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The Seven Principles
of River-Friendly Landscaping (RFL)

The Seven Principles of River-Friendly Landscaping were developed to describe an integrated approach to landscaping that helps to protect and sustain the Sacramento environment and its waterways by decreasing waste, reducing pollutant runoff and soil erosion, improving air and water quality, and protecting wildlife habitat.

Below is an outline of some key practices that support the seven principles. For more detail on the seven principles, download the River-Friendly Landscape Guidelines or click on the wheel to the right.

RFL Practice Benefits
LANDSCAPE LOCALLY — take into account the existing site characteristics
Consider climate, sun exposure, and soil type when selecting plants Plants are stronger and healthier, reducing need for water, fertilizer, and pest control.
Avoid using invasive species We avoid having invasive plants escaping into our natural areas, where they can spread rapidly and outcompete natives, degrade wildlife habitat, and increase fire danger.
Grasscycle (leave the grass clippings on the lawn after mowing) Reduces green waste, saves time and money, and contributes to a vigorous lawn.
Use on-site plant debris as mulch Keeping plant debris on-site returns valuable nutrients and organic matter to the soil, improving soil and plant health. It also reduces the cost and pollution associated with transporting it off-site.
Compost on-site plant debris
Choose plants that can grow to their natural size in the space allotted them Plants require less pruning which results in less green waste.
Reduce, reuse, and recycle construction waste (concrete, bricks, etc.) for landscape features Reduces waste, conserves natural resources, strengthens market for recycled products.
NURTURE THE SOIL — promote beneficial soil organisms
Amend the soil with compost before planting Fosters a diverse, fertile, and disease suppressive soil, resulting in stronger, healthier plants. Improves soil structure, aeration, and water holding capacity.
Mulch regularly Mulch conserves water, suppresses weed growth, and improves soil structure.
Feed soils naturally; avoid synthetic, quick release fertilizers Compost and mulch naturally feed the soil. Slow release fertilizers make nutrients available to the plants when they are needed, resulting in a more even rate of growth.
Minimize/eliminate lawn Lawn requires much more water to keep healthy than other landscape plants. By reducing or eliminating the lawn area, you will be conserving water and energy, as well as reducing the need for fertilizers and pesticides.
Grow low-water use California natives or Mediterranean plants Native and Mediterranean plants are naturally suited to our climate, thereby requiring less soil preparation, watering, mowing, fertilizing, and spraying. Using local natives reduces the risk of spreading invasive species.
Design, install, and maintain high efficiency irrigation systems Conserves water by limiting evaporation and runoff. Also reduces plant diseases and minimizes weed growth.
Plant and protect trees to shade homes, paved areas, and air conditioners When properly placed, mature trees can reduce the interior temperature of a building by as much as 20 degrees, reducing summer cooling costs by 25-40%.
Air conditioner run more efficiently when shaded.
Avoid unnecessary outdoor lighting Saves energy
Use River Friendly Pest Control methods for better pest management and a cleaner environment Avoids the use of pesticides, thereby protecting the health of local waterways
Choose pest-resistant plant varieties
Include plants that support beneficial insects
Create a rain garden Reduces pollution that would otherwise collect in our creeks and rivers. Aids in groundwater recharge.
Use manual tools in place of power tools Reduces air and water pollutants that result from the use of power tools
Create diversity by choosing California native plants first A diverse landscape better resists disease and insect pests. Natives flourish with less water, fertilizer, and maintenance, and foster local wildlife
Reduce/eliminate the use of pesticides and herbicides Beneficial organisms are not harmed, allowing them to keep pests under control.
Provide water & shelter Water and shelter support wildlife and add interesting elements to the landscape.