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Match Your Climate Zone to Your Landscaping Plan

Making smart decisions about your landscape design and your plant choices relies in large part on your climate zone. San Diego County’s six different climate zones vary in their average conditions. By choosing wisely, you can minimize the need for artificial irrigation and still create a beautiful, sustainable landscape. The California Irrigation Management Information System divides San Diego County into these six climate zones: Coastal, Coastal Inland, Upland Central, Transition, Mountain, and Desert.

Sustainable Gardeners, Get Into Your Climate Zone

People around the world know San Diego for its beautiful, sunny, and mild weather. San Diego residents know our daily weather has more variety than visitors might imagine.

Climate is defined as the average weather conditions in an area over a long period, generally 30 years or more. German climate scientist Wladimir Koppen first divided the world’s climate into six regions in the early 1900s.

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 climate zone

Sustainable Gardeners, Get Into Your Climate Zone

People around the world know San Diego for its beautiful, sunny, and mild weather. San Diego residents know our daily weather has more variety than visitors might imagine.

Climate is defined as the average weather conditions in an area over a long period, generally 30 years or more. German climate scientist Wladimir Koppen first divided the world’s climate into six regions in the early 1900s.

Since then, U.S. climate zones have been defined in more detail. The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines climate zones according to the lowest average temperature in the region. You may also be familiar with the 24 climate zones identified in Sunset Magazine’s iconic Sunset Western Garden Book. The book is now out of print, but is available online as an interactive edition. Existing print copies from the last edition printed in 2012 are prized heirlooms.

Devoted gardeners still follow the 24 climate zones featured in the guide. This is based on the California Irrigation Management Information System (CIMIS) adoption of a similar map identifying 24 climate zones.

San Diego County's geography falls within six of the 24 CIMIS climate zones. Photo: CIMIS match your climate zone

San Diego County’s geography falls within six of the 24 CIMIS climate zones. Photo: CIMIS

Evaporation + Transpiration = Evapotranspiration

Depending on the amount of rainfall, temperature, humidity, wind, shade, and the nature of the soil, water in the ground evaporates at different rates. When evaporation is higher, the soil becomes dry more quickly.

Evapotranspiration (ET) is the process by which water is transferred from the land to the atmosphere by evaporation from the soil and other surfaces, and by transpiration from plants.

Reference Evapotranspiration (ETo) is a baseline formula. All your plant water needs are measured against this baseline in a complex series of measurements and calculations.

Why is understanding evapotranspiration important?

In metropolitan San Diego County, our annual ETo rate increases as you move inland, meaning the soil becomes dry more quickly.

Fortunately, we don’t need to worry about making these calculations on our own. CIMIS maintains a statewide system of weather stations and reference plots. From these, it has identified the six main ET Zones in San Diego County.

Understanding your ETo zone and gardening climate zone are important first steps toward deciding how much water your landscaping will need. Working against the ETo and gardening climate zones can greatly increase your need for irrigation.

Learn more about your ETo climate zone’s specifics and gardening microclimate on the California Irrigation Management Information System website.

 

This article is part of a year-long series inspired by the 71-page Sustainable Landscapes Program guidebook available at SustainableLandscapesSD.org. The Water Authority and its partners also offer other great resources for landscaping upgrades, including free WaterSmart classes at WaterSmartSD.org.

Follow Four Key Principles for Successful Sustainable Landscaping

Efficient water use is an important responsibility that comes along with the benefits of living in San Diego County’s beautiful Mediterranean climate.

No matter whether your landscaping is just a few square feet alongside a small front porch, or covers many acres on a luxury estate, San Diego County residents have learned to embrace sustainability as a central principle for creating or renovating their landscapes. Irrigation is among the highest uses of water for most homeowners.

Matilija poppies, or Romneya coulteri, have the largest flower of any poppy. It's native to dry, sunny areas from California to Baja and are good choiices for successful sustanable landscaping. Photo: Kimberly Rotter / Pixabay

Follow Four Key Principles for Successful Sustainable Landscaping

Efficient water use is an important responsibility that comes along with the benefits of living in San Diego County’s beautiful Mediterranean climate.

No matter whether your landscaping is just a few square feet alongside a small front porch, or covers many acres on a luxury estate, San Diego County residents have learned to embrace sustainability as a central principle for creating or renovating their landscapes. Irrigation is among the highest uses of water for most homeowners.

Treating every garden, no matter its size, as its own mini-watershed allows it to capture and retain water to nurture a diverse habitat of plants and helpful insects.

Watersmart living not only saves money, but it creates vibrant yards, reduces energy use, protects our natural resources, and reduces landscape maintenance. It may even improve property values. It also creates a shared sense of purpose about how we use our limited water supplies.

What elements do you need to consider when taking a watershed approach to your landscape?

Learn Four Key Principles of Sustainable Landscaping

The four principles of sustainable landscaping are on display at the San Diego County Water Authority's Sustainable Landscaping Demonstration Garden outside its headquarters in the Kearny Mesa area of San Diego. Photo: Water Authority

The four principles of sustainable landscaping are on display at the San Diego County Water Authority’s Sustainable Landscaping Demonstration Garden at its Kearny Mesa office in San Diego. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

The formula for successful sustainable landscaping includes four key principles:

  • Healthy, Living Soils: Healthy, living soils rich in organic content feed a complex soil food web. The soil holds water like a sponge, and has nutrients for optimal plant health.
  • Climate Appropriate Plants: Many choices of beautiful groundcovers, shrubs, and trees are compatible with San Diego’s mild Mediterranean climate. These plants use less water and display diverse colors, textures, and shaped with endless design options.
  • Rainwater as a Resource: Sustainable landscapes make the most of natural rainfall. Slowing the flow of water off rooftops and hard surfaces allow it to be captured and sink into the soil or be stored for later use.
  • High-Efficiency Irrigation: Your irrigation can maximize water-use efficiency through smart controllers to adjust water automatically to changing weather conditions, and high-performance distribution components to regulate pressure and tailor water delivery to the exact needs of your landscape plants.

The four principles of successful sustainable landscaping are on display at the San Diego County Water Authority’s Sustainable Landscaping Demonstration Garden at its Kearny Mesa office in San Diego.

The 3,000-square-foot garden can be viewed by the public. It includes informational signage introducing visitors to key sustainable landscaping principles. Specific plant types that grow successfully in the region’s climate are also identified. Many are Southern California natives.

This article is part of a year-long series inspired by the 71-page Sustainable Landscapes Program guidebook available at SustainableLandscapesSD.org. The Water Authority and its partners also offer other great resources for landscaping upgrades, including free WaterSmart classes at WaterSmartSD.org.

Match Your Climate Zone to Your Landscaping Plan

Making smart decisions about your landscape design and your plant choices relies in large part on your climate zone. San Diego County’s six different climate zones vary in their average conditions. By choosing wisely, you can minimize the need for artificial irrigation and still create a beautiful, sustainable landscape. The California Irrigation Management Information System divides San Diego County into these six climate zones: Coastal, Coastal Inland, Upland Central, Transition, Mountain, and Desert.

Sustainable Gardeners, Get Into Your Climate Zone

People around the world know San Diego for its beautiful, sunny, and mild weather. San Diego residents know our daily weather has more variety than visitors might imagine.

Climate is defined as the average weather conditions in an area over a long period, generally 30 years or more. German climate scientist Wladimir Koppen first divided the world’s climate into six regions in the early 1900s.

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 climate zone

Sustainable Gardeners, Get Into Your Climate Zone

People around the world know San Diego for its beautiful, sunny, and mild weather. San Diego residents know our daily weather has more variety than visitors might imagine.

Climate is defined as the average weather conditions in an area over a long period, generally 30 years or more. German climate scientist Wladimir Koppen first divided the world’s climate into six regions in the early 1900s.

Since then, U.S. climate zones have been defined in more detail. The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines climate zones according to the lowest average temperature in the region. You may also be familiar with the 24 climate zones identified in Sunset Magazine’s iconic Sunset Western Garden Book. The book is now out of print, but is available online as an interactive edition. Existing print copies from the last edition printed in 2012 are prized heirlooms.

Devoted gardeners still follow the 24 climate zones featured in the guide. This is based on the California Irrigation Management Information System (CIMIS) adoption of a similar map identifying 24 climate zones.

San Diego County's geography falls within six of the 24 CIMIS climate zones. Photo: CIMIS match your climate zone

San Diego County’s geography falls within six of the 24 CIMIS climate zones. Photo: CIMIS

Evaporation + Transpiration = Evapotranspiration

Depending on the amount of rainfall, temperature, humidity, wind, shade, and the nature of the soil, water in the ground evaporates at different rates. When evaporation is higher, the soil becomes dry more quickly.

Evapotranspiration (ET) is the process by which water is transferred from the land to the atmosphere by evaporation from the soil and other surfaces, and by transpiration from plants.

Reference Evapotranspiration (ETo) is a baseline formula. All your plant water needs are measured against this baseline in a complex series of measurements and calculations.

Why is understanding evapotranspiration important?

In metropolitan San Diego County, our annual ETo rate increases as you move inland, meaning the soil becomes dry more quickly.

Fortunately, we don’t need to worry about making these calculations on our own. CIMIS maintains a statewide system of weather stations and reference plots. From these, it has identified the six main ET Zones in San Diego County.

Understanding your ETo zone and gardening climate zone are important first steps toward deciding how much water your landscaping will need. Working against the ETo and gardening climate zones can greatly increase your need for irrigation.

Learn more about your ETo climate zone’s specifics and gardening microclimate on the California Irrigation Management Information System website.

 

This article is part of a year-long series inspired by the 71-page Sustainable Landscapes Program guidebook available at SustainableLandscapesSD.org. The Water Authority and its partners also offer other great resources for landscaping upgrades, including free WaterSmart classes at WaterSmartSD.org.

Follow Four Key Principles for Successful Sustainable Landscaping

Efficient water use is an important responsibility that comes along with the benefits of living in San Diego County’s beautiful Mediterranean climate.

No matter whether your landscaping is just a few square feet alongside a small front porch, or covers many acres on a luxury estate, San Diego County residents have learned to embrace sustainability as a central principle for creating or renovating their landscapes. Irrigation is among the highest uses of water for most homeowners.

Matilija poppies, or Romneya coulteri, have the largest flower of any poppy. It's native to dry, sunny areas from California to Baja and are good choiices for successful sustanable landscaping. Photo: Kimberly Rotter / Pixabay

Follow Four Key Principles for Successful Sustainable Landscaping

Efficient water use is an important responsibility that comes along with the benefits of living in San Diego County’s beautiful Mediterranean climate.

No matter whether your landscaping is just a few square feet alongside a small front porch, or covers many acres on a luxury estate, San Diego County residents have learned to embrace sustainability as a central principle for creating or renovating their landscapes. Irrigation is among the highest uses of water for most homeowners.

Treating every garden, no matter its size, as its own mini-watershed allows it to capture and retain water to nurture a diverse habitat of plants and helpful insects.

Watersmart living not only saves money, but it creates vibrant yards, reduces energy use, protects our natural resources, and reduces landscape maintenance. It may even improve property values. It also creates a shared sense of purpose about how we use our limited water supplies.

What elements do you need to consider when taking a watershed approach to your landscape?

Learn Four Key Principles of Sustainable Landscaping

The four principles of sustainable landscaping are on display at the San Diego County Water Authority's Sustainable Landscaping Demonstration Garden outside its headquarters in the Kearny Mesa area of San Diego. Photo: Water Authority

The four principles of sustainable landscaping are on display at the San Diego County Water Authority’s Sustainable Landscaping Demonstration Garden at its Kearny Mesa office in San Diego. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

The formula for successful sustainable landscaping includes four key principles:

  • Healthy, Living Soils: Healthy, living soils rich in organic content feed a complex soil food web. The soil holds water like a sponge, and has nutrients for optimal plant health.
  • Climate Appropriate Plants: Many choices of beautiful groundcovers, shrubs, and trees are compatible with San Diego’s mild Mediterranean climate. These plants use less water and display diverse colors, textures, and shaped with endless design options.
  • Rainwater as a Resource: Sustainable landscapes make the most of natural rainfall. Slowing the flow of water off rooftops and hard surfaces allow it to be captured and sink into the soil or be stored for later use.
  • High-Efficiency Irrigation: Your irrigation can maximize water-use efficiency through smart controllers to adjust water automatically to changing weather conditions, and high-performance distribution components to regulate pressure and tailor water delivery to the exact needs of your landscape plants.

The four principles of successful sustainable landscaping are on display at the San Diego County Water Authority’s Sustainable Landscaping Demonstration Garden at its Kearny Mesa office in San Diego.

The 3,000-square-foot garden can be viewed by the public. It includes informational signage introducing visitors to key sustainable landscaping principles. Specific plant types that grow successfully in the region’s climate are also identified. Many are Southern California natives.

This article is part of a year-long series inspired by the 71-page Sustainable Landscapes Program guidebook available at SustainableLandscapesSD.org. The Water Authority and its partners also offer other great resources for landscaping upgrades, including free WaterSmart classes at WaterSmartSD.org.

The Zeigler family of Vista replaced a labor intensive lawn with a beautiful pollinator friendly landscape to win the 2020 VID Landscape Makeover Contest. Photo: Vista Irrigation District

Family Project Wins Vista Irrigation District 2020 WaterSmart Landscape Contest

Two Vista homeowners received recognition from the Vista Irrigation District Board of Directors for their entries in the District’s 2020 WaterSmart Landscape Contest at its July board meeting.

The annual contest recognizes outstanding waterwise residential landscapes. Winners were selected based on the criteria of overall attractiveness, appropriate plant selection, design, appropriate maintenance, and efficient methods of irrigation.

Pollinator-friendly makeover wins ‘Best in District’ for Zeigler family

After taking a WaterSmart Landscape workshop last spring, the Zeiglers used their knowledge to transform their monotone front lawn to a colorful bloom filled garden reminiscent of their favorite European gardens. Photo: Vista Irrigation District

After taking a WaterSmart Landscape workshop last spring, the Zeiglers used their knowledge to transform their monotone front lawn to a colorful bloom filled garden reminiscent of their favorite European gardens. Photo: Vista Irrigation District

Robin and Mike Zeigler received the “Best in District” award and a $250 gift certificate.  It was important to Robin, Mike, and their daughter Kallie, to be water smart with their landscaping choices during a comprehensive landscape and irrigation upgrade.  After taking a WaterSmart Landscape workshop last spring, the Zeiglers used their knowledge to transform their monotone front lawn to a colorful bloom filled garden reminiscent of their favorite European gardens.

The Zeiglers’ landscape includes a wide array of drought-tolerant plants that provide year-round blooms that attract butterflies, birds, and bees.  Vibrant splashes of magenta and coral geraniums, bright yellow yarrow, and Russian blue sage line the flagstone walkway.  Clusters of white alyssum flowers contrast with the bright red and green hues of aeoniums, sedums, and kangaroo paws (Anigozanthos), delivering a beautiful backdrop for the river rock bed flowing through the yard.

Plant selection includes a variety of pollinator-friendly choices such as red sage, “Desert Blaze” Salvia gregii, “Margarita” Penstemon, “Hot Raspberry” butterfly bush, with Wild Dagga or Lion’s Tail (Leonotis leonurus) mixed in with traditional landscape favorites such as lantanas, geraniums, and star jasmine.  The Zeiglers have enjoyed their neighbors stopping to ask who did the landscaping and complimenting the transformation.  Robin Zeigler says she “couldn’t be happier” with the results and has already started on the backyard.

Waterwise landscaping education helps homeowner create a lush new garden

Understanding the components of a Waterwise watering system and basic landscape design elements helped give the Woodward family the confidence to follow through with their landscape makeover. Photo: Vista Irrigation District

Understanding the components of a Waterwise watering system and basic landscape design elements helped give the Woodward family the confidence to follow through with their landscape makeover. Photo: Vista Irrigation District

Beverly Woodward received an honorable mention award.  The Woodwards wanted to get rid of their front lawn which took too much time, effort, and expense to maintain.  The Woodwards took advantage of courses at the Alta Vista Botanical Gardens and rebates from the San Diego County Water Authority to transform their landscape to a lush garden that reminds them of their favorite hiking spots.  Understanding the components of a Waterwise watering system and basic landscape design elements helped give them the confidence to follow through with their landscape makeover.

“With rebates available for turf removal, now is a great time to replace your lawn with a beautiful WaterSmart landscape,” said Brent Reyes, water conservation specialist for the district.

The Woodward landscaping prior to its makeover. Photo: Vista Irrigation District

The Woodward landscaping prior to its makeover. Photo: Vista Irrigation District

The District joined other local agencies holding landscape contests this year, including the Olivenhain Municipal Water District, Otay Water District, Padre Dam Municipal Water District, Rincon del Diablo Municipal Water District, San Dieguito Water District, Sweetwater Authority, Vallecitos Water District, California American Water, and the cities of Escondido and Oceanside.

For more information about the contest and to see more examples of WaterSmart landscaping, go to: www.landscapecontest.com. Visit the district’s web site (www.vidwater.org) or call (760) 597-3107 to find out more ways to save water.

The Vista Irrigation District provides water service to more than 136,000 people in the city of Vista, and portions of San Marcos, Escondido, Oceanside, and unincorporated areas of San Diego County.

Vallecitos Water District Employee Leads By Example With WaterSmart Landscaping Makeover

Vallecitos Water District Development Services Coordinator Eileen Koonce transformed the front yard at her new home into a beautiful water-efficient design with help from the San Diego County Water Authority’s Landscape Makeover Program.

As a new homeowner, when Koonce received her first water bill, she decided to figure out a way to reduce her water bill and her water usage. She realized the thirsty lawn covering the front yard had to go.

“As an employee of the District, we are always talking to customers about how they can reduce water use in their landscape, and what better time to put that theme to use than in my own yard,” said Koonce.

Inspired by the San Diego County Water Authority's free landscape makeover classes, Vallecitos Water District employee Eileen Koonce transformed her own landscaping. Photo: Vallecitos Water District example watersmart landscaping

Vallecitos Water District Employee Leads By Example With WaterSmart Landscaping Makeover

Vallecitos Water District Development Services Coordinator Eileen Koonce transformed the front yard at her new home into a beautiful water-efficient design with help from the San Diego County Water Authority’s Landscape Makeover Program.

As a new homeowner, when Koonce received her first water bill, she decided to figure out a way to reduce her water bill and her water usage. She realized the thirsty lawn covering the front yard had to go.

“As an employee of the District, we are always talking to customers about how they can reduce water use in their landscape, and what better time to put that theme to use than in my own yard,” said Koonce.

The Vallecitos Water District was hosting the Water Authority’s WaterSmart Landscape Makeover Program at the time. After Koonce saw the great turnout, she decided she wanted to participate in the program.

Knowledgeable instructors guide participants

Homeowner Eileen Koonce discovered watersmart landscaping can be colorful and attractive. Photo: Vallecitos Water District example watersmart landscaping

Homeowner Eileen Koonce discovered watersmart landscaping can be colorful and attractive. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Koonce said she enjoyed working with the instructors.

“They bring the language down to the do-it-yourselfers,” she said. “They walk you through every part of it and if you have questions, they can help you out. You feel empowered because you can understand the process.”

Koonce tackled most of the design work herself with the help of instructors, who are licensed landscape architects. They also helped Koonce pick out the plants and choose an irrigation system.

She also applied for a turf rebate through the Metropolitan Water District’s Turf Rebate Program. Koonce said the application process was easy for her to follow, and she met all the criteria for acceptance into the program.

Video tour of Eileen Koonce’s new landscaping

New landscape a pollinators’ paradise

Koonce wanted a garden that would attract butterflies and birds, especially hummingbirds. She says her top takeaway from the WaterSmart course is how many attractive landscape options exist. Many beautiful, flowering plants do not require a lot of water.

“The WaterSmart Landscape Makeover Series is a great way to gather the skills needed to make your front yard transformation happen,” said Michelle Landis, course instructor and Registered Landscape Architect. “The WaterSmart Landscape Makeover Series also teaches the skills needed to tap into the new, local turf removal rebates. We invite you to join us for one of the sessions above to transform your front yard into money-saving, WaterSmart design.”

Koonce said she realizes a $70 per month savings on her water bill since her landscape makeover. And no longer spends time mowing a lawn.

Register now for workshops and class series

Eileen Koonce says she was able to install her own landscaping with the help she received from instructors. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Eileen Koonce says she was able to install her own landscaping with the help she received from instructors. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

The WaterSmart education program offers free three-hour workshops and a four-class landscaping makeover series. Three-hour workshops are scheduled on weeknights and Saturdays from March through October.

The four-class series is currently enrolling participants for March in Encinitas and in El Cajon. The series is also open in Oceanside and San Diego in April. Find participation requirements and register for the free series online at WaterSmartSD.org.

Set yourself up for landscaping success by building the best foundation in your soil structure. Photo: walkersalmanac/Pixabay

Take a Test to Determine Your Soil Type

If you put a shovel into the ground in San Diego County, you are likely to encounter the region’s impermeable soil structure. Impermeable soils are defined by poor infiltration areas. This means water doesn’t flow through the soil to replenish groundwater, because the soil is too dense.

Having impermeable soil also means water does not soak evenly into the ground or flow through living soil to plants in a healthy way. No matter where you plan your landscape, you should concentrate on improving your soil structure. That will help you irrigate more efficiently and cost-effectively, and your plants will receive the nutrients and water they need to flourish. It is relatively easy to improve your soil structure, but first you need to determine what kind of soil you have.

Particle size matters

The three basic types of soil are:

Clay: Soil made up of the smallest particles
Silt: Soil made up of a mixture of particle sizes
Sand: Soil made up of the largest particles

In general, sandy soils drain faster than clay soils, because there is more space between the larger particles. Soil structure also influences the quality of the soil. Lifeless, compacted, sandy soil will not absorb water, while healthy clay soil will be more sponge-like, holding and releasing water. The “best” soil – an even blend of sand, silt and clay – is called loam.

Find your soil structure by testing your soil

Some tests can be done onsite to figure out what kind of soil you have. Others might require lab analysis. Certain other conditions require specialized tests, such as soil used for food production or soil receiving a lot of storm water.

You can test your home landscaping soil yourself using a “Jar Test.” This is a fun project to do with kids or as a family.

Use this graphic as an example to compare your jar to. Aim to get the most even distribution, as shown with the loam jar. Image: Water Authority

Use this graphic as an example with which to compare your jar. Try to get the most even distribution, as shown with the loam jar. Image: San Diego County Water Authority

How to do the “Jar Test”

  • Use a one-quart glass container.
  • Add one cup of soil from the garden. You can select one area or take samples from several areas and blend them together.
  • Add three cups of distilled water.
  • Close the jar and shake it until all the soil solids are suspended in water. Put the jar on a shelf and wait 24 hours.
  • If the container is still cloudy, wait another 24 hours. After 48 hours, the soil layers should be settled on the bottom.
  • Measure the layers in proportion to each other, with the total adding up to 100%. Sand will be on the bottom, silt in the middle, and clay on top.
  • Refer to the graphic to determine your soil type, based on the proportions of sand, silt, and clay. Which jar does your home sample look most like?

Now you can work to improve your soil condition, providing the best possible foundation for your landscaping plants and the most efficient irrigation.

The San Diego County Water Authority and its partners also offer other great resources for landscaping upgrades, including free WaterSmart classes at WaterSmartSD.org.

Rocks and small boulders are both aesthetically pleasing and useful in your landscape. Photo: Otay Water District

Contour Your Landscape

When planning your landscape, look first at the terrain you’re working with. You can use the contours of your existing land – depressions and slopes – for guidance when planning your landscape grading. If your yard is flat, you’ll need to move soil and features around to create more rain-holding contour areas.

A soil percolation test can be very helpful in preparing your soil. You want to make it as much of a water-retaining sponge as possible before getting to work on rainwater capture plans.

NOTE: If you have existing hillsides, it’s best to get professional advice before grading or other significant changes. Before any digging, call Dig Alert 8-1-1 or visit digalert.org to be sure you won’t hit any underground utility lines.

Move water with gravity

Basins and swales are shallow depressions or channels no more than 24 inches deep on gently sloped or nearly flat landscapes. Basins and swales move water over short distances. With these contours, gravity will move water around to where you want it.

Small, shallow depressions work best in clay soil areas, while sandy soils may accommodate deeper depressions up to two feet. Channels can be planted or lined with rocks and small boulders to resemble natural creek beds.

Use rainwater to your advantage

By planning your landscape so that you don’t have low spots with no plants, you prevent wasting rainwater through runoff. You can also avoid fungus and rot from standing water. Plants in and around the depressions capture and sink small volumes of surface water so that all the rainwater you capture can be used.

Berms are mounds of raised soil, usually planted, that can border basins and swales or be used alone. They help contain and move water around, increasing the holding capacity of basins and swales.

Boulders can add points of interest and slow down water runoff in your landscaping. Boulders also are useful to retain small berms or the edges of swales.

The San Diego County Water Authority and its partners also offer other great resources for landscaping upgrades, including free WaterSmart classes at WaterSmartSD.org.