Posts

California City Finds a Creative Way to Conserve Water

This past summer, as California faced a historic drought, reservoirs used by the small city of Healdsburg dropped to record lows.

“It puts us in a situation where we just simply don’t have enough water to go about our normal daily practices,” says Terry Crowley, the city’s utility director.

He says to conserve water, Healdsburg needed to slash consumption by 40%. City officials limited household use and banned watering ornamental lawns.

Burbank Places Restrictions On Landscape Water Use as Drought Worsens

In the seven years Simon Hammel has lived in his Burbank home, he says he’s replaced at least 60% of the grass that used to be there.

It’s now primarily mulch, drought-tolerant plants and fruit and veggie trees. Hammel is trying his best to do as much as he can to conserve water and live eco-friendly.

SoCal Has Water Reserves That Will Last Through This Year, Beyond

One of the keys to solving the effects of severe drought in California by keeping the water supply high is drought-tolerant landscaping.

Jerry Kohn, CEO of Edify Landscape Design, said it makes all the difference in conserving water compared to grass yards.

Drought: Big Bay Area Water Agencies Ask – But Don’t Yet Require – Public to Conserve More Water

After back-to-back dry winters, two of the Bay Area’s biggest water agencies on Tuesday moved forward with plans to urge the public to reduce water use to avoid shortages this year. But for now, they are using a carrot rather than a stick, saying they have enough water to get by without resorting to fines, water cops and strict rules.

The Santa Clara Valley Water District, based in San Jose, voted Tuesday night to double the amount of money it pays homeowners to replace their lawns with drought-tolerant landscaping, from $1 a square foot to $2, and to expand the maximum amount it will pay per household from $2,000 to $3,000 under the conservation program.

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

Five Firefighting Plants Worth Adding to Your Landscaping

As spring temperatures rise, San Diego County residents know wildfire season is not far behind. Although wildfire is a serious threat during warm, dry summer and fall months, wildfire can strike year-round especially in wildland interface areas. Regional landscaping must follow fire safe guidelines in design, plant selection and consistent maintenance.

Protecting your home with firefighting plants

Diagram from CAL FIRE illustrating the three zones for defensible space. Illustration: CAL FIRE

Plan your landscaping using three different zones

Zone 1: Landscapes should resist ignition and provide 35 feet of actively maintained defensible space around structures and access areas through smart design elements and plant selection. This maximizes fire prevention and allows access by fire crews to protect your property from fire if necessary.

Zone 2: Careful thinning of native vegetation for at least 65 additional feet, for a total of 100 feet of defensible space will reduce the chance of airborne embers from catching and spreading fire.

Zone 3: Some plants begin growth and start the germination process after a wildfire. Many of San Diego County’s native plant communities including chaparral can survive and recover from infrequent wildfires.

But the ability to survive is disrupted for even the most well-adapted plants when fires reoccur too frequently. Non-native, invasive plant species encourage more frequent, longer duration fires burning at a hotter intensity. It is critical to remove invasive plants in fire-prone areas.

Choose firefighting plants that resist ignition

Firesafe plants like these succulents are a smart choice for your watersmart landscape plan. Photo: City of Escondido Firefighting plants

Firesafe plants like these succulents are a smart choice for your watersmart landscape plan. Photo: City of Escondido

Some native plants can prevent airborne plant embers due to high salt or water content and low volatile oil content in their leaves. Succulents such as agaves, aloes and crassulas store extra water in their fleshy leaves guarding against drought, and they will help guard your property from wildfire.

Five exceptional firefighting plant choices include:

  • Daylily hybrids
  • Coral Aloe
  • Bush Morning Glory
  • California Sycamore trees
  • Indian Mallow

Rob wildfires of the fuel they need  

Messy, oily trees and shrubs like eucalyptus trees and junipers may flourish in Southern California, but they aren’t natives, and they provide ready fuel for wildfires. They ignite quickly, burning hot and long, releasing embers into the air which causes flames to spread.

Preventative maintenance includes removing dry grass, brush, weeds, litter, waste, and dead and dying vegetation. Trees should be regularly pruned. Shrubs should be thinned, with dead branches and leaves removed. Leave root structures intact to avoid erosion.

Dead leaves and branches are especially flammable on evergreen shrubs and vines like bougainvillea. Avoid planting these close to homes or other structures.

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.

The Nieves family of Bonita won the Sweetwater Authority's 2019 Landscape Makeover Contest for theier creative WaterSmart landscaping design. Photo: Sweetwater Authority 2021 Landscape Makeover

Enter 2021 Landscape Makeover Contest, Share Your Skills

San Diego County residents who have converted to more water-efficient landscaping can enter the 2021 WaterSmart Landscape Contest hosted by 12 regional water agencies. Entry is as simple as submitting your photos and plant information by Friday, May 14.

Eleven San Diego County Water Authority member agencies are participating, including the Helix Water District, Otay Water District, and Sweetwater Authority. See the full list on the WaterSmartSD website, along with contest rules. Winners selected by each participating agency receive a $250 grand prize to the nursery of their choice along with neighborhood bragging rights.

The coronavirus pandemic spurred interest in gardening worldwide as a safe and healthy activity, with no signs of slowing. Google Trend data shows searches for gardening rising in April 2021. A report by OnePoll in USA Today found 73% of Americans said spending more time outdoors has been therapeutic during the pandemic.

Inspire others to make watersmart changes

Lavender and daisies brighten this winning landscape design in the 2020 Landscape Contest. Photo: Helix Water District

In its 17th year, the contest highlights the benefits and beauty of water-efficient landscaping. It allows homeowners to share ideas and inspiration with other San Diego County residents.

Water-efficient landscape designs can be among the most effective ways to reduce overall water use. Fresh landscaping can also improve the appearance and the value of a home.

“If you have a new water-efficient landscape, we would love to hear your story,” said Vince Dambrose, with the Helix Water District. “The WaterSmart Landscape Contest is a great opportunity to get outside, share your landscape, and inspire others to make changes in their yards, too.”

Entries are judged for overall attractiveness, design, plant selection, efficient irrigation, and appropriate maintenance.

The beautiful, wheelchair accessible garden inspired by Patricia Wood's daughter Kimberly is the 2020 Otay Water District Landscape Contest winner. Photo: Otay Water District 2021 Landscape Makeover

The beautiful, wheelchair-accessible garden inspired by Patricia Wood’s daughter Kimberly is the 2020 Otay Water District Landscape Contest winner. Photo: Otay Water District

After a decade of struggling with a thirsty, high-maintenance lawn, Otay Water District’s 2020 Landscape Contest winner Patricia Wood of El Cajon transformed her 3,850 square foot year into a beautiful and wheelchair accessible design with her daughter Kimberly in mind. She also decreased her water use decreased by an average of 27% overall.

“We are excited to launch the WaterSmart Landscape Contest this year,” said Eileen Salmeron with the Otay Water District. “Due to the pandemic, many of our customers have spent more time than usual working on their landscapes. For this year’s competition, we especially look forward to seeing how they’ve enhanced the curb appeal of their water-efficient gardens.”

A diverse palette of colorful succulents, cacti, and California native plants add to the winning design. Photo: Sweetwater Authority 2021 Landscape Makeover

A diverse palette of colorful succulents, cacti, and California native plants add to the winning design. Photo: Sweetwater Authority

When Efren and Ily Niervas moved to their Bonita home in 2017, they realized the cost of watering their yard with a large lawn and assorted shrubs was too high. They decided to change their landscape and attended home improvement events and expos as part of their research.

The project paid off, as the Niervas won the 2019 Sweetwater Authority Landscape contest with their creative and playful xeriscape plan.

“In previous years, our customers have designed beautiful water-saving landscapes,” said Leslie Payne with the Sweetwater Authority. “We’re looking forward to seeing this year’s creative designs. As customers look for ways to save water and lower their water bill, making water-efficient improvements to their yard is a great way to do both.”

To enter the contest with your 2020-2021 pandemic era makeover, go to landscapecontest.com, select your participating water agency, and then apply. Entrants can use a smartphone to take five to 10 photos of their water-efficient landscaping, share the reason behind the makeover, list the types of plants used and some of the benefits as a result. Water agencies encourage homeowners to submit before and after photos. The 2021 Landscape Makeover Contest deadline is Friday, May 14.

Knowing how to classify your plants by water use characteristics will help you plan your sustainable landscaping. Photo: Water Authority plant factor

Know Your Plant Factor Water Requirements

Landscaping plants have different water needs. The water requirement of each plant in your landscaping can be determined by gathering information about the plant and then comparing it to the amount of water needed by the cool-season grass growing in your climate zone.

Take a tip from landscaping professionals. They use a resource called the Water Use Classification of Landscape Species to classify plants according to their water requirements, called Plant Factors.

These water requirements divide plant species into four categories: Very Low, Low, Moderate, and High.

When you are selecting plants for your landscaping, use the classification to choose low water use plants for your landscaping. You can also use it to group a handful of higher water use plants together if you want to indulge in a few favorites.

When you have decided on your plant palette and placement, you can now figure out the water use of your entire landscape area. This will help you plan out your artificial irrigation.

Factor in watering requirements

Determine water use before choosing plants for your new sustainable landscaping. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

Watering needs for landscape plants use a measuring stick based on cool-season turf. It’s because cool-season turf is extremely thirsty.

When you replace turf areas with climate-appropriate plants that use less water and irrigate them with more efficient systems, you can conserve a tremendous amount of water. You don’t need to turn your landscaping into a dry and dusty area to do it.

High Plant Factor: Plants needing 60 to 100 percent of the water needed for a grass lawn (PF of 0.6 – 1.)

Moderate Plant Factor: Plants needing 30 to 60 percent of the water needed for a grass lawn (PF of 0.3 – 0.6)

Low Plant Factor: Plants needing 10 to 30 percent of the water needed for a grass lawn (PF of 0.1 – 0.3)

Very Low Plant Factor: Plants needing 10 percent or less of the water needed for a grass lawn (PF of less than 0.1)

Irrigate More Efficiently By Grouping Plants

According to the San Diego County Water Authority’s Sustainable Landscaping guidebook, plant selections are colored-coded to identify their water needs under this system. It gives you an easy way to group plants by their water requirements in your new landscaping, so you can irrigate them more efficiently.

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.

Accessible Garden Wins Otay Water District WaterSmart Landscape Contest

El Cajon resident Patricia Wood, inspired by her daughter Kimberly, transformed a thirsty lawn into a wheelchair accessible garden, winning “Best in District” in the Otay Water District 2020 WaterSmart Landscape Contest.

Bright Ideas Bring Padre Dam MWD Landscape Contest Winner to Life

Santee homeowners removed grass, replaced the turf with a colorful, WaterSmart landscape, and won a landscape makeover contest too.

Melissa and Josh Perrell’s new landscaping at their Santee home is bursting with bright colors. Vibrant pink, orange, purple and red succulents are interspersed among lush rosemary and lavender bushes. Even more impressive, it didn’t take a single drop of irrigation over the past year to keep it thriving. The Perrells makeover project was selected by Padre Dam Municipal Water District as its 2020 Landscape Makeover Contest winner.

Vibrant pink, orange, purple and red succulents are interspersed among lush rosemary and lavender bushes in this award-winning landscape makeover in Santee. Photo: Padre Dam MWD

Bright Ideas Bring Padre Dam MWD Landscape Contest Winner to Life

Santee homeowners removed grass, replaced the turf with a colorful, WaterSmart landscape, and won a landscape makeover contest too.

Melissa and Josh Perrell’s new landscaping at their Santee home is bursting with bright colors. Vibrant pink, orange, purple and red succulents are interspersed among lush rosemary and lavender bushes. Even more impressive, it didn’t take a single drop of irrigation over the past year to keep it thriving.

The Perrells makeover project was selected by Padre Dam Municipal Water District as its 2020 Landscape Makeover Contest winner.

The Perrells landscaping prior to its makeover. Photo: Padre Dam MWD landscape

The Perrells landscaping prior to its makeover. Photo: Padre Dam Municipal Water District

The Perrells decided to remove their lawn about two years ago. They wanted a low-water option that would look healthy year-round and require little maintenance. They were tired of spending time mowing it and using large amounts of water to keep the grass alive only to see it get brown during summer months.

The couple learned about the Turf Replacement Rebate Program and applied for the program. To remain within the budget provided, they decided to tackle the installation themselves. This gave them the opportunity to design their own landscape, support local businesses, and choose their own plants. The rebate is now up to $3 per square foot.

The Perrells chose easy care plants they would not have to prune or maintain. Photo: Padre Dam MWD landscape

The Perrells chose easy care plants they would not have to prune or maintain. Photo: Padre Dam Municipal Water District

“We chose plants that were hardy so we wouldn’t need to replace them or do too much maintenance,” said Melissa Perrell. “We also incorporated rosemary and lavender because we think it’s neat to be able to cook with and use the plants that you have.”

One week to a beautiful new watersmart landscape

The project took one year from start to finish. Photo: Padre Dam MWD

The project took one year from start to finish. Photo: Padre Dam Municipal Water District

After planning and designing their dream front yard, the Perrells spent four days removing their turf, installing rocks, installing irrigation, planting, and laying mulch.

They used a local nursery to select plants that fit their style and budget. By working straight through the process, their landscape completely transformed in less than a week. Their DIY cost-saving approach meant that they were reimbursed for 100% of the cost of their new front yard through the rebate program.

The Perrells enjoy compliments from Santee neighbors on their new landscape design. Photo: Padre Dam Municipal Water District

Melissa Perrell loves the low-maintenance needed to keep the new landscape looking its best with no pruning or trimming, and the different heights and colors of the plants. While they have a drip irrigation system in place, the Perrells were able to turn it off and let their landscape be completely watered naturally last year. They recently turned the system on again as the weather began to heat up at the end of June.

“It’s cool that it was something we were able to do together,” said Melissa Perrell. “It’s fun because our neighbors watched us put it in and now when we see them they say ‘Your yard’s looking really nice!'” Read more