Posts

Jeff Moore rakes the zen garden included in his back yard landscape plot plan. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

Plan For Success: Create A Plot Plan

Any WaterSmart landscape makeover starts with observing and recording your property as it exists today. Think of it as a bird’s eye view or satellite map showing your property’s boundaries and physical features. This becomes the basis of all your planning.

You need a few basic tools to draw your own plot plan. They include a tape measure for accurate measurements, a ruler to measure and draw straight lines, a clipboard, a pencil, and paper, preferably one-quarter inch grid graph paper.

Steps to create a basic plot plan

Even if you don’t plan to install the whole project at one time, you should create a complete master plan for your landscape so the outcome is unified, including a WaterSmart planting and irrigation design. Graphic: San Diego County Water Authority Six Steps to WaterSmart

Even if you don’t plan to install the whole project at once, you should create a complete master plan for your landscape, so the outcome is unified, including a WaterSmart planting and irrigation design. Graphic: San Diego County Water Authority

  1. Start at the corner of your property.
  2. Measure across to the edge of your drive or sidewalk to your property line. Say, for example, the distance from the corner of your lot to the driveway is 28 feet 8 inches. Using the scale one-quarter inch = one foot, you would use 28 and a half squares for the space on your graph paper.
  3. Next, measure the depth of your property to the sidewalk or curb. Use this approach to locate property lines, walkways, trees, driveways, easements, and your home.
  4. Measure and mark any existing hardscape or landscape you want to save, such as walkways, mature trees, and shrubs.
  5. Use a ruler to draw your shapes and keep your scale accurate.
  6. Take note of natural drainage features. Preserving these and limiting the use of impermeable surfaces in your landscape will minimize runoff and maximize site water infiltration.
  7. Add compass directions to understand the sun’s shade effects as it moves across your yard. South-facing exposures are sunny and hot, while north-facing exposures can be cool and shady.
  8. Locate views that should be preserved and areas you want hidden from view, like your neighbor’s garbage cans.
  9. Locate features on your house such as windows, doors, and other openings. Indicate their height off the ground.
  10. Locate utilities like the water meter, electrical boxes, and overhead power lines.
  11. Note any existing irrigation heads. You’ll need to know where these are later when designing your new irrigation plan.

Now you have a road map of your landscape. Your future landscaping plans start with this baseline document.

Walk in the sun

As a part of creating a plan, take time to walk around your property during different times of day. Note areas that are sunny or shady in the morning and areas that are sunny or shady in the afternoon. When you start choosing your plants, make sure to select those appropriate to your garden’s sunlight patterns.

___________________________________________________

WaterSmart Living-Logo-San Diego County Water Authority

(Editor’s Note: The San Diego County Water Authority and its 24 member agencies offer programs, resources, and incentives to improve water-use efficiency for residential, commercial, and agricultural users. WaterSmart choices are a way of life in the region. Stay WaterSmart San Diego! For more water-use efficiency resources, go to WaterSmart.SD.org.)

Before you get started on your WaterSmart landscaping makeover, there are significant decisions to make about plant and irrigation choices. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

Identify Your Landscape Target Goals

Before starting your WaterSmart landscaping makeover, there are significant decisions to make about improving your water efficiency, including plant and irrigation choices. First, determine what type of landscape will meet your needs and maximize your water savings potential.

This instructional video will help you consider your options

What to Know About Plant Choices

Why is turf the main target for saving water? Grass requires more water to keep it green than most other plants. Turf needs four times the amount of rain our region gets annually.

But saving water isn’t the only reason to get rid of your lawn. If you aren’t using your lawn as outdoor living space or a safe place for your children and animals, it’s going to waste. Consider instead an attractive type of substitute such as groundcovers or more interesting plant groups along pathways. There are many alternate choices – including limited turf.

Low to moderate water use plants

A low to moderate water use garden has some moderate water use accent plants and up to 10% high water use plants.

  • 45% low water use
  • 45% moderate water use
  • 10% high water use

Low water use plants

A low water use garden has no more than 10% high water use plants.

  • 90% low water use
  • 10% high water use

Very low water use plants

A very low water use garden has a mix of very low and low water use plants.

  • 50% very low water use
  • 50% low water use

What to Know About Irrigation Choices

Take time to learn about your possible irrigation choices. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority landscape target goals

Take time to learn about your possible irrigation choices. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

Low-efficiency irrigation

This is not a WaterSmart method.

  • Conventional spray irrigation: Conventional spray heads apply water faster than most soils can absorb it, and they produce smaller water droplets that are susceptible to wind.
  • Impact rotors: Impact rotors are one of the least efficient methods of irrigation. They are quickly being replaced by higher efficiency options.

Moderate efficiency irrigation

  • Rotating nozzles: Best suited for spaces 15 to 70 feet wide.
  • Low precipitation sprays: Best suited for areas 5 to 30 feet wide.

High-efficiency irrigation

  • Drip emitters and inline emitters: Drip irrigation is the most efficient way to water perennials, shrubs, trees, and new turf. Drip systems apply water slowly so runoff is not an issue. You can leave the water on long enough to reach the deep roots of shrubs and trees.
  • Pressure-compensating inline drip: Best for low-maintenance.
  • Pressure-compensating point source drip: efficient distribution when properly maintained.
  • Bubblers: Best suited for trees and large shrubs.
  • Micro-spray: Best suited for tree and shrub areas of smaller size.

Whether you want to create space for entertaining, limit landscape maintenance or maintain some turf for children and pets, you can reach your water-saving goals and create an outdoor space to live in.

_____________________________________________________________________

WaterSmart Living-Logo-San Diego County Water Authority

(Editor’s Note: The San Diego County Water Authority and its 24 member agencies offer programs, resources, and incentives to improve water-use efficiency for residential, commercial, and agricultural users. WaterSmart Living is a way of life in the region. Stay WaterSmart San Diego! For more water-use efficiency resources, go to WaterSmart.SD.org.)

WaterSmart landscapes are attractive and in balance with the regional environment and climate - and beautiful, too. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority step-by-step process

A Step-by-Step Process to a WaterSmart Landscape 

Using water efficiently is a way of life and an important responsibility in San Diego County’s beautiful Mediterranean climate. WaterSmart landscaping rethinks the way limited water resources can be used by making smart choices to reduce outdoor water use. But saving water is just one benefit of low-water-use landscaping.

WaterSmart landscapes are attractive and in balance with the regional environment and climate. They incorporate elements of sustainable landscaping such as healthy, living soils, climate-appropriate plants, and high-efficiency irrigation. They generate many environmental and community benefits.

Beautify Your Property: A well-designed WaterSmart landscape enhances the appearance and value of your property.

Protect Natural Resources and the Environment: WaterSmart landscapes generate many environmental and community benefits including lowering water use, reducing green waste, and preventing stormwater runoff and pollution.

Reduce Costs: WaterSmart landscaping uses less water than traditional landscaping, which can save you money on your water bill.

Reduce Maintenance: Well-designed irrigation systems and plants appropriate to San Diego County’s climate often require less-frequent care and maintenance.

Learn more about the reasons WaterSmart landscaping is vital in San Diego County.

Adding outdoor living space adds value

Consider the value of having a garden to live in as well as look at by creating outdoor rooms for your favorite activities. Adding outdoor living space makes even the smallest home feel open.

Homeowners can explore many options for showstopping front yards. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

Homeowners can explore many options for show-stopping front yards. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

The front yard is making a comeback across the country in developments focused on sustainable living. Most San Diego County homes have a garage out front, but we can redesign our front yards to be the new American front porch, where we connect with neighbors and create the kind of street we always wanted to live on.

Restoring regional authenticity is a significant design trend. Authentic also means sustainable. Plants native to Mediterranean climate zones thrive and preserve biodiversity while reducing costly and time-consuming maintenance.

The WaterSmart Landscape Makeover Program is an award-winning educational program developed in 2012 by the San Diego County Water Authority, its member agencies, and local community college experts. The program’s step-by-step process empowers homeowners with the skills and knowledge necessary to convert a turf area into a WaterSmart landscape.

Gardening is an activity, like painting, cooking or golf, where you never stop learning. Take a trial-and-error approach and learn what works for you.

_____________________________________________________________________

WaterSmart Living-Logo-San Diego County Water Authority

(Editor’s Note: The San Diego County Water Authority and its 24 member agencies offer programs, resources, and incentives to improve water-use efficiency for residential, commercial, and agricultural users. WaterSmart Living is a way of life in the region. Stay WaterSmart San Diego! For more water-use efficiency resources, go to WaterSmart.SD.org.)

Make the Most of Rainfall

On the rare and welcome occasions when San Diego County gets rainfall, the water runoff from hard surfaces around the home such as roofs and patios should be re-directed to your 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.

Capture Rain-Drought-Rain Barrels-Rebates

Make the Most of Rainfall

On the rare and welcome occasions when San Diego County gets rainfall, the water runoff from hard surfaces around the home such as roofs and patios should be re-directed to your 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.

Approach your landscaping as a living sponge, holding water until it is needed. If more rain falls than can be absorbed, or if the soil is particularly impermeable, rainwater can be directed through landscaped areas to remove pollutants before it flows into storm drains and heads downstream.

Adjust for rainwater capture

Assess the areas where rainfall runs off hard surfaces to set up capturing tools. Photo: Rambold Heiner / Pixabay

Assess the areas where rainfall runs off hard surfaces to set up capturing tools. Photo: Rambold Heiner / Pixabay

Capture rainfall in three steps. First, check your roof to determine where precipitation is directed after it hits the surface.  Does it fall into rain gutters, off the edge, or elsewhere? Second, choose how and where to hold excess rainwater based on this assessment. Finally, consider making upgrades like adding rain barrels or making changes in your landscaping. For instance, landscaping soil may need amendments to hold more water.

Is your soil more like a brick?

If your soil is more like a brick as with clay soils common in San Diego County, it will affect how landscaping is contoured to capture water. Adding soil amendments will help it become more like a sponge that retains water for drier weeks and month. If the soil doesn’t drain well, take special care to avoid drowning new plants.

When choosing landscaping plants, match them to the soil type. If the soil is sandy, look for plants with “dry feet” that prefer free-draining soil, If the soil is harder clay, look for plants that do not mind heavy soil.

Optimal landscape soil can capture rainwater and allow it to soak in completely in 24 to 48 hours.

Do your part to stay WaterSmart

Many homeowners also use rain barrels to capture rainfall before it reaches the ground so it can be released during dry times.

Olivenhain Municipal Water District has partnered with the San Dieguito Water District, Santa Fe Irrigation District, and Carlsbad Municipal Water District to offer discounted rain barrels to area residents this winter.

Rain barrels ordered by January 31, 2022 will be available for pick up at Solana Center for Environmental Innovation located at 137 North El Camino Real in Encinitas.

Fifty-gallon barrels are on sale for $97, with a final cost of $62 after a $35 rebate from water wholesaler Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. Rebates on rain barrels and other water-saving measures are available at www.socalwatersmart.com.

For more information about rain barrels, and other conservation tips and rebates to create a WaterSmart home and garden, go to WaterSmartSD.org.

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

(Editor’s note: The Olivenhain Municipal Water District, the San Dieguito Water District, Santa Fe Irrigation District and the City of Carlsbad, are four of the San Diego County Water Authority’s 24 member agencies that deliver water across the metropolitan San Diego region.)

Every drop of water is precious. Maximizing irrigation efficiency goes a long way toward conserving our water resources. Photo: Ju Irun / Pixabay

Boost Your Irrigation IQ

To support and protect your investment in waterwise landscaping, you need to have a strong irrigation IQ and understand the basics. You’ll be able to best maintain and maximize your system’s efficiency, which is vitally important during times of drought in the San Diego region.

Conventional irrigation systems can be inefficient

Letting sprinklers run to excess is an example of a poorly performing irrigation system due to bad design, inadequate maintenance, and improper management and it's unacceptable. Photo: Wolfgang Bantz irrigation IQ

Letting sprinklers run to excess is an example of a poorly performing irrigation system due to bad design, inadequate maintenance, and improper management and it’s unacceptable. Photo: Wolfgang Bantz

Well-designed and operated systems can reliably deliver the necessary water to sustain your landscaping without waste or excess. Poorly performing systems can suffer due to bad design, inadequate maintenance, and improper management.

A shutoff valve (ball valve) can be manually operated to cut off the water supply in the event of a leak, a malfunction, or a major repair.

The anti-siphon valve, when activated by an irrigation controller, delivers water through a PVC pipe lateral irrigation line, ultimately reaching the sprinkler head, which applies the water to your landscaping.

Intelligent irrigation systems operate efficiently

Efficient irrigation components are designed to operate at lower pressure levels, as specified by each product manufacturer. Devices are more likely to fail under excess pressure, and damage can occur.

A pressure regulator will eliminate excess pressure.

A submeter can be installed where the irrigation system tees off the mainline to the house. It is a recommended option for large properties to keep track of the actual volume of water being applied to the landscape. Single-family homes typically have a single mixed-use meter which doesn’t distinguish between indoor and outdoor water use. An alternative is to install a flow sensor working in tandem with a smart controller.

Low-volume irrigation devices like rotary nozzles and micro or drip irrigation are designed to deliver water to the landscape at a slower rate. This better approximates the infiltration rate of the soil and reduces runoff.

Smart controllers will automatically adjust irrigation schedules in response to changing weather conditions. They come in two varieties. ET controllers monitor weather conditions. Soil moisture-based controllers directly sample the moisture in the ground. These devices also have features like “cycle and soak functions that can help eliminate runoff. When selecting a controller, look for brands with the EPA WaterSense ® label.

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

Irrigation-Conservation Corner-drought-Water Conservation

Choosing Your Best Irrigation Method: Spray or Drip

Your choices in irrigation methods come down to spray or drip systems. Spray irrigation emits water in an overlapping pattern. Drip irrigation delivers water directly to the roots of plants. This question is more important than ever during a drought cycle. How do you decide which meets the needs of your landscaping?

The case for spray irrigation

Ensuring that spray heads are properly tuned and far enough away from buildings or impermeable surfaces helps maximize your water efficiency. Photo: California Department of Water Resources

Ensuring that spray heads are properly tuned and far enough away from buildings or impermeable surfaces helps maximize your water efficiency. Photo: California Department of Water Resources

Spray irrigation can be an efficient way to irrigate large landscapes with groundcover or uniform plant materials like lawns or meadows.

Spray systems apply water in gallons per minute, so if you know the application rate of each spray head, the distance between the heads, and the pressure of your system, it is relatively easy to figure out how much water is applied every time you run your irrigation.

Low volume spray heads apply water at about one-third the rate of conventional spray heads. Newer spray irrigation heads have improved spray with heavier droplets more resistant to wind. Landscaping with grade changes using spray heads should have check valves installed to prevent water flowing out of the lower point heads.

Challenges of spray irrigation include narrow areas surrounded by hardscape or irregular patterns. Irregular patterns are particularly challenging because spray irrigation requires head-to-head coverage to be efficient. Odd-shaped areas may be under or overwatered. High-volume spray heads that emit water at a much higher rate than the soil can absorb should be replaced.

The case for drip irrigation

Drip systems apply water in gallons per hour, so they often need to run for longer periods of time than spray systems. But the actual run time must always account for precipitation rate and runoff.

Installation of subsurface systems (under at least two inches of mulch) is the most efficient way to irrigate nearly every type of garden area. Since the tubing is flexible, it can accommodate a variety of irregularly shaped areas or rectangular areas when laid in a grid pattern, and in rings you can easily expand as trees or shrubs grow.

Challenges of drip irrigation include the application of water too quickly for your soil to absorb. This needs to be considered when dripline grids are installed. Drip irrigation operates the most efficiently at low pressure (between 15 and 30 PSI). To achieve optimal performance, pressure regulation either at the valve or at the point of connection of the dripline to the buried lateral lines must be used. It is also essential to install some type of filtering system to keep the emitters from getting clogged.

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

Give Your Irrigation System a Fall Checkup

Staying on top of your irrigation system – especially in the midst of a drought – can mean the difference between maximizing your water efficiency and unknowingly wasting water running down sidewalks unused into the storm drain. Follow these tips for a thorough checkup.

Inspect your sprinkler heads regularly to make sure they are not obstructed or watering onto pavement or other hardscapes. Photo: Irrigation Association

Give Your Irrigation System a Fall Checkup

Staying on top of your irrigation system – especially in the midst of a drought – can mean the difference between maximizing your water efficiency and unknowingly wasting water running down sidewalks unused into the storm drain. Follow these tips for a thorough checkup.

Turn on each valve of your irrigation system and observe how quickly water begins to run off your landscaping. Note the time when each runoff occurs. For some systems, this could be immediate. For others, it may take as long as five minutes.

Make sure spray irrigation is never running for longer than eight minutes at any one time.

Take notes on your irrigation plan, and turn off your irrigation until you can fix the following issues:

  • Do you have broken sprinkler heads?
  • Are there heads that are blocked by plants or objects such as planters or lights?
  • When the system turns off, does water come out of the lowest heads in the landscape?
  • Are any heads in need of adjustment, so they don’t directly spay onto the hardscape, such as sidewalks or patios?

Adjust your sprinklers to eliminate runoff

Don't allow your spriinklers to overspray your landscaping and waste water. Photo: Wikimedia irrigation tips

Don’t allow your sprinklers to overspray your landscaping and waste water. Photo: Wikimedia

Several things can be done to minimize runoff due to irrigation. This is among the most important factors in using irrigation efficiently.

  • Tune up spray irrigation systems, so there is no overspray on hard surfaces
  • Do not install spray irrigation in areas that are too narrow (generally eight feet wide or narrower)
  • Move spray heads 24 inches away from buildings or impermeable surfaces
  • Convent spray systems to micro or drip irrigation with pressure regulation and a filter
  • In lawn areas, be sure to follow the organic maintenance practices to keep your soil ‘spongy’ (link to soil post)
  • Replace standard overhead sprayers with high-efficiency rotator nozzles, or other types of low precipitation rate nozzles

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

Borrow Tree Watering Tips from Mother Nature

As drought continues to affect California, homeowners must balance two needs: preserving landscaping with irrigation while doing so as efficiently as possible to conserve water.

Even when not in a drought, trees planted in a Mediterranean climate often need additional water. For the most effective irrigation, mimic the way Mother Nature provides water.