Overwatering Is Out

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News & Articles

Watering Your Garden in the Summer: Q&A with Maureen, Professional Gardener

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.

Presenting the Winners of the 2017 “Plants, Camera, Action!” Photo Contest…


The wait is over. After receiving 137 California friendly plant and landscape photo submissions and over 1,500 votes, here are the winners of the 2017 “Plants, Camera, Action” photo contest:

Nina_Landscape_San Juan Capistrano


1) Nina, San Juan Capistrano 
“Most Beautiful Photo of California Friendly Landscape”
Nina’s garden exemplifies a low-maintenance, water efficient landscape that naturally complements California’s warm climate.





2) Tommy, Laguna Hills 

“Most Beautiful Photo of a California Friendly Plant”
This gorgeous yucca photo was taken on Sitton Peak off of Ortega Highway. Yucca attracts beneficial pollinators such as hummingbirds. 





donna photo contest winner


3) Donna, Huntington Beach

“People’s Favorite” 
Like a desert painting, Donna’s minimal but vibrant landscape won the votes of nearly a third of total votes cast, making this Orange County’s favorite photo!





Look out for an upcoming issue of the OC Register featuring interviews with our winners!


P.S. Check out the rest of the photo submissions here for some inspiration for your own garden here.


Dog Owners: The One Action That Makes a Difference

In the movies, you’ve seen monsters lurking in storm drains, waterways and oceans. Well, in Orange County, we have a monster that is causing real havoc: dog poo!

It’s time to talk about a serious issue lurking in Orange County’s storm drains, waterways and oceans: dog poo!

Dog poo is a hodgepodge of bacteria, viruses, and parasites that can harm the health of our local waterways and the beauty of our beaches. That’s why as a responsible dog owner, it is crucial that you ALWAYS pick up after your pet.

If left on the ground, dog poo can travel into the storm drain when it rains or can be picked up by sprinkler runoff. As it decays in the water, it depletes oxygen levels and can release ammonia, which not only reduces the quality of our oceans, but hurts fish and other aquatic organisms.

Luckily for us, defeating this storm drain monster is easy! Putting pet waste in the trash using plastic bags is the preferred method for disposing of doggie waste.

Until you can teach your dog to pick up after himself or herself, be the responsible dog owner that Orange County needs and clean up after your dog.

7 Simple Tips to Make Your Yard an Ocean Friendly Garden

Hello Gneighbors,

The warmth of summer has arrived! Thankfully, Orange County is blessed with postcard-perfect beaches for all our gneighbors to enjoy.

Did you know that a California Friendly yard is also an Ocean Friendly yard? Every time you stop overwatering or use less fertilizer or pesticides on California Friendly yards, you are helping to reduce the amount of pollutants and bacteria entering our local waterways. By preventing this harmful runoff, you are also working to maintain the beauty and health of Orange County’s beaches.

SurfRider, a national organization dedicated to the protection of the oceans, echoes this statement: “The best way to protect our waterways is through a more natural landscape that supports a diversity of native plants and mimics and supports nature rather than harming it. Instead of maintaining water-thirsty turf lawns and adding chemicals to force them to be green, you can take steps to make your yard an Ocean Friendly Garden” (Herzog 2016).

Here are 7 simple tips to make your garden an Ocean Friendly garden.

  • Water your lawn by hand or adjust sprinklers to avoid overwatering
  • Sweep the driveway instead of using a hose
  • Read and follow the application directions of fertilizers closely
  • Do not over-apply pesticides
  • Pull weeds by hand instead of using weed-killer chemicals
  • Always pick up after your dog. Read 10 reasons why here.
  • Sweep yard clippings out of the street to avoid causing algal blooms as they decompose in the storm drains

Now that you know how to keep our oceans clean, I want to hear from you. What’s your favorite Orange County beach? Head to our Facebook page to share and make the pledge to maintain an Ocean Friendly garden!


P.S. Take our poll and share with us your favorite Orange County Beach!


Photo Credit: Robbie Morris, Laguna Beach
Herzog, Paul. “Making the Connection between How We Care for Our Yard and the Health of Our Local Waterways.” Surfrider Foundation. N.p., 13 Aug. 2016. Web. 08 June 2017.

How-To: Prepare Your Soil for California Friendly Plants

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.

    *Photo Credit: Diana Tran from Anaheim 

A Field of Wildflowers. . . At Your Front Door!

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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

Here is a starter list of California Friendly species to look for in seed mixes.

  • Eschscholzia californica California Poppy
  • Lotus scoparius Deer Weed
  • Lupinus bicolor Miniature Lupine
  • Lupinus hirsutissimus Nettle Lupine
  • Lupinus nanus Sky Nettle
  • Nemophila menziesii Baby Blue Eyes
  • Nemophila maculata Five Spot
  • Oenothera elata Yellow Evening Primrose
  • Eriophyllum confertiflorum Golden Yarrow
  • Collinsia heterophylla Chinese Houses
  • Sisyrinchium bellum Blue-eyed Grass
  • Baileya multiradiata Desert Marigold
  • Linum lewisii Blue Flax
  • Penstemon centranthifolius Scarlet Bugler
  • Mimulus puniceus Bush Monkeyflower
  • Sphaeralcea ambigua Apricot Mallow

How to Attract Hummingbirds to the Yard

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:

  • Coral Bells
  • Monkeyflower
  • Coyote Mint
  • Bush Snapdragon
  • Penstemon
  • 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!  

Plants, Camera, Action! Photo Contest

ocsw-photo-banner slider

Hi Gneighbors,

Have you taken action to save water and reduce runoff in the yard? Don’t miss out on the chance to win incredible prizes for your home and garden. Join Gnorman’s photo contest and help us encourage other Orange County residents to prevent water pollution and keep our local waterways clean! We are calling for submissions for: 

  • Most Beautiful Photo of a California Friendly™ Plant
  • Most Beautiful Photo of a California Friendly™ Landscape

Prizes include: 

  • One 90 minute Landscape Consultation with Rob Moore at Cal Native Landscape Design, valued at $250.
  • “Never Ending Paradise” eco-friendly 30×40 signed print by Jessica Cardelucci, featuring a wave breaking at sunset at the Wedge in Newport Beach, valued at $750. It’s printed on bamboo matte paper and framed in a handmade and whitewashed bamboo-ply frame.
  • A $100 gift card to the Tree of Life Nursery in San Juan Capistrano
  • Plus, all winners will have their photo appear in the OC Register!
The last day to submit your photograph is May 16, 2017.


4 Free Events to Help Your Gardening This Spring


OC Garden Friendly Events

Why not sharpen your gardening skills at an upcoming local event? OC Garden Friendly has partnered with various home improvement stores throughout Orange County to hold outdoor plant sales complete with local experts on water-efficient landscaping, vendor displays, and special discounts on plants that are ideal for Southern California. Don’t miss out on these FREE OC Garden Friendly events happening at a Home Depot location near you:

All events are from 9 am to 1 pm. For more information click here.

Plant of the Month: California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica)


California’s State Flower!

Welcome gneighbors to a new column featuring the beauty and resilience of California Friendly Plants – Gnorman’s Plant Corner!

It seems fitting for a new series of articles featuring California friendly plants to begin with California’s own state flower – the California Poppy. This California native wildflower is sometimes called “the cup of gold” due to its bright flower that can be three inches across and fades from a yellow edge to a deep orange gold in the center. The striking flower can also be red and blooms from February to October although you will see them mostly from March to May. California Poppies grow to about 1.5 feet tall and will not interfere with any current perennial plantings you have. It is a self-seeding annual plant (lasts only one growing season) and will grow in poor soil conditions as long as it is well draining soil. Conveniently, the beautiful native flower is found in most wildflower seed mixes as they are easy to plant and germinate. Show some California pride this spring and spread a poppy and wildflower mix wherever you want blooms and rake over to lightly cover. They look beautiful along walkways, or in narrow areas, or even across your lawn! If the soil drains well and the area receives a lot of sunshine, you will have poppies pop up by spring time.

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