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Mission Beach Architect Raising Endangered Joshua Trees for Gardens, Landscaping

In Bob Craig’s Mission Beach house, small spiked succulents line his home, garden, and porch. During his work as an architect each day, he leaves his computer to water and check on the tiny plants that he describes as “fragile” in their first year. Looking at the diminutive plants, it is difficult to imagine that in 60 years, they will be the towering trees that make Joshua Tree National Park’s landscape stunning and otherworldly.

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.

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.

Helix Water District Logo Square

Helix Water District’s Demonstration Landscape is Complete

Helix Water District’s new demonstration landscape, located at its administration office in La Mesa, is complete. The project beautifies the neighborhood and inspires others to install WaterSmart landscaping.

Gardening Community Responds To Growing COVID-19 Food Need

Three days a week, cars line up by the dozens at Kitchens for Good at the Jacobs Center in Chollas View. Drivers open their trunks to receive prepared meals and produce. This is just one of many distribution events in high demand amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Planning for the amount of space your new plants will need when fully grown will help your landscape thrive. Photo: Sweetwater Authority

Make Space for New Plants

When choosing new plants for your landscape this fall, be sure to account for the space each plant will need as it matures. This will help avoid overcrowding in your landscape.

Proper plant placement, while predicting the mature plant’s size, also should limit the need for future pruning. This can help reduce the amount of maintenance required in the long run.

The spacing chart below helps to judge how many plants are needed per square foot, based on the mature size of the plants.

Plan for space needed at maturity

On your landscaping plan, use circles to note the size of every plant at maturity using a scale in which one inch equals four feet. Use colored pencils to note different water needs of each plant. That will make it easier to group plants into their proper irrigation zones (hydrozones).

Wide canopy trees that grow to 20 or 30 feet in diameter will significantly change the landscaping over time. Consider whether a tree will cover a large section of landscaping with shade that is currently getting full sun. Be sure to avoid placing plants that will need full sun underneath these trees.

Small but mighty

Select the smallest, healthiest plants possible, especially when choosing native plants. Once they are planted in properly prepared soil and watered wisely, small plants establish themselves more vigorously than plants raised in larger containers. Do not plant more than the space will allow for when the plants are fully grown.

Root depth matters

Take note of the root depth of plants when you place them. Note root depths on your landscape plan. Trees will be irrigated less frequently, but for a longer period of time. Groundcovers with shallower roots require more frequent, shorter periods of irrigation. Keep these types of plants in separate hydrozones.

Did you know that fall is the prime time for plant sales in San Diego County? Check out your nearest nursery or farmers market for native plants to help grow your landscape!

This article was 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.

Butterflies and hummingbirds aren't just visually appealing; they also provide a service to your landscape by pollinating plants. Photo: GeorgeB2/Pixabay

Attract Butterflies and Hummingbirds

Witnessing the quick burst of color that often accompanies a butterfly or hummingbird’s flight is always exciting. It’s even more exciting when you see them in your own garden. Aside from being visually appealing, butterflies and hummingbirds also provide a service to your landscape by helping to pollinate plants. In doing so, they ensure seeds for future generations of plants.

How do you attract these beautiful garden pollinators?

Colorful, tube-shaped flowers located in sunny areas will attract hummingbirds in search of nectar. In Southern California, these tiny pollinators can stay year-round with a steady food supply. To provide this supply, try selecting a variety of plants that will bloom at different intervals throughout the year.

Hummingbirds also like shrubs and trees that provide shade where they can rest or find materials to build nests. Those cool areas are also where they can hunt insects. This can be helpful to your garden as they may eat insects harmful to other plants.

Similarly, butterflies also rely on flowers that provide nectar. They need host plants, which California native plants often are, where they can lay eggs. These eggs will hatch caterpillars, which will need to feed on nearby leaves. If you are concerned about leaves with lots of holes from hungry caterpillars, try strategically placing these plants behind other plants or in the back of your garden.

A good way to plan out where to put certain plants is by mirroring native plant communities.

Some native California plants that attract butterflies and hummingbirds:

  • California Fuchsia
  • Manzanitas
  • Chaparral Currant
  • Narrowleaf Milkweed
  • Sticky Monkeyflower
  • Coyote Mint

By selecting the right types of native plants, your landscape will burst into color!

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.

School Programs Are Cultivating Interest in Gardening

Children and gardens have been a common theme throughout literature. From “Jack and the Beanstalk” to “Alice in Wonderland,” “The Secret Garden” to “The Lorax,” our storytellers have found beautiful and fantastical ways of emphasizing the connection between children and things that grow.

In a more real way, strengthening that connection between youngsters and the green world continues today in the blank spaces of school play yards that have been turned into school gardens.

How to Compost the Right Way

You can make composting on-site a goal for your sustainable landscape maintenance to reduce waste and help the soil thrive. You’ll know when the compost is ready to use when it has an earthy smell, has cooled off, and doesn’t reheat when stirred. Next, look for a uniformly dark brown or even black color. You shouldn’t be able to identify any of the original particles.

Spread compost directly on the soil surface to use it as mulch. That can prevent erosion and help plants and soil filter pollution, such as hydrocarbons and metals from road surfaces. Most greenwaste-based composts can be applied to a depth of three inches. Use up to two inches of bio-solids.

If you don’t produce your own compost on site, get it from a reputable source that guarantees high quality. Commercially produced quality can vary significantly due to the diverse nature of feedstock, processes, and maturation standards.

Use compost to make healthier soil

For native plants in your sustainable landscaping, use roughly 15 percent compost by volume to repair disturbed or damaged soils.

Clay-based soil amended with compost leads to more productive and healthy plant growth at a lower cost than amending the same soil with the necessary 45 percent sand. Therefore, you can mix poor soils that are compacted, lifeless, or subsoils with about three to six cubic yards of high quality compost per 1,000 square feet to improve the soil structure.

If your compost is based on bio-solids, it can be high in ammonium nitrogen. Use this type of compost sparingly.  When using bio-solids, be sure you know exactly where they came from.

Read more at Gardening Know How: Composting With Biosolids: What Are Biosolids And What Are They Used For https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/composting/ingredients/composting-with-biosolids.htm

This article was 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.

Setting Your Landscaping Objectives for Success

When you’ve taken the time to learn about the concepts behind the watershed approach to creating a healthy and sustainable landscape, you should step back and consider the goals you want to achieve in your garden.

If you’re facing an ocean of grass lawn and you’ve never given much thought to landscaping goals, it might be difficult to know where to start. Here are a few ideas.

Saying goodbye to grass

Remove a thirsty lawn without using any chemicals, in a way that preserves the healthy soil microbes.

Plant local California native plants that will attract birds, butterflies, and bees for pollination.

Create a child or pet friendly garden without thorns or sticky grass seed heads.

Plant fruit trees, edible vines and shrubs, or vegetable gardens.

Using water efficiently

Build healthy living soil that will act like a sponge, even if it rains a lot.

Capture all the rainwater from the roof and re-routing downspouts to fill rain barrels instead of running onto hardscaping.

Convert spray irrigation to micro or drip irrigation, with the intention of turning it off after establishing low-water use landscaping.

Make pathways and driveways more permeable.

Create a garden as a personal art gallery

Make room for a small patio with room for an outdoor table or seating.

Add pathways, Zen gardens, and interesting materials and patterns.

Integrate beautiful objects such as an art piece, interesting container collection, or items like sundials.

One goal we can all support: creating a beautiful sustainable landscape that reduces your water use by 70 percent or more.


This article was 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.