Letter to the Editor: drought-tolerant plants

Dear Editor:

I tend to question Drew Kelley’s assertion that in order to combat the drought, everyone should have an “irrigation timer” and water between 3 a.m. and sunrise to avoid evaporation. (“California Drought,” Letters to the Editor, 4/23/15)

In Downey’s dry Mediterranean climate, it is of paramount importance to choose the appropriate plants. I have a number of perfectly healthy trees and shrubs which I have yet to water this year. 
I still water the old-fashioned way, with a contraption called a garden hose. I provide a dirt watering basin around the plant, then give it a fairly copious amount of water infrequently. This encourages deep rooting of the plants, so they are thus able to survive periods of low rainfall. 
How do we mitigate evaporation? When I plant a new plant, I backfill the hole with an equal parts mix of sand, soil amendment, and the existing soil. Generally, with such a mix the water soaks into the ground in less than five minutes, thus there is very little evaporation. 

I have a large Podocarpus tree (P. gracilior), which I have not watered since October of 2014. In the front yard I have a mature Hollywood juniper, which survives quite nicely without being watered. I have a beautiful sage (S. clevelandii) which I’ve only watered once this year. I could go on with many more thrifty examples, but I’m loath to bore the non-gardeners among Patriot readers. 

Suffice it to say, I don’t need some computerized system telling me when to water my plants. 

Jack Russell
Downey