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New Bill Seeks to Encourage Use of Xeriscape in Common Areas

As water prices rise, and the climate warms, water conservation is becoming even more important. Colorado’s current population is estimated to be 5,695,564, nearly 700,000 higher than in 2010. That 13.2 percent growth is the fourth highest among all states over that time period.

All these new residents continue to put a strain on water supplies. It makes perfect sense then, to encourage Xeriscape, which, as we’ve written in the past (the-7-principles-of-xeriscape-revisited-30-years-later), is a form of landscape design that requires much less water.

We are pleased to hear of HB19-1050, a new bill in the Colorado General Assembly, that encourages the use of Xeriscape in common landscape areas.

Here is a summary of the bill:

Section 1 of the bill augments an existing law that establishes the right of unit owners in common interest communities to use water-efficient landscaping, subject to reasonable aesthetic standards, by specifically extending the same policy to limited common elements, which are owned by the community and available for use by some but not all of the unit owners.

Sections 2 and 3 extend existing water conservation requirements, currently applicable only to certain public entities that supply water at retail and their customers, to property management districts and other special districts that manage areas of parkland and open space.

This is the official blog of Outdoor Design Group, Colorado Landscape Architects.  For more information about our business and our services, click here.

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Project Highlight: Gateway Village General Improvement District

The city of Denver uses various improvement districts to construct, improve, and maintain neighborhood and commercial areas. One such General Improvement District (GID) has been created for a section in the large Northeast Denver neighborhood of Montbello, and is called the Gateway General Improvement District (GID). We are happy to have been contracted by The Gateway GID in hopes of helping to revitalize the neighborhood by updating the current landscape and introducing more drought-tolerant, colorful plant varieties for areas around the neighborhood. These areas include street tree lawns, detention ponds, a large drainage channel, and the monument sign area. The nearby green space study, as seen below, analyzes the nearby park spaces, most of which are too far from most homes in the GID to be within walking distance. This posed a great opportunity for us to not only revitalize the outdated and rundown landscape around the neighborhood, but to help create community green spaces, by utilizing the barren and unused detention ponds.



The streetscapes throughout the neighborhood contain endless amounts of water-guzzling bluegrass, along with landscape beds overflowing, overgrown junipers and bare spots where other shrubs have died. Our design has these streetscapes being updated to replace the existing sod and desolate landscape beds with drought tolerant shrub varieties and rock mulch to reduce irrigation requirements while also providing a cohesive and interesting landscape year-round.



In the detention ponds around the neighborhood, our landscape designs aim to incorporate a more usable lawn space with pedestrian access, as well as add colorful, xeric varieties of shrubs and trees to the perimeter of the pond at street level to increase passerby interest and beautify the area. These ponds present a huge opportunity to provide nearby families with accessible parks. Two of the detention ponds are located directly across the street from two elementary schools in the neighborhood. These particular ponds presented us with a huge opportunity to not only turn these unused areas into park spaces, but educational learning landscapes as well.


We collaborated with Denver Public Schools to incorporate interesting educational elements and various ecosystems that will coincide with lesson plans made by teachers. Ecosystems include a wetland ecosystem where students can do water testing and observe the various birds and insects, as well as a dryland ecosystem featuring drought tolerant, native Colorado plant varieties. Other educational elements include a pollinator garden that will feature colorful shrubs and perennials attractive to bees and butterflies, demonstrating the importance of pollinators.



A boulder garden can also be found in the new educational landscape designs with an array of boulders showcasing Colorado’s diverse geology. To offer a more structured outdoor classroom, we have designed the detention pond slopes to incorporate an amphitheater with siloam stone slab seating. To top it off, children can follow a concrete pathway painted with the planets from our solar system, down into one of the amphitheaters.



With the Gateway Village General Improvement District being large in scope, we hope to reach a vast majority of the community at and positively impact them with all of these desired improvements.

This is the official blog of Outdoor Design Group, Colorado Landscape Architects. For more information about our business and our services, click here.

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Collecting Rainwater No Longer Illegal in Colorado

Starting on August 10, 2016, it is no longer illegal for homeowners to collect the rain (or other precipitation) that has fallen on their roofs. In May 2016 Governor John Hickenlooper signed a law (House Bill 16-1005) that allows residential properties and multifamily residences with four or fewer units to use up to two rain barrels, located above ground, with a combined storage capacity of 110 gallons.

Rain barrels can only collect precipitation from rooftop downspouts, and the collected water can only be used on the same property from where it was gathered. The collected water can only be used for outdoor purposes, such as watering outdoor plants. Collected water in rain barrels can not legally be used for drinking or indoor uses.  Additionally, it should be known by rain barrel owners that operating a rain barrel does not constitute a water right. There is language in the bill that the State Engineer “may curtail rain barrel usage” if a water right holder can prove that the use of rain barrels has impacted their ability to receive their entitled water. In fact, in the bill it says the State Engineer must report to agricultural committees in the legislature in the year 2019 and 2022, on “whether the allowance of small-scale residential precipitation collection pursuant to this article has caused any discernible injury to downstream water rights.”

If you would like to learn more about rain barrels. check out Colorado State University Extension for more information.

This is the official blog of Outdoor Design Group, Colorado Landscape Architects.  For more information about our business and our services, click here.

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Dog Tuff African Dogtooth Grass: The Best Turf Grass for Hot & Dry Sites

Do you love having a lush lawn, but hate the idea of wasting water? Do you have dogs who leave unsightly dead spots in your lawn where they’ve urinated? If you answered yes to either of these questions, then Dog Tuff African Dogtooth Grass (Cynodon ‘PWIN04S’) may be the best choice of turf grass for you. Dog Tuff is drought tolerant, resistant to dog urine, thrives is full hot sun, and is soft underfoot. Dog Tuff is a sterile variety of Bermuda grass, so it won’t spread via seeds. Dog Tuff grass was developed by respected Colorado horticulturalist Kelly Grummons. Kelly is working with High Country Gardens, and Plant Select to market this product. Watch this Plant Select video to see Kelly discussing this wonderful product:


Kelly has been working on bringing Dog Tuff to market for over ten years. The original parentage for this grass is native to South Africa, where a lush patch of it was found on a ranch. Dog Tuff is a “warm-season” grass, so it does not green up as early as blue grass. However, as Kelly mentions in the video, Dog Tuff needs only a fraction of the water to survive as compared to bluegrass. Dog Tuff grass will grow in many soil types, but it does need full sun (6 or more hours of direct sun). Dog Tuff is rated hardy to USDA zone 5.

We recently provided design services for a public park in Arvada, Colorado, where we incorporated Dog Tuff grass into an area the park. It was planted last year and is doing well. We are excited to have this as part of a park where people can visit and see the grass in person.

If you are planning a new lawn, or if you are thinking about replacing your current lawn with a more drought tolerant type of grass, you should consider incorporating Dog Tuff African Dogtooth grass in your home landscape.

This is the official blog of Outdoor Design Group, Colorado Landscape Architects.  For more information about our business and our services, please visit our website at

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50 Ways to Save Water in Your Landscape

1)  Ditch the bluegrass turf lawn, completely or partially. Bluegrass turf uses far more water than alternative landscaping choices.

2)  Set your mower on its highest setting so turf grass is not cut too short. Longer grass keeps the soil cooler and reduces evaporation.


Consider redesigning your landscape so it requires less water and looks more interesting

3)  Use the mulch setting on your lawn mower so grass clippings stay on the lawn, which helps slow evapotranspiration and provides nutrients to the soil.

4)  Do not install bluegrass turf on slopes, especially south facing slopes, because much of the water will run off the slope and sprinklers will need to run for longer times to compensate. Instead consider planting shrubs or native plants with drip irrigation on a slope.

5)  Mulch your trees, shrubs and perennials to reduce water use. Mulch slows down the evaporation of soil moisture, reduces water run-off, and reduces weeds which can steal moisture from your plants.

6)  Consider replacing your existing high-water turf lawn with low-water turf options such as buffalo grass, blue grama grass or a fescue grass.

7)  Plant native plants that are more appropriate for the climate you live in.

8)  If you plant non-native plants, use ones that are adapted to your climate conditions, such as iceplant from South Africa, and Russian sage from Central Asia.

9)  Place your plants in groups organized by water use, so as to avoid overwatering low water need plants.

10)  Plant trees in your turf lawn to provide shade for the lawn and reduce evapotranspiration of the grass.

11)  Follow your water provider’s summer watering rules, and any watering restrictions that may be in place at that time.

12)  Don’t water during the hottest time of the day. It is best to water between 6 pm and 10 am. Watering during the hottest time of the day increases the evaporation of the water before it reaches the roots of your plants.

13)  Don’t water when it is windy. Just as watering during the hottest time of day increases water loss due to increased evaporation, so does watering when it is windy.

14)  When shoveling snow in winter, place snow piles where it will melt and water trees and shrubs that can benefit from extra moisture in winter.

15)  Install a rain sensor to avoid having your irrigation system run when it is raining, or the day after a heavy rainfall event.

16)  If you don’t have an automatic irrigation system, use a mechanical or digital timer with your sprinklers.

17)  If you have an automatic irrigation system, check it once a month or more often to fix any leaks or problems that may occur.

18)  Use drip irrigation to water your landscape plants. Drip irrigation is the most efficient form of irrigation because the water is not sprayed into the air which increases evaporation of the water before it reaches the plants.

19)  Avoid placing sprinkler heads against fences and hardscape.  Instead, install a strip of rock mulch between fences / hardscape and sprinkler heads.  In addition to reducing water waste, this minimizes water damage and the need for turf edge trimming.

20)  Improve your soils water holding capacity by amending the soil with organic matter.

21)  Make your landscape more permeable to keep storm water on your property. Instead of a solid concrete patio, install a unit paver patio to allow water to percolate down rather than running off.

22)  Divide watering times into shorter shifts to improve water absorption, and avoid runoff. This is sometimes referred to as the “cycle and soak” method.

23)  Direct gutter downspouts to planted areas rather than streets or storm water areas.

24)  Save rainwater from your roof for irrigating plants.

25)  Save indoor “grey” water for irrigating trees and shrubs.

26)  If local codes allow, hire a plumber (or DIY) to pipe your grey water to your landscaping.

27)  Use a mild/natural dish soap for washing dishes to keep this grey water safer for your landscape plants.

28)  Bathe your pets outside over turf areas that need water, using mild/natural soap.

29)  Wash fruits and vegetables outside over your lawn to allow wash water to irrigate the turf.

30)  Plant trees (adapted for your climate) to shade your turf area to reduce evapo-transpiration of the turf.

31)  Consult a landscape architect or horticulturalist to learn the best plants to use in your climate and growing zone.

32)  Before planting certain species of plants, do extensive soil preparations.  Some plants benefit from additional organic matter, while others will perform better if drainage is improved.

33)  Save fallen leaves in autumn and use as a mulch around trees, shrubs and perennials.

34)  Plant new perennials, shrubs and trees in fall when temperatures are cooler because it will take less water to establish them, as compared to planting in early summer.

35)  Cover water features, pools and spas when not in use to reduce evaporation.

36)  Check water features, pools and spas for leaks.

37)  Consider using pondless water features, where the water reservoir is hidden or obscured which provides less evaporation that a typical pond.

38)  Don’t use water to clean paving. Use a broom and dust pan.

39)  If you want to install a water feature, choose one that cascades or trickles rather than one that sprays in the air. Spraying fountains lose more water to evaporation.

40)  If your children want to play in the sprinkler, have them do this in an area of your lawn that needs water.

41)  Do not let your children waste water by spraying sprinklers on sidewalks, drive ways or the street.

42)  Place large rocks near shrubs, trees or perennials to keep the soil below the rock cool and moist.

43)  When refreshing your pet’s water dish, don’t discard the old water in the sink,  pour it on plants outside.

44)  If you have ice or water left in a take-out cup, or in re-usable glasses, pour it on your landscape plants outside.

45)  Don’t discard used ice and water from a cooler in the sink, but throw them outside on your plants.

46)  If you wash your car at home with a hose, use a shut-off nozzle so water is not running in between soaping and rinsing the car.

47)  Wash the car in a lawn area so that you water the grass at the same time.  Use a mild/natural detergent when doing this.

48)  Don’t use a hose to clean out your gutters. Consider using a leaf blower or a long handled rake specifically made for the job.

49)  Replace old spray nozzles on your irrigation system with newer, more efficient rotary nozzles. They reduce runoff and evaporation. Your purchase and installation of these nozzles may make you eligible for rebates from your water provider. Contact them for more details.

50)  Consider hiring a landscape architect to analyze your property and re-design it to require less water and maintenance.

This is the official blog of Outdoor Design Group, Colorado Landscape Architects.  For more information about our business and our services, click here.


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