With the likelihood of a drought year ahead, a multitude of gardening questions and worries loom over us. Some, such as whether or not to remove a lawn, have sensible answers for most of us. Every year, a good-looking lawn requires far more water than many other plants or even a swimming pool.

But other dilemmas aren't so obvious. We may have to make difficult choices about which shrubs and perennials to save and which to remove based on their water consumption.

Gardens with established California natives and other Mediterranean-climate species are well ahead of the game and should survive with minimal irrigation. But in gardens where such plants just went in the ground this past fall in anticipation of winter rains, irrigation over the next few months in absence of rain will be critical in helping them develop a strong enough root system to survive drought.

Exotic species that demand moderate to heavy or constant moisture may not survive if our rains fail to bring the moisture to which we've grown accustomed.

Rosemary McCreary, a Sonoma County gardener, gardening teacher and author, writes the monthly Homegrown column for The Press Democrat. Write to her at P.O. Box 910, Santa Rosa95402; or send a fax to 664-9476.