Cristal's Blog


June 24, 2024

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Living in Santa Barbara offers the unique opportunity to enjoy the natural beauty of California’s coast, but it also comes with the responsibility to care for our environment. With increasing awareness about sustainability, many homeowners are seeking ways to make their landscaping more earth-friendly. Whether you're starting with a barren plot or renovating an existing garden, incorporating eco-friendly practices can make a significant difference. Here are 10 expert tips to help you create a more resilient, water-wise, and wildlife-friendly yard you’ll love spending time in.

Ochre-colored rear facade of a Spanish Colonial Revival mansion in Montecito with a loggia over a veranda, a sparkling pool, palm trees, and brick terrace.

1. Choose Native Plants

Native plants are adapted to the local climate and soil conditions, making them easier to care for and less resource-intensive. They require less water, fertilizer, and pesticides and provide habitat for local wildlife. Consider plants like majestic palm trees, as pictured above, from my Prancing Horse Estate listing, as well as California poppies, manzanita, and ceanothus in Santa Barbara. These plants thrive with minimal care and add natural beauty to your garden.

2. Implement Drip Irrigation

Water conservation is crucial in drought-prone areas like Santa Barbara. Drip irrigation systems deliver water directly to the roots of plants, minimizing evaporation and runoff. This method is highly efficient, ensuring that your plants get the moisture they need without wasting water. Using a timer for your drip irrigation system can further optimize water usage.

A veranda with a lounge chair and small table looking out to tropical vegetation in Montecito.

3. Mulch Generously

Mulching your garden beds has multiple benefits: it retains soil moisture, suppresses weeds, and improves soil health as it decomposes. Organic mulches, such as wood chips or straw, are particularly beneficial. Spread a thick layer of mulch around your plants to keep the soil cool and reduce the need for frequent watering. They can also keep your secret garden escape cool too, as pictured above from one of my listings in Carpinteria.

4. Create a Rain Garden

Rain gardens are designed to capture and filter rainwater runoff from roofs, driveways, and other hard surfaces. By directing rainwater into a shallow depression planted with water-tolerant plants, you can reduce stormwater runoff, recharge groundwater, and create a beautiful, functional landscape feature. This practice conserves water and prevents pollution from reaching local waterways.

You can also install a Rainwater Harvesting System. Harvesting rainwater is a practical and sustainable way to collect and store water for your earth-friendly landscaping. Rain barrels or more extensive rainwater harvesting systems can capture runoff from your roof, providing a free, sustainable water source for irrigation. This practice conserves potable water and helps mitigate flooding and erosion.

5. Compost Kitchen and Yard Waste

Composting is an excellent way to recycle organic waste and enrich your soil. Kitchen scraps, grass clippings, and fallen leaves can all be composted to create nutrient-rich soil for your garden. Compost improves soil structure, enhances its ability to retain moisture, and provides essential nutrients for plants, reducing the need for chemical fertilizers.

6. Use Sustainable Lawn Practices

Lawns can be water-intensive and high-maintenance, but there are ways to make them more sustainable. Consider reducing the size of your lawn and replacing it with native groundcovers, meadows, or garden beds. For the remaining lawn areas, choose drought-tolerant grass species and practice eco-friendly lawn care, such as mowing high, leaving grass clippings on the lawn, and avoiding chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Plants like creeping thyme, clover, and sedum are excellent ground cover choices that require minimal water and maintenance. These plants spread quickly, fill in bare spots, and add texture to your yard. Low-water grasses, such as buffalo grass or fescue, can create a lawn-like appearance while drastically reducing water usage and mowing frequency.

A "green tunnel" on a Montecito estate, with a vine-covered dirt archway and path extending its entire length.

7. Opt for Permeable Hardscapes

Traditional concrete and asphalt surfaces prevent water from soaking into the ground, increasing runoff and erosion. Permeable hardscapes, such as gravel, permeable pavers, and porous concrete, allow water to infiltrate the soil, reducing runoff and promoting groundwater recharge. Incorporating these materials into your pathways, driveways, and patios can enhance your landscape's functionality and sustainability. A prime example can be seen in the image above from my listing called Casmar: An Extraordinary Mediterranean Estate Where Grandeur Meets Grace.

8. Reuse Materials

Incorporating reused hardscape materials into your garden design is a sustainable practice that reduces waste and enhances the aesthetic appeal of your yard. Instead of discarding old concrete, granite, and stone, break them up to create unique steppingstones and low walls. Wood chips from pruned branches make excellent mulch, and reclaimed wood can be repurposed into garden structures or decorative features. By reusing materials, you not only divert waste from landfills but also add character and eco-friendliness to your outdoor space.

The sun peeking through a garden.

9. Attract Pollinators and Beneficial Insects

Creating a habitat for pollinators and beneficial insects is essential for a healthy, thriving garden. Plant a variety of flowering plants that bloom at different times throughout the year to provide continuous food sources. Incorporate plants like milkweed for monarch butterflies and herbs such as lavender and rosemary, which attract bees and other beneficial insects. Avoid using pesticides, which can harm these important garden helpers.

10. Incorporate Edible Plants

Growing your own food is a rewarding way to enhance your garden’s sustainability. Add fruit trees, vegetable beds, and herb gardens to your landscape design. Not only does this reduce the carbon footprint associated with food transportation, but it also provides you with fresh, organic produce. Consider using organic gardening practices for your edible garden

Incorporating earth-friendly landscaping for your Santa Barbara yard doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Even a few sustainable practices can contribute to landscaping that is beautiful, resilient, beneficial to the environment and, ultimately, economical.

Moving doesn’t have to be a daunting process either. I'm here to assist you if you're interested in Santa Barbara real estate. My comprehensive website is an excellent starting point to explore your options. If something catches your eye, feel free to call me at (805) 886-9378 or email me at to schedule a complimentary consultation at your convenience. Meantime, embrace the journey of transforming your garden into a sanctuary that supports both you and the planet.

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Client Reviews

“It was an emotional experience selling our mother’s home in Montecito that we all loved so much but Cristal made the process easier on our whole family by guiding us through the transaction every step of the way. She knows the market so well and everything she recommended was on point including the asking price, painting, and staging the home, which looked beautiful and helped the buyer envision her new home. We sold it the first day it hit the market with an offer above asking! Cristal did an incredible job communicating with us and the buyer to ensure that the transaction would run smoothly. We highly recommend using Cristal, she was a pleasure to work with! ”

- J & A

“Cristal is a pleasure to work with! Her knowledge of the local real estate market coupled with her amazing listening skills resulted in her showing us an array of homes that were all excellent choices. Her low-pressure patient attitude made us feel extremely comfortable with the whole process. I cannot recommend her highly enough.”

- M.F.

“Cristal Clarke is #1 in her field - and you don't become #1 by luck. Cristal works harder, and longer, and with more charm and patience than any real estate agent I have ever worked with in the past; her calendar has no weekend, her days have no clocks, her only concern is selling your property as soon as possible and for the best price on the market. Am I a fan? You bet!”

- P.B.

“We have used Cristal now several times and cannot express how grateful we are for her expertise, dedication, and unwavering support throughout the entire home-buying process. Cristal is knowledgeable, patient and attentive. Her attention to detail is remarkable, and she consistently went above and beyond to provide us with all the information and resources we needed to make informed decisions. Cristal is a skillful negotiator and advocate. She can navigate complex negotiations with professionalism and grace and felt like a true partner to us in the home-buying process. Cristal has a genuine passion for real estate and a deep commitment to her clients' satisfaction. I cannot speak highly enough of Cristal and her exceptional service. She is a true expert in her field and her dedication to excellence, combined with unwavering support is the reason we choose to work with her for all our real estate buying needs.”

- T.C.

“Cristal is a top-notch realtor who sold my home before it ever went on the market. I had two competing offers that enabled me to get top dollar for my home. Not only is Cristal superb but her team is extraordinary. I cannot say enough about Cristal and her team. They are simply phenomenal, the consummate professionals, who took care of every possible detail, making the sale and transition period, smooth from our end. They are also lovely, caring people, who knew all the right professionals, to get the job done. Thank you, everyone!”

- D.R.

“I could list lots of cool adjectives to describe Cristal. All good by the way. But, that is not why I or anyone should hire Cristal. My reason for hiring her, which proved to be correct, is very simple. She got the job done. And, she does it time and time again and with zero issues. And, that is why she is one of the top agents in the country. End of subject. ”

- M.A.

“Working with Cristal was a complete pleasure. Cristal was extremely patient with us as we evaluated nearly 2 dozen homes over a span of 2 years. Her knowledge of the market is unmatched. Cristal provided us with exceptional counsel as we evaluated opportunities and negotiated pricing. The closing process was handled thoroughly and efficiently. We could not be happier with our purchase and even more happy to now call Cristal our friend.”

- D.K.

“Cristal Clarke has conducted numerous real estate transactions for me beginning 13 years ago with the purchase of a Lemon Ranch. She has handled both large and small purchases and sales with equal dedication. As a negotiator, you can’t find anyone better. Her transactions are always conducted in the most appropriate and professional manner. Cristal has considerable knowledge of the Santa Barbara market.”

- S.N. Decker Ph.D.

“Living in Europe, we were to say the least, unaccustomed to the nuances of Real Estate acquisition in California and Cristal steered us through the process with absolute professionalism and personal attention to detail at every turn. Her in-depth knowledge of the market place combined with enthusiasm and drive was the only reason we secured the property of our dreams and will be forever grateful. If you are looking for personal discrete and private representation of the highest quality we suggest you look no further than Cristal Clarke.”

- Johan and Paula van den Berg

“Cristal is very straightforward, cheerful, helpful, professional and trustworthy….we felt very lucky to work with her.”

- John and Lacey Williams

“After considering our many choices, we are grateful it was Cristal Clarke of Sotheby’s International who represented the sale of our Montecito cottage. We are familiar with Cristal’s reputation of hard work and dedication to clients, but it was her attention to detail that made our experience so positive. She offered suggestions for staging the property, worked in harmony with potential buyers and was even able to secure back up offers. The sale of our cottage was completed much sooner than we expected, due in great part to Cristal’s professional skills and support. We highly recommend Cristal as a first choice for anyone needing representation with real estate.”

- Michael & Nancy Lee

“Our experience in working with Cristal Clarke resulted in the successful and discrete acquisition of a property which was not yet on the open market. Her knowledge of the Montecito/Santa Barbara area and vast expertise blended with her passion for real estate and architecture, provided us with the very highest level of professionalism and personalized services. Cristal exhibited a rare combination of excellent communications, attention to detail, creativity and patience.”

- Richard and Catherine Frinier

“Cristal really breaks the mold. She knows every nook and cranny of this real estate market, understands value, and follows up on everything, all the time. She was incredibly patient with our two year quest to find the perfect house. Every house hunting trip from across the country was well planned, and our time was never wasted. On top of her professionalism and expertise, she is delightful to spend time with. We are thrilled with the home we purchased, and grateful to Cristal for so wisely advising us through this process, right through to the close and beyond.”

- Laurie Siegel

“We met Cristal first in the course of renting a winter home (for three years), then buying a house using her as our agent. She was amazingly good at listening to our wants and showing us homes that fit our needs. Her mastery of the paperwork was perfect. Most importantly, there was never a situation where we doubted her straightforwardness or integrity. If we do another real estate transaction in Montecito (which I doubt, we’re happy with what we purchased), without question we’d use Cristal again.”

- Ken Saffir

“Susan and I just want to thank you for your efforts in the sale of our home. You are really quite amazing. Your competence, persistence, optimism and humor made the entire process effortless. Every problem that arose, you somehow fixed; any obstacle, you overcame. We have bought and sold many homes. It has never been such a painless and enjoyable process!”

- Michael & Susan Marquart

“A little something about “our” realtor, Cristal Clarke. My wife and I came to Santa Barbara about fifteen years ago looking for a seasonal home from which to enjoy the weather and amenities of the central coast. Being in the real estate business myself I was familiar with agents and brokers so entered the market with open eyes. We “flipped” a few houses in the early years, dealing with various agents and finally ended up in Montecito. That’s when good fortune put us together with Cristal. To say we were impressed is to put it mildly. Cristal really knows the market. She is familiar with the area, its history and trends. When we have questions about a particular property she either has the answers immediately or gets back to us by phone or email. There is no waiting or wondering with Cristal. She is an agent who is “on top of it.” Her recommendations as to price points, contractors, inspectors and title agents have proven to be exceptional, showing great insight and the highest professional standards. We consider ourselves exceedingly fortunate to say that Cristal Clarke is our realtor and would recommend her services to any serious buyer or seller.”

- Rob & Judi Kelch