we live in a 1955 development in the san fernando valley of los angeles. the average temperature here in the summer is 95F (35C). (though last summer we set a record going for 21 days straight with temps over 100 degrees fahrenheit and setting an all time record of 119F (48C) on July 22 and this winter has also been the warmest on record.) average annual precipitation sits at 18 inches. (the national average is about 39 inches.)
when i first moved to my neighborhood, i wondered: how does everyone keep their lawn looking so good? (and why are we so obsessed with keeping it this way?)
then i learned. it is estimated that the average southern california family uses 500 gallons of water a day. (500 gallons!! i think that is about 1900 litres. just think of all those milk jugs lined up...) 30% of that in the house. that leaves 70% going to watering the lawn and filling the swimming pool. i am told the figure for outdoor use is likely higher in the valley, where we receive less precipitation, and the mercury rises higher. i cannot fathom that amount of water being poured onto the ground. besides that, think of the run-off, and all the pesticides and fertilizers it is carrying out of the valley, under the santa monica mountains, and into the pacific ocean.
the history of the lawn in the u.s. relates to the housing boom that our home was part of. that ideal of suburban perfection. but it goes back further than that. back to english manor homes with grand entrances. where vegetable gardens were hidden and idyllic landscapes were constructed. lawn = success. (and it better be green!)
when we purchased our house almost six yrs ago, we talked about doing it differently. we do have a pool. (solar powered, and i dare say a must with days in the 100s.) but we don't have a lawn. well, actually we do. but it hasn't been watered. leaving it to look much more brown than green.
i like green.
so, our goal this summer is to tear it out. cap off our sprinkler system. and go native. (plus some raised veggie beds.) socal native plants are adapted to winter rains and summer drought. once established, they should need very little water other than that provided by mother nature. and we should see a considerable decrease in our water consumption.
so we are at the beginning of the journey. we have a basic plant list in hand. a rough plan drawn. and are planning a trip here to check out some specimens "in person". pointers are always welcome!
and i'll let you know how it goes...
california native plant society
the american lawn
edible estates los angeles
l.a. county dept. of public works : how to save water outside the home
update - links from the comments that i should have included! thank you thank you!
theodore payne nursery
las pilitas nursery (we developed our list from this one, i love it - you can put your zip in and get the plants for your area)