SILVER LAKE, Calif. — In a backyard in Silver Lake, local landscape architect Vanessa Rutter and her crew from Foundation Design are pulling out plants scorched by the recent summer heat wave.

“Anytime you’re planting in high heat, even for drought-tolerant and native plants, they need a transition period to establish,” Rutter said.

She’s seen growing demand for drought-tolerant landscapes to save money and water.

“This was all grass, and we wanted to create more of an outdoor living room,” she said, pointing to the tiny rocks where grass used to be.

The City of Los Angeles says applications for its Turf Replacement Rebate Program through the LADWP have increased 10 fold. The program offers $3 per square foot to replace a lawn with drought-tolerant landscaping.

“Here, we put in a very drought-tolerant grass that has a drip system to it,” she said, showing where landscaping improvements were made to the parkway as well.

“The weather triggers people to think about enhancing their gardens, which makes sense but we do try to get people to plan during that time and then plant in the fall.”

Then, let the winter rains establish the vegetation. Rutter has put all planting on hold until at least October. She also shies away from large yards full of artificial turf, which, according to NASA scientists, can be as much as 10 degrees hotter than natural grass.

“It’s a plastic petroleum product. It is creating heat. It’s really not creating any habitat,” Rutter said. 

For LADWP customers, all watering continues to be limited to Monday and Friday for street addresses ending in odd numbers and Thursdays and Sundays. Watering between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. is prohibited.

“The more permeable your garden is, the better for the environment because the water is going straight back into the aquifer and into the ground instead of off into a drainage pipe,” Rutter said.

For water conservation, she recommends using a drip irrigation system with mulch for the best results and focusing on watering fruit trees and larger shrubs.

“Honestly, lawn, perennials, smaller plants can be reestablished over time if we’re trying to limit our water usage,” she said.

Also, consider putting a bucket in the shower while the water is warming up and then use that for the garden as well. Rutter says compared to when she started her landscaping business 15 years ago, more people are aware of the benefits of a drought-tolerant yard.

“It’s much more interesting to look at a garden that has different layers and habitat and interests and textures and colors versus one flat lawn.”

Not only enriching the aesthetic for her clients and their wallets, she says, but also contributing environmentally to the greater good.

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