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Free, Drought-Tolerant Plants Available to FPUD Customers

The Fallbrook Public Utility District is now accepting applications for customers to receive free, drought-tolerant succulents. Approved applicants will receive the plants, free of charge, to transform their landscape and save water.

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Sustainable Landscaping Project Checklist for Success

When you’re beginning a sustainable landscaping project, it can be challenging to remember all the things you need to research, measure, and decide along the way. But it’s not a good idea to overlook these details. They all contribute to the success of your new sustainable landscaping project.

WaterSmart San Diego’s Sustainable Landscaping Guide has a helpful Project Checklist to help guide your effort, allows you to stay on track, and make good decisions to achieve your goals.

This beautiful landscape makeover winner from the 2021 Otay Water District content can help guide your own efforts. Photo: Otay Water District checklist for success

This beautiful landscape makeover winner from the 2021 Otay Water District content can help guide your own efforts. Photo: Otay Water District

Important considerations for a successful landscape makeover include:

Taking the steps you need to prepare your property.

Making all your plans before you start digging.

Choosing your plant palate and creating your plant design.

Beginning your project installation including your new plants.

Updating and adjusting your new irrigation system

Establishing and stewarding your new landscaping.

And most of all, taking time to admire and enjoy your new yard. You’ve worked hard to accomplish your goals and should celebrate your success.

Instructional videos on demand are available on the WaterSmartSD website. The example below explains how to shape your space.

Many home landscapers also return for refresher sessions by returning to WaterSmart Landscape Makeover classes. You can also consult local gardening organizations for help, or visit the Water Conservation Garden in El Cajon for inspiration, like many of the winners in annual regional landscape makeover contests.

The Water Conservation Garden in Rancho San Diego can help provide inspiration and advice for your landscaping plans. Photo: Water Conservation Garden checklist for success

The Water Conservation Garden in El Cajon can help provide inspiration and advice for your landscaping plans. Photo: Water Conservation Garden

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. 

 

Trio of Waterwise Landscapes Win Vista 2021 Contest

Three homeowners in the Vista Irrigation District won recognition recently from the VID board of directors in its 2021 WaterSmart Landscape Contest.

The annual contest recognizes outstanding water-wise residential landscapes based on overall attractiveness, appropriate plant selection, design, appropriate maintenance, and efficient irrigation methods.

El Cajon homeowner-Otay Water District-2021 Landscape Makeover Contest

El Cajon Homeowner Wins Otay Water District’s 2021 WaterSmart Landscape Contest

El Cajon homeowner Christine Laframboise’s water-saving landscape design trading turf for a less thirsty approach was named the Otay Water District’s 2021 WaterSmart Landscape Contest winner.

The annual contest is held by water agencies throughout San Diego County to award one resident from their respective service area for their water-saving landscape. Otay selected Laframboise for her well-thought-out design, plant selection, maintenance, and methods for efficient irrigation.

Christine Laframboise greatly reduced her water use and costs removing the old lawn. Pboto: Otay Water District El Cajon homeowner

Christine Laframboise greatly reduced her water use and costs by removing the old lawn. Photo: Otay Water District

El Cajon homeowner saves water

“We are proud to have customers like Christine who are committed to outdoor water-use efficiency and can demonstrate the many attractive features that homeowners can incorporate into their WaterSmart landscapes, especially at a time when California is facing drought conditions,” said Otay Board President Tim Smith. “We encourage customers to take advantage of our free resources and rebates to help with their landscaping needs.”

The new landscaping eplaced turf with waterwise plants. Photo: Otay Water District El Cajon homeowner

The new landscaping replaced turf with waterwise plants. Photo: Otay Water District

Tearing out thirsty turf

Thirsty lawn once covered Laframboise’s 1,895-square-foot front yard. Its upkeep required large amounts of water. In 2014, she took landscaping classes presented by the San Diego County Water Authority’s WaterSmart Landscape Makeover Program.

The new landscape now includes a drip-irrigation system, rotating nozzles, and a smart irrigation controller to schedule efficient water use. Photo: Otay Water District

The new landscape now includes a drip-irrigation system, rotating nozzles, and a smart irrigation controller to schedule efficient water use. Photo: Otay Water District

Equipped with a new landscape plan, Laframboise enlisted the help of her husband and son to remove all the grass responsibly. She installed water-wise features such as mulch, stone, and low-water-use plants.

Her landscape now includes a drip-irrigation system, rotating nozzles, and a smart irrigation controller to schedule efficient water use. The El Cajon homeowner decreased her overall water use by an average of 42%. She waters only two or three times a week and especially enjoys the pollinators attracted to her new yard. She can maintain it on her own and no longer needs a lawnmower.

Laframboise’s project qualified for a $2,140 rebate from the Water Authority’s WaterSmart Turf Replacement Program.

Landscaping project continues to evolve

The new landscaping continues to evolve with new features. Photo: Otay Water District El Cajon homeowner

The new landscaping continues to evolve with new features. Photo: Otay Water District

“My yard evolves as I learn more about different plants and where I live locally. I recently replaced dyed wood chips for shredded redwood bark. It is safer for pets, children, and wildlife,” said Laframboise. “I also plan to add more natives to attract more wildlife and further reduce my water use.”

The Otay Water District Board of Directors recognized Laframboise at its July 7 meeting with a certificate, a gift certificate to a local nursery of her choice, an “Award-Winner” yard sign to display, and other promotional items.

(Editor’s note: The Otay Water District is one of the San Diego County Water Authority’s 24 member agencies that deliver water across the metropolitan San Diego region.)

Microclimate Matching in Your Landscaping Plan

Earlier in our Conservation Corner series, we described how to map the different types of microclimates present in your landscaping. Using this information helps homeowners arrange plants in a new sustainable landscape. For the most efficient water use, plants should be grouped together with similar water needs according to their preferred microclimate.

In nature, plants that like lots of water are found along the banks of a stream, or grouped together at the base of a depression. Plants that need fast-draining soils so roots don’t rot might be found on hillsides. Plants that love lots of sunshine won’t grow in the shade of a tree.

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

Choose your landscape plants carefully to reduce your water use. watering your plants

One Simple Key to Watering Your Plants

When you’re replacing your landscaping with an eye to conserving water, it’s important to understand how much water plants really need. A quick, simple way landscape experts do this is a method the home landscaper can use, too.

Evapotranspiration (ET) is the process of assessing various factors to determine how much water plants use, and when they need it. ET explains and incorporates important environmental conditions such as solar radiation (sunshine) or cloud cover. The stronger the sun’s rays, the higher the ET.

Plant leaves work a lot like mini solar panels. Leaves gather energy plants use to transform water and carbon dioxide from the air into oxygen and sugars for growing.

Transpiration of moisture through leaves is similar to perspiration. It cools down the leaves. Water also evaporates from the soil itself around plants. The combined water loss from the plants and the soil together makes up evapotranspiration.

Understanding water loss in terms of ET helps you select the right plants for your sustainable landscaping by assessing your overall landscape water requirements, planning irrigation, and managing the Soil Moisture Account.

Drought Tolerant Plants Share Four Common Qualities

Plants with silver, leather-like leaves like this Agave are extremely water efficient. Photo: Charlie Neuman watering your plants

Plants with silver, leather-like leaves like this Agave are extremely water efficient. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

Do you need help identifying climate-appropriate plant choices for your new sustainable landscaping? Look for these four characteristics shared by drought-tolerant plants.

Stiff, Leathery Leaves: These leaves hold and store water, and stay evergreen most of the year.

Silver or Hairy Leaves: Light-colored leaves reflect sunlight to cool the plant. Hairy leaves hold moisture longer, and also protect the plant from hot direct sun.

Tiny Leaves: Tiny leaves are tiny solar panels. Lots of tiny leaves are easier to keep cool than a single larger leaf because there is more surface area to receive energy and use evaporation to cool down.

Solar Tracking Leaves: Some plant leaves are sun worshipers. They will turn toward the sun’s path throughout the day. As the day progresses, you will see the leaves more horizontally oriented. The plant is shifting its solar panel leaves to minimize sun exposure. Many California native plants like manzanitas have this ingenious adaptation.

The Water Authority’s Sustainable Landscaping guidebook contains a Plant List with climate-appropriate plants. They are also highlighted throughout the guidebook.

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.

Vista Irrigation District Logo

Vista Irrigation District Announces WaterSmart Landscape Contest Winners

Vista, Calif. — The Vista Irrigation District board of directors recognized customers for their entries in the district’s WaterSmart Landscape Contest.
The annual contest recognizes outstanding water-wise residential landscapes based on the criteria of overall attractiveness, appropriate plant selection, design, appropriate maintenance, and efficient methods of irrigation.

Robin and Mike Zeigler received the “Best in District” award. 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.

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.

Most native Southern California plants do well in hotter temperatures, so summer plant care is easy with a little planning. Photo: Annie Spratt/Pixabay

Summer Plant Care

Summer is heating up! While you’re heading to the beach or pool to cool off, your landscape might need a little help keeping cool too. Summer plant care is easy with a little planning.

Native plants

Most native Southern California plants do well in hotter temperatures if they are established before the summer begins. Avoid planting new plants, repotting, or fertilizing during the hot summer months. Fertilizing in the summer can trigger more green growth, which means an increase in water needs. During hot days, it is difficult to keep up with these needs as the soil tends to dry out more quickly.

Pruning is a great summer plant care strategy to help keep growth in check and provide pest control. Save most of the pruning for the cooler months to promote growth, but light pruning in the summer can benefit plant and tree maintenance.

Water deeply and less frequently

It might seem counterintuitive to water less frequently in the summer, but this is important for summer plant care. Watering too frequently on warmer days can cause too much water loss due to evaporation. Less frequent watering will also encourage your plants and trees to grow a network of deep roots. This will benefit them in the long term.

Protect soil with mulch

A good layer of high-quality mulch helps keep soil cool and prevents evaporation. Insulating the soil with mulch can also protect thinner roots that plants use to feed from surrounding soils. Over time, these roots will grow deeper along with less frequent watering.

Mulch is great for summer plant care, but it’s also a good investment any time of the year as it helps maintain a consistent soil moisture so you can water less.

Wait until fall to plant

Timing is important when planting new plants or trees. New plants require more water more frequently to develop their new root systems. Wait until the cooler fall months to begin planting to ensure higher rates of success.

With a little planning, summer plant care is a breeze!

The Water Authority and its partners also offer other great resources for landscaping upgrades, including tips for sustainable landscaping best practices at SustainableLandscapesSD.org and free WaterSmart classes at WaterSmartSD.org.