Melanie Williams’ front yard is alive with activity. Birds chirp, hummingbirds, butterflies and bees fly from flower to flower, and lizards scurry underfoot. It’s hard to believe that when Melanie moved into her house in 2010, this front yard was a simple patch of well-trimmed grass. Melanie decided to transform her landscape in 2015, when water restrictions during the worst of the drought left her grass with dry, brown patches.
“When I heard about the Southern California and San Diego County Water Rebate Program, for replacing turf, I thought, ‘I can do that!’ and I started right away.”
Melanie decided she wanted a yard alive with activity, and began researching plants that attracted a variety of birds, butterflies and other critters. She also wanted a dynamic yard, filled with a variety of colors, sizes and shapes. Melanie worked weekends and evenings to complete every step of the transformation process, from measuring and sketching her yard to digging holes and choosing plants.
Melanie Williams with her award at Padre Dam's Conservation Garden
Melanie performed all of the work herself, with a little help from her dad during the removal of the existing turf. She chose 5 and 10 gallon plants so that she could lift the plants and put them in the ground herself. She even retrofitted her existing irrigation system to a drip system.
After several months of hard work, Melanie had created a WaterSmart Landscape. As time went on she continued to work on her landscape, making adjustments as she noticed where certain species were thriving. She also added succulents after finding that they did well in her yard. One of the best surprises she found was that many of her plants exceeded the estimated sizes and soon her garden looked lush and colorful. She looks forward to her tree growing larger and providing shade for her smaller plants.
A section of Williams' landscape before and after growth
Melanie now waters each part of her yard for 15 minutes once a week, a huge change from when she was maintaining her lawn by watering 3-4 times a week. She has installed rain barrels in her backyard and uses the collected water when possible.
Even more satisfying than water savings is Melanie’s experience watching her yard come to life. Her advice to others who are considering creating a water-efficient landscape is to find diverse plants that will attract a variety of wildlife.
“Every morning when I wake up I can hear the birds and I know they’re in my yard. The hummingbirds fight over the flowers, it’s nice to see activity. It’s a little ecosystem.”
A hummingbird rests on a Texas Ranger plant