Delosperma Firespinner2
Firespinner Iceplant “Delosperma”

There are a number of resources for firesafe landscaping.  This post summarizes some of the best practices, plus links for more information.

Tip 1: Create Defensible Space

Defensible space is the clearance created between a structure and the grass, shrubs, trees or any natural area that surrounds it. State of California says it is a property’s “front line of defense against wildfire”.

It is needed to slow or stop the spread of wildfire and also protects firefighters.

There are two zones; the first is 30 feet, the second, 100 feet.

Zone 1

  • Essentials are to remove dead plants, leaves, grass, weeds and woodpiles.
  • Remove branches that hang over your roof.
  • Keep tree branches a minimum of 10 feet from each other
  • Separate patio furniture and equipment that could catch fire

Zone 2

  • Keep grass height to be maximum of 4”
  • Vertical spacing between grass, shrubs and trees
  • Horizontal spacing between shrubs and trees.

Tip 2: Landscape Design

Note: no plant is fire-proof, but there are plants more fire resistant.

In addition to plant selection, factors such as size, height, density and spacing between plants are very important.

Marin County Firesafe promotes the use of masonry, gravel, stepping stone or stone walls and decorative rock.

Mulch does help conserve moisture. However, it will burn. Do not use it in garden beds near home our outbuildings. Note: stringy mulches ignite and burn more rapidly.

A Sample list of fire resistant plants (below is a link to the complete list)


Dwarf lily-of-the-Nile


Lily turf

Vinca minor

Dwarf periwinkle

Lavandula angustifolia

English lavender

Rosmarinus officinalis*

Tuscan blue’ rosemary *(when irrigated, free of dead material)

Salvia chameadryoides


Thymus serpyllum


Achillea millefolium

Common yarrow

Ceanothus ‘concha’

Wild lilac

Ceanothus maritimus

Maritime ceanothus

Cistus purpureus

Orchid rockrose

Dietes fortnight


Lavandula dentata

French lavender

Limonium perezii statice

Sea lavender

Ribes viburnifolium

Catalina perfume

Solanum jasminoides

Potato vine

Tecomaria capensis

Cape honeysuckle

Eschscholzia californica

California poppy

Mimulus longiflorus

Monkey flower

Echinacea purpurea

Purple coneflower

Rosa florabunda


Rudbeckia fulgida

Black-eyed susan

Erigeron karvinskianus fleabane

Santa Barbara daisy

Festuca glauca


Iris douglasiana

Douglas iris

Kniphofia uvaria ‘DWF’

Red-hot poker, torch-lily

Lantana camara


Lavandula angustifolia

English lavender

Rhamnus californica


Santolina virens


For more information

Tip 3: Landscape Maintenance

  • Regular irrigation is important. Plants with high moisture content will be less flammable. We must walk the fine line with enough, but not too much water. Dead and woody branches can more easily catch fire.
  • Control invasive weeds
  • Prune dead branches within tree canopy
  • Thin out dense shrubs to reduce fuel load
  • Clean up of dead branches
  • Selectively remove trees and shrubs to improve spatial separation

Sources include: State of California, County of Marin and Western Arborist

The State Water Resources Control Board, responding to pressure to relax water rationing from June 2015, is allowing water districts to set their own conservation targets based a projected additional three-year dry spell. 
An important caveat: the state will have oversight and each district will be required to submit a monthly water use report.  And, if projections are found to be unrealistic, there could be a return to state regulations.

Permanent Restrictions

  • Hosing down driveways or sidewalks
  • Washing cars without shut off nozzle
  • Using non recirculated water in decorative fountains
  • Causing runoff when watering lawns or within 48 hours of rainfall
  • Irrigating turf on public medians

California May 2016 Drought Map

The water picture for Northern California is quite different from Central and Southern California.  Sections of these areas remain parched.  The US drought monitor reports that 90 percent of the state remains in a drought.  See map. In fact, there are some communities whose supplies of water are limited.

Emphasis on Long Term Planning

The message was a sobering reflection on California’s future reality, in that it is likely to include more frequent drought years.  The Governor underscored the need for effective long term drought planning.
Felicia Marcus, chairwoman of the state’s Water Resources Control Board, said Our emphasis is on conservation as a way of life in California.” She also stated that we no longer have the luxury of taking our precious water for granted.


California’s Major Reservoirs


Irrigation and Other Landscape Rebates Are Available!

*State of California Residential Turf Replacement Rebate

About the program: The California Department of Water Resources is offering rebates to single-family homes throughout the state who replace high water-using turf grass with landscapes that require little water. The State will rebate $2 per square foot of turf removed, with a cap of 1,000 square feet, for a maximum rebate of $2,000 per household to applicants who reside in the service area of agencies that have not offered turf rebate programs. The total rebated amount, including any rebates the homeowner has already applied for from another agency, can’t exceed a total of $2 per square foot.


Only the State* residential turf replacement rebate program is mentioned on their website.


Conservation Message

EBMUD declared an end to the drought emergency on May 10, 2016.

State outdoor water use restrictions are suspended effective July 1, 2016.

Some restrictions will be folded into our permanent rules.

Current outdoor watering rules

The following outdoor watering restrictions are in place until June 30, 2016. Some of these restrictions will be folded into permanent rules.

  • Water outdoor no more than two days per week. 
  • No watering of ornamental turf on public street medians allowed.
  • No washing of driveways and sidewalks; except for health and safety.
  • Use only hoses with shutoff nozzles to wash vehicles.
  • Recirculated water only for fountains or decorative water features
  • Use of hydrant water outside the EBMUD service area is prohibited.
  • Use a broom or air blower, not water, to clean hard surfaces such as driveways and sidewalks, except as needed for health and safety purposes. 

Rebate Information

Residential customers – see State Turf Replacement Program* (See above)

The following property types qualify for six listed rebates below:

  • Residential/Multi-Family properties (with 4 units or less) Up to $2,500*
  • Multi-Family properties (with 5 Units or more) Up to $20,000
  • Commercial properties – Up to $20,000

6 rebates

  1. Convert high water use lawns to sustainable landscaping.
  2. Convert sprinklers to drip irrigation.
  3. Replace conventional sprinkler nozzles with high-efficiency rotating models.
  4. Replace conventional irrigation timers with self-adjusting models.
  5. Install pressure regulators to improve system performance.
  6. Install sub-meters to improve leak detection and irrigation efficiency.


Conservation Message

The district reminds customers that the following restrictions are still in effect:

  • Irrigating ornamental landscape areas or turf grass with potable water more than three days per week
  • Irrigating during or within 48 hours after measurable rainfall
  • Irrigating between 9 a.m. – 7 p.m., except for system testing and repair
  • Using a hose without a shutoff nozzle
  • Allowing irrigation water to run off or overspray the irrigated area
  • Hosing down sidewalks, driveways, and other hard-surfaced areas
  • Non-recirculating decorative fountains

Rebate Information

Residential customers

  • See State Turf Replacement rebate*

Commercial and Multi-Family

  • Rebates for commercial & multi-family customers
  • There is a rebate for irrigation improvement for commercial and multi-family irrigation customers.
  • Up to $1,500 per irrigation meter

NMWD (North Marin Water District)

Rebate Information
Residential or Commercial

  • Weather Based Irrigation Controller Rebate
    • Rebate amount: up to $1,200 per controller. Rebate cannot exceed the purchase price of the Smart Controller.  Offer good until December 31, 2016

List of requirements on website.

Residential Only

Option 1 – Local “Cash-For-Grass” Turf Replacement Incentive

NMWD is offering residential customers a cash incentive for removing automatically irrigated lawn area in their landscapes and replacing with District approved, low water use planted landscapes. 
The incentive is limited to

  • $400 for single family dwellings,
  • $100 for townhouses or condominiums,
  • $50 for apartments.

Option 2 – Single Family Homes can opt for the State Program*

Residential and Commercial

Water Smart Landscape Rebate –

Rebate amount:

  • 50% of the actual cost of District approved items, up to a maximum of
  • $100 for residential customers.
  • $500 maximum for commercial customers 

The following upgrades are eligible:

  • Drip irrigation systems
  • Water pressure-regulating devices
  • Check valves
  • Multi-stream rotating sprinkler nozzles (for lawn areas only)
  • Rain shut-off devices
  • Mulch
  • Soil conditioner/amendment

Commercial Turf Conversion – evaluated on a case by case basis. It depends on the size of the property. 

Santa Rosa Water Agency

Rebate Information

  • Turf removal rebates available for residential and commercial properties
  • There are irrigation hardware rebates available for residential or commercial properties


Irrigation Efficiency Rebate: up to $100.00* for qualifying equipment/hardware


Irrigation Efficiency Rebate: up to $1,000.00* per meter for qualifying equipment/hardware

*Rebate cannot exceed the cost of materials. Rebate amount excludes labor. Cash for Grass and Irrigation Efficiency Rebate cannot be issued for the same treated area.

Residential Rebate

  • Cash for Grass Rebate:  $0.50/sq. ft. up to max of 500 sq. ft. or $250.00
  • Irrigation Hardware Rebate:  $100.00* for qualifying equipment/hardware 

OR customers can utilize the state rebate program* (see above)

Commercial Rebate

  • Cash for Grass Rebate:  $0.50/sq. ft. up to 5,000 sq. ft. max or $2,500.00
  • Irrigation Hardware Rebate:  $1,000.00* for qualifying equipment/hardware

*Rebate cannot exceed the cost of materials.  Labor is not included in rebate amount.  Cash for Grass and Irrigation Hardware Rebate cannot be issued for the same treated area.

Special Water Management Rebate – for dedicated irrigation meters
This rebate is available to those commercial customers who already have a dedicated irrigation meter. Water Conservation staff will calculate a water budget based on your specific landscape. Customers can earn rebates based on how closely their irrigation water use mirrors the calculated water budget. For more information, please contact water conservation staff at (707) 543-3985.

City of Petaluma

Rebate Information

Smart Irrigation Controller for Commercial, Industrial and Institutional accounts as well as Multi-Family Residential accounts up to a $900 rebate

Rebate Amount:
Up to 12 active stations: $300.00
13 to 24 active stations: $600.00
25 or more active stations: $900.00

Residential customers can take advantage of state turf replacement program* (see above)

Solano County

Their rebate program is on hold and expected to resume July 1st.

Alameda County
There is a rebate program for water efficient landscaping for both residential and commercial landscapes.
Residential customers can take advantage of state turf replacement program* (see above)

Contact Gardeners’ Guild for help in navigating through the sometimes confusing rebate process and also, ideas on water efficient landscaping as well as efficient irrigation spray, drip systems and “smart” irrigation controllers.

Main 510-439-3700
Caitlin Patterson – Irrigation 510-439-3704
Suzanne Harris – landscape maintenance 510-439-3728



GGI Project – Mountain View Cemetery Oakland

It’s called pervious (concrete) paving and it’s got the attention of an increasing number of designers and property developers.  Why? Because it can save money and it’s better for the environment than standard concrete paving.  In fact, it’s among the EPA’s Best Management Practices.

What it is  An innovative technology that consists of a porous concrete surface used primarily for driveways and parking lots.

What it does

It enables rainwater to drain directly into the soil, naturally filtering it, before running off.  Conventional concrete paving is impervious in which uneven surfaces cause puddling and storm water pollution.  See illustration below.


Properties of Pervious Paving

Water, cement material, with little or no sand,  together forms a paste that is applied to crushed stone. The result is a highly porous surface.  Illustration on the right shows the difference between pervious paving and conventional.


The Benefits

Saves Money

  • Due to its superior durability, strength and long life span
  • Property developers and managers spend fewer dollars on stormwater management systems and irrigation systems
  • Can also minimize sewer system usage and avoid municipal stormwater impact fees

Environmental Benefits

  • Recharges groundwater
  • Reduces stormwater runoff;
  • Water filtering treatment; can infiltrate 70%-80% of annual rainfall.
  • Low impact development
  • LEED credits – see below

LEED Credits Available for Pervious Paving

Pervious paving (also referred to as porous paving, pervious concrete) satisfies several LEED categories including: water efficiency, materials and resources and innovation in design. 

There are specific credits that apply.  Below is a few.  Please ask Gardeners’ Guild for more information and see below for our pervious paving project in Oakland.

  • LEED Credit SS-C7.1 – Heat Island Effect – Non-Roof
  • LEED Credit WE C1.1 Water Efficient Landscaping
  • LEED Credits MR-C4.1 and MR-C4.2 Recycled Content

Oakland Cemetery Elects Pervious Paving

Close up – Mountain View Pervious Paving

I drove out to Mountain View Cemetery last week to take some photos of a porous paving project Gardeners’ Guild completed about six months ago.  I took some photos and spoke to Craig Nuchols, the Building and Grounds Supervisor.  He graciously gave me access to the parking lot, newly paved with the porous concrete material.  I asked him what he thought.  He was pleased with the results.  “It’s doing the job its supposed to do”, he said.  The heavy rains this past season was the best way to test their investment.  Unlike impervious concrete in which rain puddles in cracks and any uneven surface, the rainfall neatly percolated through. 
See more photos of our construction work







Winner of Sonoma County Water Awareness Contest for 3rd and 4th Graders

Simple Irrigation Fixes That Can Save $$$$

Consider this first: 80% of plant problems are due to over-watering.  (Source Sunset Magazine)

Gardeners’ Guild saved a residential community client 53% off their water bill by rigorous monitoring of their system and simple repairs.

  • Fixing Irrigation Leaks and Breaks*
  • Capping irrigation in places that didn’t require watering
  • Consistent monitoring

Make sure you are not wasting water due to leaks!  Here are some facts about leaks:

  • Drip irrigation is efficient when it is not leaky.  If an emitter gets chopped, tubing can get punctured and valves can get stuck open.
  • A system that has a leak of 1/32nd of an inch in diameter (about the thickness of a dime) can waste about 6,300 gallons of water per month.
  • Check your garden hose for leaks at its connection to the spigot.  It it leaks while you run your hose, replace the hose washer to ensure a tight connection.

If you have a high water bill and suspect it is due to a leak, consult with certified irrigation professionals like Gardeners’ Guild.  We have a team of experts who know precisely where to look.  Whether it’s your residence or a commercial building call us even if you have a question.

Irrigation improvements will also make a difference

  • For ground cover and shrubs – convert from spray irrigation to drip.
  • For turfgrass – convert to high efficiency nozzles.  Turn your standard spray head into a precision device.  It will reduce runoff and save you money.
  • Automatic rain shutoff device; called a rain sensor, will shut off your irrigation system when it senses a specified amount of rain has fallen.  It is simple and inexpensive.
  • Smart or weather based irrigation controllers will save you upwards of 30% off your water bill. They calculate plant water requirements using on site or remote weather stations.

Cultural Practices

  • Remove all or some of your turfgrass and replace with drought tolerant plants or natives.
  • Is your lawn compacted?  This impedes the soil from absorbing water.  Aeration and dethatching will reduce the amount of water your lawn needs.
  • You can mow less.  Allow it to grow out as seasonally appropriate.  It will lessen heat exposure to soil, producing deeper roots and providing a larger soil reservoir to draw from.
  • Mulch your planter beds.  This will increase their water holding capacity.
  • Organic products make your soil healthier and it will hold more water.


State of California – late April news

The state water board held an informational workshop on urban water conservation measures to discuss potential adjustments to the drought emergency regulation extension.  Possible action to adjust the conservation requirements would likely be taken in May 2016.

They considered whether any elements of these measures could be modified.  If so, how/how much? Some water agencies are requesting that the state relax the restrictions.

The following water agencies seem to be in a waiting mode.  Others (not listed have not commented)



Their website states that despite much needed rain, they remain in Stage 4 drought and wait to hear determination by Governor Brown’s administration.

Water supply status:

  • Total system storage: 72% full
  • Mokelumne watershed precipitation: 48.01 inches
  • Precipitation – 107% of average


Their website states the Water Resources Control Board has extended statewide emergency water conservation through October 2016.

Sonoma County Water Agency

They seem to be waiting for direction from the state.  And, reservoirs are in much better shape. (See graphic below)


Customers in this county have achieved impressive savings of 27% for March. This agency is also waiting for the state’s advisement.