Pests in Gardens and Landscapes: Quick Tips

Landscape Design & Water Quality

Published   3/11

PDF Spanish version of this Pest Alert


Flagstone walkway set in decomposed granite.

Flagstone walkway set in decomposed granite.

Use a drip system to deliver water only where needed.

Use a drip system to deliver water only where needed.

Create a landscape design that reduces pesticide and fertilizer runoff and conserves water. Good plant choices, proper site preparation, installation of “smart” irrigation equipment, and use of porous materials for walkways and other unplanted areas are key elements in an environmentally friendly landscape.

Install porous surfaces in unplanted areas.

  • Use flagstone, interlocking pavers, or pervious concrete on walkways and patios instead of impermeable surfaces such as concrete and asphalt.
  • Interlocking pavers for driveways or an interceptor drain at the bottom of the driveway collect runoff and divert water into your landscape.
  • Consider gravel, organic mulches, or other materials that allow water to soak into the ground in unplanted areas.
  • Avoid using concrete, asphalt, compacted bare soil, or other impervious surfaces wherever possible.

Improve water absorption.

  • Add organic matter, such as compost, and aerate regularly to reduce compaction.
  • Use perforated drainage lines to allow water to filter into surrounding soils.
  • Install gravel sumps or other percolation areas to keep water from collecting in unwanted areas.

Choose plants that conserve water, buffer runoff, and resist pest problems.

  • Plant water-efficient plants, including many native species, to reduce irrigation. Some natives require little to no fertilizer or pest management.
  • Use turfgrasses and pest-resistant plants best adapted to the local climate.
  • Install dense plantings with fibrous root systems along landscape edges to reduce runoff and soil erosion.

Create landscape features to collect runoff water.

  • Incorporate long, shallow, grassy depressions, known as swales, to hold large amounts of runoff from driveways, streets, or parking lots.
  • Create low-lying areas in the garden to provide temporary storage for heavy runoff and allow sediment, water, and garden chemicals to soak into the ground. Establish plant species that can survive both wet and drier conditions.
  • Include trees to intercept rainfall.
  • Use rain barrels to collect and store runoff from rooftops for irrigating plants.
  • Add terrace walls or other similar features.

Install and properly operate irrigation systems and equipment.

  • Check your irrigation system and, if necessary, make adjustments; replace old and mismatched sprinklers with low-flow rotor heads.
  • Consider the addition of a “smart” irrigation controller. These are designed to reduce excess irrigation by replacing only the amount of water lost through plant use and evaporation.
  • Install drip systems or soaker hoses for trees, shrubs, and some ground covers.

Text developed through a grant from CA SWRCB and the CALFED Bay-Delta Program.

Minimize the use of pesticides that pollute our waterways. Use nonchemical alternatives or less toxic pesticide products whenever possible. Read product labels carefully and follow instructions on proper use, storage, and disposal.


Statewide IPM Program, Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California
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Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California

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