Garden, Irrigation Pollution Prevention

county of san diego watershed protection program


Gardening Together

Help Prevent Water Pollution by Gardening ‘Right’

Summer – that time of year when the days are getting longer, and our gardening activities are increasing. That also means there are more chances for pollutants such as garden waste, soil and sediment, and fertilizers/pesticides to enter our storm drains. If we’re not careful, these pollutants can end up in our local waterways and beaches, harming aquatic life and impacting the quality of our water. Here are some tips to ‘garden right’ to help prevent pollution and protect our waterways.

  • The Right Plants – Plan for a water-wise landscape using native plants. Native plants need fewer fertilizers, pesticides, and water, and also help reduce erosion. Group plants with similar water, sun, and soil needs to minimize water waste. Plant native ground cover to prevent soil from washing off your property where it can clog storm drains and downstream waterways. A variety of low-water plants, native gardening resources, and gardening-related events on the July events list serve are available to help you design, plant, and maintain your native garden.  
  • The Right Water – Runoff can occur if yards and large landscaped areas are overirrigated. Runoff can pick up pollutants that accumulate on the ground including dirt, yard waste, chemicals, trash, and more. Prevent runoff pollution from entering our storm drains and save water by managing your irrigation practices. Check for broken and misaligned sprinklers; make repairs immediately and adjust sprinklers to stop overspray and runoff. Water in short cycles to allow water to absorb into the soil, and early in the morning or late in the evening when temperatures are cooler. Use an irrigation timer to pre-set watering times to minimize water waste. For water-wise landscaping rebates, see the County’s Waterscape Rebate Program webpage.
  • The Right Fertilizers or PesticidesPesticides and fertilizers can be toxic to both aquatic and human life if they reach our waterways. Whenever possible, use less-toxic alternatives and Integrated Pest Management (IPM) to tackle pests. If you do need to use chemicals, follow all label requirements using the least amount of product. Only apply chemicals when it is not windy and more than 48 hours from a rainstorm. Use mulch instead of herbicides to prevent weeds and help absorb water. Sweep up spills immediately, and store all landscape chemicals in a contained, covered area.
  • The Right Cleanup – Grass, leaves, or trash can clog storm drains, obstruct water flow, and lead to flooding. Use a broom to clean up yard waste from patios, sidewalks, and driveways. Properly dispose of yard waste in your green waste bin with a secure lid. Better yet, compost grass clippings, leaves, and plant trimmings at home and reuse as a soil amendment in your garden or yard. If you’re doing any landscape construction, cover stockpiles of dirt, soil, and gravel when not in use to prevent them from blowing or washing away.

For more ways to create a beautiful yard and garden and keep our environment safe through sustainable landscaping practices, check out the San Diego Sustainable Landscape Guidelines.

Sustainable Landscape Guide


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Watershed Protection Website




Learn more about available water quality rebates that you could apply to your property!

New Project Clean Water

Project Clean Water efforts are focused on providing a centralized point of access to water quality information and resources for San Diego County Watersheds. Click HERE to visit Project Clean Water’s website. 

To learn more about the County of San Diego - Watershed Protection Program, please visit