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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. 

 

Native plant-sustainability-garden-landscapetracting pollinators like hummingbirds and butterflies. Image: Water Authority

Setting Objectives for Waterwise Landscaping Success

It takes time to learn about the concepts behind the watershed approach to creating a healthy and sustainable landscape. Once you have these concepts mastered, the most important step of all comes next.  Consider the goals you want to achieve in your garden for landscaping success.

It might be difficult to know where to start. Many people accept an ocean of green but thirsty lawn and never give much thought to landscaping goals. Consider one of these worthy objectives.

Waving goodbye to grass

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

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

  • Removing a thirsty lawn without using any chemicals, in a way that preserves the healthy soil microbes
  • Planting local California native plants that will attract birds, butterflies, and bees for pollination
  • Creating a child or pet-friendly garden without thorns or sticky grass seed heads
  • Planting fruit trees, edible vines, and shrubs, or vegetable gardens

Using irrigation efficiently

Well designed and operated irrigation systems can reliably deliver the water your landscaping needs without waste or excess. Photo: AxxLC/Pixabay

Well designed and operated irrigation systems can reliably deliver the water your landscaping needs without waste or excess. Photo: AxxLC/Pixabay

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

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

Converting spray irrigation to micro or drip irrigation, with the intention of turning it off after establishing your waterwise landscaping

Making pathways and driveways more permeable

Making your landscaping an art project

San Marcos resident Jeff Moore's landscape makeover won recognition in the 2018 Landscape Makeover Contest. Photo: Water Authority

San Marcos resident Jeff Moore’s landscape makeover including artistic touches won recognition in the 2018 Landscape Makeover Contest. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

Making room for a small patio with room for an outdoor table or seating

Adding pathways, Zen gardens, and interesting materials and patterns

Integrating 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. We can all agree on this definition of landscaping success no matter your individual goals.

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.

Nothing Icky About ‘Toilet-to-Tap’: Water Recycling Explained

Wastewater that recently swirled down a toilet bowl may be coming to your tap, in purified form, especially if you’re in a drought-stricken area where drinking water is increasingly scarce.

More municipal water systems in the West are considering water recycling, known in some places as “toilet-to-tap.” And Congress may begin supporting the idea as water systems scramble to find secure water supplies amid a decades-long drought driven by climate change, which may be the worst the region has experienced in more than a millennium.

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Native Plants Garden Wins 2021 Escondido Landscape Makeover Contest

As California experiences another drought cycle, homeowners in the San Diego region continue to makeover their landscapes with native plants that need less water. An Escondido couple recently transformed their landscape to save water and won the City of Escondido Landscape Makeover Contest too.

Escondido homeowners Michael and Teresa Everett first learned about the 2021 Escondido Landscape Makeover Contest from Escondido family-owned El Pantio Nursery. It was the motivation they needed to makeover their landscaping with native plants.

“As concerned Californians, we wanted to do our part to lessen our impact on San Diego county’s water resources,” said Teresa Everett. “We decided to switch to a waterwise landscape using all California native plants. Landscaping with native plants can reduce water usage by 60% or more. There is also a reduction in one’s carbon footprint as there is no need for mowing or trimming lawns.”

The Everett home before their landscaping makeover. Photo: Courtesy Michael and Teresa Everett

Landscaping supports local ecosystem

The new garden provides habitat for native insects, birds, animals, and people too. Photo: City of Escondido native plants

The new garden provides habitat for native insects, birds, animals, and people too. Photo: City of Escondido

The Everetts also reduced yard waste and the need for soil additives since California native plants are adapted to the lean clay soil in San Diego County.

While the environmental reasons were compelling, the Everetts also wanted to create a habitat garden that was both beautiful and supported the local ecosystem.

“California is in the top 25 most bio-diverse areas in the world,” the couple pointed out. “Our housing developments have crowded out native plants. Native plants have evolved to provide exactly the right food in exactly the right package to attract and feed the animals that are unique to our California environment.”

The Everetts' landscaping shows it's possible to have a lush yard and still be waterwise. Photo: City of Escondido native plants

The Everetts’ landscaping shows how to create a lush yard and be waterwise. Photo: City of Escondido

The Everetts planted native trees, including Coastal live oak, Western sycamore, Western redbud, and Palo Verde Desert Museum. They added shrubs, including manzanitas, ceanothus, Mexican elderberry, salvias, desert mallow, and wooly bluecurls. California fuchsias, San Diego sunflowers, and Pacific irises add color. Grasses and vines round out the landscape palette.

“Ever since we re-landscaped, we have observed a huge increase in birds, lizards, butterflies, and other pollinators in our yard. Waterwise native gardens are also extremely beautiful,” said the couple.

Irrigation needs reduced using native plants

Salvias and poppies provide color in the landscaping plan. Photo: City of Escondido native plants

Salvias and poppies provide color in the landscaping plan. Photo: City of Escondido

After the makeover, the Everetts rarely need to irrigate their landscape between late fall and late spring. During drier months, the landscape is irrigated twice monthly. The homeowners also maintain a vegetable and herb garden using rainwater collected in two rain barrels with 260-gallon capacity and by hand when necessary.

“We now spend many hours relaxing and bird watching in our yard,” said the Everetts. “Our outdoor space is now a much more enriching experience that gives us a greater sense of our connection to nature and a sense of place.”

The landscaping plan includes features like this dry riverbed. Photo: City of Escondido native plants

The landscaping plan includes features like this dry riverbed. Photo: City of Escondido

“By re-landscaping our small property, we hope to take one small step in restoring San Diego county’s rich biodiversity. Sharing the successes of our garden with others will hopefully encourage other homeowners to convert their gardens to water and habitat smart landscapes.”

Find tips on how to create a WaterSmart home and garden, including details on rebates: www.watersmartsd.org/

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

Provide Room to Grow in Your Sustainable Landscape Plan

Note the height and width of plant species when they mature when choosing plants for new sustainable landscapes. Proper plant placement, taking into account the mature plant’s size, will limit the need for regular pruning, and reduce the amount of maintenance required over time.

While regular pruning and removal of dead plant materials is vital in our region for wildfire prevention, overly aggressive pruning harms plant health and doesn’t allow natural shapes to emerge.

Native Plant Communities in Sustainable Landscaping

Plants growing wild naturally arrange themselves into communities with other plant varieties based on their shared characteristics such as water and nutrient needs. This natural selection extends to interactions with each other, and with other species such as insects, birds, and other animals.

State Finds Deficiencies in Paso and Cuyama Basin Plans

DWR reviewed and found “deficiencies” in the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin and Cuyama Valley Groundwater Basin sustainability plans—declining to give final approval to either.

In separate letters about the basins, DWR identified issues ranging from a lack of discussion about impacts to shallow and domestic wells, to a lack of planning for surface waters, like creeks and rivers. Six points of deficiencies were listed in all—two for Paso and four for Cuyama.

EPA Funding Secured for East County Drinking Water Project

In a major milestone for water reliability, the East County Advanced Water Purification Program was awarded a $388 million federal loan from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to help advance the project’s completion.

“The East County Advanced Water Purification Program is the result of many years of strategic, long-term planning and this WIFIA loan marks a historic milestone in its development,” said Allen Carlisle, CEO and general manager of Padre Dam Municipal Water District. “By providing East County with local control and independence of both its wastewater and water, the program secures a long-term solution for increased stability in our communities and safeguards the vitality of our economy and quality of life. We are grateful to the U.S. EPA for partnering with us on this important program and investing in future generations.”

Oceanside Wins Mayor’s Challenge For Water Conservation

The city of Oceanside placed first in the 2021 Wyland National Mayor’s Challenge for Water Conservation, it was announced today.

The annual competition was held during Earth Month to bring awareness to the importance of using water efficiently, especially as California moves into its second consecutive dry year.

Mayors nationwide participated in the competition by challenging their residents to pledge to conserve water, reduce carbon emissions, reduce waste, and take other sustainable actions on behalf of their communities.

“The Oceanside community has always been a leader when it comes to sustainability, and I am honored to be the mayor of the most water-wise city in the nation,” Mayor Esther Sanchez said. “Oceanside has proven that our residents know how to protect the environment, improve water efficiency, reduce waste, and continue to implement actions that will create a better future.”

That Mississippi River Pipeline? Bureau of Reclamation Weighed In About A Decade Ago

The Arizona Legislature wants to look into the feasibility of pumping water from the Mississippi River to Arizona.

But the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has already studied the idea, and weighed in on the project in 2012.

The agency studied factors such as cost, legal issues, power use and the amount of time the project would take.

A report estimated the project could cost up to $14 billion; the timetable was around 30 years.