Drought Tolerant or Artificial Grass Lawn

Drought Tolerant

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Drought Tolerant or Artificial Grass Lawn

California may be out of its drought, but there is no guarantee things will remain this way. With a lack of rainfall, California is a perfect place to have a lawn that does not rely on water. Even if you love a classic grass lawn, perfect lawns are almost impossible to achieve hence why you see yellow and brown lawns all around the neighborhood. Drought tolerant and artificial grass lawns are two great alternatives that allow you to minimize water use while maximizing aesthetic appeal.

Drought Tolerant

Variety of plants that rely on little water including:

You can ask your local nursery about drought tolerant plants as well! Drought tolerant plants go great with hardscape designs. Hardscape has a lot of flexibility and allows you to tailor your yard in several ways. Hardscape has become more and more popular due to its aesthetic appeal and practicality.

Artificial Turf


  • No watering, mowing, or feeding while still maintaining traditional front lawn grass look.
  • Life expectancy can be upwards of 25 years making investment worth it in long term.
  • New artificial grass can often fool most into looking like real grass.


  • Provide no food or habitat for local birds or insects. Biological zero meaning you are not promoting biodiversity.
  • Feel is just not the same as regular grass.
  • Often made with recycled materials but not biodegradable.

California Drought Update from a Swimming Pool Perspective

Have you noticed photos of the wildflowers blooming this spring after the amazingly wet season after the recent 6-year long California Drought? We have seen the news reports and the photos all over our social media feeds. On April 7, 2017, California Governor Brown terminated the January 17, 2014 Drought State of Emergency impacting all but Fresno, Kings, Tulare and Tuolumne counties. California residents successfully conserved water in unprecedented levels, reducing water use in communities by 22% between 2014 and 2017.


Throughout the drought many counties and municipalities enacted swimming pool permit restrictions in an effort to conserve water; however, luckily, we weren’t affected by these restrictions in our local area.


In fact, residential swimming pool and spa owners are already conserving water compared to a conventional backyard. Swimming pools use less water than the same square footage of a lawn and if you add in a pool deck area, rather than grass, the water savings are increased.  Drought resistant/tolerant landscaping with native plants adds even more water conservation.


According to the California Pool & Spa Association, you can continue to do your part to conserve water in the following ways:


If you own a pool:

  • Install a pool cover to reduce water evaporation by as much as 90%
  • Shut off waterfalls, fountains and other water features to reduce water loss and evaporation
  • Check the pool for leaks, contact your pool service professional for guidance.
  • Minimize splashing or lower the pool’s water level to reduce “splash out.”
  • Plug the overflow line when the pool is in use.
  • Replace traditional sand and DE Filters with cartridge filters that do not require backwashing.
  • Keep your pool clean to reduce frequency of backwashing.
  • If your pool is heated, reduce the water temperature to reduce evaporation.


If you own spa:

  • Keep it covered.
  • Maintain the chemicals to extend water life.
  • Check the equipment for leaks.
  • Drain only when absolutely necessary.
  • Check with your pool service professional for new technology that helps keep the water clean and reduce the need to drain the spa.
  • If you drain your spa, reuse the water to irrigate plants and landscaping.


If you have any questions about the current condition of your pool/spa and landscaping, we are happy to meet and discuss your water conservation opportunities.


Interesting Drought-Tolerant Lawn Replacement

Today we are sharing a great guest post by Kitten Wylder Borgers. Kitten has been a client and friend for the past few decades. I have always loved and respected her viewpoint on our oxygen providing friends. I hope we provide you with good content and make your day a little greener.

Cheers, JZ

What’s Wrong with Today’s Drought-Tolerant Yards

Red Apple ApteniaI’ve been designing drought-tolerant landscapes for almost 20 years, and I have to say I’m pretty disappointed in most of the non-lawns I’ve seen lately.  I’m a big fan of drought-tolerant landscapes, but the way people are going about drought-tolerant landscapes is all wrong.  Too many people are killing their lawns with toxic chemicals and then covering them with crushed granite and a few small succulents and calling it done. In reality, creating a drought-tolerant yard can be WAY more fun and interesting than that.

Doing Drought Tolerant the Right Way

First, rather than just putting down gravel or crushed granite, why not try a ground cover that grows? I’m partial to Aptenia cordifolia (known commonly as heartleaf ice plant, baby sun rose, or red apple aptenia) myself.  It spreads well (although it can be invasive), grows with basically no water, and is a dark green ground cover with small red flowers.  Unfortunately, there’s some sort of blight (bacteria? virus? fungus? no one knows) that’s killing it all over southern California, so I have to at least temporarily rescind that recommendation.  There are, of course, lots of types of ice plants or sedums that also take very little water, although most spread more slowly.

ThymeIf you think you might want to walk on your lawn replacement, you could try spreading thyme (not the clumping kind); once established and assuming you just step on it occasionally and don’t play football on it, it’ll survive the steps and smell wonderful in the process.  The same goes with most of the mint family.  In fact, most herbs are VERY hardy and drought tolerant because they were weeds that someone found a use for.

Or you might consider freeway daisies (Osteospermum fruticosum).  You can be fairly sure that if they grow along the freeway they’ll be hardy.  If they start to get woody and leggy, you can prune them hard or even mow them, and the new growth will be beautiful.  You could also consider some of the lower low-spreading shrubs, like lantana, which while about a foot tall, has lovely purple, yellow, or red flowers; and each plant has a 5′-6′ horizontal spread.  You can’t walk on it, but the bees love it!

Don’t mistake drought tolerance for low maintenance.  Weeding will be required, at least until everything has filled in.  And keep in mind that EVERYTHING (succulents, cacti, herbs, all of it) needs water when you first plant it.  But if you get the right plants for your environment, they’ll be happy and healthy once they’re going.  And you’ll be proud of your beautiful yard!

Kitten Wylder Borgers

Wylder Landscape LogoKitten Wylder Borger
Wylder Landscape
562 493-7072


Kitten Wylder Borgers is a working artist, dog walker/sitter, and landscape designer in southern California.  Her interest in plants began in college in 1970 at UCSC, where she learned about herbs and dirt from Alan Chadwick at the campus garden and learned about composition and design as a dance major. Since then she’s continued to explore the world of herbs and other drought tolerant plants, both native and not, although she’s had to give up the dance major.  She’s fond of getting dirty and being silly.

Water Wise – How to Save Water with Your Landscaping

We here at Sunset pride ourselves on being as water efficient as possible, so we thought it would be best to share some of our landscaping water savings wisdom with our clients and friends.

When looking to conserve water you need to look at the total water consumption of a residential property.
Everybody seems to know that landscaping consumes a majority of a household’s water, yet people are hesitant to get rid of their grass and lush plants because they fear their yard will look barren without it. In actuality, restructuring your yard to make it more drought tolerant is simple and often times the ‘Outdoor Living’ will end up looking better than it did before. If you need an example just check out my house below and if you want to know what drought tolerant solutions are available for your yard just give me a call at (562) 881-6000. If you still aren’t hooked on remodeling your ‘Outdoor Living’ then check out a few simple tips below that will help to save water without a major reconstruction of your yard.
Water Savings Tips for Landscaping
  • Reposition and Re-time Your Sprinklers
    • How often do you walk by a house and see their sprinklers on in the middle of the day? You should water your lawn in the early morning or at night in order to prevent excessive evaporation and thus conserve water.
    • How often do you walk by a house and see the water from the sprinklers draining straight into the gutter? Sprinklers should be positioned so that the water lands on the plants and not the hardscape and paved areas.
    • Try slowly cutting back on the number of times you water a week or the duration of each watering to see which plants thrive and which ones do not. It’s up to you to decide to keep the delicate ones or replace them with something more drought tolerant.
  • Add Organic Matter and Mulch Around Trees and Plants
    • The addition of mulch or organic matter can help slow evaporation of moisture from soil and plants. It also allows these plants to better retain water.
    • This also adds the needed nutrients for the plants to thrive on less water.
  • Recycle Water from Other Areas of the Household
    • Try watering your plants with that half drunken glass of water or putting a bucket in the shower to collect the cold water.
    • If you’re really persistent you can try putting a barrel underneath your rain gutter to collect rainwater and use it at a later, during a more arid time.
  • Install Artificial Lawn
    • I’m not much into plastic anything these days; however, I will say that artificial turf as improved drastically. It looks more real than ever with various heights, textures and colors.
    • An artificial lawn will greatly reduce the overall water usage of a property based on how much lawn you removed.

Drought: Water, Use it Wisely

There is no doubt that Southern California is in a severe drought. We rely on water coming mostly from other places and some from our local artesian well water. We are big consumers of water and it is a problem during this current situation.

With the drought and water conservation in mind, I decided to remove my lawn and not replace it with plastic artificial turf. Although artificial turfs have gotten better, I’m sorry but it is still plastic and not how I like to do things. I have continued the drought tolerant theme of the landscaping into the lawn area of the yard.

The lawn area now has primarily rock and stone to cover the ground with no requirement of water. I then placed sporadic drought tolerant plants and succulents that once established will live off of a very, very low consumption of water.


Ironically, the day we were first killing the lawn and preparing for this transformation we saw the park across the street watering the lawn. As you can see, they are going absolutely nutty with the amount of water needed to keep that grass alive. I am sorry to say it but it seems that for every gallon of water I save, the park across the street is wasting 20 gallons. We all still have to put in our part.


If you would like some assistance with making your yard drought tolerant and head in a fun and different direction, we are here to assist you. Call John directly at (562) 881-6000.