Landscape Maintenance for the Rainy Season
JANUARY 2017 – The rainy season will soon be here. We know that in San Diego most people don’t think we have much of a rainy “season”, but the rains do come. And, even though we’re still considered to be in a drought – with water use restrictions in place throughout the county – it’s better to prepare for rain ahead of time, rather than deal with nasty back-ups in your drainage system later. Here are some short-term landscape maintenance solutions to help you prepare for the season ahead, as well as some long-term strategies for next year.
SHORT-TERM MAINTENANCE SOLUTIONS:
1) Clear out all drains and drainage systems.
Do a quick walk-through of your property and inspect all drainage sites. This includes ground drains, rain gutters, and pipes. Make sure that all debris and excess foliage has been removed from drains and surrounding areas, especially near doors or garages. Be sure to check inside of drains as well, to make sure that they are clear of debris. For a larger property (such as an HOA), conducting a walk through with your landscape maintenance provider will help to make sure that all areas of concern are addressed before the rain hits. This simple task will help save the hassle of dealing with overflows and possible flooding resulting from blocked drains.
2) Have a plan to prevent slope erosion.
The most prevalent option used for slope erosion and water diversion is sand bags. However, people tend to forget or put off sandbagging until it’s too late, then are consequently running around town trying to find out if anyone has sand bags left. If you know that your landscape is prone to erosion during heavy rain, be sure to get sand bags now and set them in place before the rains come.
Another option that can be used to prevent erosion is straw wattle. Straw wattle is that funny looking snake-like line (sometimes a green or tan color) that you might see while driving down the highway or on the hillside of a construction site. Also known as straw worms, bio-logs, or straw noodles, this preventative material can slowdown slope erosion, reduce runoff, and encourage vegetation to grow. You can find straw wattle at your local agricultural supply store.
3) Monitor sprinkler and irrigation systems.
A major waste of water occurs when people forget to turn off their sprinklers or irrigation systems during the rainy season. Monitoring your system is a simple way to reduce water usage during this time of drought and prevent over-watering, which can cause flooding, erosion, and excess runoff. Upgrading to an ET smart irrigation system, which shuts off automatic timers for you in the event of unexpected rainfall, is one of the best ways to ensure your water usage is effectively monitored at all times.
San Diego County has mandated that all irrigation systems be shut off during rainfall and for 48 hours afterwards. For more information on San Diego water restriction regulations, visit the San Diego Water Conservation website.
LONG-TERM MAINTENANCE SOLUTIONS:
1) Meet with your landscape maintenance provider, and budget for necessary changes.
While preventative measures such as sand bags and straw wattle are helpful in the short-term, they don’t provide long-term slope-erosion solutions. Here are some strategic long-term approaches to discuss with your landscaping services provider.
Jute netting: This is a natural fiber woven into a mesh net that is placed on the ground and planted through, helping to prevent erosion. Its purpose is to keep soil and plant material from sliding while you wait for roots to take hold. Because it’s a natural fiber, it will decompose over time. Jute is also the color of dirt, so it won’t stand out while the process is taking place.
Honey Suckle (Lonicera Hallianna) and Vinca: Both plants take root at the node, or leaf joint, which provides a stable rooting system as they grow. Honey suckle can be grown as a vine or ground cover, and Vinca is a perfect option for a shady hillside because it doesn’t require full-sun exposure, but still does well in a sunny environment.
Ceanothus, also known as California Lilac, is a shrub that is native to California. The ground cover form can grow up to 15 feet and its strong root system grows deep into the ground, preventing slope erosion.
Plants to avoid when looking to prevent slope erosion:
Pickle Weed: This plant is often seen on the side of freeways. It’s a poor option for preventing slope erosion because of its lack of a rooting system. Pickle Weed has one point of rooting, and though it may grow out up to fifteen feet and become intertwined with other plants, if the root gives way, the whole plant gives way, adding to slope erosion.
Ice Plant: Often, people think this plant particularly the red apple variety, is a good choice for hillsides; however, it’s a poor option for preventing erosion. It requires a lot of water and fertilizer to remain green, and is also very heavy. The red apple variety is also susceptible to a fungus called Downy Mildew, currently infesting the San Diego area. The fungus will show itself during the winter, and while the plant may survive, the cycle will repeat again the following winter if not treated properly. (See our blog on Downy Mildew, here.)
2) Install a smart controller for your irrigation systems.
Using a smart controller is a great way to comply with water usage regulations. This device allows you to control the system from your smart phone or computer, and also uses local, real-time weather data to adjust to current conditions. The controller shuts your system off when rain is detected, which prevents you from wasting water, allowing your landscape maintenance providers to respond and address problems quickly. Rebates are available for installing smart control systems and can be found here.
If you have questions or concerns regarding your current landscape, or would like us to perform a walk-through of your property, please call or send us an email. We’d be happy to help you determine the best erosion control and maintenance options for your property.
(Photo credit: mscaprikell via Foter.com / CC BY-SA)