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The 7 Basic Steps

The 7 Basic Steps

W ater-efficient landscaping uses simple, common-sense gardening practices. Many of
these principles have been used in traditional landscaping for years as separate or
partially combined principles. The seven basic steps incorporate all of them into one holistic
method resulting in a unique landscaping approach that combines all the necessary elements
to achieve a water-conserving landscape.

1: Planning and Design. The planning Your yard is made up of numerous

and design of your landscape is one of the microclimates. A microclimate is the
most important steps. Whether you are climate of a small area that is different
starting from scratch or changing your from the areas around it. It may be wetter
existing landscape, begin by creating or drier, warmer or colder, or more or
a plan. Your plan can range from a less prone to frost than other areas of You may want to begin by dividing your
drawn sketch to a professional survey. A your yard. Microclimates in your yard can yard into four different light exposures
thoughtful design can allow you to install be influenced by your house, balconies, - north, south, east, and west. What kind
your landscape in phases and avoid costly rooftops, fences, walls, large rocks or trees, of light is available during various parts of
mistakes. Be sure to include the location of and paved surfaces. It is important to note the day - bright sunlight, filtered sunlight
existing structures, trees, shrubs, paths or these areas in your plan. or shade? Remember, morning sunlight
walkways, and important views you want is cooler than afternoon sunlight. You can
to keep (or eliminate), as well as the sun then identify specific types of plants you
orientation and the direction of the wind. want to incorporate into your landscape.
GARDEN For example, a shade tree planted in
RECREATION/ACTIVE AREA the southeast section of your property
will provide cooling for your home and
BR BR landscape.

BAR-BE-QUE/COOKING B Note: Before selecting a tree, take the

BR time to look over your site for things
SERVICE such as overhead utility lines as well as
TRASH underground utility lines. Think about
how the tree will look at maturity and
how that will work within the location you
HOUSE PUBLIC/ENTRANCE AREA are thinking about. Work with your local
nursery to select the right tree. For more
EAST FOR SEMI-PRIVACY help in planting the right tree in the right

By identifying and understanding result is soil that is low in organic matter of various soil amendments, check with
The 7 Basic Steps
microclimates, you have the ability to put and nutrient content. Compaction your local OSU Extension office for a copy
the right plant in the right place, creating also prevents root growth and water of EC 1561, Improving garden soils with
a healthier, water-efficient landscape. percolation into the soil, reducing plant organic matter.
If you need help with your landscape growth and water availability.
layout, consult with a garden center 3: Create Functional Turf Area. Grass
In disturbed and compacted sites,
or a landscape professional. For more requires more water and maintenance
consider testing the soil before planting
information, refer to the resource section of than most other plants, so it is important
to find out what it requires. Soil issues
this guide. to evaluate your landscape to see where
requiring particular attention include
grass is practical and functional. A lawn
soil compaction and soil pH, but also
2: Compost and Cultivate. Soil should be designed to serve multiple
organic matter content and nutrient
improvements are very important to purposes - for play areas, picnics, and pets.
availability. Many companies will test soil
water-efficient landscaping. Understanding In many cases, grass can be replaced with
for homeowners. For a list of these, check
the basic characteristics of your soil is key other, less-thirsty seed mixtures like ecoturf
with your local OSU Extension office for
for plant selection and watering practices. or materials such as groundcovers, low-
a copy of EM 8677, A list of analytical
A productive soil provides physical water-use plants, mulches, or hardscape
laboratories serving Oregon.
support, water, air and nutrients to plants features.
as well as soil-dwelling organisms. Roots One of the easiest ways to improve the soil
Steep slopes, sharp angles, and narrow
and soil organisms breathe just as we do and create a better environment for your
driveways or sidewalk strips are difficult
and require sufficient air and water to plants is to amend your soil with compost
to water-efficiently and are usually hard
live. As a result, a good soil is not solid, and organic matter. Working amendments
to mow. Consider ground covers, low-
instead between 40 and 60% of the soil into soil will help to alleviate compaction
water-use plants, and mulches for these
volume is pores. The pores may be filled problems and improve the ability of the
areas, or where foot traffic is infrequent
with either water or air, which makes both soil to accept and store water. Amending
or undesirable. Ground covers offer much
available to plants. The largest pores in your soil often means that you can reduce
of a lawns neatness and uniformity with
the soil control aeration and movement of the amount of water a newly planted
less maintenance. Hardscape features are
water through the soil and are largely the garden requires. Adding organic matter
another way to enhance the functionality
result of animal and earthworm burrowing will also increase the activity and the
of your yard while helping you rely less
or root growth. The smaller pores can number of soil organisms.
on irrigation. In high use areas consider
store water.
Over time, a well-amended soil will supply putting in pathways or patios made of
Native, undisturbed soils in the Willamette more of the nutrients your plants require, wood, rock or gravel that allows water
Valley are usually silt loam or clay loam which will reduce fertilizer requirements. to drain through them and into the soil
and are suitable for the growth of most Soils amended with organic matter are a beneath.
plants. However, the soil that remains better sponge for water, allowing more
Keep these water-saving guidelines in
after construction of homes are usually water to go into the soil, and less water
mind when evaluating your lawn area:
dramatically modified from the native to run off the surface. Because surface
soil that existed prior to construction. runoff is reduced, pesticides and fertilizers Place the lawn where it will be the most
This soil is often composed of subsoil are retained in the soil and prevented useful.
material excavated during road or from washing off into nearby rivers
Keep the physical layout of the grass
foundation construction. This subsoil and lakes. A well-balanced soil is key to
area in easy-to-irrigate shapes.
overlays the native soil and is compacted maintaining healthy plants and lawn. For
during construction by machinery. The more information on the benefits and use Edge the lawns perimeter so that it is
easier to mow.

Dont plant grass on steep slopes. or under watering which can cause stress 5: Water Wisely. The most common

The 7 Basic Steps

and promote disease. Watering zones help problem in the home landscape is over
Consider placing beds of water-thirsty
you avoid wasting water, while reducing watering. When this is combined with
plants near the lawn so they benefit
the amount of time, effort, and natural poor soil quality it can reduce plant
from additional water.
resources needed to maintain your garden. growth or even cause plant death, but
Consider letting your lawn go dormant; Consider dividing your landscape into more importantly, its wasteful. A well-
it will turn green again with the autumn three watering zones: high, moderate, and planned, well-designed, well-timed
rains. low watering zones. irrigation system saves money and
promotes plant health by applying the
High watering zones may be small, visible,
4: The Right Plant in the Right right amount of water without excess.
highly maintained areas such as home
Place. Different plants need different Soaker hoses or drip irrigation are the
entrances or lawn areas. This is where your
amounts of water, sun, and shade to most water-efficient systems for trees and
thirstiest plants should be planted. These
survive. Once you have identified your planting beds.
areas are typically located near the water
microclimates you can select plants suited
source so they are easy to water. Moderate Overhead sprinkling generally is less
to these specific areas of your landscape.
watering zones may need occasional efficient than watering at the soil surface,
How will you fit the appropriate plants into watering in addition to natural rainfall because more water is lost to evaporation
the microclimates you have identified? to maintain healthy plants. Plants in low and wind. Water is also often applied faster
Are the plants you want actually suited to watering zones can typically survive on than the soil can absorb it; so it runs off or
the weather conditions of the Willamette natural rainfall once they are established. is lost to evaporation, and never reaches
Valley? To help answer these questions, These plants are typically located in the the plant roots.
the USDA developed a rating system that outer areas of the yard.
divides the United States and Southern
Canada into eleven zones. Each zone
is based on a 10 degree Fahrenheit
difference in the average annual minimum
USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map
(i.e. winter) temperature and will help you Oregon
match plants with appropriate hardiness to
low winter temperatures. The Willamette Average Annual Minimum
Valley, including the Portland Metro area, Temperature
is rated as zone 8 (10 to 20 degrees F). Temperature (C) Zone Temperature (F)
-45.6 and Below 1 Below -50
The USDA Hardiness Zones are not the 42.8 to -45.5 2a -45 to -50
same as the Sunset Climate Zones. The -40.0 to -42.7 2b -40 to -45
-37.3 to -40.0 3a -35 to -40
Sunset Climate Zone for the Willamette -34.5 to -37.2 3b -30 to -35
-31.7 to -34.4 4a -25 to -30
Valley is 6. -28.9 to -31.6 4b -20 to -25
-26.2 to -28.8 5a -15 to -20
In addition to managing your yards -23.4 to -26.1 5b -10 to -15
-20.6 to -23.3 6a -5 to -10
microclimates, look at creating watering -17.8 to -20.5 6b 0 to -5
zones in your landscape. Within each -15.0 to -17.7 7a 5 to 0
-12.3 to -15.0 7b 10 to 5
watering zone, all of the plants should -9.5 to -12.2 8a 15 to 10

have the same general watering needs,

-6.7 to -9.4
-3.9 to -6.6
20 to 15
25 to 20
allowing you to give each plant only -1.2 to -3.8 9b 30 to 25
1.6 to -1.1 10a 35to 30
the amount of water it needs. Matching 4.4 to 1.7 10b 40 to 35
water requirements helps prevent over 4.5 and Above 11 40 and Above

The amount you water should be based on 6: The Use of Mulch. Mulch comes in two
The 7 Basic Steps
Average Water Depth Number of Minutes
soil conditions and plant needs. Watering in the Cans (in inches) Needed to Water forms, organic and inorganic. Both provide
thoroughly, but infrequently, will help After 15 minutes 1 inch a protective layer of material that covers
roots grow deeper, so that more stored the soil surface. Unlike a soil amendment,
1/8 120
water is accessible to the plant from the mulch is not tilled into the soil. Organic
soil reservoir. 3/16 80 mulches include aged manure, compost,
1/4 60 bark, or wood chips. Inorganic mulches
Generally, turf requires more water
5/16 46 include gravel and river rock, or landscape
than other plants, so irrigate turf areas
3/8 40 cloth. Mulches are available in many
separately from other plant areas.
1/2 30 shapes, sizes and colors, so the kind of
Typically, trees, shrub beds, and perennials
5/8 24 mulch you choose really depends on
dont need as much water as lawns. Water
your preference. There are a number of
needs vary according to specific weather 3/4 20
benefits to using mulch, including the
conditions, so it is important to adjust 1 15
your watering schedule to compensate 1 1/4 12
for changes in the weather. Learn how to Evaporation is a major source of water
set you controller so that you can adjust If water puddles or runs off to another loss from the soil, and occurs because
the watering time up as weather warms part of the landscape, the soil may have of the combined action of sun and wind
and down based on cooler weather and a lot of clay and/or your irrigation system on the soil surface. A layer of mulch
autumn rains. is applying water too fast. To manage can significantly reduce the amount of
this condition, spread the total watering evaporation taking place and increase
During the summer an established lawn
time out over multiple days with a water available in the soil.
needs about 1 inch of water each week
(including rainfall), and up to 1.5 inches one to two hour break between short A mulch layer will reduce the impact of
per week during long hot, dry spells. watering periods. For example, if the raindrops on the soil surface, decreasing
chart recommends watering 40 minutes the likelihood of a compacted layer,
To figure out how to measure 1 inch of per week, then run the sprinklers for ten and allow water to infiltrate the soil to a
water, try this: minutes, wait an hour, then water for greater depth, reducing soil erosion and
Set out five empty straight sided another ten minutes, and do this on two runoff.
cans (such as tuna or pet food cans) days of the week about three days apart
from each other. Mulch provides some control of weeds
throughout the lawn.
in landscapes or gardens. Management
Turn on the sprinkler for exactly 15 of weeds is desirable for aesthetic
minutes. reasons, but it also will improve plant
growth by decreasing competition for
Measure the depth of the water in each ET - Water to the weather. Plants
can, then add up the numbers and transpire water into the air and water
divide by five. This gives the average is evaporated from the soil. This Organic mulches reduce soil absorption
water depth of all the cans. process is called evapotranspiration of heat by reflecting sunlight. Soils
or ET. Replacing this transpired and mulched with organic matter tend to
Find the average water depth on the
evaporated water is the most efficient maintain a more consistent temperature
chart to the right. The box to the right
way to water. For local information on ET throughout the day, and year, compared
of that number is the total weekly
refer to the More Information section on with bare soil. By contrast, plastic
watering time needed from your
the back cover of this guide. mulches have a tendency to increase soil

Mulching can also improve the soil 7: Keep Up the Maintenance. Routine Make every drop count check your

The 7 Basic Steps

structure and biology. The use of organic maintenance such as pruning, pest irrigation system regularly to make sure it
mulches stimulates the activity of control, and fertilization will keep your provides the right amount of water, at the
beneficial soil organisms, and provides plants healthy and your landscape at its right place, at the right time. Also check
habit or cover for these organisms peak. A healthy landscape is more resistant for leaks and broken sprinkler heads. Dont
including earthworms. to summer heat, freezing, insects and water your sidewalk or driveway they
disease. The following are a number of wont grow no matter how much you
As mulch decomposes, nutrients are
maintenance tips. water them!
slowly released to the soil for plant use.
Aerate your lawn annually and de-thatch If you need help with your water-
Mulch should be applied annually or as
as needed to ensure that the roots are efficient landscape, consult a landscape
needed in the spring to conserve moisture
receiving the right amount of water and professional, seek advice from your local
and prevent weed seeds from sprouting or
oxygen. garden center, or consult with an OSU
in the winter to protect soil from erosion
Master Gardener. For more information,
and help plant roots retain warmth. Use 1 Weeds compete with plants for nutrients,
refer to the resource section of this guide.
to 2 inches of compost, leaves, sawdust, light and water, so weed frequently
Most of all enjoy, your time in your yard
or 2 to 4 inches of coarsely shredded bark by hoeing or pulling them by hand.
and the benefits from reducing your water
or wood chips. If the mulch is too deep, Remember, a good layer of mulch will help
water will have a difficult time reaching with weed suppression.
the plant roots.

Plant Legend
Oregon Native Evergreen/Deciduous L - Low-water-use: plants perform
well with minimal supplemental
3 - Plant is native to Oregon E - Evergreen, retains some or all of
irrigation once established.
its foliage year round.
Height M - Moderate-water-use: plants
D - Deciduous, loses leaves during the
Individual plants may vary in height perform well with some
plants dormant season.
depending on age and condition. supplemental irrigation once
Spread Refers to the plants water needs after Wildlife
Individual plants may vary in width they are established. All plants require
depending on maturity and space Flowers, leaves, or berries provide
more water when first planted.
allotted for the plant. value for birds and mammals.

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