Drought tolerant landscaping | outdoor water conservation tips

Echeveria 'Blue Curls'

There are a number of things that we can do to save water in our gardens. Remember if a garden is watered efficiently, it stays healthier and happier!

With some of these outdoor water conservation tips, the average gardener might need help. Torrey Pines Landscape Company specializes in drought tolerant landscaping and water conservation systems; if you have questions or want a price quote on some of these suggestions, please give us a call at 858-454-1433.


1. Go out to the curb and check your water meter. With everything off, carefully watch the little red triangle in the gauge. If you see any movement of the triangle at all, there is a leak.

2. Upgrade your sprinkler timer to a satellite monitored system that receives live weather info. daily and adjusts itself continually all year long. This can save you up to 30% on the water bill. Most water districts offer rebates for doing this, that cover a part of the upgrade expense.

3. Give your sprinkler system a “water audit” or have a professional do it. Look for breaks, plugged heads, heads under bushes, missing or poorly located heads, poor zone lay out with respect to the garden’s microclimates. Make the repairs or have it done by a professional.

4. Change all the fixed spray nozzles to the new generation of Hunter MP Rotors. These heads are all adjustable and put out a better water coverage sprayed at a lower rate.

5. Make sure your system is fitted with a pressure regulator. Too high of pressure makes the heads “smoke” or expend extra water that the wind can blow away and can go to waste.

6. Water lawns only when they start to stress. Look for a dull darker green appearance but don’t wait too long or you’ll start to see brown spots.

7. Water as infrequently as possible. Deep soak the landscape without run off by watering shorter run times with periods of rest in-between. For example, set the timer to run all of the valves 3 min. at 3am, 5am, and 7am instead of 10 min. at 5am.

8. Make sure each microclimate and type of plant zone is on a separate circuit for maximum control of the water. Always water the lawns separately.

9. Turn on system manually and walk the garden to do a visual check monthly if possible. If you have a larger garden, install a remote control that you can use to turn on and check each zone.

10. Water in the early morning before sunrise if possible.

11. Use a drip system for small and irregular shaped areas.

12. Make sure your gardener or you are really familiar with programming and adjusting the irrigation timer or hire someone who is competent and reliable.


1. Cut down the size of lawns and consider even removing lawns in less used and less seen areas. These areas can be changed to drought tolerant ground covers, aggregate, artificial turf, drought resistant grass or planting of low growing drought tolerant shrubs.

2. Mulch all beds with 1” organic mulch.  This helps the plantings retain moisture and also helps control weeds.

3. Make sure your soil is healthy. Have the Ph level of the soil checked and periodically root, prune and till beds. Most gardens need a tune up of this sort every 5-7years.

4. Be aware of the microclimates in the garden and have the right plants for these variances in heat and light.

5. Cut lawns to be be higher in the summer and lower in the winter.

6. Keep lawns and groundcovers thick and healthy with proper fertilization and care.

7. Big leafy tropical plants use more water than drought-resistant native California plants, succulents and Mediterranean types of plants. For water-wise landscaping, consider the benefits of drought-tolerant landscaping and gardening.  Replace the plants that frequently wilt with drought resistant plants and shrubs which can sustain moderate periods of limited watering. There are also a variety of beautiful drought resistant trees available, that are tolerant of dry conditions.

8. Make sure your garden is weed free. Weeds drink water!


The Water Conservation Garden's Resources for Water-Wise Gardeners

The San Diego County's 'Water Smart Landscape'

The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California's 'Be Water Wise' site