Nana’s Garden in El Cajon Wins WaterSmart Landscape Contest

Landscape Contest winner standing in her yard

Nana’s Garden in El Cajon Wins WaterSmart Landscape Contest

09:11 21 June in News

What was once a green front lawn with rose bushes is now a water-wise landscape called Nana’s Garden and is this year’s WaterSmart Landscape Contest winner. Nana’s Garden was created by El Cajon resident Lois Scott, who has earned the title “Best in District” in the Otay Water District’s service area.

Winner's front yard before upgrading.

Scott’s front yard before upgrading.

After years of facing high water usage, lack of rain, and rabbits invading her yard, Scott, a retired registered nurse of 42 years, decided to make a drastic change. In 2020, she began by applying for a rebate through the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California’s Landscape Transformation Program. She received a rebate amount of $4,161 for 1,387 square feet of turf removed.

In 2021, Scott also applied for the San Diego County Water Authority’s WaterSmart Landscape Makeover Program, which offers free classes on upgrading your yard.

“I fell in love with all the different plants I was learning about in the class. With all the colors and textures, I couldn’t just limit my garden to a few plants,” said Scott. “I call my garden Nana’s Garden, full of lots of variation, just like my grandchildren.”

With the help of kids from the neighborhood, she dug up dirt and rocks to create a pathway with decomposed granite and steppingstones. Three large boulders that she found on Craigslist are the new focal point of her succulent garden.

Rain barrel in winner's landscape.

A rain barrel and drip system irrigate the yard.

“This 64-year-old grandma sure did bring many wheelbarrows of rocks in!” she expressed.

With the help of her best friend, who is a succulent fanatic, she planted natives and succulents while a gardener converted her irrigation system from sprinklers to drip. The yard originally had 19 sprinkler heads that caused water runoff to the sidewalk. She capped 17 and left two for a drip retrofit, which consists of using traditional pop-up spray heads to install a drip system. She uses a drip line to primarily feed the trees and succulents, while a separate line and a rain barrel water the rest of the plants.

Scott says she enjoys seeing her garden grow. Some plants are soft, fussy, slick, and smooth, while others are prickly. She is amazed by the richness of the purple in the lavender and the bright fluorescent of the honeysuckle.

“The fun part now is to sit back and enjoy the gentle breeze while watching the honeybees, butterflies, and hummingbirds have their feast in my garden,” said Scott. “I am loving the lower water bill and knowing that I am helping the environment by saving water.”

Decomposed granite and stepping stones create a pathway.

Decomposed granite and stepping stones create a pathway.

Her new landscape has allowed an overall water use reduction of an average of approximately 41% compared to the years before upgrading.

Nana’s Garden is in Otay Water District’s division 5, which is represented by Board President Mark Robak.

“The winner’s landscape will demonstrate to other residents the great benefits of installing water-wise yards and hopefully encourage them to change how they use water outdoors,” said Robak. “The District makes it a priority to provide resources for residential and commercial customers who are considering ways to make water-use efficiency a way of life.”

The District will recognize Scott at its July board meeting with a certificate of recognition, a gift certificate to a local nursery of her choice, a yard sign, and other promotional items.

Learn more about the annual contest here.

Learn about turf replacement rebates and water conservation resources here.