Looking for Lawn Substitutes? We Have Ideas...

Posted by Green Acres Nursery & Supply on Aug 14, 2014 2:31:00 PM

Now that the drought has done a number on our lawns, what are the choices for long-term water savings?

house with deadlawn 

Mandatory water restrictions put landscapes a little lower on list of priorities. Most of us enjoy a lush landscape, so it’s good to know water restrictions don't make it impossible to create a very functional and enjoyable garden space without lawn. While so many gardeners are faced with replacing dead lawns this fall, it’s probably a prudent time to consider other options.

There are endless possibilities for lawn substitutes, and making the change is easy to do.
Take a look at a few of the options we suggest for long-term water savings:
The popularity of edible gardens has grown substantially in recent years, often taking the stage in front landscapes. The average gardener waters their tomato plants a little bit every day. Did you know a tomato planted in the ground prefers water just a couple of times a week in the height of the Sacramento summer? Most fruiting plants enjoy a deep soaking occasionally.


Vegetable gardens and fruit trees with mulch or traffic-friendly groundcovers make beautiful landscapes with the benefits of some shade, a variety of edibles, and considerable water savings. 

describe the imagetomatodescribe the image   

Citrus and fruit trees are notable accents to an edible garden. A not-so-well-known fact is both are quite drought tolerant once established. Whether you enjoy oranges, apples, Australian finger limes or Jujube’s, the options and combinations are endless.  

Groundcovers and Sub-Shrubs 
Groundcovers are some of the more obvious choices for lawn replacements. They are best
suited for areas where there is light foot-traffic. Mix with a permeable surface, such as decomposed granite, gravel for paths. Sub-shrubs are placed where there is no traffic. They make the perfect filler for large areas.

California natives are high on the list of recommendations, although there are a number of non-native options. The benefit to natives is their built-in tolerance to the soils and water conditions in our area. Local wildlife thrives amongst native habitats. 

California Natives Make Drought Gardening Easy and Beautiful 

  • California Wild Lilac (Ceanothus) ‘Carmel Creeper’ and ‘Centennial’ are two evergreen varieties that spread and stay fairly low. Blue flowers come in spring and bees love it!
  • Manzanita (Arctostaphylos) ‘Emerald Carpet’ and ‘Massachusetts’ have pinkish white blooms that develop in spring. The dark green foliage contrasts well with dark red stems. 
  • California Fuchsia (Zauschneria californica) comes in a few varieties that
    fit the bill for sun/part-shade, summer to fall bloom, and, the hummingbirds love them.
  • Ornamental Strawberry (Fragaria) is a tight, very low perennial groundcover for rock gardens and slopes. 
  • Dwarf Coyote Bush (Baccharis pililaris ‘Pidgeon Point’) is an evergreen sub-shrub that grows to about a foot tall, but spreads wide. Ideal for slopes!
Zauschneria californica 'Olbrich Silver' 3Baccharis pilularisArctostaphylos x coloradoensis Panchito 2 D. Winger

Non-Native Groundcovers Well-Suited for the Sacramento Area
  • Thyme is an aromatic groundcover with varieties that are perfect for
    areas with foot traffic. Try 'Elfin' for a very tight cover, or a number varieties of Creeping Thyme between pavers. 
  • Sedum ‘Angelina’, ‘Dragons Blood’, and ‘Ogon’ offer color interest and require low water. 
  • Senecio ‘Dwarf Blue Chalks’ can add fun contrast and texture. Mature size is 1'x2'. Minimal water is required for this succulent, shrubby perennial.
thyme on paversSedum rupestre %27Angelina%27dwarf blue chalks
Red maple
Trees are a Critical Part of a Water-Wise Landscape
Plant trees for reduced temperatures and cooler soil. Once established, many trees require less frequent watering. The cooler soil temperatures will benefit everything planted in the soil below. 
  • ‘October Glory’ Maple  
    One of the most desired maples, with dark green leaves in spring, turning radiant red in late fall. A fast-grower with a mature size of 45'x30'. It provides a beautiful shade canopy for larger landscapes.
  • ‘Pacific Sunset’ Maple 
    A maple hybrid, its smaller size and tolerance for urban conditions makes this tree perfect for patios or small yards. Mature size is 25'x25'. Initially, it requires moderate to regular water but is drought tolerant once established.
  • ‘Emerald Sunshine’ Elm  
    This Elm variety is highly resistant to disease. Its vase shape is well-suited for a street or landscape accent tree. Mature size is 35' x 25'. Deep green leaves turn to yellow in the fall. 
  • Arbutus 'Marina' (Strawberry Tree)
    A one-of-a-kind evergreen tree. The mahogany bark peels back to reveal a cinnamon bark in the summer. Clusters of urn-shaped flowers draw hummingbirds, followed by bright orange-red fruit. Its mature size is 25'x25' and requires very little water once established. An eye-catching tree for smaller areas.
Strawberry Tree

California Natives

Low Water Plants

Topics: Native Plants, California Native Plants, Smartscape, Waterwise, Sacramento Low Water Plants, Edibles, Drought Resistant, Reduce Water Costs, Water Rebates

Are you a Water-Wise Homeowner?

Posted by Green Acres Nursery & Supply on Jan 15, 2014 3:11:00 PM

water wise

Gardeners know that water is an essential part of plant sustenance and growth. Roots take moisture from the soil and carry it to the plant’s trunk, stems, and leaves. Moisture is constantly released by a plant as part of its breathing process, called transpiration. 

Understanding how to water your plants properly can save you money and make the gardening experience more rewarding.Read on to learn our best practices for watering.  

Consider these variables to determine best watering practices for your landscape: 

  • Plant type 
  • Soil type
  • Plant size
  • Season
  • Plant location


  1.   Is it your lawn?  An annual, native shrub or shade tree? 
  2.   Is it newly planted (less than 2 years old) or is it an established plant? 
  3.   Is it planted in a container or in the ground?  The same plant will require  more water if planted in a pot versus in the ground.

Plants are typically classified as high, moderate or low water plants.  The following is a guide to help understand which plants are each category.  

Plants with High Water Needs: Plants that require a lot of moisture

  • Evergreen trees
  • Certain fruit trees
  • Small shrubs
  • Many vines
  • Certain perennials
  • Roses
  • Many vegetables
  • Lush ground covers

waterwise landscape resized 600

Plants with Moderate Water Needs: Plants require regular moisture and shouldn't be too wet or too dry.

  • New plantings of drought tolerant plants and succulents
  • Ornamental trees
  • Shade trees
  • Shrubs


Plants with Low Water Needs: Plants need less than regular moisture. Watering every 2-3 weeks.

  • Established drought tolerant plants and succulents.  
  • This category includes water-wise perennials, certain fruit trees, and a large selection of trees & shrubs.  

Define your landscape. Is your yard a high, moderate or low water landscape?


Sandy Soils

  • Coarsely textured and have large pores in the soil therefore they do not hold moisture well
  • Soil drains quickly. Plants may need more frequent watering.

Loamy Soils

  • Medium texture and are composed of clay, silt, and often organic matter.
  • Ideal soil
  • This rich soil holds moisture well.
  • Checking soil in between waterings will prevent over-watering.

soil types

Clay Soils

  • Fine textured with very small pores in the soil so there’s little air..
  • This soil holds onto water a long time and does not drain quickly.
  • Clay soils need slow, deep watering to allow the water to percolate down to the root zone.




Potting Soil

  • Ready to use for plants in containers.
  • Most are designed to hold moisture well.
  • With containers it is important to keep the pot raised on ‘pot feet’ to assure proper drainage.

Describe your soil type.Is it sandy, loamy, clay, or potting soil? Soil testing kits are available to determine what soil type you have. Try soil amendments to make existing soils richer in organic matter and closer to a loamy state. 


The larger the plant typically the more water it will need. Unless it is an established drought tolerant plant.




  • During spring the ground is warming up and plants are coming out of dormancy- its an ideal time to plant.
  • If using a drip irrigation system, trees and shrubs should go on separate valves as their watering requirements differ.
  • After new plantings the soil needs to be kept moist but not soggy. With established plants allow the soil to dry slightly before watering again.  
  • Depending on rainfall frequency your established landscape will need to go back on a regular watering schedule. Drip irrigation can be turned back on but adjust frequency and time according to the weather. 


  • Most watering mistakes occur this time of year. Soil should never be soggy especially overnight as this increases the potential for disease and pest problems.
  • The daytime temps can be extreme; however plant stress does not always indicate to water more.
  • Confirm that drip irrigation emitters are flowing properly.
  • Small plantings such as annuals and hanging baskets will need deep watering more often. Established shrubs and trees benefit from deep infrequent watering.
  • Deep watering encourages roots to go to deeper soil levels.
  • Established natives will only need occasional watering.


  • Daytime temps can be warm, but the evening temps cool off.
  • Very ideal time to plant, especially California natives and other low water plants. 
  • Monitor drip according to temperatures.


  • Most shrubs and trees are dormant but still will require occasional watering.
  • The ground is cold and will hold onto water longer. The soil should not go completely dry.
  • Drip irrigation needs to be adjusted and often can be turned off especially during a wet winter. Tip: Try Hunter Solar Sync sensor which automatically adjusts water based on enviromental needs.
  • During a freeze it is crucial for the plants to be hydrated. Water before applying frost cloth to insulate your plants.


Watering practices vary depending on the plant’s location. Imagine you have a plant that gets 6 hours of full, hot afternoon sun. It will require more water than that same plant with morning sun and afternoon shade. Adjust watering times on irrigation systems accordingly.Take adjacent reflective heat sources such as walls or concrete patios into consideration, these surfaces absorb heat from the sun and radiate them onto your plants into the evening. 

waterwise succulents 





Topics: Waterwise, Irrigation Tips, Reduce Water Costs, Landscape Design

Popular Sacramento Gardeners Give You Advice

Posted by Green Acres Nursery & Supply on Dec 6, 2013 2:25:00 PM

Everyone loves a good tip.  We contacted some of the best gardeners in the area and asked them to share their knowledge.
What is your best and most actionable gardening advice in Sacramento during winter?

Water with the weather. And, because reports indicate that we're facing another drought year, conservation of water is vital. So, what can we do right now -- today?  Reduce the frequency and duration that your irrigation system runs. Cooler days and nights mean that plants do not require as much water.  

Install a rain sensor that will interrupt your controller's irrigation schedule in the event of rain. Once the rains begin, turn off the irrigation system altogether for the winter season.

Keep in mind, however, that the fall and winter seasons are when many plants expect rainfall, especially some California natives and plants suited for Mediterranean-type climates such as ours (typically cool, wet winters and hot, dry summers). So, if this fall and winter are dry, then you may need to provide supplement water for your plants.

Cheryl buckwalter resized 600

Cheryl Buckwalter

Program Manager Green Gardener Training Program

Executive Director of EcoLandscape California



Turn off the irrigation timers. Monitor the moisture level in the soil wherever you have actively growing plants. Use a moisture meter or dig down eight to twelve inches and feel the soil at root level. Irrigate manually if the soil at that depth is on the dry side. If the soil is saturated in the root zone don't add water, even if the surface appears dry.

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Farmer Fred

Lifetime Master Gardener and Host of the "KFBK Garden Show"



Don't just let your garden sit there -- do SOMETHING! Sacramento winters are relatively mild, which allows for a lot of gardening opportunities. You can plant a winter vegetable garden. Or start preparing beds for next spring and summer.

Fava beans help with both tasks. Started now, favas are dependable, low-care and prolific -- and they help build better soil for next summer.  They're a delicious and versatile addition to the winter garden; the edible leaves taste like spinach and the beans can be eaten young like green beans or allowed to fully mature. Meanwhile, their roots help "fix" more nitrogen in the soil, which squash and tomatoes will appreciate next summer.


Debbie Arrington

Senior Writer for the Sacramento Bee covering Home, Garden, Food & more!



Prepare for a rainy winter.  With a fresh 9 Volt battery in hand, head towards your sprinkler system controller.   If necessary, clear a path to the controller by relocating the collection of items that accumulated over the summer.  Does your system have a battery backup? If yes, install the fresh 9 Volt. The battery will allow your controller to keep time when winter storms interrupt power.   Next, verify the time of day is correct (day-lite saving time).  The most important step is to adjust the watering days and run times to coincide with your plants reduced water needs.  Some gardeners can actually turn the system OFF until early spring. With your remaining enthusiasm, continue to prepare for the rain by raking the leaves collecting in the storm gutters and drains.

Judy McClure

Master Gardener Program Coordinator

UC Cooperative Extension

Sacramento and Yolo Counties





Prevent many of next year’s pests with a dormant application of Bonide’s All Season’s Spray Oil or Monterey’s Horticultural Oil, both are organically acceptable. Defend against Peach Leaf Curl (PLC) with a dormant spray of Liqui-Cop. Make the PLC spray more effective by adding a 1% concentration of one of the oil spray products mentioned above. Don’t spray until the leaves are off the tree and you expect a minimum of 24 hours without rain.

Steve Zien

IPM ADVOCATE  with the Our Water Our World Program


Want to prevent pests from overwintering in your garden? Sanitation is key when it comes to overwintering pests and diseases. Remove any fallen fruit or diseased leaves from the garden area. Fallen fruit can be composted but diseased leaves may survive a home compost pile so make sure to put those in the Green Waste Recycling.

annie joseph

Annie Joseph

Our Water Our World  


Extra Irrigation Tip from Cheryl Buckwalter
How can you tell if you need to irrigate?

Get dirty. Grab a trowel, or better yet a  soil probe, and dig into the soil three to five inches to get a sample. Feel it, squeeze it. Is the top two inches or so dry to the touch, but then below that the soil is moist? If so, you can probably wait another few days to water. If the majority of your soil sample is fairly dry to the touch (meaning that it's not as dry as powder and there is still some moisture in it), then run your irrigation system for a cycle.  

As seasons change, our irrigation schedules need to change as well. Remember, water with the weather. Our plants will be healthier for it! 



Lots of tips on irrigation and correct watering practices!  We hope you found this helpful.  
Look forward to more garden help at our annual Dig Into Spring Event.  Troubleshoot your toughest garden problems. 

Topics: Winter, Irrigation Tips, Tips for Winter, Reduce Water Costs

Smartscape Plants- Part 1

Posted by Green Acres Nursery & Supply on Aug 30, 2013 9:35:00 AM

smartscape plants

SMARTSCAPE PLANTS –  Are plants whose water requirements can be fulfilled by the amount of rainfall of their climate (Sacramento Area) once they are acclimated. 

Smartscape plants are normally called “water-wise” plants.  Smartscape or water-wise plants are generally low maintenance and look good in a 'naturalized' type landscape like the example to the right. Drought tolerant plant selections used to be difficult to find or mostly mundane, unattractive plants. However, due to the demand for low water plants increasing, we now have horticultural gems from all over the world to choose from. 

Take a look at these new plant introductions... 

Now you can have colorful plants that are waterwise and attractive year around.  These plants help turn your yard or containers into smarter landscaped area.

smartscape plants

1.  Gomphrena Balboa

Gomphrena hybrid ‘Balboa’

Masses of button-shaped flowers in pink appear from summer to Frost.  The pink flowers radiate out in dark flower stars that have a touch of Orange on the tip hardy down to 10 degrees.  Easy to grow and tolerates periods of drought once it is established. 

Plant Highlights:

  • Thrives in hot conditions. 
  • Full sun against a wall or near a sidewalk. 
  • Great for a butterfly garden since it attracts lots of butterflies. 
  • The flowers make an excellent cut flower!
  • Great for a focal point (Thriller) in a container! 
  • Gomphrena  Grows 8-16” high and wide. 
  • This plant is part of the Proven Winner series!

smartscape plants

2.  Red Rod Emu Bush

Eremophil calorhabdos

This water wise beauty grows where there is great drainage and requires an area where there is no standing water after rains.

Plant Highlights:

  • The Red Rod Emu Bush responds well to pruning.   
  • Stems can be used in flower arrangements. 
  • The pinky red tubular flowers bloom late into summer. 
  • It's native to Western Australia 
  • It grows 2 feet tall and 2 feet wide and can be shaped into a hedge
  • It’s flowers attract birds!

smartscape plants

3.  Germander ‘Azure Blue’

Teucrium fruticans ‘Azure Blue’

This deer resistant upright evergreen shrub has gray green leaves with silvery white undersides.  Beautiful Azure blue flowers are on the plant Spring through Fall. 

Plant Highlights:

  • This virtually pest free shrub attracts bee’s and hummingbirds. 
  • The leaves are mildly fragrant. 
  • Plant Teucrium with other drought tolerant plants like Ceanothus, Manzanita or Lavenders. 
  • This Mediterranean native grows 4-6 feet tall as well as 4-6’ wide.


Stay tuned for our part 2 to this article with more smartscaping varieties.  In the meantime please drop by one of our locations-Contact Us to see our selection.  



Topics: What Can I Plant This Season?, New Products, Low Water Plants, Reduce Water Costs

Low-Water Plants

Posted by Green Acres Nursery & Supply on Jun 28, 2013 2:03:00 PM

low water plants

The upcoming season will be a hot and blistery summer.  Plants will have to manage the heat and try to thrive in bone dry soil after having a particularly dry winter.  Keeping plants watered through the dry season is a necessary challenge.  Since resources- including time, money, and water- are precious, we want to give some tips to maintaining your landscape effectively through water-wise gardening practices.

Good Watering Practices

Water-wise gardening begins with a consistent and water-efficient method of watering.  Take some time to review your watering system, including irrigation, timers, and hoses.  Are you making the best use of available water?  Have you ever walked around your neighborhood in the summer and seen streams of good water running off from a broken sprinkler? The Sacramento Bee reports that landscape water is responsible for 65% of household water usage. The good news is you can use water responsibly and it's easy. 

Four tips for reducing water usage: 

  1. Plants should be watered early in the morning for minimal evaporation. Set your automatic timer for the hours of 5 - 8 am.  
  2. More specialized irrigation systems include controllers with sensors that directly respond to local environmental data.  By using smart technology, plants are only watered as needed. We suggest the Solar Sync system by Hunter.
  3. Drip irrigation is the most efficient water-conserving method of irrigation.  With drip irrigation, water is released to plants slowly and steadily in droplets. Drip irrigation uses water sparingly and can be used with excellent results for plants and shrubs with low-to-moderate water requirements.
  4. Lastly, simple upkeep of your irrigation system improves the long term functioning of equipment, and reduces unnecessary water waste. Make sure the controller is updated for the season. Check for leaks in hoses and irrigation valves. 


Choose the Right Plant for the Right Place

Plant selection is the second aspect of water-wise gardening.  If you have full sun, poor soil and want to minimize the use water then it's important to choose sturdy and unthirsty plants. There are many plants with low-to-moderate water needs that will look stupendous in the garden. 

Listed below are a few examples of ideas for low-water-use plants for full sun. Many of which attract beneficial insects and butterflies!  As a rule of thumb, when choosing plants, look for California or Mediterranean natives. They tend to do well in our climate and have low water needs. As an additional resource, the UC Davis Arboretum has a list of plants called the Arboretum All Stars which have been thoroughly tested, and proved their ability to thrive with limited water.

  • Perennials: Salvias, Lantana, Lavender, Coreopsis, Echinacea
  • Cacti: Agaves, Yucca 
  • Grasses: New Zealand Flax, Red Fountain Grass, Melinas 
  • Groundcovers: Lantana, Manzanita
  • Trees & Shrubs: Crape Myrtle, Butterfly Bush


Lavenders and salvias (sage) have bright, colorful blooms for full sun and the salvias are available in a wide variety of colors. They can grow to two-to-four feet tall and wide, depending on the variety.


Agaves and Yuccas are desert plants so they'll feel right at home in a full sun, low water environment.  


You can choose a grass-type plant such as New Zealand Flax for their foliage, to create some variation in plant appearance.  These are mid-sized plants with dramatic appeal.  Also, red fountain grass is a stellar accent grass that adds both color and texture with one plant.


Drought tolerant groundcovers are a great choice for vast areas or hillsides. Lemon Thyme is a beautiful low growing goundcover. For a taller (2-3 ft.) option, try trailing Lantana which comes in white, purple and yellow. Manzanita is native choice for a hill side. 

low water plants

Trees & Shrubs:

Some shrubs that work well in low-water gardens include Butterfly Bush (Buddleja), Rockrose (Cistus) and Japanese Barberry. Trees, including Strawberry Tree Arbutus ‘Marina’, Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia) (pictured), Chinese Pistache (Pistacia chinensis) and others, can tolerate minimal water and continue to contribute shade and beauty to the landscape.

Landscape with the Aim to Conserve

Your garden will benefit from some rehearsal of good landscaping principles that emphasize conservation. Aim to choose plants that are compatible with your area’s conditions. Knowing plant size, season of flowering, and seasonal maintenance can be important considerations. 

Sun and water requirements are a big factor for water-wise gardening. Try to group plants by their water needs.  All plants, including low water plants, will need moderate water to become established.

You can always get creative with water-wise gardening. Xeriscaping means creating a low-water landscape through the use of low-water plant choices and also landscaping methods.  For example, landscaping with sand or rock in open garden areas is an attractive way to reduce water usage by decreasing plant area that requires watering. 

Drought tolerant plants are well-suited to growing en masse.  Attractive landscapes will exhibit multiples of plants for a massed effect. Repeated colors also add strength to the overall garden character.  

Maintaining a thriving garden over summer requires flexibility and often some experimentation, so have fun with it.  

Topics: Irrigation Tips, Flowers, Planting Ideas, Reduce Water Costs, Landscape Design

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