12 plants that can protect a home from wildfire

12 plants that can protect a home from wildfire

From Houzz.com —
What plants you choose, where you plant them and how you maintain them can help minimize risk as part of a larger fire-safety strategy for your home and landscape. While there’s no entirely fireproof plant, plants with a high water content that are slow to ignite can help slow the spread of fire through a landscape.

Read the story on Houzz.com

Photo: Senecio (Houzz.com)

How to monitor your water use

How to monitor your water use

Helix customers use, on average, 21 units of water every two months. If you have a landscape, you probably use more than that in summer, and less in winter. Interested in how your own water use compares?

Calculating how much water you use is easy to do when you learn how to read your water meter, and our video shows you how. Calculate your daily water use by reading your meter early in the morning and again that night. Or calculate how much water your irrigation system uses by reading your meter before and after it runs.

Now that you know how to read your water meter, you can also use it to check for leaks. Turn off all water in your home and on your property and then check your water meter. If no water is on and the red sweep hand is moving, or the small low flow indicator to the left of the center of the dial is spinning, it could indicate a leak.

Now comes the challenge — finding and fixing the leak. It could be a toilet, the irrigation system or the swimming pool. We tell you how to check for these types of leaks on our website.

Go to our do-it-yourself projects page at hwd.com/diy.

10 Tips for Beginning Gardeners

10 Tips for Beginning Gardeners

Photo: Aloe Designs

From Houzz.com —
The rewards of gardening are great — fresh air, exercise, beauty and relaxation, to name a few. But designing and planting your very first garden can feel like an overwhelming task. Luckily, gardens are surprisingly forgiving creations, and the best way to learn is by simply diving in. Here are 10 tips to help get a new garden off on the right foot.

Note: the recommended time to install a new garden in Southern California is November-January because young, water efficient plants need as much water as grass for their first 6-12 months, and winter storms can provide some of that water. November is just a few months away so now is a good time to start learning and planning.

Enjoy the Story and the Inspiring Photos

$2.75/sf incentive for turf removal — act fast

$2.75/sf incentive for turf removal — act fast

From the San Diego County Water Authority —
Residents in San Diego County now can receive $2.75 per square foot for replacing turf with sustainable landscaping features as part of a new Landscape Transformation Program launched today across Southern California.

The new program includes a partnership by the San Diego County Water Authority and the Los Angeles-based Metropolitan Water District of Southern California to boost the per-square-foot incentive amount available in the Water Authority’s service area and streamline the application process.

“Over the past few years, the Water Authority has helped foster sustainable landscaping through financial incentives, a demonstration garden, hands-on classes and publication of a detailed guidebook,” said Mark Muir, chair of the Water Authority’s Board of Directors. “We’re excited to take the next step so that homeowners in the San Diego region can maximize their rebates with one application.”

The new incentive program builds on the success of the Water Authority’s pioneering Sustainable Landscapes Program, which in October 2016 started offering up to $1.75 per square foot toward project costs for upgrading as much as 3,000 square feet of existing turf. That program helped more than 175 homeowners transform their landscapes into beautiful, climate-appropriate mini-watersheds that not only save water, but achieve additional benefits such as reducing stormwater runoff and lessening green waste. Incentive payments required following a detailed set of environmentally friendly landscaping practices to ensure projects achieved a heightened level of sustainability.

Moving forward, residents in San Diego County are eligible for MWD’s Landscape Transformation Program, which includes requirements for grass removal, irrigation modification and water retention or filtration to support reuse or soil absorption of rainwater. For residents, MWD is offering $1 and the Water Authority will use existing grant funds from the state Department of Water Resources to add $1.75 per square foot for a total of $2.75 for qualifying projects. Businesses are eligible for $1 per square foot. City of San Diego residential water customers are eligible for an additional $1.25 per square foot for qualifying projects.

Program funding is limited, and participants must comply with requirements that include a simple landscape plan, plant coverage, mulch, rainwater capture and irrigation technology. Qualifying projects generally must remove between 250 and 1,500 square feet of turf in the front yard, though some exceptions apply.

Please Note: Important Information from Metropolitan
The Landscape Transformation program is a two-part application process. In order to receive a rebate, you must apply to reserve rebate funds prior to starting your project. After the reservation, you will have 180 days to complete the project and submit your request for a rebate. Helix customers should prepare and submit their applications as quickly as possible — while the funding is available — knowing that you have through the end of the year to complete the installation of your new landscaping.

Note, too, that depending on the conversion methods used in your landscape transformation project, you may be eligible for additional rebates on weather based irrigation controllers, soil moisture sensors, rotating nozzles, rain barrels or cisterns.

Removing turf grass is one of the best upgrades residents or businesses can make to reduce their water use.

Learn more about eligibility, terms and conditions and how to apply at www.socalwatersmart.com

15 Great Ideas for a Lawn-Free Yard

15 Great Ideas for a Lawn-Free Yard

On houzz.com:
The lawn has enjoyed decades of popularity, and while there are still plenty of things to love about a great lawn, that expanse of green can sometimes be more trouble than it’s worth. Check out these 15 inspiring examples of yards using gravel, stone, native plantings and more, for fire-safe, drought-conscious and easy alternatives to the traditional green.

Read the story and enjoy the photos


How to grow beautiful Bougainvillea

How to grow beautiful Bougainvillea

From Garden Design Magazine —
Want to add some color to your landscape? You need a flower that isn’t afraid of San Diego’s hot, dry weather, and Bougainvillea is it. This fantastic article shows you the different varieties of Bougainvillea and explains how to use it as a vine or groundcover, soil preferences and how to water it. Note that East County is in Zone 10 — Bougainvillea’s favorite zone — of the USDA’s Plant Hardiness Zone System.

Explore Bougainvillea in Garden Design Magazine

The 2018 WaterSmart Landscape Contest winner is . . .

The 2018 WaterSmart Landscape Contest winner is . . .

Helix Water District has named Carey Hultgren and Paul Geldbach of La Mesa as the winner of its 2018 WaterSmart Landscape Contest, an annual competition that recognizes outstanding water-wise residential landscapes based on design and overall attractiveness, appropriate plant selection and maintenance, and irrigation methods.

This 1930s Spanish-style home on Dutton Lane sits on a 0.67-acre lot and now uses 40 percent less water than it consumed a few short years ago. Over the two-month billing period ending this April, this home used just 14 units of water.  One unit is 748 gallons.

Hultgren and Geldbach purchased the property in 2012 and, at the time, the only landscaping was dead sod, dying trees and a swimming pool. Rather than trying to rehabilitate the thirsty lawn, Hultgren and Geldbach slowly transitioned their property into a colorful, complimentary, and climate-appropriate landscape.

Incredibly, the two completed the design, installation and maintenance of their Spanish oasis on their own. “Yes, it has taken us a long time! But I believe the extra time spent has been worth the money we’ve saved and the pride of ownership we gained in the process.”

How They Did It

Hultgren attended the San Diego County Water Authority’s free WaterSmart Landscape Makeover Program in 2015 and within a few months they were ready to break ground. Since then, this do-it-yourself duo has completed a great amount of work.

“We’ve installed 26 water-wise trees and countless drought tolerant plants. We continue to refine and add to the landscape every spare moment we have,” said Hultgren.

The work first involved clearing the land with multiple truckloads of dead plant material and then rebuilding the sun-scorched soil. They hauled in over 40 yards of compost and mulch to provide the new plants with nutrients and help the soil retain moisture.

Next on the list was irrigation for the new plants. Fortunately, the old lawn had an irrigation system. The couple retrofitted the system with efficient rotating nozzles and avoided the expense and labor of installing a completely new system.

Lastly, the couple carefully selected, arranged and installed the colorful, low-water-use plants. Now that the plants are established, Hultgren and Geldbach can turn the irrigation system off from late fall to spring with nothing but the occasional hand-watering in between.

“In fact, we deeply watered the Palo Verdes along the driveway the first year to get their root systems established and we haven’t watered them or the 20 octopus agaves…for about one and a half years! This spring, the trees have thanked us with a spectacular flower show.”

Hultgren and Geldbach wrote in their contest application that, “It’s gratifying to see that our efforts to conserve water with careful plant selections, irrigation retrofitting and mulch maintenance has been paying off with a lower water bill than some of our neighbors, plus a more colorful landscape.”

As this year’s winners, Hultgren and Geldbach will receive the following prizes – a $250 gift card, a certificate, as well as a WaterSmart Landscape Contest winner’s sign to display in their yard.

Photos of Hultgren’s and Geldbach’s yard will appear in the winners section at landscapecontest.com, along with Helix Water District’s past winners and the winners from other local water agencies. Helix will also feature the couple and their landscape at hwd.com, the district’s own website.

Next Year’s Contest

The 2019 WaterSmart Landscape Contest will begin around January next year and the deadline for submissions will be in late April.  Look for information about the 2019 contest at hwd.com, Facebook.com/HelixWater and Twitter@HelixWater.

Governor approves permanent water conservation rules

Governor approves permanent water conservation rules

Yesterday — after two years of analysis, lobbying and debate between water suppliers, environmental groups, state officials and legislators — Governor Brown signed two bills into law that establish permanent water use restrictions throughout California.

The new laws require Helix and other urban water suppliers to set and comply with annual water use targets — water budgets — based on three factors:

  • An allowance for customers of 55 gallons per person per day for indoor water use
  • A yet-to-be determined allowance for customers for outdoor water use 
  • A cap on water distribution system leaks

Helix customers should note that their water use may already be 55 gallons or less per person per day indoors. The average daily water use of Helix customers this year — indoor and outdoor use combined — is just over 97 gallons per person.

It’s also important to note that Helix already has permanent, year-round water use efficiency measures in place, as do many Southern California water suppliers. This is not the case, however, statewide.

What concerns water suppliers is the yet-to-be determined allowance for outdoor water use. Property owners should expect something along the lines of the maximum applied water allowance (MAWA) for new development in California. The MAWA limits new residential landscapes to 55 percent of the water needed for a healthy lawn, and new non-residential landscapes to 45 percent.

Drive around La Mesa, El Cajon and Lemon Grove and you will see that many Helix customers will be okay with an outdoor water allowance, because they already installed water efficient landscapes. You’ll also see properties that emerged from five years of drought with no landscape left. But the remaining lawns and tropical backyards in our service area could be an issue.

Helix’s annual water use target will be based on the total square feet of irrigated landscape in our service area and the yet-to-be determined equivalent of the MAWA. Water suppliers that do not meet their annual target face fines of $1,000 per day.

The State Water Resources Control Board will go to work now, deciding what the outdoor water use allowance will be. Water suppliers need to establish their annual water use targets by 2022.

Read the San Jose Mercury News Story

Read Assembly Bill 1668

Read Senate Bill 606




Reserve Your Seats for Saturday’s Workshop

Reserve Your Seats for Saturday’s Workshop

Learn how to transform your yard into a beautiful, water-saving landscape at our FREE, 3-hour WaterSmart Landscape Design Workshop this Saturday, June 2, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.

Taught by a local landscape expert, this 3-hour workshop will teach you:
  • How to convert your turf area to a water efficient landscape
  • How to select plants that will thrive in our Mediterranean climate
  • How to analyze your yard, identify soil, remove turf & irrigate efficiently
  • How to create a professional landscape — planting & irrigation designs ready for installation!
10 Spectacular Trees for Tight Spaces

10 Spectacular Trees for Tight Spaces

Ideally, a small to medium-size tree for a courtyard has plenty to offer year-round — spring flowers, summer shade, fall color and attractive branches for winter interest — without needing too much in return. The perfect patio tree also has a slower growth rate to reduce pruning and doesn’t drop messy seeds, blooms or fruit or have aggressive roots that will lift paving.

Read 10 Spectacular Trees for Courtyards and Tight Spaces on Houzz.com