Designing your Water-Wise Garden Oasis

Bianca and I(Kristina) went to an event recently held by local non-profit Daily Acts on creating your dream garden that is drought tolerant.  We were inspired by their talk and wanted to pass along the information that we learned that can save up to 12-25 gallons of water per square foot per year.

If you have too many weeds you can overheat them by putting plastic over the area for a few months.  Before planting anything put 1’’ compost, 2 layers cardboard, and then 3’’ mulch.

You want to make sure to do edging along the sidewalk and cap sprinkler heads.  There are state and city rebates for getting rid of your lawn – here’s the link to Rohnert Park’s rebate program.

You may benefit from using a laundry to landscape grey water watering system.  Kits can be bought from your city for $150.  It must be gravity fed(below your laundry system), 100 feet from the washing machine, and won’t require a permit.  Gray water is not to be put in sprinklers!  Use for perennial trees and shrubs, not for trees or lawn.

Watering your lawn can be costly

We broke the principles Daily Acts talked about designing your water-wise garden into 5 different steps.

Step 1: Measure and Map out

There’s nothing quite like a visual to help plan a project out.  Start with a map of your backyard, or the area you chose, to get a rough idea of what will look good visually.  The plants we recommend in this article have Sonoma County residents in mind.

Image from Pinterest

Get creative and use colors.  Consider creating a mood board with your ideas.

Step 2: Thoughtful Observation

Consider the light of the sun and where there will be shade, where foot traffic is, the wind direction, and views.

Step 3: Choose a Few Anchoring Features (trees, sitting spaces, pathways, fences, and arches)

These anchor points would benefit from being water wise, medicinal, beautiful, edible, and habitat providing.  The following plants keep these recommendations in mind:  Fig, pomegranate, persimmon, serviceberry.


Evergreen large shrubs: Ceanothus(make soap, pictured above), toyon, pineapple guava, coffee-berry, and strawberry tree.

Key anchors:  Bush anenome, manzanita, lemonade berry, and verbena.

Step 4: Plant selection

Water wise plants are normally fuzzy, waxy, succulent, tiny reduced surface area(poppy).  Plants that take in a lot of water have larger leaves.

Native vs non-native: natives are better for pollinators and are adapted to our climate and soil.  Choose native over non-native plants.

When selecting your overall garden vibe keep in mind whether you want analogous, complimentary, or tertiary colors.  Embrace seasonality and mix plants that bloom at different times to always have color in your garden.

Smaller evergreen shrubs: rosemary, lavender, jerusalem sage, artichokes.

Evergreen: autumn sage, meadow, culinary and cleveland sage.

Grasses: deer grass, N2 Flax, CA grey rush, sedges.

1ft mar evergreen: beard tongue, yarrow, ble fescue, seaside daisy.

Pollinator groundcover: thyme, creeping oregano, CA fuschia, creeping verbana.

Stepable lawn alternatives: creeping speedweell, green carpet, dymondia seed mixes and sods.

Plants for the shade: yerba buena(use to mint your water), cream bush, woodland strawberry, currants.

Step 5: Plant!

We hope you find this as informative as we did.


Happy Planting!

The Via B Team