by Phillip B. Burum, Executive Vice President, Diversified Pacific,
President, Building Industry Association (BIA) Baldy View Chapter
Spring is on the horizon and that means it’s a good time for homeowners to start planning for spring landscaping renovations. If you own a home and have not had the opportunity to modernize your landscaping with drought tolerant plants or other water wise features, now is the perfect time to put things in motion.
The Baldy View Region, which encompasses all of San Bernardino County and the eastern portion of Los Angeles County, features a Mediterranean climate that is distinguished by mild winters and hot, dry summers. This particular type of climate is usually characterized by drought cycles: periods of drought followed by periods of abundant rainfall. This combination of sunshine and rain cycles served to make California both an agricultural powerhouse and among the most desired regions for homeowners, homebuyers and businesses. And, with an average annual rainfall of only sixteen inches, conserving water is one of the most important things we can do to protect our quality of life.
California’s many prosperous agricultural properties are far and above the largest consumers of water in the state but many would be surprised to know that residential landscaping makes up the largest percentage of non-farming water uses in our state. Individual studies vary but the mean estimation is that landscaping accounts for 53 percent of our daily individual use of water. Modernizing your landscaping is as much an economic decision as it is an aesthetic one. New homes, with modern landscaping features and equipment, on average use 50 percent less water than a home built in 1975 and 20 percent less than homes built as recently as 2009.
Plant material, such as drought tolerant plants versus plush green lawns, will definitely affect your water bill but updating your sprinkler systems is just as important. Homeowners can reduce their water bills by hundreds of dollars annually by making the right choices on plant material and irrigation equipment.
Step one for any landscaping improvements should begin by checking with your local water district. Water districts are the best resource when it comes to providing water-conserving landscaping guidance for their customers. Call your local water provider or visit www.bewaterwise.com, a website of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and the family of Southern California water agencies.
Your next step should be consultation with a local nursery or home and garden center for suggestions on the best types of trees and shrubs that will thrive where you live. Because many communities encourage the planting of certain types of native species, local nurseries are generally very knowledgeable on the subject. Homeowners associations (HOAs) are usually another great resource and often provide landscape design guidelines including approved plants and trees. Check with your HOA if you belong to one to determine if changes to your landscape might require preapproval or architectural review.
In addition to saving on your water bill, the right landscaping choices can help you save on energy bills as well. For instance, planting deciduous trees (trees that lose their leaves during the winter) in front of windows that receive significant amounts of sunlight will block solar heat in the summer while letting it in during the winter when you need it most. Depending on the species, a six- to eight -foot deciduous tree will begin shading your windows the first year and your roof within five to 10 years.
For regions like ours where we enjoy abundant sunshine, evergreens or shrubs can be used to limit the sunlight entering through windows and provide excellent windbreaks. Evergreen trees and shrubs planted on the side of your house can help reduce the effect of our unique Santa Ana winds.
Water wise landscaping is a feature that savvy homebuyers will be looking for so get ahead of the game and start planning your upgrades now. Even if you are not planning to sell your home today, the effort and investment will pay dividends. If planned properly, landscaping can beautify, insulate and protect your home, and save money by reducing energy and water costs.
For more information about water-, energy- and resource-efficient landscaping, visit The National Arbor Day Foundation at www.arborday.org. For further reading on home improvements that will beautify and enhance the value of your home, visit our website at www.BIABuild.com on the web.