The key to your garden's success, as well as saving on water, is to water deeply and infrequently. You can accomplish this easily with an automated system of sprinklers and drip emitters. These tips are for those who already have systems in place. To learn how to install your own watering system, scroll to the bottom for resources.
1. Avoid runoff and evaporation. Runoff occurs with over-watering - usually by using too much water at once. Evaporation occurs during the day and windy periods. Run off is also more likely to occur if your soil is composed of clay, or other poor drainage issues.
2. Soak directly to the root zone for perennials, shrubs, and trees with soaker hoses, drip, or hand-watering. If using your garden hose, its a great idea to buy a mechanical timer. Simply thread the timer to your hose faucet, then attach your garden hose to the other end. Set the time and leave the hose on very low. If using a watering can, water each plant, then come back 15 minutes later and soak again. Water and check your potted plants every day - they dry out quick in warm weather.
3. Encourage deep roots in your lawn. Calculate the output of your lawn sprinklers and adjust your watering regimen accordingly. Usually, lawns need 1 inch of water once a week during the summer. See the resources section to learn more.
4. Water in the early morning. Its a good idea to invest in an automatic rain sensor/timer for your system. Many are programmed to change watering schedules with the seasons and with rainfall and temperature readers.
5. Plant for your climate! Create a stunning garden with native plants and those adapted to your region. You'll discover many wonderful and unique plants at the nearest botanical garden; often botanical gardens will offer free admittance if you just want to shop their nursery.
Pro Tips for Flower Bed Design
The Aldrich Company's project was featured in a how-to article about designing flower beds. Click on the image to read the article (published in German - click "translate this page")
Rock or alpine gardens mimic the rocky, steep habitat of high mountains, where high solar radiation during the summer and long, brutal winters produce an interesting effect on plants called ‘krumholtz:’ a stunted form of plant due to the harshness of freezing winds and rain. Plants often show a 'cushion' effect: low growing mounds that are low enough to stay out of the biting winds.
In this environment, plants welcome the shelter of larger rocks. the plants grow low to the ground and often have woolly leaves to deflect sunlight during the short growing season.
To mimic this look in a garden environment, utilize local stone as your base point. Think of rocks as your mulch for the garden. Build up soil and larger rocks to create slope. If your garden is already on the rocky side, embrace your rocky terrain as an advantage.
Tuck in plants from this list:
Install some of the plants next to large and medium sized rocks, and plant others in finer rocky substrate such as decomposed granite. Utilize crevices in between stone pavers and fill with recommended plants.
If you live in a fire-prone area, it is much easier and less expensive to prevent fire damage than to fix it. Below is some choice plants for a fire wise (and drought-tolerant) garden.
Pinemat Manzanita or Arctostaphylos uva-ursi is a great ground cover with winter interest (red-tinged leaves) and delicate pink blossoms in the spring.
Plant in sun to light shade. Pinemat Manzanita is a good slope stabilizer, and its leaves make an excellent tea. Sunset Zones A1-A3, 1-9, 14-24
Senecio mandraliscae, S. serpens, S. talinoides, or S. vitalis are great choices as succulent ground covers. These plants are also known as Chalk Fingers or Chalk Sticks. Zones vary, but range from 12 to 24, plus H1 and H2.
Aloe species are usually succulent rosettes with showy, tubular flowers. Sharp drainage is key to keeping Aloes (and all succulents) happy. Over watering or heavy clay may cause the roots to rot. Some are cold hardy, others will only thrive in frost-free zones. If you live in Santa Barbara area, check out San Marcos Growers selection of Aloes (note - SM Growers are wholesale only).
It would seem that the oils contained in this fragrant shrub would go up in a second, but if watered regularly, this perennial is slow to catch fire.
Plus, Lavandula dentata is beautiful, drought tolerant and smells delightful. French Lavender is easy to grow in full sun and makes an excellent dried flower. Sunset Zones 8, 9, 12-24.
Crassula ovata, or Jade plant, is another succulent-leaved perennial that takes shade or sun. It requires very little water and practically no care. It can grow about 4' tall and wide outdoors where temperatures stay above 30 degrees.
These structurally striking gems are native to the most wildfire prone parts of the country, the West and Southwest. There are so many Agave species to choose from, each one remarkably beautiful. Zones vary.
Mimulus sp. (shown is recently renamed Diplacus aurantiacus) are charming, versatile, and heat adapted perennials native to the West.
Blooms are usually orange, but also come in yellow, red, or bi-colored. They are easy to grow in Southern California and bloom for most of the year and attract hummingbirds and Checkerspot butterflies. Zones Vary.
Ice plants comprise several genus. Delosperma species are vibrantly hued ground covers that tolerate dry, hot, and low fertile soil conditions. Aptenia is a super easy ground cover that attracts pollinators. Carpobrotus edulis has naturalized in many areas of California. Lampranthus is another popular ice plant whose name literally means 'shining-flowers' due to its vibrant hues.
Landscaping with fire in mind:
Cool fall weather is fast approaching, and here in Southern California, that means planting time! Our mild, wet winters are great for establishing fall planted shrubs and trees (especially natives).
Choosing the right tree can be overwhelming - thousands of cultivars exist, but your local nurseries will only carry a fraction, with only the most popular varieties in stock.
Call ahead to where you are planning to purchase. What fruit trees do they carry, and what cultivars or varieties do they have in stock? From this list - do your homework. Your back yard's micro-climate, chilling time required, size, and any particular pest problems will need to be considered and researched if you want the highest yield for your garden.
Winter chilling is vital for many nut and fruit trees. This required time and low temperature are needed by the tree to set it's cycle of growth and dormancy period. The buds on the bare branches of a winter tree are small and tightly covered by bud scales as protection against freezing. These buds need a cold period to induce growth.
Click here for a guide on fruit tree chilling requirements.
Best bare root fruiting trees for the Southern California (low chill requirements):
The Aldrich Company of Santa Barbara
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