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San Diegans Work Toward Water-wise Landscaping

San Diegans Work Toward Water-wise Landscaping
As San Diegans face water restrictions, we'll look at how homeowners can make water-wise choices for their landscaping.

KPBS Special Report

H2NO: San Diego Going Dry

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

The Water Conservation Garden's Water Smart Pipeline hotline is (866) 962-7021.


MAUREEN CAVANAUGH (Host): I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. You're listening to These Days in San Diego. Well, in the city of San Diego, we've now had about a month of restrictions on outdoor watering, so how's your lawn looking? It's probably doing pretty well so far since the weather has been cool and humid but as the summer goes on, and no matter which water district's conservation plan you're living with, the idea of feeding the lawn beast with so much precious water may become increasingly unpopular. Making the switch from lush green lawns to a landscape that's more in keeping with San Diego's real climate is a big decision. It takes planning, patience and even a bit of psychological re-adjustment. But wise-water gardeners say the outcome can be a landscape of great and enduring beauty, and one that can be sustained without wasting resources. We continue our week-long series of water-conservation reports with a look at the different types of water-wise gardening options available, and why it may be a very good idea to find out more about them. My guests are KPBS environmental reporter Ed Joyce. It's nice to see you, Ed.

ED JOYCE (KPBS Environmental Reporter): Nice to see you again, Maureen.

CAVANAUGH: And Nan Sterman is garden journalist and author of California Gardener's Guide Volume II. Nan also answers calls for the Water Conservation Garden's Water Smart Pipeline on Tuesday mornings and Thursday afternoons, as good as Wednesday. That hotline is 866-962-7021. And I want to let everyone listening know that we are talking about your yard or garden and how to make it water-wise. So give – call us with your comments or if you have questions, the number here is 1-888-895-5727, that's 1-888-895-KPBS. You know, Ed, I was surprised by a statistic I heard in the feature report about water use and wise-water gardening. How much does – of San Diego's drinking water is used for landscaping?

JOYCE: Actually, excuse me, actually, statewide, more than about 60% is used outside. The entire state, 60% of our drinking water supply is used to water lawns, plants, sidewalks. And, you know, the water agencies will tell you, you know, no matter how much you water that sidewalk, it's just not going to grow.

CAVANAUGH: So what we pay as consume – for consumers of water is going up because, of course, of the water cutbacks and the cost of water increasing all over the state. How is that impacting how people think about their water use?


JOYCE: Well, some people are beginning to change their behavior and their water use as well as changing their yards. I should mention there was a story in the North County Times about the Carlsbad Municipal Water District, and the city council there has agreed to support a new tiered system for residential water customers. And so these are rates that will go up, I mean, depending upon where you are, you'll be paying more for that water. So people are looking at drought tolerant plants, they're looking at pulling out a lot of the lawn, which takes a lot of water and it costs a lot. This couple I talked to in Scripps Ranch did that recently, you know, and they're changing their behavior. They looked at some bills and they decided, hey, we need to do something different. It's costing too much to water this lawn.

MEG KAUFMAN (Scripps Ranch Resident): What started this whole project was we were horrified with our water bill. I mean, it just was, every month, getting more and more, and we weren't seeing where it was going. I guess we were seeing, it was going down the street, that's where it was going, yeah.

JOYCE: That's Meg Kaufman. She and Norm Bornstein, in Scripps Ranch, converted their backyard to drought tolerate landscape, sort of a way of saving money and they have a nice yard. It just started to grow in now. Next spring, it'll really fill in a little bit more. But they also have a slope on the south side of their house and it was covered with ice plant and they had a sprinkler system, and the water would just run down the hillside, run down the sidewalk and down the street. And that was costing them a lot of money also. They changed that out as well.

CAVANAUGH: And, as you said, you know, this is something that everybody can do but it's not something you should just go into lightly. It does take some planning and it might even take – need some professional help.

JOYCE: Steve Jacobs, of Nature Designs Landscaping in Vista, was the project manager for what they did in their backyard and the slope as well. And he – Basically, it saves time, water and money by replacing the lawn. It actually creates more of an inviting type of backyard as well.

STEVE JACOBS (Nature Design Landscaping): No mowing, no edging, no weekly maintenance. But this yard you can go into probably once a month and just do a little weeding and trimming and so it's a fraction of the maintenance and water use.

JOYCE: So, hey, what? Me, worry? You save water, you save money, and you're not running around in the yard with a lot of fertilizer and mowing the yard all the time and worrying about your lawn being green or brown, or the high water rates that you're going to be paying to keep that lawn in the back yard or the front yard.

CAVANAUGH: I want to bring Nan into the conversation because, you know, you've been advising people for years to rip out their grass.

NAN STERMAN (Garden Journalist and Author): That's right. And, in fact, I know Steve Jacobs and he's a wonderful, wonderful landscaper. You can do it yourself, though. I teach a class called "Bye, Bye Grass." People have – you know, your listeners have heard me talk about this before. In fact, I taught it last night, I taught the first session last night in Oceanside. The second session is tomorrow, again, in Oceanside. And the class is sponsored by the Water Conservation Garden and it is all about how to get rid of your grass and what to do with it when it's gone. It's a – the whole first class is methods for getting rid of grass.

CAVANAUGH: And, you know, I think that that sort of is a scary prospect to people, though, to actually say goodbye to their lawn.

STERMAN: Well, for some people it is but it's always so interesting to me because often I'll have couples come in, husband and wife couples, and the wife is raring to go and the husband's really hesitant, and then by the end of the class, you know, he's won over. But it's happening so much, it's happening everywhere. When I first started teaching the class, I had, you know, a couple of people in each class. Now, it's just tons of people who come in and want to know, how do I get rid of my grass, and how do I make a beautiful landscape in its place? And it's not that hard to do. It's just a different way of thinking.

CAVANAUGH: Right. We have a number of people who already want to join our conversation but, Nan, I want to, just for the sake of conversation, I want to go down some of these terminologies that we've been using about xeriscaping and drought tolerant and so forth. For – What does xeriscape mean? What does that look like? What does it mean?

STERMAN: It's an excellent question. The term xeriscape is spelled x-e-r-i, not z-e-r-o.


STERMAN: People think it's z-e-r-o, it's not zeroscape, it's xeriscape. It comes from the word xeric, x-e-r-i-c, which means dry or arid. So it's landscaping for arid climates. It was proposed and, actually, it's a copyrighted term by the Colorado WaterWise Council. They're way ahead of where we are in terms of waterwise landscaping. And it's got – I think it's seven tenets and it has to do with planning and irrigation. It's best practices, essentially. And so it's become kind of a generalized term just like Kleenex or Xerox but it does have specific meaning, and if you want to look it up, you go to So that's what that means.

CAVANAUGH: And, Ed, I just wanted to point out the people in your feature actually did call it zeroscape so…

JOYCE: Exactly, exactly. He – The friend that was running that suggested, hey, you can, you know, use this xeriscape but he, in the story, said, you know, zero. So, no, it's not zero.

STERMAN: It's not zero. It's unfortunate…

JOYCE: Yeah.

STERMAN: …that the terms are so similar sounding.

CAVANAUGH: Is it the same as drought tolerant?

STERMAN: Well, xeri – yes, essentially, it is, except that the concept of xeriscape has all these other issues like how you water, mulching and things like that. Drought tolerant refers to, usually, the way we use it is a plant is drought tolerant, and what that means is that it will survive on little water. Frankly, whenever I read plant labels or I read about plants for our climate, I tell people – or when I talk about them, I tell people, look for plants that are, quote, unquote, drought tolerant but, really, those are the plants that are the ones that need – We should be calling those ones that need regular water, you know, normal water because that's what's normal for our climate…

CAVANAUGH: Right, right.

STERMAN: …is the low water. So it's kind of a confusing term.

CAVANAUGH: Now two other terms that you see when you look at gardening websites or you see: 'Mediterranean' and you also see 'native.'


CAVANAUGH: So what does that mean in terms of San Diego?

STERMAN: I'm so glad you're asking these questions. Native plants are plants that are native, that have evolved in California. Okay, so native plants, we talk about California natives, but, frankly, California natives go all the way up to the border with Oregon. So not all native plants, California natives, are going to be low-water plants. The ones that are native to Southern California and to San Diego, by and large, will unless they happen to come from like stream areas, riparian habitats. So if you're looking to do a garden of native plants that is low-water, look for plants that come from, say, Santa Barbara south. If – You can take some from the northern areas but they get much more water than we do. Mediterranean refers to a climate pattern, which is what we have, and the climate pattern means that we don't get rain in summer. People who come from other parts of the country are used to summertime rain. That gives you lush landscape. I was just in Indianapolis and it was pouring and my eighteen year old said, why is it raining in summer? It was just hilarious. Anyway, we don't get rain in summer. Neither do – There are five Mediterranean regions of the world; this is the same climate pattern. The Mediterranean Basin, which is where the term comes from, southern and western coast of Australia, southern tip of South Africa, the Cape region, west coast of Chile, and California from Baja – and some people even further north claim to have the Mediterranean climate region. So our native plants are Mediterranean climate plants, even though they're not from the Mediterranean. It's a broader category and, essentially, most plants from Mediterranean climate regions will do fine in our climate because they're used to that same pattern of no water in summer.

CAVANAUGH: Let me bring in some of our callers because they really want to join the conversation. We are taking your calls about water-wise gardening at 1-888-895-5727. And Nathan is on the line in El Cajon. Good morning, Nathan. Welcome to These Days.

NATHAN (Caller, El Cajon): Good morning. Well, I have been doing xeriscaping here in San Diego for about six years. My company is Waterwise Irrigation Service. A little shameless plug there. I appreciate you guys focusing on this so much and I do have one question and I'm hoping Gloria Penner or one of your guests know something about this. I did hear that California is going to lift the need for permitting on gray water systems, which is something that my company does do, and I was wondering if San Diego County is going to follow suit and lift those restrictions so we can start using gray water systems here.

CAVANAUGH: Thank you for that, Nathan. Gloria has left the room at this point. My guests are Ed Joyce and Nan Sterman. But there was a news story this week about a loosening of the permit requirement in San Diego for the use of gray water. Would either one of you like to comment on that?

JOYCE: I believe there's a move afoot in the state legislature along that line as well, and that's happening, percolating now, if you will. Tom Fudge will be talking about water reuse and gray water tomorrow as our series continues, and he'll have a little bit more information about that as well.

CAVANAUGH: We'll promise to get you that information, Nathan, and thank you so much for the phone call. Let's go to Mike in North County. And, Mike, good morning. You're on These Days.

MIKE (Caller, North County): Good morning, everybody. I'm an avocado grower so I can hear the hissing and booing from everywhere but – because we use a lot of water but we make a lot of food. Around my own property, though, I've landscaped lushly and used the peripheral throw of my avocado irrigation to – instead of growing weeds on the periphery of my grove, I'm growing landscaping. It's wonderful and beautiful and edible. And I wanted to suggest to get rid of your lawn like we did. Instead, put in a garden, a vegetable garden. Reduce your carbon footprint overall while using your water wisely. Grow organic, clean, un-pesticide ridden food right at home, what you want to eat, fresh right there at your doorstep. Use that water wisely. It's so easy now to use drip irrigation and compost. You can get a tremendous—and I mean tremendous—amount of food out of a very small area. We have a pretty large – I mean, many acres. But right in Carlsbad, right in Vista, right in Poway, if you have a 7,000 foot city lot, you could grow a tremendous amount of food. It is absolutely unbelievable.

CAVANAUGH: Well, we're having salad at your house, Mike. Thank you for the call.

STERMAN: No, guacamole.


STERMAN: He's absolutely right. I – That's perfect. I always tell people, if you're going to spend water, spend it on something that's going to feed you.

CAVANAUGH: Yeah, yeah.

STERMAN: Absolutely.

CAVANAUGH: You know, Nan, you've told us now, you can use a professional or you can take out your lawn yourself and you can start your water-wise gardening by learning something about it, by taking a few classes, I've got to say, you know, in my condo complex, they, for a number of different reasons, tore out some palm trees that were in the middle of it and put in some – it looks like it's water-wise. I wasn't involved in it but it looks like it's water-wise gardening. And I tell you, that took a while to…


CAVANAUGH: …look like anything.

STERMAN: Yeah, it does. The most – There are two most important characteristics for people who want a garden, okay, two important things. You have to be patient and you have to be persistent. That's just how it is. They're living entities just like we are. It's just like you didn't grow to your full size in a year, did you? Plants don't either. And even if you have annuals that do their whole cycle in a year, which is what most fruits and veg – well, most vegetables, or not most fruits. You have to be patient. It's a process. It doesn't happen overnight. And this whole concept of instant landscape is really – has been a disservice to us as a community.

CAVANAUGH: Well, you know, let me just go with my experience just a little bit more. Are there plants that go under the drought tolerant and native and Mediterranean categories that we've been talking about, the wise-gardening sort of plants, that, you know, that you should rotate because one will bloom and then it'll go into, you know, its gestation and then…

STERMAN: Absolutely. So what you're really talking about is planting a combination of plants so that – and choosing that combination so that you have different plants that have their peak in different seasons of the year. Absolutely. And a lot of these water-wise plants, a lot of the ones from Australia and South Africa and even our own natives, they will be at their best from fall through spring.


STERMAN: So, you know, we always get that – we always seem to get that spring peak but a lot of them bloom prolifically starting when the weather cools at the end of summer when they come out of their dormancy. They're indormant in our most harshest time of year, which is summer as opposed to other places where it's winter, and they just bloom their heads off. And then when the heat comes, they kind of go into suspended animation and they don't look their best. But the rest of the year, they look wonderful.

CAVANAUGH: Let's take another call, and Jennifer is in Poway. Good morning, Jennifer, welcome to These Days.

JENNIFER (Caller, Poway): Good morning. Thank you. My question is in line with a lot of the callers and specifically regarding the xeriscape landscaping. We just recently bought a home in Poway and I know we're going through a lot of water restrictions coming up very shortly. Well, the reason we were attracted to the home is we have younger kids and it's got a huge side yard with grass and it's probably an acre of grass and the kids love to play on it. In the future, we're planning to do something. What would you recommend we do to eliminate some of that grass or, you know, make it more xeriscape looking? I don't understand exactly what that would look like.

STERMAN: So are you talking about eliminating some of the grass now?

JENNIFER: Yeah, we're pulling out – we're kind of maybe expanding our perimeter to encroach on where the grass is so we have a nice planting around the perimeter so that will eliminate some of our grass. But we don't want to eliminate the full acre of it. We still use it quite a bit.

STERMAN: Okay. So I think what you're talking about is reducing the size of your grass and increasing the size of the planting beds that surround the grass, yes?

JENNIFER: Yes, but what if I wanted to get rid of more of the grass, what would I be putting in there? It's pretty much of a – it's a slope and then a flat area.

STERMAN: There are a myriad of plants that you can use, and I'm going to do a shameless plug here: Get my book. I mean, that's exactly what I've written about, are the plants that are low-water, low-maintenance, and perfectly suited for our climate. You know, I'd have to be in your garden to look at the style of your garden to make specific recommendations because you want to make sure it's consistent with everything else, even if it takes less water. So it's a little more involved than just saying, take this out and put that in. But you can absolutely pull in the edges of the grass. There are infrastructure issues to consider like you have an irrigation system right now that's set up to water the grass. You have to water those low-water plants differently so you have to modify your irrigation system so that it conforms to the shape of the new lawn and doesn't water your low-water plants as you would water the lawn, which doesn't work. They're not compatible.

CAVANAUGH: We have to take a break. But just to complete your shameless plug, Nan's book is California Gardener's Guide…

STERMAN: Thank you.

CAVANAUGH: …Volume II. And we shall return with your calls about water-wise gardening right after this break.

CAVANAUGH: Welcome back. You're listening to These Days on KPBS. And my guests are Ed Joyce, KPBS environmental reporter, and garden journalist Nan Sterman. We're talking about water-wise gardening and taking your calls but before we go back to the phones, I just want to ask you, Ed, you know, in your feature you describe that a change from a green lawn to water-wise plants can be a change of the way you think about what the front of your house or the back of your house should look like. Are county officials, water officials, considering doing some psychological motivation?

JOYCE: Well, there's one water district in the county that has employed Cal State San Marcos Psychology Department to kind of set up a survey and it's a lot about behavioral psychology, and Maureen Stapleton talked about that at the Water Conservation Summit earlier this month. She talked about, you know, we need to become deviant. You know, the norm is having this big lawn that you water and it's green and instead, you know, we need to be deviants and deviants – deviancy in this case would be yanking the lawn out and planting, you know, drought tolerant plants and a xeriscape approach.

CAVANAUGH: I'm wondering, homeowners associations, do they have any problems with—and, Nan, do you know this—do people have problems if they want to tear out their lawns?

STERMAN: Yes, yes.

JOYCE: It's a good point, good question.

STERMAN: Absolutely. And, you know, this has been such a big issue. There has been legislation passed that will prevent HOAs from limiting people in terms of what they can do. Enacting that and enforcing that is an issue and – but it's definitely coming down the pike because HOAs can be some of the biggest water users. They have some of the biggest green grass areas. The smart ones are getting on the wagon now but a lot of the people who are on the boards really like their lush landscape and they don’t want to give it up.

CAVANAUGH: Interesting. Let's go to the phones. Chris is in La Mesa, and good morning, Chris. Welcome to These Days.

CHRIS (Caller, La Mesa): Good morning. I'm really passionate about getting rid of water-sucking lawns in San Diego. They're completely inappropriate here, so I'm really happy for the topic. I'm professionally involved, too, in the shameless plug department. I run a mega-turfing company, which is We put in a lot of fake grass. You can have a lawn and it's not using any water and it looks real. You know, not all turf is created equal, but a lot of what we're doing, too, now we're finding is taking people's front lawns and shrinking the lawn because turf is expensive, and putting, around the perimeter, just like your earlier caller said, other plants. Or the homeowner will later plant those in sometimes with, you know, with xeriscape or Mediterranean plants. We also tend to convert, if we have to, some of the sprinkler heads into drip heads so that you can just have drip because overhead spraying is ridiculous. So, basically, don't forget synthetic turf as part of the mix. You can have a lawn; it just doesn't have to use water.

CAVANAUGH: Thank you for that call, Chris. I want to ask about drip irrigation because Chris brings it up. And I know that a lot of people who are not really deeply involved in gardening are a little hesitant about putting that in. You know, the sprinklers are something you know about, the drip irrigation seems a little bit more…

STERMAN: Mysterious.

CAVANAUGH: …complicated. Mysterious, yeah.

STERMAN: Mysterious because you don't look at it.


STERMAN: Well, you know…

JOYCE: Stealth water systems.

STERMAN: I'm a huge advocate of drip irrigation. I've been using drip for twenty-plus years. There's all kinds of different technologies. Drip irrigation is essentially low pressure irrigation that applies the water directly to the soil around the plants as opposed to spraying it over the top of the plants with the hope – and, you know, the hopes and dreams that it's going to fall onto the leaves, drip down and, hopefully, find its way to…


STERMAN: …the soil where the roots are because that's where plants need it. And drip – overhead irrigation is only about 50% efficient so that means that half the water you spray out of a spray head is either lost to the atmosphere or onto the sidewalk, which, as Ed said, doesn't grow, or goes down the gutter, etcetera. Drip is just – it makes so much sense, and it's the standard in Arizona, New Mexico, and other states that have similar water issues as we do. That said, it's not – it is sort of mysterious because you don't see it when you drive down the street so it's not something that people kind of learn by just observation. You have to do some research and you have to do your homework. There are wonderful drip irrigation technologies. There's some really good new drip irrigation technologies. A lot of it comes out of Israel, so you can imagine, they have really sophisticated technologies. What I suggest, there's a good book out, it just came out in a updated edition, by a guy named Robert Kourik, K-o-u-r-i-k, about drip irrigation. It's called something like Drip Irrigation For Every Climate and Garden. He goes through this step-by-step. He's talking to the homeowner. You do have to be a little technologically savvy but it isn't that hard. And he talks all about the different technologies and what he thinks works and what doesn't work. It's a really great intro. Once you kind of have the basic understandings under your belt, I send people to the places where the pros go. Go to the irrigation stores. Excuse me, don't go to the big box stores because sometimes they have the same stuff as the pros use but oftentimes they have a lower quality materials and they certainly don't have people to help you.

CAVANAUGH: Interesting. And, Ed, in your feature on xeriscaping, you talked to homeowners who put in a drip irrigation system.


CAVANAUGH: And they seem pleased with it.

JOYCE: They – It's wonderful. The slope used to take a ton of water. They had a whole sprinkler system that would just spray, as Nan has said, and would fly everywhere, mostly down the sidewalk and down the street and into the gutter. They've replaced the bedding – not the bedding, but they replaced what they had on the slope, which was ice plant, with a drought tolerant planting and they put burlap underneath that and that – and they used the drip irrigation system. The burlap functions as a way to keep, even with the drip system, the water from flowing down, so it kind of catches the water and directs it further into the soil, and they're saving a lot of money and it works great.

STERMAN: And you don't get runoff with drip.


STERMAN: You just don't.

CAVANAUGH: Right. I want to remind everyone, we are taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727. On the line right now is Mark in San Diego. And good morning, Mark, welcome to These Days.

MARK (Caller, San Diego): I had a comment I wanted to make.


MARK: I recently redid my front yard from grass to a drought tolerant type system. It was a lot of work. But one of the things I noticed was that when you take the sod to the city dump, they charge it as a demolition type load as opposed to regular refuse and they charge a much higher rate for hauling sod to the dump than regular trash. And I would kind of think that if the City of San Diego wanted to encourage people to take out their lawns, they might make some kind of discount on hauling the sod to the dump.

CAVANAUGH: Well, thank you for that. I don't think that I've heard about that. Well, talk about the cost, Nan, if you would, of getting rid of your lawn.

STERMAN: Costs vary depending upon the technology that you use, I mean, and where the costs go. In his situation, his only cost incurred was his own – his time and the cost to dump the sod. Though if he has a big enough property and he doesn't have Bermuda grass in his sod, what I would suggest is instead of taking it to the dump, compost it. Compost it and then use that compost on site, then you have almost no cost. If you use a spray product, you know, whether it be chemical based or, quote, unquote, organic, then there are more expensive – then it gets a little more expensive. The costs are for the materials that you use. You can rent a sod cutter which acts like a shovel. It's a little faster. It's a self-propelled little machine. Of course, it does use fossil fuels and create greenhouse grasses (sic) and blah-blah-blah. So if you don't have Bermuda grass, you can use that. And sod cutters rent for about a hundred dollars a day, more or less, and as long as you don't shear off the top of your pop-up, that's really about as much cost as you incur. If you shear off the top of your pop-up sprinklers, then you're going to have to invest a little into repairs.

CAVANAUGH: Right. And when is the best time of year to do that?

STERMAN: To do the sod cutting…


STERMAN: …you could do anytime. If you do something like solarize, which, again, you can do if you don't have Bermuda, then you spread a sheet of clear plastic on top of your grass and seal it down and then it cooks, essentially. And you want to do that in the heat of summer and you want to do it inland. On the coast, it doesn't really get hot enough. So it just – I go through all of these in this class.


STERMAN: And it just depends. Getting rid of the lawn is not the expensive part unless you hire somebody to do it for you and then, you know, costs – you have to decide how much you're going to spend.

CAVANAUGH: Let's take another call. Lisa in Chula Vista. Good morning, Lisa, welcome to These Days.

LISA (Caller, Chula Vista): Thank you very much. I'm glad to have a south county caller on here. I actually took my lawn out about a year and a half ago. There was a program called Cash for Plants through the Otay Water District, where I live, so I actually got paid to take out my yard. And I coupled that with some programs that offered free trees, so I took my yard out, put about five or six xeric trees and I'm now the owner of a wonderful English garden. That's what I set out to do when I took my yard out, was to put in an English type garden with lots of flowers. I moved all my roses to one side and planted lots of native plants and actually ordered some catalog plants from New Mexico's High County Gardens and got some different coloring. So I'm – I – it was the best thing I could've done.

CAVANAUGH: Well, thank you, Lisa, and that sounds like a different kind of English garden with native plants instead of a lot of English plants.

STERMAN: Yes, but the English garden is a look.

CAVANAUGH: Is a concept.

STERMAN: It's a concept.


STERMAN: It's a cottage garden so she's going for lots of flowers. And that's – you can do that, too. You know, the succulents are going to be the lowest water but there's nothing wrong with what she's doing.

CAVANAUGH: And once you've established a low-water garden, can it take care of itself with minimal maintenance?

STERMAN: Well, it depends what your tolerance is for, you know, plants that do their own thing. If you plan it correctly and give each plant the amount of space it needs to achieve its ultimate size, then you cut down on your maintenance significantly. Essentially, you no longer, as Steve Jacobson (sic) said, you don't have to mow every week. You don't have to fertilize, you don't have to do – Most of these plants don't require fertilizer. So your maintenance shifts to pruning once a year, twice a year maybe, deadheading flowers on an occasion, raking, replacing the mulch, maintaining your irrigation system. It's a much lower maintenance kind of proposition but there's no such thing as no maintenance.

CAVANAUGH: And Lisa, Ed, was talking about the fact that she got paid to do her lawn, take out her lawn and plant a water-wise garden instead. I'm wondering, any ideas down the pike for the City of San Diego on that?

JOYCE: Well, the San Diego County Water Authority has had landscape incentives in the past and they're looking at maybe, you know, bringing some of that back again. Money is tight and depending upon where the funding would come from, it's possible that there could be some incentives coming back, you know, from different agencies.

CAVANAUGH: Let's take a couple of calls, try to squeeze them in before the top of the hour. And Norm is in Imperial Beach. Good morning, Norm, and welcome to These Days.

NORM (Caller, Imperial Beach): Yes, I would like to talk about the king and queen of water consumption monitored over by the elite, called the golf course. What can be done about the golf courses?

CAVANAUGH: Well, yes.

JOYCE: They're using – many of them are using recycled water, I know, within the county. There's some – some of the water agencies, they've – they have a goal of getting all the golf courses within their water district to be using recycled water and four or five in this one water agency's district have done that. So more and more are moving to recycled water.

CAVANAUGH: Well, thank you. And let's try to take one more fast call. Aaron in San Diego, good morning, Aaron.

AARON (Caller, San Diego): Thank you for taking my call. I was thinking about Balboa Park and had a idea. What if we have less grass maybe and more fruit trees, and maybe some plot-sharing areas for people who are interested to come and plant trees and maybe they can, based on donations to the Balboa Park, and use the fruit and – they can pick themselves.

CAVANAUGH: That's a great idea. Thank you, Aaron. More fruit trees, less grass in Balboa Park.

JOYCE: You asked about incentives. Nan has just passed me something that talks about weather-based irrigation controller rebates. So you can pursue that through the San Diego County Water Authority and look into that rebate program for smart irrigation controllers.

STERMAN: Yeah, and usually the rebates are agency by agency, so you call your own local water agency and they tell you what's available at that point in time because it's a limited amount of money that usually comes down from Metropolitan Water District and so they'll have a rebate in different areas until that money runs out.

CAVANAUGH: Well, I want to thank you both so much. We had so many callers wanting to get in, and I want to apologize to the people that we couldn't talk to. We will be doing more shows like this so keep your question or perhaps get a book or go online and have it answered.

STERMAN: Call me.

CAVANAUGH: Or call – call Nan. I was just about to say Nan Sterman is answering calls for the Water Conservation Gardens Water Smart Pipeline. That's on Tuesday mornings and Thursday afternoons. The hotline's number is 866-962-7021. Thank you, Nan, so much for coming on.

STERMAN: It's always a pleasure, Maureen. Thank you.

CAVANAUGH: And KPBS environmental reporter, Ed Joyce, thanks so much.

JOYCE: Thank you, Maureen, always a pleasure.

CAVANAUGH: I want to remind everyone that we are, tomorrow at this time, going to explore the controversy over water recycling in San Diego. And you can see all the reports in our series called "H2NO: San Diego Going Dry" online at