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.
*Photo Credit: Diana Tran from Anaheim
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.
- 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
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
- 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.
Congratulations to the 2016 winners of our “Drought, Camera, Action!” photo contest!
The wait is over gneighbors! Here are Orange County’s most beautiful drought tolerant photos:
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Since the Governor’s announcement of mandatory watering restrictions, applications for rebates on turf grass removal absolutely skyrocketed. Applications went from just 10 per month to nearly 1500! So many of your gneighbors were approved for rebates, in fact, that the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California just voted to approve another $350 million of additional turf-replacement rebates. That’s real money for some beautiful California Friendly project for sure!
Even with the extra funding, there is a real chance that these rebates will dry up so you’ll want to move quickly. Residential homes are eligible for rebates up to $2 per square foot of lawn removed to a max of $6,000.
As always, Gnorman is happy to help and you can find even more rebates local to Orange County!
Or, if you are still on the fence, come check out just how easy it can be to remove that turf grass and start dreaming of how beautiful your California Friendly garden will be!
By now we’ve all heard about the mandatory water restrictions that are going into place because of the drought. Those restrictions require local water districts to find strategies to reduce water use by up to 25%. That’s a big task.
Fortunately, Orange County is ahead of the curve when it comes to planning ahead and has put in place a world class water infrastructure. We’re better off today because we invested yesterday, and we’ll be better off tomorrow if we keep investing today!
Sooo, how do we do that? Well, we keep being water smart.
The great news is that the same strategies that reduce how much water you use also help you stop overwatering. Use less water and you’re almost guaranteed to let less run off into the stormdrain system.
So, get out there and check those sprinklers for leaks, take advantage of spring to plant some California Friendly plants, and do your part to keep Orange County ahead of the curve when it comes to showing the state how to plan!
What are you going to do to help Orange County? Let me know in the comments below!
You’re here which means there is a good chance that you are already committed to doing your part to stop overwatering. Maybe stopping overwatering means you planted California Friendly plants, maybe it means you decided to use a watering index, or maybe it means you tore out your turf grass all together! Whatever it means to you, Gnorman Approves!
Now is your chance to help spread the message and let your gneighbors who aren’t already here understand why you’re doing what you’re doing with a Gnorman Approved yard sign. Jump on over to Get Gnorman Approved, fill out the easy form, and we’ll send a Gnorman your way to help Orange County realize that overwatering is out!
(or just click me and I’ll take you right there!)
What do you think of the yard sign? This was inspired by your comments, so we definitely want to hear what you have to say. Leave a comment below!
If you are looking for a fun and free activity this weekend that is also family-friendly, look no farther than the Orange County Garden Friendly events being held this weekend! Both events are happening this Saturday from 8 am to 12 noon at partnering Home Depot locations.
At the event you can learn how to save water and stop overwatering with California Friendly plants. Even better news, after you get inspired, you can pick up some California Friendly plants and get them in the ground the same day so that they have time to establish those roots before next summer!
Find out which event is closest to you and I’ll see you there!
20021 Lake Forest Drive
Lake Forest, CA(on Lake Forest Drive & Rancho Parkway)
5800 Lincoln Ave
Cypress, CA(on Lincoln Ave and Valley View St)
We’re still in the rainy season which means cooler days and less sun (in addition to the occasional rain shower). That means your plants and turf grass also require less water! If you’re looking for a fun and easy way to add a little exercise to your life, try turning off your automated sprinklers and watering by hand.
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