California Native Plant Gardens & The Drought

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If you live in the Southwest, you just might be considering redoing your landscaping at your home. With the shortage of water and the possibility that some communities might actually limit the amount of water a household can use each month, it begins to make sense to replace your very thirsty lawn and to change your landscaping to drought tolerant plants.

Approximately 70% of the typical household�s water use, goes to landscaping and quite a bit of that is in runoff. Replacing your lawn with native plants that are more adapted to our dryer climate here in Southern California is not difficult.

Choosing native plants over those that are not native is a realistic choice. English style gardens that are filled with flowers are beautiful and lush tropical gardens are lovely but very impractical in our Mediterranean climate when you consider the amount of water they need to remain vibrant and beautiful.

Replacing your current landscape with plants that require less water isn�t all that difficult. And the best part of doing it, is not only will you save money on water but native plants don�t require pesticides, fertilizer or a great deal of maintenance.

Most people are unaware of the large variety of plants that are native to our area and visiting a native plant nursery is the best way to start to get to know these �stars�. The choices are unlimited and can be quite overwhelming to a novice when you see all the different types of plants and your mind begins to spin with the possibilities.

Giving up the more traditional or Eastern type of landscape isn�t a sacrifice. At first it may seem difficult but with an expert�s help, you can design a new garden that will have something blooming in it all year long and you will never be disappointed with your new landscaping.

(If you would like to know about some of the methods to removing a lawn, please read my post about it in May 2007, as I wrote about this topic after attending a class that shared various methods on how to eliminate a lawn before you do your change over to natives).

It seems to me that in the past year, the media has begin to pick up on the seriousness of our water shortages and various communities are now promoting methods to cut back on water use. Changing our life styles will be part of that process but necessary in order to conserve water if we are not to run out of it.

Los Angeles has already initiated water rationing in some parts of the city and it looks like other communities will follow some sort of water conservation plan as well. It could be a very difficult summer in southern California this year unless we adapt and change how we live. A large part of the solution is to use less water for landscaping.

Your timing is excellent if you are interested in changing over to using native plants and wish to redesign your landscape. Summer is the best time to remove a lawn because it is a lengthy process and you want the area to be ready for your new plants later in the year. If you�re not up to this project, hire someone that can do it for you, plus it will be quicker rather than you putting in the labor and the time.

Fall and winter in the Southwest are the prime times to plant natives, so you will want to get started on your project as soon as possible if you are considering making this change. If you don�t start now, you could end up missing the �window� to plant and then have to wait another year.

If you are considering hiring a landscape contractor to do your design, look for one that is qualified and experienced with creating landscapes using native plants. But keep in mind, that in most cases they will not have experience with them. So you will have to be careful and do your own research to be sure that you purchase plants that will be best suited for your garden�s environment and do not rely on the landscape contractor unless they are very familiar with native plants and their requirements.

It is not difficult to locate nurseries that specialize in native plants but you will have to use the Internet to locate them or go to my �resource� page in my blog. There are also some very informative books available as well and typically they can be found at your local bookstore.

When it�s time to plant your choices, there is little preparation required. Don�t shake or loosen the root ball and don�t put any amendments in the soil and no fertilizers, either. Be sure that the area where you are placing your plants is conducive to their growth. And be sure to give them plenty of room to grow. Place at least 3-4 feet apart otherwise you many find yourself with an overgrown landscape within a year.

Supplemental watering will be necessary the first 2-3 years but not very often. Again, depending on where you live, it may only be once a month or even less. You will be very surprised at how quickly they fill in and grow because if you done everything correctly, they will take off in a very short time.

But even that is dictated by the seasons. A good book on native plant gardening will help you through your learning curve as you grow more confident in how to care for the plants.

The benefits of having a native garden are numerous. You will have more birds and butterflies and depending where you live lizards, too. You will enjoy the fragrance, beautiful flowers, colors, textures of your garden and it will provide habitat for the wildlife, too!

It will entertain endlessly and you will no longer be wasting water or using pesticides and fertilizers and be giving back to nature at the same time. Your new lovely and native environment may just inspire your neighbors to be thinking about their landscaping, too.

Gardening Articles:

Lorraine Du Bridge is not a professional landscaper or gardener but is passionate about using native plants at her home. Her blog is about her learning experience as she created her new landscape and the joy of nature.

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