The Loop Newspaper - Tehachapi's Online Community News & Entertainment Guide

By Liz Block
Water Conservation Coordinator, Tehachapi-Cummings Co Water Dist 

Plants are people, too!

Water Matters


I don’t really mean that, but it caught your attention, didn’t it? What I hope to help you understand is that plants have their own set of characteristics, agendas, strategies, and abilities that we can take advantage of to save a ton of water on that quarter acre piece of land that we call home.

Anthropocentrism is the characteristic of regarding humankind as the central or most important element of existence, especially as opposed to animals. Notice this definition doesn’t even bother to mention plants. To save water in the landscape, we need to get over ourselves for a few minutes to pay attention to how plants survive and thrive. Here’s an example.

No plant that can survive in our Mediterranean climate needs water every day. Plants like that come from tropical rain forests. Yet somehow, many of us got the idea that the lawn needs to be watered every day. Tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea) was imported to the US from the Mediterranean areas of Europe. Like the plants here, the wild fescue grass had to survive through a hot dry summer with little or no rain. You can have a green lawn by watering twice a week (for the right amount of time – call for a free irrigation check-up to get yard-specific timer settings). Someday the drought will ease up, but let’s not go backwards to wasting water on a plant that doesn’t need that much.

In the last column, I mentioned the Department of Water Resources lawn replacement rebate of $2.00 per square foot of lawn removed I’ve been doing a lot of research on the water needs of low water use plants and native plants to be able to help people water them correctly. Here’s what I found.

Plants native to southern California should NOT be watered in the summer.

How’s that again? No water in summer?!?

Here’s our anthropocentrism again. We think that the plants in our landscape depend on us, that we have to water them and fertilize them and amend the soil, on and on. In fact, if we choose the right plants, they are fully capable of taking care of themselves and living on rainfall. No, I’m not talking about cactus, but the native wildflowers and shrubs that can make a beautiful waterwise landscape.

Watering native plants in summer can even be harmful to them. Their set of characteristics and abilities does not include the ability to deal with warm wet soil and the kinds of disease organisms that delight in those conditions, like root rot.

Removing the lawn and replacing it with a waterwise landscape is not a quick and simple process, but you can get help – and it won’t cost you a dime.

By now, you know the last sentence of this column is going to be my contact information: Liz Block, 661-822-5504 or


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