Yard redo downsizes lawn, adds water-saving features

By: Gloria Young,
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Water-saving tips for homeowners from Placer County Water Agency
Most Californians think that they use more water indoors than out. The truth is that in some areas, 50 percent or more of the water we use daily goes on lawns and outdoor landscaping.
There are lots of ways to save water at home, but reducing the water you use outdoors can make the biggest difference of all. Here are a few easy ways to change the way we use water outside our homes.
• Tune up your sprinkler system every spring. Just like a water heater, furnace or other appliance in your home, sprinkler systems need an annual tune up to keep them working properly.
• Check your irrigation system every month for problems. Sprinklers are exposed to sun, mowers, trimmers, people, animals and more. Turning on each irrigation zone and look for broken, tilted or misadjusted sprinkler heads, geysers, and soggy wet areas.
• Fix water-wasting problems in your sprinkler system within 48 hours. 65% of a household’s yearly water use goes toward landscape irrigation and 30% of that is lost to overwatering or evaporation. That number goes even higher when sprinklers are leaking or misdirected and left without repair. Turn off your water to the problem area and flag it for easy identification. For help to fix the problems locate the Sprinkler System Solver and Sprinkler Tool Box at
• Adjust your watering schedule according to the weather. Many people turn on their sprinkler systems full throttle as soon as the rainy season ends. Over the course of the summer, your plants’ water needs will vary a lot depending on weather conditions, day length, and other factors. To get help with your sprinkler system scheduling contact Placer County Water Agency at (530) 823-4850 or (800) 464-0030 or email at

, for free Water Wise House Call from one of our water efficiency specialists.
• Choose the right plants for your climate and group plants with similar watering needs in the same area. For more information on choosing the right plants and their watering needs click on the Water-Wise Gardening in the Gold Country Region plant database at


Editor’s note: This is part two of a two -part series on saving water in the landscape. Last week  discussed ways to make your yard more water efficient.
When water metering came online at the beginning of the year in Folsom, it’s was the extra push homeowner Mary Anne Sloan needed to make her yard more irrigation efficient.

The front yard of her large corner lot was 1,200 square feet of water-craving grass. Exacerbating the problem was a sloping angle to the lawn that sent irrigation water rolling down onto the sidewalk.

Months earlier, Sloan had won a gift certificate from Meadow Vista’s Cascade Gardens in a raffle. So she turned to owner and landscaper Marc Krupin for help.

“I had seen the concept of bringing edibles into the front yard as part of the landscape,” she said. “(Krupin) said he loved that idea and specialized in xeriscaping.”

The two worked together to create a design that would incorporate some of the existing plants and trees and capture Sloan’s vision.

Krupin’s first step was to reduce the size of the lawn by two-thirds to 400 square feet. Now, the small section of grass forms a flat green carpet directly in front of the house and it is framed in rock.

“The reasoning here was that grass helps cool reflective heat in the yard,” Krupin said.

Another big step to reduce water consumption was overhauling and reconfiguring the irrigation system.

“Now it is a high efficiency system that only waters the lawn,” Krupin said. “Then, where there are plants, it goes to a drip system. It is ultra low flow and only puts water where the plants are.”

Beyond the lawn where the yard begins to slope, Krupin installed a small rock wall to hold the elevation change.

“Then we brought in some good soil and planted (the rest of the yard) with a mixture of esthetically appealing plants,” he said. “They all have some kind of purpose — flowering plants to attract bees, flowers to make the house pretty and plants that fruit in some way.”

Many of the plants he added are edible.

“She’s got blueberries, something called a pineapple guava and there’s a dwarf tangerine tree,” he said.

There are also peach and plum trees.

And because Sloan loves to cook, there’s an herb garden with a profusion of rosemary, lavender, chives, sage and other recipe-friendly plants.

For groundcover, he put in strawberries.

The project took about five days to complete and cost about $8,000.

Krupin estimates he cut the Sloans’ irrigation use in half and that they will recoup their investment through water savings in five years.
Sloan is thrilled with the yard’s new look.

“I love the rocks,” she said. “There are huge boulders. He defined the (slope) so I have a lower level and an upper level. The rock wall is natural stone and it looks really pretty. People drive by and slow down to look at it. They start recognizing that there’s a strawberry patch and three artichoke plants. They are really beautiful. They will bring some real texture and have an even more impressive appearance when they get bigger. I do love it all.”

Krupin has been a landscaper for 30 years. Initially he specialized in water features. Now the focus of many of his projects is on creating landscapes that save water. He’s a big fan of edible gardens, too.

“The idea is to add food to your landscape and still have it be esthetically pleasing,” he said. “If you are going to put all that money and all that effort into it, you might as well eat it.”

He has even added a pumpkin patch in some of his landscape makeovers. A recent project in Placerville, included espaliered apple trees.
For homeowners considering a yard makeover to make it more water efficient, Krupin says it is important to keep in mind the soil type and the home’s exposure.

“You have a lot of microclimates. Do your homework and consult with a good designer if you don’t know what you are doing,” he said.
Reach Gloria Young at