. Landscape designers may have as much formal training as the licensed professionals, but have not obtained licensing as architects or contractors.
The California Landscape Contractors Association has
several brochures on finding and hiring a qualified person
to install your landscape. They will also send you a list
of licensed contractors in your area and their specialties.
You can then call for pricing information. The California
Council of Landscape Architects provides similar information.
A local nurseryman can help with how-to advice, tell you
which water-conserving plants will work in your area, and
provide you with excellent material and plants.
The California Association of Nurserymen has a certification program and can tell you which local nursery has certificated people available. (See the RESOURCES section of this brochure for the addresses of CLCA, CCIA, and CAN.)