Gardening & Irrigation

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Water-efficient landscaping in residential front yard
Start gardening projects with a visit to, sponsored by the Tri-Valley's water utilities.

Get Your Yard Off to a Great Start

Find free expert help at

  • Calculate your ideal watering schedule. In a few simple steps, determine the right amount of irrigation for your yard and sprinkler system.
  • Learn how to reset your controller. Videos available for 10 leading brands.
  • Find a landscape pro. Search by specialty for members of the California Landscape Contractors Association and Association of Professional Landscape Designers.
  • Browse an extensive landscaping library. Get help with plant selection, design, irrigation trouble-shooting, and much more.

Rebates $ Rebates $ Rebates

Upgrade to a smarter, easier irrigation controller.  Today's controllers are dramatically easier to use than in the past. If your old controller is a pain to program, now is the time to get a rebate on a new one. Rebates up to $75 for residences and $3,000 for multi-family or commercial properties are available. Learn more: Zone 7 Weather-Based Irrigation Controller Rebate

Lose your lawn, gain a water-efficient garden. Transform your water-thirsty front lawn to a beautiful landscape. Rebates are available: up to $750 per home and $4,500 per non-residential property. Learn more: Zone 7 Water-Efficient Landscape Rebate

Follow Best Practices

  drought-tolerant plants

Don't over-water. Get a custom irrigation schedule for your yard at

Keep mulch at least two inches deep in all non-turf planting areas to reduce evaporation, keep soils moist, add nutrients, and discourage weeds.

Water between 6 p.m. and 9 a.m. to minimize evaporation--no longer a requirement but always a good idea.

Mow less frequently, set mower blade higher (3-3.5 inches), and mow during the cool parts of the day.

Aerate lawns and fill the plugs with compost so water can soak in deeply.

Fertilize and prune at the right time. New growth needs more water. To avoid stimulating new growth during hot months, do not user high-nitrogen fertilizers or prune after April.

Sources and more information:  California Landscape Contractors Association

Irrigate Efficiently

Dry spots on your lawn mean the area is not getting water. Adjust or modify the irrigation system for better coverage instead of increasing watering duration. If unable to adjust, we recommend hand watering.

Ponding indicates over-watering or that foliage is blocking spray. Try decreasing the watering duration on your sprinkler system and trim any foliage blocking the sprinkler head.

Soil compaction can be seen in areas of high foot traffic and with clay soils. Aerate your lawn to increase air and water transfer to roots.

Thatch is the build-up of dead stems beneath the green surface of your lawn. De-thatching removes that build-up and lets water and fertilizers reach the soil efficiently.

Hydro-zoning is key to an efficient irrigation system. Set up your system so that each sprinkler valve serves plants that need the same amount of water. For example, shrubs and lawn should not be on the same valve because shrubs require less water than lawn. 

Sun vs. shade Consider sun exposure when setting irrigation run times. Decrease run times in shady areas.

Sprinkler heads - If you have brown spots or ponding, check your sprinkler heads for the following issues. All sprinkler heads connected to a single station (valve) should have the same application rate and cover the same distance to ensure proper distribution over your landscape. Heads should be straight up and down, not tilted. An efficient system should have even head-to-head spacing, meaning that the water from one sprinkler head should reach the sprinkler heads around it for uniform coverage.

Soil type is an important factor in efficient irrigation. Much of the soil in the Tri-Valley contains clay, which has a slow infiltration rate. Apply water slowly and in intervals to minimize runoff.

Check controller settings after a power outage - Some controllers revert to a default setting, such as "water every day for 10 minutes," after a power outage. Regularly replace batteries that provide backup power.

Tune Up Drip Systems

Emitters should be checked for clogs to ensure even watering. Replace missing emitters immediately to save water and improve system efficiency.

Location is important. Place emitters at the edge of the root-ball on new plantings and at the edge of the foliage of established plants.

High pressure - If compression fittings and emitters are popping off, pressure may be too high. Install a pressure regulator on the valve for all drip stations.

Broken tubing needs to be fixed immediately to save water and to efficiently water your landscape.

Get Help from the Experts

Tri-Valley Water-Wise Gardening - Searchable plant database, advice on landscape and irrigation design, customized watering schedule, a photo gallery of garden ideas, plants that thrive on recycled water, and more. Sponsored by Zone 7 Water Agency in partnership with DSRSD and other water utilities in the Tri-Valley. - Learn about the benefits of sheet mulching and how to do it, find discounts on materials, get inspired by examples of local lawn conversions, and use a searchable vendor list to find cardboard, compost, and mulch. - Get expert help in creating a renewable landscape.

How-to Video Library - Dozens of helpful videos on irrigation and landscaping from the California Urban Water Conservation Council. - In droughts, water trees first. They are expensive to replace and provide shade that protects surrounding vegetation.

DSRSD Drought Garden - On the east side of the District office, see a selection of water-wise trees, shrubs, cactus and groundcovers, all irrigated with recycled water.

Gardens for San Lorenzo: Recommendations from UC Berkeley's Landscape Architecture Department - This 72-page booklet features four student-designed prototypes for low-water gardens that embrace strong design, beauty and function, and are very doable by homeowners.

UC Davis Arboretum All-Stars - 100 tough, reliable plants that are easy to grow, don't need a lot of water, have few problems with pests or disease, and have outstanding qualities in the garden.

California Native Plant Society - Explore their plant directory, workshops and many other resources.

PlantRight - Avoid using invasive plants in your yard. PlantRight has a list of the worst offenders in our area and better alternatives. They also explain the impact of invasive plants.

Master Gardeners Demonstration Garden - Attend workshops and see hundreds of varieties of drought-tolerant plants at this huge garden in Livermore.

Bringing Back the Natives Garden Tour - Get inside beautiful Bay Area gardens that feature native plants. Workshops and plant sales, too!

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