Colorful California Landscape: A Water-Friendly Garden
Colorful California Landscape:  A Water-Friendly Garden

Environmental Impact

As the landscape matures, we see a positive impact on the environment.  Our soil is becoming more alive with beneficial organisms and nutrients.  Below is a summary of the environmental impact our landscape has achieved.

Wildlife Sightings

Finches, sparrows, red wing blackbirds, hummingbirds, morning doves, crows, hawks (circle of life), butterflies, ladybugs, honey bees and a squirrel.

Monthly Water Usage

The graph below shows our water usage prior the remodel, 1 year after the remodel and 2 years after the remodel.  Prior to the remodel, we were using about 24,000 gallons of water per month.  In the winter, we were using about 12,000 gallons of water per month.  Just 1 year after the remodel, our water usage was cut in half.  Two years after the remodel, we were down to just 6,000 gallons per month in sumar and 4,400 gallons per month in the winter.  Our water usage will decrease further as the plants mature and require even less water.

In January we usually TURN OFF the irrigation system for the entire month!  Our water bill shows that we consume only 2,200 gallons of water. The plants were just fine.

Since the remodel, we have cut our water usage by two-thirds. On average we are saving between 18,000 gallons (in summer) to 8,000 gallons (in winter)
per month
.  The amount of water we save PER MONTH in the summer is approximately the same amount of water in a 28 ft round x 4 ft deep swimming pool.  

All of that saved water is water that did not have to be pumped all the way from Northern California.  So, not only is there a saving of water, there is a saving of the electrical power (and the environmental impact from its generation) needed to pump the water from Northern California all the way down to our home in Southern California.

Carbon Sequestration

See our Clean Air page for an explanation of carbon sequestration. The sequestered carbon in the soil is one measurement of our landscape carbon footprint. It is also an indicator of our landscape's health and efficiency. Our total landscape area is 3,367 square feet (or 3,367 cubic feet of soil). The soils in our yard have sequestered 1.7 pounds of carbon per the top 12" of soil. This equals 5,724 pounds of sequestered carbon (3,367 cu. ft. x 1.7 pounds). This is equivalent to emissions from 295 gallons of gasoline. That is enough gas to drive a 2008 Prius 14,750 miles!

What a Difference With Just 1 Tree

Even one tree can have a significant environmental impact.  Other than a place for birds to sit and possibly providing some oxygen to the atmosphere, what environment benefits do trees provide?  You can determine the difference that just 1 tree can make using the National Tree Benefit Calculator.  Type in your zip code (or climate zone), the tree species, tree diamter and land-use type (for example, Single family residential).  It will give you a monetary savings as well as a breakdown of benefits by stormwater, property value, energy, air quality, and CO2.

Cultivation and Yields

Our backyard is now an organic food garden comprised of fruit trees, vegetables and herbs.  Yield has been low this year due to the newness of the plants.  We expect much higher yields as the plants mature.  The "Improved Meyer" lemon tree, Naval orange tree, and lime tree are currently yielding 1-2 pieces per week.  The two Brown Turkey fig trees yields about 4-5 figs per week each. Herbs include: various types of basil (Sweet, Holy and Thai), oregano, thyme, sage, rosemary, spearmint, parsley, chives, cayenne peppers, marjoram, lemon balm and laurel (Sweet Bay).  We bought a dehydrator for drying the herbs.  We no longer need to buy these herbs from the grocery store.

The above photo shows an espalier of pomegranate and our herb garden below of chives, parsley, sage, thyme, basil, and green onion.  We also have espaliers of brown turkey fig and California "Roger Red" grape are trained along the walls.

Maintenance

We do have a gardener come by once a week to take care of activities such as mowing the lawn, fertilizing, trimming, etc.  We like to work in the garden whenever possible pruning, picking herbs and fruits, and training the grape, fig and promegranite shrubs on their trellises.

We use organic fertilizers such a rock phosphate, bone meal, alfalfa meal, fish meal, and organic composted soil, as well as beneficial nematodes (worms!), ladybugs, and other "good" insects to control pests.  This organic approach is used in partnershiop with their natural weed removal (applying only boiling water or vinegar rather than toxic chemicals).  

Installation Costs

The total cost for the installation in 2009 was approximately $56,600 which included hardscape and demolition ($34,000), drains ($4400), irrigation ($4200) and plants ($13,000) for both the front and back yards (estimated total square footage of the installed hardscape and softscape = 2,676 sq. ft in the front and 2,322 sq. ft in the back).

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Stewardship requires the recognition that we are all caretakers of the environment and economy for the benefit of present and future generations. We must balance the impacts of today's decisions with the needs of future generations. - The Minnesota Round Table on Sustainable Development (1998)