Under the canopy of a California Friendly garden, I chatted with Maureen Taylor, a California native gardener and landscape designer, to find out the best ways to care for a California Friendly garden during a hot summer. Below are some gardening tips she shared with me that can help many Southern California residents:
Gnorman: How often should I water my garden over the summer?
Maureen: Gardeners should be adaptable and adjust their watering according to the weather to mimic how nature waters plants. Because it’s summertime, it’s natural to think that you have to water your plants more. But most California Friendly plants have adapted to drier conditions during the summer. Some species, such as oaks, are especially sensitive and can die from overwatering during a heat wave. To prevent this, check weather forecasts and water before a heat wave. Always water during the coolest time of the week. Watering during extreme heat can lead to fungus or even plant death!
Gnorman: How do I know when my plants need more water?
Maureen: Always check to make sure the soil is dry. You can test the moisture level of the soil by digging a little or using a soil moisture sensor (rebate for OC residents available here) to see if you have watered enough. If the soil is almost dry, it’s time to water again. The goal is to make sure water penetrates down to a foot or so when watering.
Gnorman: What else should I know about maintaining a California Friendly garden over the summer?
Maureen: Remember, summer in Southern California is the harshest season for plants. Gardeners should lay low, not plant anything new, and help plants get through their dormant season. Wait until the weather cools down so you can get back to planting and pruning.
Bonus Tip: Mulch is a multitasking tool that can help protect our waterways by preventing runoff while, at the same time, keeping plant roots cool during hot times. Mulch also conserves soil moisture, prevents weeds, and reduces soil erosion. You can find great deals on mulch through CalRecycle’s directory of Compost and Mulch Facilities. Who knew mulch could do so much?
Thanks Maureen for the expert advice!
Maureen received her B.A. in Environmental Studies/Biology from UC Santa Cruz. After graduating she was hired by the Theodore Payne Foundation for Wildflowers and Native Plants, which expanded her love for nature into the realm of native gardening. Maureen now operates her own landscape maintenance and design business for clients in Southern California. In her free time, she enjoys hiking and making nature-inspired art.
California Friendly plants have different soil needs than typical lawns or garden plants. So what are some steps to ensure your new garden will be healthy? Here are three suggestions:
DON’T Amend Your Soil!
California Friendly plants are accustomed to the soil as it is and typically do not need fertilizer. Incidentally, a major benefit of growing California Friendly plants is that they reduce the amount of fertilizer entering our local waterways. So do your wallet, our waterways, and your plants a favor and don’t add amendments.
But DO Mulch!
Mulching can save your plants! Not only will it prevent water loss, but mulching prevents the growth of weeds which can destroy a newly planted California Friendly garden. Be sure to use the correct kind of mulch and at an even thickness. Below are some options on what to use and the best way to use them.
• Shredded bark: Slow to decompose and excellent at weed prevention. Be sure to apply 2 to 3 inches thick.
• Cut bark: This is a good all-purpose option and looks very neat and clean. For smaller sized chips, only 2 to 3 inches thick will do while larger sized chips require 4 to 5 inches.
• Decomposed granite: Excellent for Southwest- or Mediterranean-inspired gardens, decomposed granite compacts quickly and does not blow away easily. Hand weed if weeds do pop up. Apply 1 to 2 inches thick.
When applying mulch, leave a few inches of clearance around tree trunks and the stems of plants. If the mulch is too close, it can retain water around the trunk and cause rotting. Make sure to maintain an even layer of mulch to provide enough coverage throughout the year.
Watch Your Plants to Accommodate Their Watering Needs
Drought tolerant plants are not drought tolerant immediately. Until the plant is established, you may need to add extra water (unless there is rain). Keep an eye on your plants and if they look stressed, they may need more water. This close monitoring of your plants can take a whole growing season.
Additionally, California Friendly plants are naturally tough once they are established and tend to resist pests. However, if they do get pests, check out this website and use their plant problem diagnostic tool.
With news of the recent super bloom happening across California, why not bring home a bit of wildflower color to your own home? Wildflowers can grow in the most unlikely places: along freeways, in the cracks of sidewalks, and in your own yard! All you need are some wildflower mix, a sunny day and the 4 steps below to get started:
Find an area where the seeds will get to the ground easily. Scattering seeds atop mulch will not work. Gnorman recommends placing seeds along sandy patches or the space between other plants.
Rake the wildflower seeds in lightly. This is more to confuse the birds than to bury the seed. Wildflowers prefer to be scattered about and not buried; it’s how the seed was designed.
If it doesn’t rain, water weekly until the wildflowers begin to rise and form buds. If it rains that week, do not worry about watering.
At the end of the season, feel free to mow the plants after they have produced and released seeds. This will allow the seeds to stay dormant in your yard over the summer and winter, and then return again next spring!
To keep up with the Overwatering is Out movement and prevent runoff, please only use natives for wildflowers since they can spread easily! If you accidentally use something invasive, it will be incredibly difficult to get rid of. Please read the full list of what is in the bag of seed mix to ensure there are no filler species. Ask your local nursery if you are unsure or send an email to email@example.com. Here is a starter list of California Friendly species to look for in seed mixes.
Hummingbirds are welcome visitors to many gardens, but can be challenging to attract. Here are 11 plant recommendations and strategies to invite these beautifully vibrant visitors into your garden:
Plants: Birds have naturally fast metabolisms so plants that produce many flowers will make the trip worth it for hummingbirds because the food supply will be large enough to feed them. Plants with long tubular flowers and within the red color range are especially prized by hummingbirds. Excellent plant choices include the California Fuschia and the Hummingbird Sage. Other plants that are favored by hummingbirds are:
Cleveland, Autumn and Summer Sage
Baja Fairy Duster
Wooly Blue Curls
For a vine, try native honeysuckle
Water: A bird bath or small source of trickling water will make your yard a complete habitat for hummingbirds!
Expect to see some hummingbirds visiting your garden soon!
It’s been raining in Orange County gneighbors! There are several actions you can take now in the garden to take advantage of the rain while protecting your garden from the the cool, damp weather.
Here are some tips to get you ready for spring:
For perennials (plants that last more than one growing season or year) soil drainage is key for the rainy weather. Make sure that new plants are not in standing water and that the roots can breathe, or they will die quickly.
Transform the rain into a resource for spring gardening. Here’s how to to place and maintain a rain barrel. Claim your rain barrel rebate at ocwatersmart.com/barrels.
The wet weather keeps the ground damp, putting your plants at risk of fungal problems. Keep the ground clear of dying plant materials to prevent fungal diseases.
Are you new to planting California Friendly plants and don’t know where to begin? Go big and consider removing your lawn! With the cool weather, now is the time to kill your lawn. Check out this article to get started on removing your lawn. Imagine, by this time next year you can harness the rain to begin showing the lush California Friendly garden of your dreams!
With the upcoming holidays, why not sprinkle extra love into your holiday cooking by using herbs hand-picked from your own garden? An herb garden strengthens a beginner’s green thumb and adds flavorful variety to the expert’s garden. The selected herbs below do not need fertilizer, require little water, and are disease and pest resistant.
Rosemary: Grow rosemary in a container such as a terracotta pot to bring indoors during winter
Sage: A Thanksgiving Staple, sage grows best in hot, dry climates such as Orange County
Thyme: This low-maintenance herb will grow best in poor soil with little water.
As a bonus, the herbs add delicious flavor to your holiday meals. Try growing some today!
Gnorman the gnome spent one blissful February day lounging in Rancho Santa Margarita at Kevin Ells’ spectacular drought-tolerant home. He played with his dogs, frolicked in his succulent garden, and took in the sun alongside his daisies. Kevin and Gnorman also enjoyed a conversation about how he’s only been gardening for a little over a year, yet he has reaped so many benefits from embracing the drought-tolerant lifestyle.
Watch the video below where Kevin shares his story and gives easy tips to save water and improve your gardening at home!
Last week we talked about just giving your turf grass and plants one good soak per week while the temperatures are low and the sun less intense. That is great advice, but it won’t work for all homes especially if you have clay soil or steep hills where a good soak means a lot of overwatering.
Fear not, there’s a solution for you too and that solution is (almost) just as easy.
The trick? Water in “spurts” (minimum 1 minute or up to 3 minutes max) a few times per week (as little as 1 to 3 times). This will give your turf grass and plants a lighter soak, but make sure your water isn’t escaping out into the streets.
Now, of course, the best news is that this water saving tip can get you Gnorman Approved. Head on over to the pledge page and you’ll have a yard sign faster than you can stop overwatering.
Even though we’re coming up on the end of the rainy season, the temperatures are still low and the sun less intense. That means that your plants and turf grass are still basking in the shade and don’t require nearly as much watering as they did during the hot summer months.
Here’s a couple of super easy and quick tips to dramatically reduce overwatering:
Let your turf grass get a little longer. The longer blades will hold more water, and help establish deeper roots. All you have to do is raise your lawn mower a notch and mow a bit less often.
Water just once per week and water a little longer than normal—check with your water provider for maximum run times and don’t water so long as to cause runoff! Turf grass only needs to be watered one day per week during these cooler months and a deeper soak will also encourage deeper root growth which will come in handy during the summer.
That’s right—two easy tips that ask you to spend less time working outdoors and more time enjoying it.
The best news is that if you do these two simple things or decide to try even more, you can jump on over to our pledge page and get your FREE Gnorman Approved yard sign! It can head your way without delay!