Dog-Friendly Garden Tidy-up

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Starting with: bare dirt, wild vines, and existing decks.

What did we design? First, we worked out the grade change by adding a short garden wall and steps and cleaned up the vines. Next, drip irrigation, concrete pavers and a fossil-fuel-free EcoSmart firepit created outdoor living spaces, which needed some new outdoor furniture (we love Pot-Ted!).

Plants make the garden, so we started a soil party (by planting Myco-Packs with each plant), planted climate appropriate, low-water, dog-proof plants, and topped it all with a thick, healthy layer of mulch to feed the soil, limit evaporation, and keep everyone clean.

Ending: No! Now the fun starts for our clients, their dog, and their healthy new garden.

Here’s what the garden does:

    + Captures and infiltrates stormwater, eliminating site run-off and the need for imported water.
    + Produces lemons, apples, shade, habitat, flowers, and year-round color.
    + Requires limited maintenance: Paths, decks and stairs should be swept weekly, with all leaf debris spread around on existing mulch. Minor weeding will be required as everything settles in, and after seasonal rains. Trees and vines will need yearly pruning.
    + Requires limited inputs: Efficient drip irrigation is required to establish new plants, and then provide supplemental water in drought years, just twice a month. Light fixtures are LED and both super efficient and dimmable (with an app!).
    + Dog playground! Mulch keeps paws clean, limits flees, and provides a safe landing for rolling and frolicking. Plants are all sturdy and can stand an enthusiastic pit bull running into and through them.
Lawn to Landscape

Lawn to Landscape


  1. This corner lot in Pasadena was surrounded on two sides by turf grass and old shrubs.
  2. We worked with the homeowners and licensed contractors to remove the grass and amend the soil organically. Soil was also moved around,  digging down to create small lakes (swales) and mounded up to create little hills (berms). Small rivers (trenches) connected gutter downspouts to the swales, so rainwater from the roof can stay in the garden and deep water the plants.
  3. Native and climate appropriate plants were planted throughout the garden.

Lawn Replaced
The next spring, above, and the following, below…

Los Angeles County Drought Tolerant Handbook

Los Angeles County Drought Tolerant HandbookWe helped write the book on drought tolerant gardening in Los Angeles! (Download link at the bottom of this post.)

DIY-friendly, this handy handbook can help you make your garden more resilient, less maintenance and resource intensive, and more beautiful all year. It includes sample garden designs, more than 500 drought tolerant plants specifically chosen for LA’s climate zones, and lot’s of Garden How-To info is included here.


Download the pdf at the County Green Building Program

How Much Water Are You Using?

Los Angeles is talking about water sources and water conservation. On average, Southern Californians use 50% – 70% of our water outside, in our gardens. 

How much water are you using? Check your DWP bill. Look for “Water Charges” and you will see a date range and a number followed by HCF. This stands for Hundred Cubic Feet, and 1 HCF = 748 Gallons.

Multiply the HCF # by 748, then divide by the number of days in your billing period to determine how many gallons, on average, you use in a given day.

For example, my recent bill lists:

Water Charges 11/7/13 – 1/9/14  6 HCF

so 6 HCF divided by 63 days = 0.0953 HCF/day

0.0953 x 748 = 71.2 gallons / day

If you want to see how much water your irrigation system is using, consider checking your water meter the next time you run your system. Note the numbers both before and after, then just subtract to get your total. Or, if you’ve turned your irrigation system completely off during the winter storms, compare your January bill to one from October to see the difference.

Knowledge is power! With this information, you can target your own water conservation efforts. You may want to consider recycling some of your water (from your shower, water filtration system and/or washing machine)  into your landscape as gray water. Check your downspouts and drain pipes, to see if they can be rerouted to swales or raingardens to harvest stormwater. Consider applying for a rebate and upgrading your old irrigation timer to a new smart app-based controller. Check your system regularly for leaks and proper programming. And talk to your gardener about how much water your garden really needs, and how often. 

Curb Cuts

Cutting Curbs is Cool!

New parkway regulations were first presented to Culver City council in May 2013. Transition Culver City has a great video up that explains exactly why curb cutting is so cool! Check it out.

Los Angeles building code has focused on getting stormwater off properties, into streets, then storm drains to the river and the Ocean. This is starting to change, and while curb-cuts are not visible city-wide yet, they are starting to popup around the city.