Conservation Corner

Tips, resources and news about water-use efficiency

Take a Soil Percolation Test

In the San Diego region, rainfall can be unreliable and insufficient to sustain landscaping without careful planning and a little help. An alternate water source, such as irrigation, may be required.   To make choices about the best, most efficient irrigation system for your landscape, it’s important to learn how well your soil drains.   How does […]

Capture as much rainfall runoff as you can and put it to use as landscape irrigation. Photo: StevePB/Creative Commons rainfall as resoure

Rainwater as a Resource for Your Landscaping

During the rainy season, runoff from hard surfaces around the home such as roofs and patios can be directed to the permeable landscaping. By capturing as much rainwater as possible in the soil, it is possible to build an ecosystem that can last through the summer months with minimal additional irrigation.   The entire built environment […]

You can't always tell by looking at your plants whether you are overwatering or underwatering. Photo: Water Authority

Does Your Landscaping Need Water?

Before adding irrigation to landscaping, make sure it’s needed. Appearances can be misleading, and cause water to be used unnecessarily.  First, use “digital” technology. Because soil may appear dry on the surface, stick your finger into the soil and see if the soil is wet beneath the surface. If the soil is moist up to […]

Maximize your landscaping soil's ability to retain and save rainfall and irrigation for drier days. Photo: D. Douk/Creative Commons

Building a Water Savings Account

Managing water wisely in a landscape is a lot like managing a bank savings account.   Approximately half of the water spent by average California homes is used outdoors, mostly for irrigation. Unfortunately, up to half of commercial and residential irrigation water is squandered by evaporation, wind, improper system design, or overwatering, according to the U.S. […]

Give new landscaping plants plenty of room to grow and thrive. Photo: Water Authority

Give New Landscape Plants Space To Grow

When choosing plants for new sustainable landscapes, it’s important to account for the height and the width of each plant species when it matures. This allows you to properly space plants in the landscape without having them feel crowded.   Proper plant placement, taking into account the mature plant’s size, also should limit the need for […]

Mirroring Native Plant Communities in Sustainable Landscaping

In nature, plants arrange themselves into communities of “friends” based on common microclimates, water and nutrient needs, and how they interact with the physical environment. Native plant communities also are based on interactions with each other and other species such as insects, birds, and other animals. Most plant communities occur repeatedly in natural landscapes under […]

Homeowners learn through the Water Authority's Landscape Transformation program that sustainable landscaping can be as lush as a lawn. Photo Water Authority turf

Tearing Out the Turf: 1 Million Square Feet Targeted for Removal

San Diego County residents have targeted more than 1 million square feet of turf grass for replacement with WaterSmart landscaping through free landscape makeover classes sponsored by the San Diego County Water Authority over the past five years. While not all the targeted turf has actually been removed, post-class surveys show that many participants end […]

Everett’s California Fuchhia is an example of a plant that doesn't like to have wet feet, meaning roots sitting in water. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Plants With Wet Feet and Dry Feet

Plants and people have similar likes and dislikes when it comes to their feet.   Of course, plants don’t literally have the kind of feet that take them on a stroll, but a plant’s roots are often referred to as “feet.” Just like most people enjoy a walk along the beach or wading in a pool […]

Your plant choices should be governed by the individual hydrozones in your landscaping. Photo: Kelly M. Grow/ California Department of Water Resources

Playing by the Hydrozone Landscaping Rules

Hydrozones are the different areas of your landscape with different irrigation needs. These needs can vary greatly in a single yard. By managing your water distribution to meet the needs of each hydrozone, you can minimize water waste and promote healthy plants. For example, plants with similar growing requirements including water needs should be planned […]

Match your plant choices to the different microclimate areas in your landscaping. A microclimate map helps you make good choices. Photo: Water Authority

Match Your Landscape Plants To Your Microclimates

A previous Conservation Corner article explained how to map the different types of microclimates present in your landscaping. This information can help homeowners effectively arrange plants in their sustainable landscapes. For the most efficient water use, plants should be grouped together with similar water needs in their favorite microclimate.   In nature, plants that like lots […]

Different areas of your landscaping are affected by shade, moisture, and temperature, creating a variety of microclimates. Photo: Water Authority

Map Your Microclimates

Every garden has areas where plants flourish, and other areas where plants struggle. Structures, walls, fences and other plants can affect the amount of sun and shade in a garden. Every garden is completely different, even if it is located in the same general climate zone.  There may be hills and hollows in your front […]

Encourage pollinators to visit your sustainable landscaping with plants that attract bees, butterflies, and others. Photo: Flickr/Creative Commons

Planting for Pollinators

Plants and insects need each other to survive. Nature provides checks and balances in a garden. You can attract insects and creatures that help maintain the healthy balance of a garden without pesticides.   Flowering plants rely on insects for pollination, and thus reproduction. In turn plants feed and house insects. Some bugs eat too much, […]

Fruit trees, especially citrus, thrive in San Diego County’s climates with just a little bit of care. The Pineapple Guava (Acca sellowiana) is a good choice with spectacular blooms. Photo: WIkimedia/Creative Commons License Edible Plants

Incredible Edibles In Your Sustainable Landscaping

You don’t have to be a farmer to enjoy edible plants in your sustainable landscaping. Many native plants and herbs have fruit and leaves you can harvest. They can be mixed into any climate-appropriate planting design. Organic growing methods including sheet mulching (as explained in an earlier post) and integrated pest management ensure the health […]

The Desert Museum Palo Verde tree is an ideal low water use choice for Southern California landscaping. Photo: Danielle Bardgette/Creative Commons-Flickr trees

More Trees, Please

Planting trees improves water quality by reducing runoff and soil erosion. It’s also good for the wallet. Healthy, mature trees can add an average of 10 percent to a property’s overall value.  Trees properly placed around buildings can reduce air conditioning needs by 30 percent, and can save 20 to 50 percent of the energy […]

Hold Onto Your Hillsides and Slopes

Many San Diego County residents live near canyons, which are valuable natural resources. Native canyon hillsides should be not be disturbed.   When planting in previously disturbed or built slopes and hillsides, low-water plants, trees, deep-rooted native plant species, and climate-appropriate plants with strong root structures should be selected. Their powerful root systems can help hold […]