WaterSense for Lawn & Garden


In Ventura, the City recommends that homeowners water their lawns between the hours of 9pm to 9am. Water penetrates the lawn more efficiently during that time and there is less water lost to winds and evaporation. If your lawn starts to show signs of stress, increase run times in increments of one minute until you find the right balance.  Never run your sprinklers more than 13 minutes at the same time, or whenever you see runoff occurring, according to the California Landscape Contractor’s Association.

Your lawn’s watering schedule will also depend on the type of device, soil type, slope and the plants on your property.  For example, if you have a clay soil running an irrigation system for more than five minutes will result in unwanted runoff.  In the City of Ventura, many properties have a sandy loam soil.  This type of soil has a relatively good absorption rate.  Using a cycle soak (using shorter watering cycles), will help minimize runoff.  The University of California Agriculture & Natural Resources has an informative online site to help you determine watering times, CLICK HERE.

A good rule of thumb when gardening is to consider that less is more.  Overwatering grass and plants can cause root damage and increase susceptibility to disease.  So it’s best to start with a more conservative watering program.  If you walk across your lawn or grass and see footprints, or if your plants begin to look stressed, then gradually adjust your watering schedule.


Traditional Lawn

Letting your grass to grow longer also provides many benefits.  Taller grass allows for a greater surface area to carry out photosynthesis, this in turn will result in healthier plants. A longer lawn also thwarts weeds from germinating, which can eliminate the need for the application of herbicides and pesticides. You’ll also save on grass mowing time, gasoline and wear and tear on garden equipment by keeping your grass a little longer.

“It’s best for water to be applied in short cycles with time in between to soak in,” said Jeremy Scarlett of Scarlett’s Landscape (scarlettslandscaping.com). Scarlett. “Properly designed drip irrigation systems and the use of high efficiency rotating nozzles and/or rotator sprinklers work best, applying water that the lawn and garden can absorb without runoff.”

Jeremy also stressed the importance of being cognizant and on the look out for runoff or absorption issues with:

  • Leaning sprinkler nozzles
  • Plants that block a sprinkler nozzle
  • Sprinkler overspray causing runoff
  • Misting or fogging due to pressure regulation issues
  • Mismatched sprinkler heads

WATCH the Sustainable Ventura Interview with Jeremy Scarlett:


Take the Mystery out of programming your irrigation timer. WATCH the Sustainable Ventura Interview with Aquaflo’s Dave Williams:


“40-60% of residential water use is going to outdoor usage,” said Shana Epstein, GM for Ventura Water.  “The right system, when properly scheduled, can result in significant water savings and lower water bills. Most landscapes are over watered by about 50 percent of what is needed.”

“We encourage residents to use less water by the use of properly installed weather-based irrigations systems, plant materials and reducing run times. A residential lawn needs only an inch of water a week. Anything more than that will cause runoff, which is the major contributor to water pollution, and it, also wastes water. In Ventura, as we operate solely on local sources, we’d like to keep it that way.”

Another great way to save water, money and the environment, is to change out your lawn (or even a portion of your lawn if you want to start slowly) to an Ocean Friendly Garden. Ocean Friendly Gardens thrive on the natural habitat and rely on natural rainfall. Additionally, they use plants that are native or adapted to Ventura’s climate.

“Ocean Friendly Gardens (OFGs) use ‘CPR’ — Conservation of water, energy and habitat, Permeability of soil and surfaces letting water slow down and sink into the ground, and Retention of rainwater and prevention of wet weather runoff,” said Paul Herzog, Coordinator, Ocean Friendly Gardens Program for the Surfrider Foundation. “We are all aware of when someone is choking and how to revive them with CPR, the same applies to our lawns and gardens. Our oceans and gardens are choking on pollution and trash, and CPR helps revive our landscape and protect our natural environment.”


Ventura Ocean Friendly Garden

“While traditional landscapes use a lot of resources,” continued Herzog. “OFGs conserve resources by their use of native or climate appropriate plants, which can thrive on the natural habitat with about a fifth of the water usage required of a typical lawn. Additionally, OFGs help stop the number one source of water pollution, urban runoff, which happens when there are a lot of hard and impermeable surfaces. An OFG creates an environment where the water is slowed down, allowed to spread out and then permeate into the ground vs. running off into the street where it can collect trash, herbicides and other pollutants untreated into the stormdrain system and directly into our oceans and waterways.”

One of the first steps Herzog recommends for homeowners is building up the vitality of the soil with good compost and mulch (using tree and grass clippings from your lawn and garden or getting mulch free from Cornucopia Community Gardens).

“Consulting a landscape professional that can assess your lawn’s watering needs is vital,” said Herzog. “If a person would like to get more information about creating a healthy lawn and/or is interested in finding out more about Ocean Friendly Gardens, the City and Surfrider host FREE workshops. There are also some great resources to be found at surfrider.org (Search “Programs” and then “Ocean Friendly Gardens”).”

Find out more about Ocean Friendly Gardens. WATCH the Sustainable Ventura Interview with Surfrider’s Paul Herzog:


Waterwise Garden Series is a new series of classes that is being co-hosted by Green Thumb, Aquaflo and the City of Ventura.  The series begins with “SoCal Bloomers” on September 14th.  “Ocean Friendly Gardens” is the second class to be held on October 12th.  The third class, “Urban Gold” (creating healthy soil) will take place on November 9.  For more information, visit:  CityofVentura.net/water/landscape


University of California Agriculture & Natural Resources Watering Guide, http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/TOOLS/TURF/MAINTAIN/cazone9.html

Find out the Water Wise FREE Gardening Class Schedule:  http://www.cityofventura.net/water/landscape

Soil types and testing: http://www.rain.org/global-garden/soil-types-and-testing.htm

Find an Irrigation Specialist, http://www.irrigation.org/


VenturaWater.net/water/ofg and VenturaWater.org (Search “Ocean Friendly Gardens”)

saveourh2o.org and saveourh2o.org/sprinklers101


Surfrider.org – Search “Programs” and then “Ocean Friendly Gardens”

SustainableVentura.TV (Search “Ocean Friendly Gardens”)


 By Maryann Ridini Spencer

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