RANCHO SANTA FE — The incessant drought is compelling people to rethink how they view their water consumption, including their residential landscaping.
The Rancho Santa Fe’s monthly Get Smart Series, a complimentary event, invited Kelly Fore Dixon ASLA, who is a local resident and landscape designer at Nature Designs in San Diego County.
Dixon provided a wealth of information including tips to reduce one’s water bill, how to pick and plant climate fitting plants, and more.
“We’re getting to our fourth year of drought, and the last two years have been record breaking high temperatures,” she said, noting the Stage 2 water restriction.
While there are two more levels of 3 and 4, she said, if the community ever got to Stage 4, there would be no water for irrigation.
“So the call to action is now to pay attention,” said Dixon, adding how the more scarce water become, the pricing will continue to rise. She continued on, explaining that 66 percent of potable water is for residential use; and, of that amount, about 53 percent is used for landscape.
A sobering statistic is that it takes about 35,000 gallons of water a year to keep a 1,000 square foot area of lawn looking green.
This is why a shift in higher water bills has occurred.
Landscaping doesn’t have to be all about lawns. There are options to redesign a property, such as a desert landscape, that can still be lovely without using too much water.
A tip Dixon shared was when setting the irrigation timer, do so after midnight when the soils are cooler.
“You’re going to have less chance for mold growth and sometimes the winds have died down a little bit more in the evenings,” she said.
Another tidbit she had was to set the timers for five minutes of watering, wait an hour for the water to absorb, and set it again for another immediate watering to avoid run off and enhance optimal saturation.
A landscaped area should also have irrigation zones indicating what types of watering is necessary in certain areas such as native plants, succulents, shady areas or direct sunlight.
“And if we are going to have rain, turn your irrigation system off for three days prior to that,” she said. “Let’s take advantage of rain, and if you can turn your gutter spouts down towards your planting beds as opposed towards your paving, you’re going to take advantage of every single drop.”
Dixon also recommended investing in a rain sensor as an inexpensive way to make sure that one doesn’t irrigate during a rain when they are out of town or asleep.
If possible, Dixon said, it may be advisable to turn off the whole irrigation system and commit to watching the plants and foliage every single day.
“What’s going to happen is when you walk around your yard, there’s going to be a type of plant that’s going to be your thirstiest plant. Sometimes it’s a tropical. Sometimes it’s a hydrangea,” she said, adding how that is one’s cue on how often to water a particular zone.
More mature landscapes don’t require as much water.
Dixon recommends walking the property monthly to assess the needs of the yard and garden. During the assessment, it’s important to check for leaks, broken sprinklers and spray heads.
When those irrigation heads start to wear out, she said, especially the rotary heads, they will start to just lose that grab before they turn.
“So oftentimes you’ll start to see spray on the driveway you didn’t have the night before. That’s an indication that you might need to change that head,” she said.
Dixon said the Ranch is paradise, so it’s important to use the land wisely while taking into consideration the natural resources, which are afforded, to everyone.