Drought Tolerant Landscaping

Creating a Water Efficient Landscape
The City of Burlingame replaced the front lawn at the City’s Police Station with a water efficient landscape as a demonstration project and resource for residents and property owners.

The new attractive landscape:

  • saves water and money;
  • displays California native and drought tolerant plants;
  • and informs the public on how to create water efficient landscaping.

We documented our process below to help residents create their own water efficient landscape. 


Come Take a Look

With the drip irrigation installed and the last of the mulch added, the Police Station's landscape project is officially complete. The vegetation is growing in well and the hardscape features look great. The updated landscape will require less maintenance and water use than the previous lawn. Residents are invited to stop by and be inspired!

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Hello Plants
The Parks crew got help last week from the Police Chief, City Manager, and Parks and Recreation Director in planting various vegetation around the site. Many plant types were used including: several species of Penstemon (Beard tongue), Salvia (Sage), Lavandula (Lavender), Verbena, Mimulus (monkey flower), Sedum (succulent) and Festuca (fescue grass). These native and drought tolerant plants look great on the property!

Drip irrigation, to be installed soon, will be the finishing touch to the landscape project. 

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Goodbye Grass

Crews returned to the Police Station and removed the rest of the sod from the park strip along Trousdale. The removed sod will be used for mounding at the site. Sheet mulching was also put in practice by placing cardboard packaging saved from deliveries over the lawn. The cardboard is then layered with wood chips and compost to create a healthy, grass free, planting area for the new vegetation. The crew continued working on the hardscape features and installed a custom made bench from a cedar tree removed two years ago.

Next steps include finishing the hardscape and planting native and drought tolerant vegetation.

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Taking Shape

New hardscape features, including winding pathways and geometric designs, are shaping the Police Station's landscaping renovation. The City's Parks crew installed large rocks repurposed from a local business landscape remodeling project; constructed pathways from decomposed granite; and used recycled plastic bender board and recycled crushed concrete for the hardscape features.

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Next up, the crew will continue to remove sod, complete the hardscape, and install water efficient irrigation.

Water efficient irrigation uses drip and sprinkler nozzles that use significantly less water than conventional irrigation systems. Learn more about how to install water efficient irrigation at an upcoming workshop.

Water-Wise Irrigation and Landscaping

Thursday, April 28, 7pm

Lane Room, Burlingame Public Library, 480 Primrose Road

Refreshments provided.

Julie Montanari, a Master Gardener, will explain the cost savings and other benefits of water efficient irrigation. She will provide tips on selecting water-wise plants and details on how to convert conventional irrigation to be water efficient. The program is presented by the Citizens Environmental Council of Burlingame and co-sponsored by the City of Burlingame and Bay Area Water Supply and Conservation Agency.


Lawn Be Gone

The City's Parks Department crew removed the turf at the Police Station to make room for the new water efficient landscape design. The removed turf will be reused for hardscape features in future landscaping projects and the remaining existing turf will be used for on-site hardscape design features.

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An alternative to digging out and removing unneeded lawn areas is to put the shovels aside and use sheet mulching instead. Sheet mulching is a chemical free and waste free method of removing turf by covering grass areas with layers of cardboard, wood chips, and compost. The layers smother the grass and create an organic planting environment for new plants. Best part is that no digging or tilling is necessary and hauling and dumping of yard waste is avoided. 

Resources for sheet mulching and sustainable gardening:


Designing a Landscape 
With some colored pencils and paper, James Delaney, the City’s Landscape Leadworker, drew the City’s vision for a water-efficient landscape. The landscape design replaces the boring lawn in front of the Police Station with an interesting and attractive water-efficient design. The design includes dry creek rock beds, raised planting areas, boulders, access paths, and pavers. The front lawn, at approximately 2000 square feet, is comparable in size to front lawns or backyards in Burlingame.

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Next up, deciding on plants and starting work on removing the lawn. Stay tuned.