San Dieguito River Valley ConservancySan Dieguito
River Valley Conservancy


next to nature

Landscape for Life!

The San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy (SDRVC) and the Green Infrastructure Consortium (GIC) are partnering to encourage the creation of sustainable eco-beneficial landscapes by assisting homeowners and others to develop areas using nature-mimicking approaches that enhance habitat for nature, optimize water resources (rainfall, runoff, and irrigation), conserve energy, and more, in order to preserve the integrity of our natural spaces and increase connectivity across the landscape.



tom hamilton – upcycling eucalyptus trees


august 2, 2021; 4:00 p.m.




juLY 19, 2021; 4:00 p.m.




juLY 5, 2021; 4:00 p.m.



corona enterprises

june 21, 2021; 4:00 p.m.


Fire Risk Reduction with Conor Lenehan


june 7, 2021; 4:00 p.m.


Water Management and Conservation With Brook Sarson


May 25, 2021; 4:00 p.m.

Would you like to lead or participate in a webinar or podcast? Please fill out our questionnaire and return to us for review.


Program participants will learn how to integrate their landscapes with nature. The result is a personal high-performance landscape, one that provides multiple benefits, is regenerative, and better counters the impacts in Southern California of severe drought, more extreme storms, increasing wildfire risk, depletion of topsoil, loss of biodiversity and wildlife habitat, and much, much more.

Our residents are land stewards. The Next to Nature (N2N) program helps them make informed landscape choices: build soil, harvest water, enhance habitat, grow food, and create value through the many benefits it will provide. It is a landscape for life. We want property owners to consider N2N Certification if they are interested in transforming their property into a sustainable landscape paradise of their own creation.

With its focus on the building of habitat and landscape sustainability by private property owners, the N2N program also offers a practical response to the environmental crises identified in California’s Executive Order N-82-20. Those who live or do business in the interface between cities and countryside have a particularly influential role in helping preserve designated natural spaces and preventing wildfire spread.


The N2N Program emulates other successful programs, utilizes existing information, expertise, and tools from several local and regional resources, and provides internet-based information.

Once approved, participants begin the transformation of their landscapes using the sustainability principles and partner information they learn. By following the Certification Guide – and carefully documenting all their actions – a participant’s landscape is ready for its formal evaluation by the SDRVC. When a yard is certified as a “Next to Nature Landscape,” participants will receive an acknowledgement certificate and a yard sign announcing the accomplishment. After all, it sets a great example for neighbors, who will want to learn more about the N2N Program. And when their neighbors, and other neighbors, create sustainable eco-beneficial landscapes, an interconnected pathway of quality habitat develops that improves the quality of life of everyone.

Start Now!

To begin the process, please take a look through the “Homeowner’s Guide,” which offers a list of actions that participants can take to make their property more nature-friendly. This list is divided into categories of restoration and it is up to the participants to choose the actions to take.

Fill out the “N2N Interest Form” to identify their interests and goals and to provide basic property information.  The “Homeowner’s Guide” includes “Top 10 Most Beneficial Actions,” which is a list of actions we believe provide the biggest environmental impacts.

You have full access to our partners and resources listed below. They offer virtual and in-person courses along with ‘How-to’ tutorials, Consultations, and an abundance of information to help create a habitat-friendly landscape.

Once your project is done, fill out and send the “N2N Completion Form” to us.  An evaluator will get in contact with you to confirm the work is done.  Finally, we will send you a sign to place in your yard.

Landscape Site Design

Association of Professional Landscape Designers, California Chapter–The California Chapter of APLD focuses on a watershed approach to landscaping. Their information-laden booklet is available for free download. Together with the G3 green gardens group and the San Diego County Water Authority, they have produced San Diego Sustainable Landscape Guidelines that detail best practices and recommendations for a watershed approach to landscaping in our region.

Landscaping for Wildlife, U.S.D.A. Forest Service–A website packed with resource information for developing and sustaining natural landscapes.

Urban Green Infrastructure

San Diego Urban Sustainability Coalition–Brings together communities of concern, stakeholders and like-minded organizations through grassroots organizing to inform processes & policy, to improve the quality of life and to increase opportunities for residents of Southeast San Diego and other resilient communities. Their Climate Ambassadors help people create sustainable and compatible yards with nature.

Surfrider Foundation–An activist network dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of the world’s ocean, waves and beaches. Surfrider programs reduce plastic pollution, test coastal waters to ensure runoff stays in gardens, and more. Their Ocean Friendly Gardens program provides information and hands-on training to property owners on how landscapes and hardscapes can prevent water pollution.

Wildfire Risk Reduction

Calfire’s Prepare for Wildfire Website

Prepare for wildfire and harden your home now as required by California law. There are three ways your home can be exposed to wildfire: direct flames from a wildfire or burning neighboring home; radiant heat from nearby burning plants or structures; and flying embers. Flying embers from a wildfire can destroy homes up to a mile away and are responsible for the destruction of most homes during a wildfire. Taking the necessary measures to harden (prepare) your home can help increase its likelihood of survival when wildfire strike.

Water Management and Conservation

Be Water Wise–The Metropolitan Water District’s portal for water-saving rebates and grants, landscape classes, water-wise garden inspiration, and helpful tips. For Southern California, conservation is an effective means to cope with drought, climate change, and expanding population.

CatchingH2O/H2OME–CatchingH2O/H2OME designs and installs water catchment systems – from rainwater capture in cisterns, to green roofs and greywater recycling – for San Diego, Imperial, and Riverside county residents, businesses, and institutions. Check out their website for useful information.

San Diego Sustainable Living Institute–With a watershed focus and expertise in permaculture, water harvesting, holistic design, and eco-business, the San Diego Sustainable Living Institute offers hands-on training to guide San Diego residents into an abundant “green” future: one home, one neighborhood, one community at a time.

The Water Conservation Garden–The Water Conservation Garden’s mission is to inspire positive change in the living environment through the conservation of water and other natural resources. It offers numerous educational programs, display gardens showcasing water conservation, such as a native plant garden and a vegetable garden, as well as how-to displays such as mulch and irrigation exhibits.

WaterSmart Landscape Makeover Program–This program is available through the San Diego County Water Authority. It offers classes and a series of 20 videos explaining the process of creating your own water-efficient landscape. These informative step-by-step videos, from measuring your property to getting to know your soil to picking the right plants for the right place, will guide you along the path to a WaterSmart landscape. A Turf Replacement Program also offers cash rebates for replacing lawns with climate-appropriate vegetation.

Sustainable Gardening

Master Gardener Association of San Diego County–Master Gardeners are volunteers trained and supervised by the University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE). In San Diego County, there are more than two hundred Master Gardeners providing research-based home gardening and pest control information countywide, FREE to the public. Make sure you check out all their information!

Nan Sterman-Water Wise Gardener–Would you like a gorgeous and sustainable garden that’s appropriate for our region and easy to maintain? Let Nan design your dream landscape based on color, texture, architecture, and mood.

Pacific Horticulture Society–PHS is an advocate for the garden and its power to enrich lives and heal the environment. Via its digital classroom of articles and webinars, free to the public, it builds awareness that gardeners, landscape managers, farmers, environmental scientists  – everyone concerned with the human relationship to the land – can build a sustainable landscape and combat climate change.

San Diego Botanic Garden–The San Diego Botanic Garden inspires people of all ages to connect with plants and nature. It offers conservation and horticulture education classes, tours, and programming to cultivate a sense of urgency for the stewardship of our environment. As program Co-Sponsor, SDBG offers admission and education class discounts to N2N participants.

Biodiversity and Habitat

California Invasive Plant Council (Cal IPC)–Protects California’s environment and economy by stopping the spread of invasive plants. This website provides science-based information and tools to help landowners and land managers make informed decisions.

California Native Plant Society (San Diego Chapter)–Non-profit seeking to increase understanding of California’s native flora and to preserve it for future generations. The San Diego Chapter provides information and activities to better conserve San Diego and Imperial County native plants and their natural habitats, and to increase everyone’s understanding, appreciation, and horticultural use of native plants.

Ecolife Conservation–Protects wildlife, natural resources, and the people who depend on them by helping humans and nature prosper together. Aquaponics, habitat protection for butterflies and gorillas, and safer cooking stoves are of particular interest.

Habitat Network–Habitat Network is a citizen science effort for people concerned with their local environment and is designed to cultivate a strong understanding of wildlife habitat. Participating individuals draw maps of their backyards, parks, farms, favorite birding locations, schools, and gardens. The Network maintains a collection of useful information and provides tools for individuals to make better decisions about how to manage their landscapes sustainably.

National Wildlife Federation–Nearly 50 years ago, the Garden for Wildlife Program was established on the belief that everyone can enjoy and protect wildlife where they live, work, learn, play, and worship. The program provides resources and simple steps to turn your own small piece of Earth into a thriving habitat having a big impact for local and migratory species, from small window boxes to vast habitat corridors.

Landscape Material Management

Lumbercycle has finished the information package for its SDG&E-funded Environmental Champions project. We’re now distributing it to you to use as an N2N Program resource.  The information explains why and how to upcycle end-of-life local urban wood in a user-friendly manner.  Check it out at Upcycle Urban Wood | Lumbercycle.

Solana Center for Environmental Innovation–Provides community education and professional services to reduce waste, conserve water, and build healthy soil since 1983.

Energy Management
(Shade, Building Design, Lighting)

American Society of Landscape Architects–This professional organization provides several resource guides and toolkits for both professionals and homeowners. Useful information for homeowners about the application of ecological design, improving water management, increasing energy efficiency, and use of low-impact materials is available here.

Hunter Industries–Based in San Marcos, Hunter manufactures irrigation and outdoor lighting equipment for the landscaping, residential, commercial, agricultural and golf course industries. As program Co-Sponsor, Hunter offers a discount on selected irrigation and outdoor lighting products to N2N participants. Consult their Residential Irrigation System Design Guide and instructional how-to videos to get started.


Take advantage of additional discounts and opportunities provided by our partners and sponsors like Hunter Industries, an amazing company that assists with Smart Irrigation systems. There are numerous rebate programs and opportunities available for water storage, turf replacement, smart irrigation controllers, and so much more.

Please take a look into our List of Incentives here.



Creating a Native Landscape

By Jim Smith, SDRVC Board Member

In 2015, we decided to remodel our house, which is across the street from Crest Canyon in Del Mar. The landscape at the time was a water-sucking lawn surrounded by non-native plants. I was introduced to native plants when developing a native plant website ( We wanted a landscape that brought the canyon into our yard, was friendly to local fauna, and saved water.

Our landscape architect put together a design. We focused on collecting water, not just using less water. We surrounded the house with a meadow (or bioswale) with a California sedge, which collects all the water runoff from the house. Only a very large rain will cause overflow to the street. Besides keeping the water for the plants, reducing runoff protects the watershed.

We also implemented a gray water system to collect water from the washing machine, showers, and sinks.A family of four can produce around 100 gallons a day, or over 36,000 gallons a year. Instead of sending all that water into the sewer for treatment, it keeps the meadow green. This isn’t for everyone, though: gray water needs city permitting if shower water is used, the family has to use special laundry and shower products, and the house needs special plumbing to separate gray from black water.

The initial planting had around 400 plants. The big mistake was planting in June. In San Diego, you want to target winter time to help the plants establish before the hot, dry summers. Every December, I have a native plant gardener clean out overgrown bushes and dead plants then planting new plants. Overall the maintenance is less than a lawn, which requires cutting weekly.

Now we are enjoying the garden more and more. This year, we’ve had dozens of monarch butterflies flitting around milkweed plants, then the zebra striped caterpillars eating all of the leaves. The beautiful California sister butterfly frequents the California live oak tree. House finches, lesser goldfinches, and mourning doves hang out around a toyon tree that has bird feeders. A Cooper’s hawk swoops by from time to time to keep the birds on their toes.

Despite some challenges and setbacks, the garden is a labor of love. The neighbors appreciate it, we enjoy the wildlife, and feel good about what we’re doing for the environment.