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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

July is "Smart Irrigation Month," designed to call attention to efficient irrigation techniques to preserve the world's fresh water supply. Photo: Irrigation Association

Smart Irrigation Month Highlights Water-Efficient Technology

San Diego regional water agencies are sharing water-efficiency tips during “Smart Irrigation Month.”

July is traditionally the month of peak demand for outdoor water use and the reason it was chosen as Smart Irrigation Month when it started in 2005. The month celebrates the social, economic, and environmental benefits of efficient irrigation for landscapes, recreation and agriculture.

Smart Irrigation Month highlights irrigation technology innovations and encourages water-efficient irrigation techniques to preserve the world’s fresh water supply.

Member agency activities for Smart Irrigation Month 2019

The Otay Water District is participating in "Smart Irrigation Month" education via its social media channels and website. Photo: Otay Water District

The Otay Water District is among those participating in “Smart Irrigation Month” education via its social media channels and website. Photo: Otay Water District

The Otay Water District is helping its customers increase water-use efficiency during Smart Irrigation Month with a dedicated webpage of tips. Customers can apply for a free WaterSmart Checkup by calling 760-728-1332 or at watersmartcheckup.org

The Helix Water District also offers free home water use checkups to its customers by phone 619-667-6626 or email

And, the City of Oceanside Water Utilities Department is hosting a free Smart Irrigation Workshop at Mira Costa College on Saturday, July 13. The event has reached capacity, but customers can all 760-435-5816 to get on a waiting list and be notified about future events.

Nine Watering Tips For #SmartIrrigationMonth

Inspect your sprinkler heads regularly to make sure they are not obstructed or watering onto pavement or other hardscapes. Photo: Irrigation Association

Inspect your sprinkler heads regularly to make sure they are not obstructed or watering onto pavement or other hardscapes. Photo: Irrigation Association

July is an ideal month to perform a check on current irrigation systems and determine whether any practices can be improved to save water. The San Diego County Water Authority offers these nine Smart Irrigation Month tips:

  • Select sprinkler heads and nozzles that apply water uniformly to the target area.
  • Inspect your sprinkler heads regularly to make sure they are not obstructed or watering onto pavement or other hardscapes.
  • Upgrade to a smart controller. Weather and soil moisture-based controllers can automatically adjust your watering schedule based on the conditions at your location.
  • Use drip or low pressure, low volume irrigation which applies water directly to the base or roots of plants.
  • If water is applied too quickly, it can run off into the street or sidewalk. Smart irrigation regulates water pressure, ensuring water has a chance to soak into the ground.
  • Less is more when watering turf. Water long enough to soak down to the root zone, then don’t water again until the soil is completely dry. If the grass springs back when you step on it, it has enough water.
  • The greatest waste of water in landscape irrigation comes from watering too much, too fast. Instead of watering 20 consecutive minutes, run sprinklers in four five-minute sessions. This allows water to soak into the soil and minimizes runoff.
  • A rain shut-off device is an inexpensive gadget to add to your sprinkler system.
  • Improve efficiency by watering at the coolest time of day. When it’s hot or windy, more than a third of the water can be lost to evaporation.

Find more tips and information on Smart Irrigation Month at WaterSmartSD.org

 

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.

There are new enhanced rebates for removing turf and replacing it with sustainable landscaping. Photo: Water Authority

Cash Rebates Increase for Grass Removal in San Diego Region

Removing grass can generate rebates of at least $2 per square foot for San Diego residents under new enhanced incentives that started this month.

As of April 1, the Metropolitan Water District is offering $2 per square foot for every square foot of grass removed from yards and replaced with sustainable landscaping.

Rebates may vary by water agency, but an online incentive calculator identifies the current rebate amounts.

New rules for turf rebates. Graphic: BeWaterSmart.com

New rules for turf rebates. Graphic: BeWaterSmart.com

To increase participation, MWD also updated program rules. The rules are listed at the application site.

All San Diego County residents are eligible for the $2 rebate.

But, that’s not all. The San Diego County Water Authority is offering an additional $1.75 per square foot to customers in its service area, with grant funds provided by the California Department of Water Resources.  And, the City of San Diego offers city residents $1.25 per square foot. That means some homeowners can earn as much as a $5 rebate for each square foot of turf removed.

Turf rebate programs have proven popular in Southern California, and funds could go quickly.

Water Authority offers free landscaping classes

While rebates can provide a big boost to landscaping makeover projects, it’s also important to start planning before you start planting.

That’s where the Water Authority’s WaterSmart Landscape Makeover Program comes in. Free resources are available to upgrade turf yards.

For instance, the Water Authority offers free landscape makeover classes that help homeowners make smart choices to reduce outdoor water use by designing beautiful and climate-appropriate landscapes for our region.

Find additional water-saving programs, incentives, and classes for residents and businesses at: https://www.watersmartsd.org/

“San Diego County homeowners and businesses know that sustainable landscapes are key to water reliability in our region,” said Joni German, who manages the Water Authority’s WaterSmart Landscape Makeover Program. With the help of local landscape architects and designers, our WaterSmart Landscape Makeover Program gives them the knowledge and skills they need to be successful. WaterSmart landscapes are an upgrade, not a compromise.”

Homeowners learn through the Water Authority's Landscape Transformation program that sustainable landscaping can be as lush as a lawn. Photo Water Authority turf

Tearing Out the Turf: 1 Million Square Feet Targeted for Removal

San Diego County residents have targeted more than 1 million square feet of turf grass for replacement with WaterSmart landscaping through free landscape makeover classes sponsored by the San Diego County Water Authority over the past five years.

While not all the targeted turf has actually been removed, post-class surveys show that many participants end up taking out more turf than they initially planned after seeing the benefits of their work, said Joni German, who coordinates the Water Authority’s award-winning WaterSmart Landscape Makeover Series.

“Because we give people the skills and the confidence to do this, they often go on to convert turf in another part of their yard,” she said.

Water savings potential tops 36 million gallons a year

The Water Authority's Landscape Transformation Program teaches homeowners the proper methods for removing turf. Photo: Water Authority

The Water Authority’s WaterSmart Landscape Makeover Series teaches homeowners the proper methods for removing turf. Photo: Water Authority

In the past five years, 947 people have completed the WaterSmart class series, which includes identifying turf areas for replacement with low-water use landscaping. Participants work one-on-one with local landscape architects to complete design and irrigation plans.

The Water Authority then compares estimated total water use for each homeowner before attending the four-class series, and after implementing a sustainable landscaping plan. In total, participants have identified more than 1 million square feet for conversion.

“We have documented about a 33 percent water savings in those plans,” said German. “The total water savings realized from removing 1 million square feet of turf is equal to 36.5 million gallons per year, or 112 acre-feet annually.”

One acre-foot is approximately 326,000 gallons, roughly enough to serve 2.5 typical Southern California families of four for a year.

Education helps homeowners embrace change

Example of a Landscape Transformation Program participant's yard prior to its sustainable makeover. Photo: Water Authority

Example of a WaterSmart Landscape Makeover Series participant’s yard prior to its sustainable makeover. Photo: Water Authority

The National Resources Defense Council said California homeowners are leading the transition away from lawns, which is expected to continue for more than a decade nationwide. And there is a long way to go: Lawns currently cover up to 50 million acres of land in the United States, consuming three trillion gallons of water each year, according to NRDC.

German said WaterSmart landscape makeover courses help homeowners change their thinking, and embrace the sustainable landscaping approach.

The same residence after its makeover to a sustainable landscape design. Photo: Water Authority

“Homeowners don’t know where to start,” said German. “They think they have to create a rocks and cactus landscape. Our program reflects a WaterSmart landscape for the San Diego lifestyle.

“In the course, we explain that we live in one of the most desirable climates on earth. People come and vacation here for our climate. We deserve beautiful, lush, colorful, thriving landscapes – and we can have them. They can be water-efficient, too,” said German.

German said the combination of course lectures, hands-on assignments, and support from landscaping professionals makes the classes highly practical. “We get participants to think about their lifestyle and take them down the path that gives them the skills and knowledge to actually implement their own landscape plan.”

Each class series is limited to 25 participants. Experts visit each homeowner’s proposed project area prior to the first class. They take measurements, locate irrigation heads, and produce a CAD drawing for homeowners to use in the class.

“With the help of local landscape professionals, homeowners create planting plans and irrigation plans specific to their project areas. They are either ready to implement the plans themselves, or work with a contractor to tell them what they want done,” said German.

Applications now open for 2019 courses

The Oberkamp home before its landscaping makeover. Photo: Water Authority

The Oberkamp home before its landscaping makeover. Photo: Water Authority

The Water Authority has scheduled a full calendar of WaterSmart Landscape Makeover Classes for 2019, with the first series starting in February in Fallbrook. Limited enrollment ensures every participant receives hands-on support. Homeowners who want to attend a course in 2019 should complete an online application and get on the waiting list. Apply at WaterSmartSD.org.

The Oberkamp home after its landscaping makeover. Photo: Water Authority

The California Department of Water Resources funds the class series because it generates water savings. It also generates a lot of enthusiasm, according to participant reviews.  “Could not believe the amount of information and guidance. Worth every minute and highly recommended!” said one participant.

“Wonderful class!” said another. “The instructors, the workbook and resources are beyond belief. I still have a lot to learn, but I will definitely be implementing everything.”

 

 

 

 

Jeff Moore stands in his front yard featuring his award-winning waterwise landscaping work. Photo: Charlie Neuman, Water Authority Vallecitos

Waterwise Landscaping Blooms in San Marcos

San Marcos, Calif. – A beautiful native garden low on water use but not on style won first place in the Vallecitos Water District’s 2018 “WaterSmart Landscape Contest.

To encourage customers to reduce outdoor water use, Vallecitos recognizes customers whose yards best exhibit the beauty of California-friendly, low-water gardening. The Vallecitos Board of Directors honored the 2018 winners of the annual WaterSmart Landscape Contest at its August board meeting.

Jeff Moore stands in his front yard featuring his award-winning WaterSmart landscaping work. Photo: Water Authority

The winners are:

First place – Rhonda Holmes and Jeff Jenco

Second place – Dennis and Shannon Root

Third place – Patti Joyce and Jeffrey Moore

View a video tour and interviews with the winners here.

First place winner Rhonda Holmes said the landscape transformation at her Lake San Marcos-area home took place after purchasing the house and undertaking a complete remodel, which included replacing the front and back yard turf areas with water-efficient plants.

Holmes describes seeing neighborhood lawns with running sprinkler heads misting the streets. She wanted to design a garden that was smart on water, while being beautiful at the same time. As for the earth-friendly garden remodel, Holmes says, “It’s really easy to do. I’d love to see more people try to do their part.”

Bioswale feature prevents stormwater pollution

Jeff Moore rakes the zen garden in his back yard featuring his landscape work. Photo:  Water Authority

Holmes also installed a beautiful and environmentally conscious bioswale to reduce pollution to nearby Lake San Marcos. It prevents water from being emptied into the storm drain system.

“I think what people don’t realize is all the pesticides and fertilizers and chemicals we use on our plants, if we don’t do something like a biofiltration system with those chemicals, then end up leaching out into the streets, into the gutters and into the golf course here, and for example in Lake San Marcos,” said Holmes.

Holmes says in addition to water conservation, she is able to avoid pest control with chemicals, because native plants are more disease resistant.

All three winners experienced an unexpected benefit: an influx of wildlife into their yards including birds, bees and butterflies, and small reptiles. There is even a neighborhood peacock that visits the Root household.

Free fall series of landscape makeover classes now open for registration

Decorative elements highlight Jeff Moore’s landscaping. Photo: Water Authority

Shannon Root says she attended a landscaping seminar held at the Vallecitos Water District. Third place winner Jeffrey Moore attended the San Diego County Water Authority’s Landscaping Makeover series of classes. Both called them informative and extremely helpful. The next series of Landscaping Makeover classes are scheduled in October. Interested residents can register on the program’s website.