Have questions about your landscape? the drought? need water-efficient tips? Ask Juan! Juan is IRWD's very own drought conservation specialist with more than 10 years experience in conservation. 

Fill out this form to submit your questions to Juan. 


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


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, fl owering and water-effi cient. 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.


{accordion} 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?

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


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.


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?


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.


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


This is the perfect time to start planning, because removing your old lawn properly takes time. Numerous groundcovers are available, such as Dymondia margaretae, also known as silver carpet. I’m particularly excited about Phyla nodifl ora, 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 rightscapenow.com/turf-removal to learn more.


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 now as we head into fall?


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 at rightscapenow.com/landscape-resources/watering-schedules. Remember, plants’ water needs drop significantly in September. To create a custom schedule, visit rightscaperesources.com and click on this blue “Water Calculator” symbol.


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?


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 rightscapenow.com and click on “How Do I?” and “Fix a Leak?


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


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. For program details, rebate amounts, terms and conditions and to apply online, visit rightscapenow.con/turf-removal/turn-key-turf.


How should I water my backyard citrus trees?


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 mgorange.ucanr.edu/Edible_Plants/.


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


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.


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


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. 


When can I start watering again?


Whether El Nino comes on strong in March and April or fizzles out, we are still recovering from four straight years of drought with the possibility of a fifth year quite likely, making it very important to continue being water efficient. During this time of year, the days remain shorter and plant watering needs continue to be reduced, so regardless of the temperature and how much rainfall we've received, let's all keep using less water. In any event, you wait until late spring to start watering your landscape again. 


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


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
  • peppers
  • artichokes
  • eggplants
  • oregano
  • fennel
  • sage
  • sweet bay
  • thyme