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Principles for a Sustainable Landscape. Water-Efficient Landscaping is a Major Component of Sustainable Landscaping which: “meets the needs of today’s population without diminishing the ability of future populations to meet their needs.” . Sustainable Landscapes.

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Principles for a Sustainable Landscape

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Principles for a Sustainable Landscape

Water-Efficient Landscaping is a Major Component of Sustainable Landscaping which:

“meets the needs of today’s population without diminishing the ability of future populations to meet their needs.”

Sustainable Landscapes

  • Incorporate plants suited for the climate

  • Conserve water

  • Nurture and protect soil

  • Prevent/reduce pest problems

  • Conserve energy/reduce Pollution

  • Encourage wildlife

Why Garden Sustainably?

Sustainable Landscaping……

Leaves a greener footprint for our children’s children

Sustainable Landscapes

Incorporate plants suitable for climate/location

Conserve water

Nurture and protect soil

Prevent/reduce pest problems

Conserve energy/Reduce pollution

Encourage wildlife

Select plants recommended for your Sunset Zone

And Microclimate

(shade, etc.)

Microclimates Impact Plant Health and Water Use

Water Needs increase in Heat Islands

  • Landscape plants in heat islands require up to 50% more water than the same species in park settings

Sustainable LandscapesConserve Water Through:

1. Hydrozoning

2. Scheduling irrigations based on plant needs

3. Making sure sprinklers/drip systems work properly

4. Using mulch and soil amendments effectively

Hydrozone : Place plants with similar water needs together and irrigate them accordingly

Drip Irrigate Trees, Shrubs, and Gardens to Reduce Soil Evaporation and to Apply Water Directly into Root Zones

Warm-Season Lawns (Bermuda) Use Less Water than Cool-season Lawns (Tall Fescue) Lawn Watering Guide for California

To prevent water waste and brown spots in turf and groundcovers, repair leaks, low heads, broken sprinklers, unmatched sprinklers and pressure and spacing problems

If you Keep your Lawn, Grasscycle!

Saves time/money

Adds organic matter to lawn

Recycles nutrients

Reduces greenwaste in landfills

UC Verde(below)


Mature plants reach a size of 4 to 6 feet tall and wide. Baja red fairy duster does well in full sun

or part shade, and is tolerant

St. Elmo’s Fire (Russelia)

- 3’ by 4’

  • Fast growing

  • Desert hardy

CA Natives for Lawn Replacement

  • Ceanothusmaritimus

    • Tolerates clay soil

    • Blue flowers

    • Low-growing, spreading

It’s More Than Just Cactus!

Parkinsonia hybrid ‘Desert Museum’


Hybrid with a thornless sturdy structure and strong vertical form. Mature size: 25 feet to 30 feet with 20-foot spread. Spring flowers.


(Texas Ebony)

Dense, dark green leaves and spiny twigs; great security barrier. Desirable tree for a small garden. Slow growth to 20 to 30 feet with a spread of 15 to 20 feet Fragrant, cream-colored flowers in late spring

Leather Leaf Acacia(Acacia craspedocarpa)

Desert Whitecap

Evergreen perennial with large 4-inch white flowers. Blooms on and off but most prolific in spring. Plants form rounded clumps 1 to 1-1/2’ feet high and 3’ wide.

Desert Trees and Shrubs for Windbreaks

Acacia aneura, Mulga AcaciaBrachychiton populneus, Bottle TreeCeratonia siliqua, CarobCupressus arizonica, Arizona CypressCupressus glabra 'Gareei', Rough Bark Cypress Eucalyptus microtheca, Coolibah TreeEucalyptus spathulata, Swamp MaleePinus eldarica, Afghan PinePinus pinea, Italian Stone PineRhus lancea, African Sumac

Water cycling may be necessary to avoid run-off. Divide the total amount of water required per day into 2-4 cycles. Apply water as close to initial event as possible before soil dries out.

Irrigate Deeply and Infrequently and Monitor Soil Moisture

Soil probe

Soil sampling tube

Other Methods to Conserve Water in the Landscape

Minimize the use of water to clean sidewalks and driveways

Remove weeds that compete with landscape plants for water

Improve Water-Holding Capacity and/or Drainage with Compost Mixed Evenly into Soil (6” – 1’)

Don’t Let Water Get Away!Permeable surfaces Infiltration Basins

Water Collection

Apply Mulch Around Plants

Mulch Conserves Water and Beautifies Landscapes

Avoid Over-fertilizing

Creates flushes of weak growth

Increases water requirement

Avoid Soil Compaction

Keep construction activities several feet from landscape plantings

Incorporate organic soil amendments (except for tree planting sites)

Soil Compaction

  • Wastes water

  • Decreases aeration/drainage/root growth

  • Can result in fungal diseases

  • Can result in plant decline

    and death

Irrigate Sloped Landscapes Slowly and Deeply to Prevent Runoff

Prevents loss of valuable soil

Prevents Pollution of Ground and Surface Waters

Principles of Sustainable Landscaping

  • Climatically/microclimatically Selected Plants

  • Water Efficient/Hydrozoned

  • Pollution Friendly (water quality, noise, dust)

  • Employs Integrated Pest Management

  • Reduces, Recycles, and Reuses Greenwaste


It’s Recycling…



What is compost?

An organic soil conditioner created by decomposing organic matter under controlled conditions until it is stable enough to improve soils without harming plants or transmitting disease.

Grass clippings

Food scraps


The CA Waste Management Act (Assembly Bill 929)

  • Divert 25% of organic matter destined for landfills by 1995

  • Divert 50% by 2000

  • Limited landfill space should be reserved for materials that cannot be recycled or composted

  • Garbage handling is the 4th largest expense for many cities.

  • Composted greenwaste benefits landscape plants and the environment

Annual California Waste Disposal, Diversion and Generation

Composting Yard Wastes

  • In CA, yard wastes are the largest component of municipal waste

  • Grass clippings comprise approximately half of the yard trimmings deposited in state landfills.

  • An average California turf area produces 300 to 400 pounds of grass clippings per 1,000 square feet annually (up to 8 tons per acre).

High Quality Soils

  • Good Physical Properties (structure and texture)

  • Adequate Nutrients (N, P, K, etc.)

  • Healthy Biota (beneficial microbes that decompose organic matter and cycle nutrients and mycorrhizae)

  • Adequate Organic Matter

Soil Textures

Soil Textures (Types)


  • Improves soil tilth

  • Improves water and nutrient holding capacity

  • Improves drainage in heavy soils

  • Prevents/reduces erosion

  • Improves soil aeration

  • May decrease chemical fertilizer requirement

  • Remediates chemically damaged soils

  • Increases number and range of microbes

  • Filters storm water runoff

Compost is Not a Fertilizer

  • Nitrogen and phosphorus are mostly in organic forms

    • Released slowly to plants

    • Not readily leached from the topsoil

  • Compost contains many trace nutrients that are essential for plant growth

Creating Quality Compost

  • Compost is generated when organic matter is consumed and decomposed by microbes under favorable conditions

    • Nutrient balance

    • Moisture

    • Temperature

    • Aeration

When is Compost Mature?

  • Dark brown

  • Crumbly, loose,

    and humus-like

  • Earthy smell

  • Contains no readily

    recognizable feedstock

  • The pile has shrunk to

    about 1/3 of its original volume

Stability and Maturity of Finished Compost

Bag test: sealing compost in a plastic bag for several days should produce no foul odor

Germination test: radish or fast germinating seeds

Compost Quality, Testing, and Use Standards

  • End uses (eg: soil amendment, mulch) depend on compost physical, chemical, and biological qualities

  • Selecting the right product very important for success

  • Fortunately, standards have been developed to guarantee product consistency

US Composting Council Quality Assurance

  • During the 1990’s labs used different testing procedures and tests that were not comparable among labs

  • Standardized testing procedures developed in 2000

Three Components:

  • TMECC: Test Methods for the Evaluation of Composting and Compost

  • STA: Seal of Testing Assurance Program

  • CAP: Compost Analysis Proficiency Program

Three Components:

  • TMECC: Test Methods for the Evaluation of Composting and Compost

  • STA: Seal of Testing Assurance Program

  • CAP: Compost Analysis Proficiency Program

ACP Compost Use Index

  • Collaboration of the Association of Compost Producers and University of California for indexing composts based on their suitability for various uses

  • Includes 14 test parameters

Preferred Ranges

  • pH: 6.5 – 7.5 when used as a soil amendment

  • Soluble Salts: Expressed as electrical conductivity (EC) in decisiemens per meter. EC values for composts and soils are not directly comparable. Many plants are damaged by soil ECs of greater than 2.0 dS/m.

  • Trace Elements/Micronutrients: zinc, manganese, iron VS arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury, etc.

Compost Uses inthe Landscape

  • Soil Amendment

  • Mulch

  • Turf topdressing

  • Erosion Control Agent

  • Water Quality Enhancer

Soil Amendment

  • Most common landscape use

  • Turf, groundcovers, shrubs, annual and perennial beds

  • Not recommended for tree planting sites

Composted Greenwaste used as a Bermudagrass Soil Amendment

Figure 1. Composted greenwaste prior to amending into native sandy loam soil at University of California, Riverside.

Avoid root bound trees!

Soil Compaction

Amending Soil With Compost

  • Amend entire planting site or bed when possible, adding at least 30% compost to original soil

  • Or, dig hole at least 3 times the size of root ball

  • Thoroughly mix compost at least 6 inches deep

  • Plant at original depth (not too deep)

  • Irrigate immediately and deeply

Compost Criteria for Use as Soil Amendment

  • 95% should clear a 5/8” screen and at least 70% should clear a 3/8” screen

  • Organic Matter content: 30 – 65%

  • C:N ratio: 20:1 or lower

  • pH: 6.0 – 8.5

  • Soluble Salts: sodium less than 25% of total

Criteria (Con’d)

  • Moisture content: 30 – 60%

  • Contaminants: (glass, plastic, metal) less than .5% by weight

  • Maturity: Dark color and no offensive odor

Thank You!Janet Hartin951.313.2023jshartin@ucdavis.eduDownload and Use/Print PowerPoints

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