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Creative WaterSmart Landscaping Wins Sweetwater Authority’s 2019 Landscape Contest

Bonita residents Efren and Ily Niervas won the Sweetwater Authority 2019 Landscape Contest after transforming their front yard from a traditional thirsty expanse of lawn to a watersmart landscaping approach. When the Niervas moved to their home in 2017, they realized the cost of watering their yard, with a large lawn and assorted shrubbery, was too high. They decided to change their landscape and attended home improvement events and expos as part of their research. They also did online research. The research paid off, as the Niervas thoughtfully designed their own xeriscape plan for their creative watersmart landscaping.

The Nieves family of Bonita are the winners of the Sweetwater Authority's 2019 Landscape Makeover Contest for theier creative WaterSmart landscaping design. Photo: Sweetwater Authority Creative WaterSmart Landscaping

Creative WaterSmart Landscaping Wins Sweetwater Authority’s 2019 Landscape Contest

Bonita residents Efren and Ily Niervas won the Sweetwater Authority 2019 Landscape Contest after transforming their front yard from a traditional thirsty expanse of lawn to a WaterSmart landscaping approach.

When the Niervas moved to their home in 2017, they realized the cost of watering their yard, with a large lawn and assorted shrubbery, was too high. They decided to change their landscape and attended home improvement events and expos as part of their research. They also did online research. The research paid off, as the Niervas thoughtfully designed their own xeriscape plan for their creative watersmart landscaping.

Creative hardscapes and colorful plant palette transform landscaping

Before: The Nieves' landscaping prior to undertaking their award-winning, watersmart redesign project. Photo: Sweetwater Authority

Before: The Niervas’ landscaping prior to undertaking their award-winning, watersmart redesign project. Photo: Sweetwater Authority

With the design in hand, the Niervas began work on making the landscape transformation themselves. They purchased plants on sale, and collected small cuttings and succulents from friends and neighbors.

Knowing the soil in the yard was dry and hard, they patiently waited for wetter and softer conditions in the fall months to begin working on their yard. The landscape transformation was finally complete in March 2019. The Niervas are thrilled with the beautiful, water-saving results.

After: The stunning results of the landscaping transformation. Photo: Sweetwater Authority

After: The stunning results of the landscape transformation. Photo: Sweetwater Authority

Creative watersmart landscaping

The yard design features swales in the form of rock-lined dry creek beds, which capture rainwater from roofs, driveways, and other hard surfaces to slow it down, spread it out, and allow the water to sink into the soil. Lighted flagstone pathways wind through the yard.

The design features a diverse palette of succulents, cacti, and California native plants. The Niervas completed their yard décor with beautiful ceramic containers, gazing balls, and whimsical artwork including starfish and a peacock.

The homeowners completed their yard décor with beautiful ceramic containers, gazing balls, and whimsical artwork including starfish and a peacock. Photo: Sweetwater Authority

San Diego County homeowners can take advantage of free landscaping makeover classes offered by the San Diego County Water Authority to help plan to create a colorful and watersmart landscape. Go tot the WaterSmart Landscape Makeover Program

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

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

READ MORE: Winning Vista Irrigation District WaterSmart Landscape Reduces Water Use

Colorful, waterwise plants replaced a thirsty, labor intensive front lawn in Deborah Brant's winning landscape makeover. Photo: Vista Irrigation District

Winning Vista Irrigation District WaterSmart Landscape Reduces Water Use

Vista resident Deborah Brandt showed how attractive water-wise landscaping can be when low-water use plants are combined with other landscape components in winning the Vista Irrigation District’s 2019 WaterSmart Landscape Contest. District officials selected Brandt’s entry this month among many quality entries received.

The Vista Irrigation District is among 13 San Diego member agencies with landscape contests in 2019 with the goal of showcasing beautiful residential water-wise landscapes throughout the region.

Outdoor watering accounts for more than half of the residential water use in San Diego County. Homeowners can significantly reduce outdoor watering by replacing a thirsty lawn with water‑wise landscaping. While Internet research or visiting a local nursery for ideas are both helpful, seeing examples of residential garden makeovers can provide inspiration and motivation.

Contrasting watersmart elements and textures transform yard

Deborah Brandt's winning landscape includes contrasting elements, such a cactus, river rock and wood chips, against a backdrop of dramatic magenta, purple and striking orange. Photo: Vista Irrigation District

Deborah Brandt’s winning landscape includes contrasting elements, such a cactus, river rock and wood chips, against a backdrop of dramatic magenta, purple and striking orange. Photo: Vista Irrigation District

Brandt replaced her water and maintenance-intensive lawn with WaterSmart landscaping to save money and water, and reduce the amount of time she spent on yard work. By including contrasting elements such as cactus, river rock and wood chips, against a backdrop of dramatic magenta, purple and striking orange, Brandt transformed a basic lawn into a dazzling array of textures and colors.

Brandt chose low maintenance plant varieties, including agaves, yuccas, Sea Lavender, Calandrinia Grandiflora, and ‘Sticks on Fire’ (also called ‘Firesticks’), that grow easily and require little care or trimming, providing her landscape “year round colorful contrast of form, shape and color.”

By showcasing her water-wise landscape, Brandt is providing other homeowners with great ideas about how to make their yards attractive and use less water. Photo: Vista Irrigation District Winning Vista Irrigtion District

By showcasing her water-wise landscape, Brandt is providing other homeowners with great ideas about how to make their yards attractive and use less water. Photo: Vista Irrigation District

Brandt admits she has enjoyed receiving so many compliments on her yard transformation from friends and neighbors. By showcasing her water-wise landscape, Brandt is providing other homeowners with great ideas about how to make their yards attractive and use less water.

Deborah Brandt's front yard before its makeover. Photo: Vista Irrigation District Winning Vista Irrigtion District

Deborah Brandt’s front yard before its makeover. Photo: Vista Irrigation District

For more information about the 2020 contest open to customers of the Vista Irrigation District and 12 other member agencies in San Diego County, along with examples of award-winning WaterSmart landscaping, go to https://landscapecontest.com/

Homeowners can take advantage of free landscaping makeover classes offered by the Water Authority to help plan and execute your own transformation. Visit the WaterSmart Landscape Makeover Program website for the schedule and to register.

READ MORE: Colorful Carlsbad Water-Efficient Garden Wins Olivenhain MWD 2019 Landscape Contest

 

 

 

Melanie and Bob Buck's colorful landscape makeover is the winner of thOMWD 2019 Landscaping Contest. Photo: OMWD OMWD 2019 Landscape Contest

Colorful Carlsbad Water-Efficient Garden Wins Olivenhain MWD 2019 Landscape Contest

Carlsbad residents Melanie and Bob Buck were honored as the 2019 WaterSmart Landscape Contest winners by the Olivenhain Municipal Water District during its July 24 board meeting.

Melanie Buck worked to transform her landscape from large grassy areas and pine trees into a colorful, waterwise landscape design. The landscape now requires less than half of the water she once used. Visually stunning, the landscape also includes welcoming entertainment areas.

The colorful new landscaping can serve as an inspiration to other Carlsbad residents. Photo: OMWD OMWD 2019 Landscape Contest

The colorful new landscaping can serve as an inspiration to other Carlsbad residents. Photo: Olivenhain MWD

Since installing the award-winning landscape, the Bucks have reduced their outdoor water use. They also benefit from far less expensive maintenance costs. Their home demonstrates the beauty of water-efficient landscapes with its vibrant colors and variety of textures using Bougainvillea, striking cactus, succulents, and California native plants and shrubs.

Landscape contest watersmart design serves as inspiration to residents

Melanie and Bob Buck receive their award from Olivenhain MWD board president Ed Sprague. Photo: Olivenhain MWD

“Outdoor watering comprises the majority of residential water use in the region, so landscaping efficiently is of utmost importance,” said Olivenhain MWD board president Ed Sprague. “Ms. Buck’s show-stopping landscape is a prime example of the beauty that water-efficient gardens have to offer.

“This winning design will serve as an inspiration to others in the community to consider creating their own water-efficient gardens,” added Sprague.

The WaterSmart Landscape Contest is held annually by water agencies throughout San Diego County to showcase attractive landscapes that use less water than conventional turf-heavy landscapes. Winning entries exhibit excellence in curb appeal, climate-appropriate plant selection, design, efficient irrigation, and environmental considerations.

The Bucks' winning landscape design includes beautiful outdoor living areas. Photo: OMWD

The Bucks’ winning landscape design includes beautiful outdoor living areas. Photo: Olivenhain MWD

Many residents began working on their winning projects by first attending the Water Authority’s free landscape makeover courses for expert instruction and guidance. The four-course series is held throughout in the year in various convenient locations. Pre-registration is required. For the schedule and to register, go to WaterSmartSD.org

Photos of 2019 winners from the 13 participating member agencies throughout the county. as well as previous years’ winners, are at www.landscapecontest.com.

READ MORE: La Mesa Conservation Garden Wins 2019 Otay Water District WaterSmart Landscape Contest

La Mesa residents Bob and Shan Cissell transformed 2,500 square feet of turf into their own Conservation Garden in La Mesa, winning the 2019 Oty Water District Landscaping Contest. Photo: Otay Water District

La Mesa Conservation Garden Wins 2019 Otay Water District WaterSmart Landscape Contest

La Mesa residents Bob and Shan Cissell’s conversion of 2,500 square feet of thirsty irrigated lawn into a creative conservation garden was selected by the Otay Water District as the winner of its 2019 WaterSmart Landscape Contest.

The annual competition recognizes landscape redesign projects among 13 participating San Diego County water agencies which best represent water-efficient landscaping principles.

Project inspired by free WaterSmart landscaping classes

The Cissells designed their new yard after attending the Water Authority's free WaterSmart Landscape Makeover courses. Photo: Otay Water District

The Cissells designed their new yard after attending the Water Authority’s free WaterSmart Landscape Makeover courses. Photo: Otay Water District

Inspired after their participation in the Water Authority sponsored WaterSmart Landscape Makeover Program courses, and by the Water Conservation Garden in El Cajon, the Cissells began their La Mesa Conservation Garden project in April 2018 by removing the sod. They incorporated creative elements including a hand-built waterfall made from an old truck ladder rack, and other solid materials otherwise destined to become trash in a landfill.

Water from a swale feeds the waterfall, then travels through microtubes up a faux bonsai tree — made of concrete and unused materials – to irrigate flower baskets resting at the end of each tree branch. Large tree roots that once ran through their yard now decorate other areas of their yard.

Water from the waterfall grotto travels up the faux bonsai tree in the Cissells' La Mesa Conservation Garden. Photo: Otay Water District

Water from the waterfall grotto travels up the faux bonsai tree in the Cissells’ La Mesa Conservation Garden. Photo: Otay Water District

New efficient irrigation includes drip tubing along the top of the ground, and corrugated drain piping below. The piping allows excess water to irrigate the slopes surrounding the home. To assure their drip system would continue to work properly, the Cissells came up with a system using a birdbath made from an old sink. When their drip system turns on, it feeds the birdbath. The water flows up into the sink and into the overflow hole and back down to the trees. No water is wasted, and mosquito reproduction is avoided. If the birdbath is dry, it means that the drip system is not working properly.

‘Not a single drop of water wasted’

The Cissells’ “Stonehenge” is constructed from large tree roots topped with stones (left), serving as a reminder of what was once the nature beneath them. Photo: Otay Water District

“The coolest thing is that it was a 100 percent makeover from irrigated lawn that took a pathetic amount of water to keep it green, and it wasn’t even green,” said Shan Cissell. “It’s the design, the technical, the labor, the creativity, and the focus on not a single drop of water being wasted that we took seriously.”

The Cissells maximized their viewing area by strategically placing curved walking paths of decomposed granite throughout their yard. Paths are surrounded by vegetation and water-wise plants such as succulents, honeysuckle, pincushion flowers, and manzanita. The Cissells say they their efforts have reduced their water bill as much as 25 to 30 percent.

The Cissells maximized their viewing area by strategically placing curved walking paths of decomposed granite throughout their yard. Photo: Otay Water District

“The Cissells’ unique project proves that creating a beautiful WaterSmart landscape can be both cost-efficient and environmentally beneficial,” says Mitch Thompson, Otay Water District board president and Water Conservation Garden Joint Powers Authority member. “The benefits can be attributed to their efforts in incorporating recycled material along with water-saving features.”

Winners are selected based on overall attractiveness, design, plant selection, and efficient irrigation and maintenance. The Cissells were recognized with a certificate of recognition, gift certificate to a local nursery of their choice, and other promotional items. View more photos of the Cissells’ winning landscape here.

READ MORE: City of Oceanside Selects Drought Tolerant Gardens as 2019 Contest Winners

Janet and Conrad Becks' winning design came from their desire to save water and to showcase their makeover. Photo: City of Oceanside drought tolerant gardens

City of Oceanside Selects Drought Tolerant Gardens as 2019 Contest Winners

The City of Oceanside selected Janet and Conrad Beck’s colorful, vibrant garden as its 2019 WaterSmart Landscape Contest winner. The couple transformed their plain, water-wasting lawn into a drought-tolerant garden.

The annual contest recognizes exceptional water-wise landscapes in San Diego County based on overall attractiveness, design, appropriate plant selection, and water efficient irrigation.

Makeover saves water

The winning landscape earned the Becks a $250 grand prize. The makeover evolved from the Becks’ desire to save water. The garden’s plant palette includes a wide variety of California native and drought-tolerant plants, what they now describe as a “whimsical” garden.

By also replacing their automated irrigation system, the couple realized a water savings of more than 3,700 gallons of water per month, virtually cutting their water bill in half.

Drought tolerant gardens provide habitat while saving resources

Homeowner Gerald Wharton was inspired to bring back livable habitat for native flora and fauna when creating his drought tolerant garden. Photo: City of Oceanside drought tolerant gardens

Homeowner Gerald Wharton was inspired to bring back livable habitat for native flora and fauna when creating his drought-tolerant garden. Photo: City of Oceanside

Three runners-up received honorable mentions along with nursery gift cards.

Homeowner Gerald Wharton was inspired to bring back livable habitat for native flora and fauna when creating his drought-tolerant garden. Once his plants become acclimated and more established, they require less water, and eventually, no irrigation at all.

Homeowner Kim Wascher was motivated to save money on her water bill when she transformed her landscaping. Photo: City of Oceanside

Homeowner Kim Wascher was motivated to save money on her water bill when she transformed her landscaping. Photo: City of Oceanside

Homeowner Kim Wascher first removed her lawn to reduce her water costs and the heavy maintenance that her lawn required. Her original goal grew into a comprehensive landscaping plan. Wascher exchanged her water-thirsty grass for a wildlife habitat now attracting butterflies, lizards, bugs and a variety of birds. On summer evenings, she enjoys watching bats flying through the yard.

Colorful succulents

Laura Cates moved to Oceanside several years ago after living in the U.S. Midwest. She was not familiar with succulents of any kind. But Cates said she was fed up with grass in her front-and-back yards. Her sister-in-law ‘knew her succulents,’ and her enthusiasm for the colorful, easy-to-grow, low-water-use plants grew on Cates.

Laura Cates used succulents to create her winning landscape design in Oceanside. Photo: City of Oceanside drought tolerant gardens

Laura Cates used succulents to create her winning landscape design in Oceanside. Photo: City of Oceanside

Cates is now well-known to her neighbors as a plant guru. She helps others get started with a clipping or two from her own yard. Cates said she likes to think that she’s paying it forward.

The annual WaterSmart Landscape Contest runs annually from January through April. For more information, check online at www.GreenOceanside.org

For help and inspiration to transform your landscaping, visit WaterSmartSD.org

Olivenhain Municipal Water District Logo landscape design workshops

OMWD Hosts Free Landscape Design Workshops

Encinitas, Calif. — Olivenhain Municipal Water District and San Dieguito Water District have partnered to offer free WaterSmart Landscape Design Workshops. The three-hour courses will be held Wednesday, July 17 and Thursday, October 3, from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the San Diego Botanic Garden.

Agave attenuata is one of the plants available to qualified Fallbrook PUD customers in its new plant voucher program. Photo: Fallbrook PUD plant vouchers

Fallbrook PUD Offers Plant Vouchers For Sustainable Landscaping

The Fallbrook Public Utility District will offer residents in its service area free low-water or drought-tolerant plants beginning July 1. The district will give qualified residents vouchers redeemable for plants at Silverthorn Ranch Nursery in Fallbrook, which produces plants using recycled water.

“Customers will go through an application process and qualified applicants will receive free plants to install in their landscape,” said Mick Cothran, Fallbrook Public Utility District engineering technician. “We want to encourage and help our customers replace turf with plants that don’t require a lot of water, and show them drought tolerant plants can be beautiful additions to their landscaping.”

The San Diego County Water Authority and its member agencies have encouraged homeowners to implement sustainable landscaping through free ‘WaterSmart’ landscaping classes, and through a variety of rebate programs.

Online application for plant vouchers posted starting July 1

A list of the plants being offered through FPUD’s program is included on its website. Choices include plants like this Beaked Yucca (Yucca rostrada). Photo: Fallbrook PUD

A list of the plants being offered through Fallbrook’s program is included on its website. Choices include plants like this Beaked Yucca (Yucca rostrata). Photo: Fallbrook Public Utility District

An online application will be posted on the FPUD website starting July 1, and submissions will be processed on a first-come, first served basis. Applicants will also be required to submit two photos of the area(s) to be planted, and a basic plan or sketch of the project.

Sustainable landscaping

A list of the plants being offered through FPUD’s program is included on its website. Choices range from five-gallon Dragon trees (Dracaena draco) and Beaked Yucca (Yucca rostrata) to Mini Elephant’s Food (Portulacaria afra ‘Mini’), Silver Dollar Jade (Crassula arborescens), and small succulents including assorted aloe, aeonium, and echeveria.

San Diego County residents have embraced sustainable landscaping practices as a result of increased attention to water conservation, due in part to recurring periods of drought over the past thirty years.

The FPUD program is made possible with grant funding provided by two Metropolitan Water District of Southern California grants through the Water Authority.

California Native Garden Wins Helix’s 2019 Landscape Contest

Matt and Lauren Kirkpatrick of La Mesa are this year’s winner of the Helix Water District’s ‘WaterSmart Landscape Contest,’ an annual competition recognizing outstanding water-wise residential landscapes based on overall attractiveness, design, efficient irrigation and appropriate plant selection and maintenance. Compared to the thirsty turf in the Kirkpatricks’ previous landscaping, the growing, colorful and entirely native new landscaping requires much less water and creates a place of inspiration and peace for these outdoor enthusiasts. Over the two-month billing period ending this April, the home used just 13 units of water, which is almost 40 percent less than the average water use of other Helix customers. One unit is 748 gallons.

The best type of irrigation system for your landscape can depend on many factors, including the size and shape of your landscape and types of plants you have. Photo: California Department of Water Resources

Spray Versus Drip Irrigation: Which is Best for You?

Spray irrigation emits water in an overlapping pattern, while drip irrigation delivers water directly to the roots of plants. How do you decide which meets the needs of your landscaping?

The case for spray irrigation

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 (GPM), 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 over watered. High-volume spray heads that emit water at a much higher rate than soil can absorb should be replaced.

The case for drip irrigation

Drip systems apply water in gallons per hour (GPH), 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.

Installing 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 irregular 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 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 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.