Do plant choices really make a difference in water use? See for yourself in these 500-square-foot sample landscapes.
One is a traditional turf-based front yard with lawn, shrubs, annual bedding plants and a large tree. The other is a more water-wise mix of non-turf perennial ground covers, low-water shrubs and native plants with a less-thirsty tree.
Based on research by the University of California’s Center for Landscape and Urban Horticulture, here is an estimate of how much each plant category needs to stay hydrated and healthy during a typical hot August week in Sacramento with clay soil. The estimates assume that the landscaping was established, which means it was in place for at least a year.
These examples of weekly water allowances can be split into two watering days (as mandated in Sacramento for above-ground irrigation). Actual water needs will differ depending on soil type, slope, evaporation rates, weather, shade and time of year as well as plant choice.
Due to heat reflection, proximity of plants to concrete driveways, walkways or other hardscape, fences and walls also drive up water demands. But these figures represent a baseline for calculating your garden’s overall irrigation needs.