Landscaping Ideas

The Monterey Peninsula's water shortage is severe, and as such, Cal-Am and the Monterey Peninsula Regional Water District have teamed up to offer a significant rebates to promote the installation of rain catchment systems.A water catchment system is saving normally wasted water and reusing it for irrigation or other non-potable (non-drinkable) uses. You can install catchment systems in various forms, from comprehensive gray water systems to simple rain barrels. Either way, these systems will save you money in the long term in the face of rising water costs in the Monterey area.

To learn more about how you can capture rainwater and apply for rebates go to:
WaterAwareness.org or
The Monterey Peninsula Water Management District

Landscaping Ideas
The plants we choose to use, as well as the type of lawn or whether we have a lawn at all, affect water usage and biodiversity, both of which are important for a properly functioning natural environment. Following some simple steps will help to ensure that your lawn and garden will only have a positive impact on the environment.
  1. Use native plants - Specific environments evolved together over a very long period. While this process involved the death of some organisms, it also means that the survival of others means that they are the best fit for the local area. Using native plants means you are using plants that have adapted to your environment. This means that they often require less maintenance. For example, they may be more resistant to natural pests and, in the case of dryer climates, they may need less water. See a list of local tree and plant selections in our Urban Forestry section.
  2. Plant trees that provide shade -Planting deciduous trees, that is, trees that lose their leaves in the fall, can help cool your house in the summer and warm it in the winter. Because these trees lose their leaves in the winter, they allow sunlight to hit your home, keeping it warmer. Likewise, because they keep their leaves in the summer, they block sunlight, keeping your home cool. The benefit of this approach, of course, is lower heating and cooling bills, which also translates into less pollution.
  3. Utilize Xeriscaping - Xeriscaping, often confused with “zero-scaping,” is a term derived from the Greek “xeros” meaning dry and the English “scape” meaning view. It is the practice of using slow growing plants that do not need a large amounts of water. This saves water and reduces yard trimmings. Xeriscaping requires a regional approach since it takes into account the specifics, such as soil type and moisture, of particular environments. What works one place may not work another. Though native plants are encouraged, one can also draw from other drought resistant plants found in drier climates to create colorful gardens that don’t require a large amount of maintenance and especially water. Proper soil amendment can help the soil retain water, as can composting. Water efficient drip irrigation systems also help, as the they do not create the waste that hose or sprinkler watering does.
  4. Grow your own herbs and veggies - One way to reduce one’s negative environmental impact is to grow a small garden of herbs and vegetables. If done organically, you reduce the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides being used commercially, as well reducing carbon dioxide emissions caused from shipping produce across the country, and in some cases, the world.
  5. Compost - Food and yard waste generally accounts for 23% of all waste that is dumped in landfills. By composting rather than throwing away food scraps we reduce our waste output and allow that food to continue in the natural cycle; it gives much needed nutrients to the soil and helps the soil retain water.
  6. Use rainwater collection barrels - Perhaps ironically, rainwater collection barrels, which are considered part of a new “green” technology, can be traced back in origin at least 2000 with clay cisterns in Thailand. The fact is that many communities are using up their water faster than it is being replenished. Collecting rainwater can help reduce the amount we take from our aquifers and wells, which will help them to last longer. It can also help save money. So how much water can rain barrels help save? According to ranbarrelguide.com, a 1000 sf area can generate 600 gallons of water with just 1 inch of rain. In Monterey the average yearly rainfall is just over 18 inches, which means that a house or business that fully utilized rain barrel collection could potentially save nearly 11,000 gallons of water, which might otherwise simply flow into the storm drains and out into the oceans.
  7. Use an electric or manual lawn mower - Gas powered lawn mowers are responsible for 5% of the nation’s air pollution according to the EPA. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, one gas mower running for an hour creates the same amount of pollution as eight new cars driving 55 mph for the same amount of time. Older mowers are even worse. The use of an old inefficient gas powered mower emits the same amount of pollutants as a new car driven 86,000 miles! Every year Americans use 800 million gallons of gas to mow their lawns, 17 million of which ends up being spilled in the process of refueling mowers. An electric mower on the other hand, costs about $5 a year to operate, and even though its powered by fossil fuels, the pollution generated by power plants is still cleaner. Even better are reel mowers, which require neither electricity nor gasoline. They can be purchased at www.peoplepoweredmachines.com and are much more effective than they have been in the past because of technological advances.
  8. Use solar lighting - Solar lighting does not use any human produced energy after manufacturing, which means there are no monthly costs to use it. This also means that there are no emissions resulting from its use. The light is also more pleasant and generally dimmer resulting in less light pollution, a factor that affects various forms of wild life.