Earth Day Lawn and Garden Tips

county of san diego watershed protection program


Green Earth

Earth-Friendly, Water-Wise Gardening

The month of April is a great month to think ‘green’! Not only is April designated as Lawn and Garden Month, but Earth Day is celebrated on April 22nd. Typical gardening activities such as landscaping, irrigation, and use of fertilizers and pesticides, can lead to stormwater pollution if not done properly. Pollutants such as garden chemicals, soil and sediment, and yard waste can be carried to storm drains by rain and irrigation runoff and end up in our local waterways and ocean without being treated. Let’s not just ‘think green’ – let’s ‘act green’ by following these earth-friendly guidelines for water-wise gardening and a pollution-free environment!

Plan and Plant Wisely – When planning your landscape, design your landscape to capture water and minimize run-off. Install rain gardens or dry creek beds; use permeable surfaces to allow water to soak into the soil; and direct water from downspouts to landscaped areas. Get planting ideas by attending the California Native Plant Society of San Diego’s Gardens Tour of various homes in East San Diego County on April 9th. When planting, use drought-tolerant or native plants to reduce the amount of water, fertilizers, and pesticides needed and group plants with similar water, sun, and soil needs. Check out San Diego Water Authority’s Nifty 50 Plants for WaterSmart Landscapes for plants best suited for our climate as well as helpful water-savings tips.

Mulch/Compost Liberally – Use mulch to reduce the need for fertilizers, hold water in the soil, and prevent erosion of exposed soil patches. Sediment is a common pollutant in our waterways and comes from eroded soils. Opt for healthy compost to add nutrients to your soil and further lock in moisture and reduce waste.

Water Smartly – Avoid water waste by repairing leaking or broken sprinklers, adjusting misdirected sprinklers so water does not spray on driveways or sidewalks, and using irrigation methods such as drip irrigation and soaker hoses. Water in short cycles to allow water to infiltrate into the ground, and in the early morning or late evening when it’s cooler outside to reduce water loss due to evaporation. Learn how much water your lawn and garden actually needs by observing an entire watering cycle or by using a free online watering calculator. Or sign up for a free WaterSmart Checkup to receive water-saving recommendations. Rebates may be available to help you prevent over irrigation.

Apply Fertilizers/Pesticides Sparingly – Be sure to read labels and follow directions to avoid improper use and application of fertilizers and pesticides which can lead to stormwater pollution and contribute to toxic harmful algal blooms in both fresh and coastal waters. Only apply chemicals when it is not windy and more than 48-hours from a rainstorm. When possible, use organic or slow-release fertilizers to minimize leaching.  

Clean Up Thoroughly – Sweep up spills from fertilizers and pesticides immediately. Blow, rake, or sweep up leaves and debris into a pile for proper disposal into a green waste container with a lid. To make clean up easier and prevent stormwater pollution, protect stockpiles and materials from wind and rain by storing them under tarps or secured plastic sheeting.

Learn more about water-wise and sustainable landscaping practices by reviewing the WaterSmart Landscaping Watering Guide in San Diego County and San Diego Sustainable Landscaping Guidelines. Explore even more by participating in the numerous Earth Day/Pollution Prevention Events offered throughout the County during the month of April.



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