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July 23, 2024 10:46AM
July 23, 2024 10:46AM

customer care

Ask Juan

AskJuanRound300Juan Garcia is IRWD's very own expert. With more than 20 years experience, Juan is the Senior Water Efficiency Specialist. He regularly hosts workshops and even stars in his own web series, The Shed Show.

Have questions about your landscape? The drought? Need water-efficient tips?

Ask Juan!

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While you may not receive a direct response from Juan, your question may be answered in an upcoming issue of Pipelines, IRWD's monthly newsletter.

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Ask Juan archive


Q: I am considering participating in the Spray to Drip Rebate Program. Is there a guide or a list of items that I need to be aware of before I buy anything? What about installation?

A: Converting your spray irrigation to drip is a great way to be more water efficient. Visit to find an Eligible Products List of drip irrigation equipment you can buy. Make sure to read the terms and conditions and apply first, before beginning your project. Most irrigation companies have online brochures and videos to help with installation.

Q: Juan, I need your help! My watering use went up this summer and I don’t know what to do to reduce it. I have a large landscape and most of it is grass. Any suggestions?

A: Have you considered reducing your grass area or replacing it? A lawn for functional purposes like recreation is OK, but if the grass is just sitting there for aesthetics, it is drinking up your water. Many groundcovers and water-efficient plants can use less than half the water typical grass requires. If replacing your lawn is an option, definitely take advantage of our turf rebate program. Visit our website at for more information.

Q: Our lawn is a mess and we wish to replace it with a durable, water efficient substitute that will tolerate our dogs’ backyard activities. A neighbor planted Kurapia and was relatively happy with it, but indicated that it attracted a lot of bees. What do you recommend we do?

A: Kurapia is a good choice as far as a groundcover; it can take foot traffic a lot better than others. As far as the bees, Kurapia can be mowed to get rid of the flowers. There are also warm season grasses such as St. Augustine, Kikuyu grass, Bermuda, etc. that can tolerate a lot of foot traffic.

Q: We live in a condominium association in Irvine with a small yard. We’ve grown apples, tomatoes, peppers, lettuce and other edible plants in containers. Do you have any recommendations on how to ward off rats and raccoons from eating the produce?

A: I totally understand your struggles. I have found fruit or veggies half eaten or bitten by squirrels. Liquid Fence is a natural repellent, but like any product, do a little research before you use it. The Master Gardeners of Orange County are a good source to turn to. Visit their website and submit a question at their gardening hotline,

Q: Hello! The crows are completely ruining my lawn by pulling up grass to get to bugs. Is there anything I can do?

A: It sounds like you might have beetle grubs. I recommend you look for an eco-safe product to spray on the lawn. Environmentally sound brands of pest-control products use essential oil blends to get rid of insects and other pests. These products are usually pet and people friendly. Consult with a garden store like Armstrong Garden Centers for assistance. Synthetic chemical products are available too, but please do some research and be careful before using them. Also, certain plants help keep bugs and other pests away. For example: marigolds, chrysanthemums, and herbs such as lavender, chai and bay leaves. Rosemary is common to protect against a wide variety of bugs for vegetable plantings.

Q: We have noticed for several months that the areas around our sprinkler heads are always wet, even though we have not turned on the sprinklers. We would like to turn them off from the source. How do we do that?

A: Thank you for reaching out. Moisture around sprinklers can be caused by several things. If the sprinkler heads are at a low point or toward the bottom of a slope, water in the line could be slowly leaking out. Another issue might be that the sprinkler valve is leaking—and will need to be repaired or replaced. Typically, the irrigation line is drawn from the main line that serves the house. Look in your yard for the shutoff valve or knob, which can stop the water to your sprinklers until repairs are complete. If the knob is stuck, be careful not to break it. If you have additional problems, please call a professional.

Q: I’m considering changing up my landscape into something more water-friendly. Is this the right time?

A: Another summer gone and fall is here. Fall is the best time to start planning your landscaping projects. You can start off small or go big. Begin by creating a plant list of the things you want to include. Also prepare areas that will be relandscaped. With the rainy season on the horizon, this is a perfect time to plan, prep and plant. Taking advantage of the rain, plants will slowly start to root in as winter approaches.

Q: I am trying to save water by converting my shrub head sprinkler system to drip irrigation. I purchased a two-port outlet manifold that goes on top of the riser. When I turned it on, the spaghetti drip tubing was blown off. Only then I read on the package that it requires low pressure. What do I do?

A: Converting to drip irrigation can save you lots of water. It requires low pressure of around 15–30 PSI. But don’t worry. You can add a pressure regulator on the irrigation PVC or drip line to reduce pressure. Or simply screw a threaded riser pressure regulator onto the riser just before the manifold. This inexpensive small attachment can be bought at hardware or irrigation-supply stores.

Q: My lawn is using quite a bit of water. Do you have any tips on ways I can minimize my lawn’s water use rather than removing it?

A: One easy way to conserve water is to simply raise your mowing height, to anywhere from three to four inches. This will increase leaf (blade) surface area, which increases photosynthesis, otherwise known as grass producing its own nutrients. It will store these nutrients and survive drought stress. Also, you will be mowing less frequently and the roots will grow deeper and more extensive, making deeper water available to the plant.

Q: I like my grass. Is there a more water-friendly grass out there that you recommend?

A: Consider the cycles of drought that California goes through. We might have one, two or three good years of rainfall—but right around the corner could be another drought. Still, you can have landscape that is vibrant, green, flowering and water-efficient. Drought-tolerant landscape does not mean cactus and rock, unless you like that sort of thing. Our Mediterranean climate allows us to plant everything from California natives to non-native water-friendly plants throughout the year. If you want a lawn, consider low-water-use grass types instead of your typical, cool-season tall fescue, which is a high-water-use grass. Warm-season grass options include buffalo grass or hybrid Bermuda.

Q: I'm considering changing up my landscape. Is this a good time? Do you have any recommendations for doing it in a safe, non-chemical way?

A: This is the perfect time, because it’s planting season. Before planting, take notes and sketch out ideas: what parts of your lawn to remove, types of plants, storm water management, landscape care methods (pruning, pest control, fertilizing). Choose a method for removing turf. One option is spraying with vinegar, soap and water to kill the grass, then removing it manually. It’s labor-intensive but eco-friendly.

Consider California native plants. They will root in well now, before onset of spring and summer. They also will require minimal water once established. Turn rain into your first source of water by adding rain barrels to your downspouts to capture rainfall. Finally, inspect your irrigation system for leaks. Consider using a smart timer that waters appropriately for the weather and shuts off when it rains. You can also achieve this by adding a simple rain sensor to a standard controller. Many of these items will earn you rebates from the water district.

Q: Are rebates for turf removal available for homeowners? Can you recommend a turf-removal contractor?

A: I’m glad you asked. Yes, IRWD’s Turnkey Turf Removal Program currently answers both of your questions. It offers residential customers the benefi t of a full service landscape contractor to take the stress out of having to research, design and build a drought-tolerant landscape project. First, customers meet with the program’s landscape design consultant to discuss their vision and goals for the turf removal project. Once a design is fi nalized, a dedicated project team will be assembled to remove existing grass, install new drought-friendly plants, and convert the existing irrigation system to drip irrigation. Program participants are responsible for obtaining any required design approvals from their home owners associations.

Q: What do I need to do in the fall to begin preparing my parkway turfgrass area to be converted to a drought-friendly garden area?

A: To prepare your parkway for planting, it’s important to “Plan Now, Plant Later.” This is the perfect weather to start killing off your lawn. There are several methods to kill your grass from spraying with herbicide to sheet mulching. The important thing is to start planning now on what you want to do with the area. Start to create a plant and landscape materials list. When the weather cools and your grass is dead, you are ready to begin your project.

Q: I’m going to let my water-guzzling curbside and driveway lawn strips die. When is the best time to replace the dead turf grass in these areas with a new drought-friendly garden?

A: Plant later—in late fall. Climate appropriate plants establish roots better when exposed to the cooler soil and air temperatures typical here in late fall. Your new plants will also respond well to early seasonal rain, if we get any!


Q: Juan, thank you for your tips on going native in my landscape. I’m having trouble finding plants. Any ideas?

A: There are a lot of great resources for finding native plants. The California Native Plant Society has a website, You enter your address and it will give you a list of California plants that are native to your specific location. If you see a plant that you like, a nursery button shows you local nurseries that stock the plant.

Q: I transplanted some succulents from part sun to full sun, and they don’t look healthy. Some have dry yellowor brown-spotted leaves. Do I need to move them again? Do they need fertilizer or more water?

A: I am sorry to hear about your plants having issues. If you need to transplant, it should be done in time of dormancy, which is typically the winter. Transplanting during growing season can stress plants out as they need to reestablish their rooting system. It’s also important to consider the plants’ exposure requirements (shade, partial shade, full sun, etc.). The yellow leaves and brown spots could be caused by many factors such as nutrient deficiency, overwatering, underwatering, or the stress of the transplant.

Q: I have three mature citrus trees in my backyard close to my fence. What other plants go well with citrus trees?

A: Thank you for your question. I typically do not plant anything under citrus trees because their water and nutrient needs differ throughout the season. Fruit trees should be separate from traditional landscape areas. Specific horticultural practices are needed for each type of plant, from shrubs to fruiting trees. The important thing to do is research these plants for specific requirements.

Q: We are thinking of replacing low juniper with succulents in front of our house. Do you know of anyone who could design a succulent garden that would look good and stay looking good through the years?

A: Thank you for reaching out for your water efficiency and landscaping needs. Our website has a Local Landscapers & Designers page——where you will find a variety of contractors who can help with your design. You can also try the Association of Professional Landscape Designers website, When evaluating any landscape designer or contractor, ask for references and work samples, especially since you are looking for a specific type of landscape. By the way, there are nearly unlimited plant options—including succulents and low-growing junipers— to use in your drought-tolerant or California-native landscape. A fun way to choose plants is to do a guided search at

Q: I’m considering planting succulents within my existing landscape. Some areas are shady and some are in full sun. Will succulents tolerate these conditions?

A: Succulents are a great addition to any landscape. There are many varieties, from California natives to desert varieties, and they then can be planted in direct or filtered sunlight. Check for the best succulents for these unique locations and mix them with plants that have similar sun and water needs. One of my favorite California natives that can tolerate full sun is chalk dudley (dudleya pulverulenta). IRWD has a turf removal program ( turf-removal) to help you convert grassy areas into lush succulent gardens.

Q: What’s your recommendation for a water-friendly gift?

A: Give your loved one the gift of a flowering California native plant such as the Red Valentine Monkeyflower (Mimulus ‘Valentine’). This water-friendly California native shrub will produce beautiful red flowers year-round. Use the guided search at to find other waterefficient plants that fit your needs. The database has lots of great photos and gardening tips. Happy planting!

Q: I have to replant a hill in my backyard. It is 15 feet high and fairly steep. In the past 46 years, it was planted first with African Daisies, and later with Red Apple succulent. Can you suggest any ground covers that flower and are drought tolerant?

A: African Daisies and Red Apple are considered drought-tolerant or medium-water-use plants—so replanting them wouldn’t be a bad choice. However, if you’d like to try something different, I’d suggest the Arthur Menzies Seaside Daisies (Erigeron Arthur Menzies) or the Emerald Carpet Manzanita (Arctostaphylos Emerald Carpet). There are also many other great groundcover choices to consider.

Q: I have a small 6' x 9' patio. All of the plants are succulents. I would like a single pot with two to three flowering plants for some color. What would you recommend?

A: When it comes to growing plants in containers, remember to always check the soil moisture. Drought-tolerant plants or not, if the soil becomes too dry, the plants may go into shock, wilt and possibly not come back. Lavender (Lavandula spp.) and rosemary (Rosmarinus spp.) are good choices. Lantana is also good. Always consider the exposures when selecting plants. Happy gardening!

Q: How can I control weeds in my garden without using events toxic herbicides?

A: The best way is the good ol’ bend-and-stoop method—manually removing weeds. But that can get tiring. Here are some easy ecofriendly strategies: First, mix one gallon of vinegar, one cup of table salt and one tablespoon of biodegradable dish detergent in a bucket. Pour it into a spray bottle and label it. You have created an eco-friendly weed killer. Be sure not to spray plants you don’t want to harm. After removing weeds, you can lay down four to five layers of printed newspaper as a weed barrier then place a thick layer of mulch on top.

Q: What’s your favorite California native drought-tolerant plant?

A: There is a vast selection of California native plants that are water efficient and perfect for the landscape. If I had to choose, I absolutely love our Ceanothus spp. or California Lilacs. They are evergreen, very drought tolerant and provide a burst of colorful flowers that range from white and light pink to blue and deep purple. Be careful not to overwater these plants, especially in the summer. One or two deep waterings per month in the summer is all you need once established. Try to plant the species that is native to your area for best results. If you live in Irvine, that would be Woollyleaf Ceanothus (Ceanothus tomentosus). For more information, visit the California Native Plants Society website at

Q: What’s the advantage of planting nonnative drought-friendly or California native plants?

A: Both are excellent choices, but each type requires different care throughout the year. Non-native drought-friendly plants require a little more water throughout spring and summer and provide an attractive landscape. Generally, California native plants are most active during the cooler months while requiring little or no water during the hottest months of the year. As always, do a little research before selecting and establishing new plants. Group non-native plants with similar water needs together in the same hydrozone for efficient watering. Likewise, California native plants should be planted in separate groupings to accommodate their unique water needs.

Q: I have a Tipuana Tipu tree in my backyard coming out of its deciduous period and it needs pruning. Is now a good time to prune, shape, trim or should I wait? I will need a good tree service to do this, could you point me in the right direction?

A: It is a common practice to prune deciduous trees and plants during their dormancy period. This period allows you to shape the tree, remove diseased, damaged or dead wood, and will promote a vigorous burst of new growth in the spring. Late winter would be the optimum time to prune. Pruning during the growing season can stress the tree, making it vulnerable to diseases and pests. As far as hiring a professional, look for someone that is fully licensed, bonded, and a certified arborist.

Q: I recently changed the plants in my parkway area and planters to drought-tolerant plants. I converted my sprayhead sprinklers to drip for these plants. How long should I water these plants in fall?

A: After converting to drip irrigation, you will apply water more efficiently, and at a much slower rate. Typically, drip run times will be longer, depending on the type of drip you have installed. For example, if you use inline emitter tubing, drip run time could be 20–60 minutes, depending on various factors. For some of the most common drip systems, we have posted recommended drip irrigation schedules and remember, plants’ water needs drop significantly in September.

Q: What are your favorite drought-friendly plants, especially ones that are hearty and easy to maintain?

A: Five of my favorites are Azurea Bush Germander, Concha California Lilac, Dwarf Orange Bulbine, Lamb’s Ears Silver Carpet and Sweet Pea Shrub. You can view these plants, and 80 more, in our RightScape Demonstration Garden in front of IRWD’s office building at 15600 Sand Canyon Boulevard, Irvine. The garden is open 365 days a year from sunrise to sunset.

Q: My husband and I took out our front lawn and replaced it with a colorful garden of drought-friendly plants. I would like to add some edibles to this garden. I have already planted rosemary and lavender. Can you recommend some other low-water edibles suitable for my central coastal OC location?

A: It’s great to hear that you want to incorporate more drought-friendly edibles into your landscape, like the rosemary and lavender. Irvine’s Mediterranean climate is ideal for growing a drought-tolerant edible garden. Consider building up your soil with nutrient rich compost, grouping plants together by water and care needs, and mulching. Here is a list of water efficient, edible plants for your garden: pomegranates, peppers, artichokes, eggplant; and these Mediterranean herbs: oregano, fennel, sage, sweet bay, and thyme.

Q: Is it too late to begin planting my landscape?

A: Given our mild Mediterranean climate, planting can be done almost year-round in southern California. While drought-tolerant plants like to be planted in late winter/early spring when the cooler weather helps them to establish more easily, planting is still encouraged throughout our spring season, except when temperatures rise and remain consistently summer-like. California’s typical spring weather allows plants to “root in” and green growth to “push out.” If planting in the beginning of summer, make sure not to let a plant’s root system dry out and use plenty of mulch to keep soil at an adequate moisture level.

Q: How do I determine which water efficient plants will grow in the shade?

A: Before selecting plants for your landscape, it’s important to research each plant’s specific needs such as sun exposure, water, and soil requirements. Make sure you consider all these requirements carefully when selecting plants for your landscape. Also, make a list of alternative plants just in case you cannot purchase the exact plant you are looking for.

Q: I’m looking to add more color to my drought-friendly landscape. Can you recommend a few hearty flowering plants or shrubs that don’t need lots of water?

A: Four colorful plants that are well-adapted to our semiarid climate are Grevillea Hybrid, Purple Rockrose, Texas Ranger and Yellow Bush Lantana. You can view these plants, and about 80 more, in our RightScape Demonstration Garden in front of the IRWD office building at 15600 Sand Canyon Ave., Irvine.

Q: What are your favorite drought-friendly plants, especially ones that are hearty and easy to maintain?

A: Five of my favorites are Azurea Bush Germander, Concha California Lilac, Dwarf Orange Bulbine, Lamb’s Ears Silver Carpet and Sweet Pea Shrub. You can view these plants, and 80 more, in our RightScape Demonstration Garden in front of IRWD’s office building at 15600 Sand Canyon Ave., Irvine.

Q: What are some drought-friendly and fire resistant plants that I can establish in the landscape of my house in the foothills?

A: Good question. IRWD customers who live in the foothill and canyon areas are more vulnerable to fires and would benefit from including fire resistant plants in their landscape. Below are a few options for homeowners to consider when planting this autumn or winter:

  • Shrubs
    Monkey flower (Mimulus sp)
    California lilac (Ceanothus sp)
    Autumn sage (Salvia greggii)
  • Ground Cover
    Common yarrow (Achillea)
    French lavender (Lavandula dentata)
  • Trees
    Coast live oak (Quercus agrifolia)
    California sycamore (Platanus racemosa)
    Toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia)

Q: My landscape is a mix of grass and flower bed areas with drought-friendly plants. I currently use only spray head irrigation, but I am interested in saving water by converting to drip. How do I begin?

A: Start by putting drought-friendly plants with similar watering needs into the same area. This is called hydrozoning. You want to make sure that all your plants receive an adequate amount of water without overwatering any of them. There is no need to remove your existing spray heads or dig up irrigation lines to convert to drip. Various drip conversion kits are available online that can utilize your existing system simply by replacing the heads with a conversion drip body. Cap off any spray heads you don’t need and convert the rest without cutting or gluing. Remember to never mix spray heads and drip irrigation on the same valve. Each type requires very different run-times and water line pressure. Spray heads put out water in gpm (gallons per minute) while drip puts out water in gph (gallons per hour).

Q: If the weather heats up this fall, should I keep using the same amount of water that I used in August?

A: At this time of the year, even though the weather may feel warm, the days keep getting shorter. This means that you do not need to water as much as you did during the summer months. Plants adapt to less light by becoming less active and using less water in the fall. Please refer to our fall watering schedule for details on how to more efficiently water your landscape.

Q: Can you recommend some low-water edibles besides rosemary and lavendar suitable for my central coastal OC location?

A: It's great to hear that you want to incorporate more drought-friendly edibles into your landscape. Irvine's Mediterranean climate is ideal for growing a drought-tolerant edible garden. Consider building up your soil with nutrient rich compost, grouping plants together by water and care needs, and mulching. Here is a list of water efficient, edible plants for your garden:

  • pomegranates
    sweet bay


Q: Juan, my watering seems to increase in the summer. Any advice?

A: Welcome to the peak time of year when water use is at its highest, especially for those grassy areas. This is the perfect time to consider, “How much grass do I need?” Does it serve a purpose? I like to barbecue and play with my kids on my backyard lawn. I used to have a lawn in my front yard that used quite a bit of water, but I took advantage of the turf removal program to convert it into a water-friendly landscape. I kept my back lawn for recreation. Consider taking advantage of IRWD’s turf removal program to renovate your landscape. Visit to learn more.

Q: When my irrigation system turns on and off, we hear a loud banging sound. Is this caused by pressure in the line? Is there a way to fix this?

A: It sounds like what you’re experiencing is what we call “water hammer.” When the sprinklers turn on, it draws water from the irrigation mainline that is also tied into the mainline that supplies water to the house. When the sprinkler valves shut down or shut off quickly, it causes the water to suddenly stop flowing in the pipe, causing that banging noise. Some sprinkler valves shut down slowly while others can shut down immediately. Water hammer is also caused by irregular pressure in the lines.

Q: I would like to replace my sprinklers with drip irrigation. Also, any suggestions on fixing my system to make it more efficient?

A: Thank you for your question. We do offer a spray-head-to-drip rebate program. You might also consider applying for the pressure regulating spray body program, which provides incentives for EPA WaterSense® approved devices. Pressure-regulating features compensate for high pressure, which wastes water. Like all the rebate programs, make sure to read the guidelines and terms of conditions before starting your project.

Q: I have been trying to match IRWD’s recommended dripline watering schedule. Is it for drip using quarter-inch tubing with emitters at the end?

A: Thank you for reaching out. Our drip schedule is specifically for people who have inline drip irrigation with emitters built into the lines, which must be spaced out according to the manufacturer. Drip applies water at a very slow rate and operates on a unique schedule to allow the water time to permeate the soil deeper. Use any irrigation guide as a reference, and always adjust to make sure your landscape is getting just the right amount of water it needs.

Q: During the fall and into winter, I noticed my landscape’s water use has gone up. What do you think it might be related to?

A: Sometimes we neglect to check our sprinkler system for leaks, and that can cause unforeseen problems. This is the perfect time to adjust your watering times and visually inspect your sprinklers for leaks, breaks and other issues that might cause water waste.

Q: I noticed IRWD’s drip irrigation watering schedule has different runtimes and cycles compared to the spray head irrigation schedule. Why is that?

A: The drip schedule is specifically for people who have inline drip irrigation. Since drip applies water at a very slowly, the soil can absorb it better and deeper. It is not crucial to have multiple start times and short runtimes unless you feel the need to allow the water to permeate the soil deeper. With spray heads, it’s always better to have multiple start times and short runtimes since they apply water quickly

Q: Juan, I’m considering starting a vegetable garden at home. Any ideas on what I could do? Would this increase my water use?

A: Starting a vegetable garden is a fabulous idea—a smart way to use your water. Vegetable gardens can be relaxing, providing good family time and yielding delicious fruits and vegetables. Three recommendations: Fertilize with organic materials, use eco-friendly pest management, and practice good hygiene by keeping your gardening tools clean. For June, plant root vegetables like radishes, carrots and potatoes. Crops need to be watered at specific times for proper development, but don’t use any more water than typical landscape. To be most water-efficient, use drip irrigation for your vegetable bed or fruit tree. Check out OC Master Gardeners for online resources at

Q: I’m looking to fix and update my sprinkler system. Can you provide any recommendations?

A: A little maintenance goes a long way. Your home irrigation system will waste water if it’s programmed incorrectly, a sprinkler head is pointed in the wrong direction, or you have a leak. So remember four simple steps: inspect, connect, direct, and select. Also consider converting to drip. You don’t need to dig up irrigation lines. Drip conversion kits—available online—can use your existing system. Simply cap off any spray heads you don’t need and replace the rest with conversion drip bodies, without cutting or gluing. Never mix spray heads and drip irrigation on the same valve. They require very different run times and water line pressure. Spray heads put out water in gpm (gallons per minute) while drip puts out water in gph (gallons per hour).

Q: I’ve been having trouble staying within my water budget. I believe the issue is my landscape. Do you have any recommendations?

A: One simple tip is to reduce your watering to one day per week or simply shut off the sprinkler system. This past winter has been really wet and cool. Landscapes don’t need a lot of water to survive during this period. Check your timer from time to time to ensure you are watering to the season. The outdoor water budget is based on real-time weather readings (visit and can vary from day to day, month to month, year to year.

Q: Someone told me to consider bioswales when redoing my landscape. What is a bioswale?

A: Your goal should be to keep the water on your landscape, out of the storm drains. A bioswale will help. It is a landscape feature that slows and collects stormwater or irrigation runoff. You shape the land to create low points like a dry creek where water can run, collect and sink into the ground. A bioswale also qualifies as a sustainability component, which is required for our turf-removal rebates.

Q: Can I cover my new ¾-inch brown drip line with dirt or do I have to use mulch? I’m worried the holes might get clogged if I use dirt, but I have ice plant ground cover that doesn’t like hardwood mulch.

A: Thank you for your question. You can lay the dripline on the ground and let the ice plant grow over it. Companies make inline emitter tubing for both types of applications, above or below ground. Follow manufacturer specifications when installing the drip line to make sure you have all the necessary components. A couple of dripline manufacturers to look at are Rain Bird and Netafirm.

Q: Juan, even though we’ve had a mild summer, I’m still concerned about my overall water use going into September. Does my landscape require as much water as it did these past couple of months?

A: Thanks for your question. In September, it is important to start reducing your watering. It’s a time of transition, as the days are getting shorter and the plants are adapting. Plants will start to use less and less water—as much as 30% less as we move into the fall. For more tips, attend upcoming workshops or events.

Q: What are your ideas for good water-saving gifts?

A: Consider giving a friend or neighbor a gift of a California native plant. One that comes to mind is called toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia) or Christmas berry. Winter is the perfect time to plant a California native garden, which will use very little water once established. Other water-efficient gifts would be a watering wand, a rain barrel, or a smart timer, which can be programmed and operated with your phone. Spend time with your family, but also with your landscape, making it water efficient for the New Year.

Q: I like to water by hand instead of using my sprinkler system. Is this an efficient way to water? Do you have any recommendations?

A: I myself like to water my landscape by hand using a hose. Watering by hand is efficient because you are placing the water exactly where you need it. Water each area in small amounts and then move on to the next area. Repeat this in rounds. By watering in sections, you allow the soil to absorb the water efficiently. Make sure you always have a hose shut-off nozzle—they’re inexpensive and you can purchase one at a hardware store.

Q: I saw an ad suggesting I water 30% less during the fall.Will my landscape survive?

A: Great question. Even though it might still be hot, the days are getting shorter. Plants know winter is coming and start to transition into their dormancy period. They will still thrive but will begin to need less water. In fact, too much water now can drown your plants. As we approach winter, start by reducing irrigation time by a few minutes. This will save hundreds of gallons of water. Learn more—and score some rebates—at 

Q: My New Year’s resolution is to be more water conscious and more environmentally friendly when it comes to my landscape. What are your suggestions?

A: Thanks for your question. What a great idea! To be more water conscious, consider the use of more water-friendly plants such as California natives or succulents. Some of my favorite California native plants are Ceanothus spp., otherwise known as California lilacs. There are various species of these plants that will provide color at different times throughout the spring and summer, and use very minimal water once established. To be more environmentally friendly, consider putting in a habitat garden.

If you’re interested in attracting birds, butterflies and other forms of life to your garden, many California native plants have co-evolved with our local fauna. The Orange County chapter of the California Native Plant Society has many great ideas on its website, When selecting plants, make sure to reference You can also check out IRWD’s butterfly garden at the San Joaquin Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary.

Q: I am thinking about replacing my lawn with something more water thrifty—something low growing, fast spreading and easy to maintain. Any recommendations?

A: Numerous groundcovers are available, such as Dymondia margaretae, also known as silver carpet. I’m particularly excited about Phyla nodiflora, also known as kurapia. It’s an innovative groundcover that spreads fast and doesn’t require a lot of water or maintenance. It’s also kid and pet friendly. Before removing your lawn, please remember we have two turf rebate programs: the Turnkey turf program, which is all-in-one, and the DIY program. Visit to learn more.

Q: I recently turned my irrigation system back on after the rains and noticed that some of my sprinklers were leaking or clogged. Should I hire a professional or is it something I can fix myself?

A: As we start to increase watering during the summer months, we need to make sure our sprinkler system is working as effi ciently as possible. Turn on the sprinkler system and conduct a walk through. Look for issues like leaking, broken or clogged spray heads. A broken or missing spray head can waste as much as 20 to 40 gallons per minute. Fix as soon as possible. Most repairs you can do yourself. If not, seek out a licensed professional for help with the problem. To view IRWD’s video on “How to Check and Adjust for Sprinkler Leaks,” visit and click on “How Do I?” and “Fix a Leak?

Q: How should I water my backyard citrus trees?

A: Citrus have specific water and fertilizer requirements depending on variety, age of tree, size of canopy, and flowering and fruit development period. Citrus trees can require water year round, especially during late winter through spring. When citrus trees begin fruiting, their water requirements increase, but they do not like standing in water. An average 10-foot by 10-foot canopy citrus tree will need about 100 to 150 gallons of water per week. The feeding roots of a citrus tree sit in the top two feet of soil, three to four feet out from the trunk all the way to the drip line. For good growth and fruit, proper fertilization is required. The generous application of mulch is also key to keeping the top 12 to 24 inches of soil beneath the tree canopy consistently moist, but not too wet. For more details on how to water and care for citrus, avocado and stone fruit trees, visit UCCE Orange County Master Gardeners at

Q: Do you have any tips for applying the water from my rain barrels to my landscape?

A: Remember to lead each rain barrel's overflow hose away from your home's foundation and into an existing garden or bioswale, where the water can easily percolate into the soil. It's also best to use rainwater on inedible plants such as turfgrass, shrubs and flowers. Rainwater from a rain barrel can be used on vegetable gardens, but to ensure safety, make sure to apply this wate rnear the base of the plants and avoid the fruit and foliage, especially on edible leafy greens.