San Diego Making Use of Sustainable Gardens To Conserve Water

At the headquarters of the San Diego County Water Authority, a new model of landscape practices is tucked between the corporate offices and condos of Kearny Mesa. The garden features an oasis decorated with graffiti stars, Santa Barbara daisies, and plenty of other plant varieties arranged amongst mulch and stone.

The Water Authority recently developed the garden as an effort to promote efficient water use. The garden features four core principles of sustainable landscapes: climate-appropriate plants, healthy soils, high-efficiency irrigation, and using rainwater as a main water resource.

The Sustainable Landscaping Demonstration Garden is a prime example of a practical, yet still beautiful garden that businesses and residents can base their own gardens on. The garden includes 40 different varieties of low-water plants, along with inline drip and rotating nozzles. Rainwater is captured in a detention basin and then absorbed by compost and mulch.

At approximately 3,000 square feet, the garden provides an example of best practices detailed in “San Diego Sustainable Landscape Guidelines.” The 71-page guidebook was published in 2016 and provides advice on how to transform a landscape.

While 64% of homeowners who are upgrading their outdoor spaces are addressing their landscaping in their own backyard, residents have the opportunity to participant in this project. The Water Authority is offering an incentive of $1.75 per square foot for landscape upgrades through the Sustainable Landscapes Program.

Many California gardens still include grasses which require a lot of water and aren’t native to the area. To avoid excessive use of water, and get the best use of natural rainfall, gravel and stone is a sustainable alternative to grass, hence its usage in the new Water Authority Garden. Not only that, but a one inch layer of gravel or rock can provide excellent weed control.

The San Diego State community is also taking steps toward environmental sustainability.

Ed Glebus, executive chef and associate director of Aztec Shops, said SDSU Dining Services began growing organic produce in 2014. Dining Services now rents 20 plots from the community garden to grow local produce.

The community garden is located off-campus and every aspect of the garden is focused on sustainability. The garden also uses tanks to capture rainwater and solar panels that produce more energy than the garden uses.

Trevor Toia, who is a sustainability junior at SDSU, had a large role in establishing the on-campus gardens. The students had to get creative with the space they had, since SDSU is pretty urban.

Toia assisted in the installation of aeroponic towers, which are nutrient-driven towers, and designed and built structures for the garden.

“Working with the (aeroponic towers) is really fun,” Toia said. “We’re pumping out an amazing amount of product. I like coming in every day and being able to see more growth, more progress.”

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