After a mild and variable spring and early summer, the heat finally arrived in July. We have seen little drought stress until the past week and we are now under the hottest driest weather of the season putting stress on most irrigation systems. We are seeing a lot of coverage issues as we usually do every July and are working diligently to make repairs and adjustments to systems. However, many of the dry spots are due to aging systems and changing landscapes requiring system modifications to effectively resolve.
Learn about Water Conservation August 4, 9:00am on our IREM Webinar

Next Tuesday morning at 9:00am, we will be presenting a webinar through IREM about your options to improve your water conservation of landscape irrigation. We will outline Water Conservation planning and Weather-Based Irrigation which we have been promoting. Water conservation has great ROI as water is the fastest growing utility. We can help you save operational expenses through investment in your system. 

With this hot weather finally here we are seeing dry spots develop in lawns where it is difficult to water. In some of these areas, water conservation is best achieved by changing the landscape and giving up on lawn. Don’t get us wrong, we love lawn. Quite frankly, we make our living on managing and maintaining lawns. That being said, we also hate trying to maintain lawn where is won’t grow or where it is hard or expensive to maintain. The pictures above are examples of where lawn should not be. 
Inspiration from afar Due to the scarcity of mulch products, rock is a common ground-cover in California, Colorado and Arizona. We have seen many examples of creative use of rock and it continues to inspire us that there are many other creative and drought tolerant solutions where lawn is and should not be.   
Why is lawn where is shouldn’t be?  The simplest answer is that lawn is the cheapest part of landscape installation and when brand new, looks great. New lawn on freshly prepares soil looks great. Parking strips and parking islands are probably the worst place for lawn. There is concrete or asphalt on most or all sides, often times the soil is shallow or there is rock or asphalt below, irrigation coverage is difficult due to small odd shapes. And as tree roots develop, they compete for moisture.  We believe that parking strips and islands may take as much as 5-10 times as much irrigation to maintain. A bad combination in which to grow and maintain lawns. In addition, these areas are difficult and sometimes dangerous to maintain due to nearby cars and obstacles on or near.

What is the Alternative?  There are lots of options. Replacing lawn with just barkdust or some sort of ground-cover are both options. We have experimented with Sedum like on green roofs but it has had marginal success. We are seeing locally and nationally the use of rock and are very excited about that as an option. Below are several pictures of Rock as a ground-cover that is very attractive and easy to maintain. Rocks do not need water and never die. Some have expressed concern about the liability risk with rocks but we believe that is low. If someone wants to throw a rock through a window, they will find it even if there is no rock in the landscape. 
Several years ago, we used the parking strip out in front of our Hillsboro Office as a test case for a lawn conversion. Below is the before and after. We are now using little irrigation and the parking strip is even more attractive.