Five Tips Water Saving Tips

This year we’ve had pretty bad drought conditions here in Southern California.  In fact, we’ve had drought conditions for a few years now.  This means we want to get the most out of every single drop of water we use. Here are five water saving tips for your yard:

Tip #1: Water your yard in the early morning – preferably right before the sun comes up and the heat of the day begins.  This will give the water a chance to sink into the ground and won’t flood your lawn all night long.  A great way to do this for any night owls out there – or just people who don’t want to wake up before dawn – is to set your sprinkler system on a timer.  Rich Soil

Tip #2: Keep composting.  There are a lot of great ways to compost.  You can use mulch from your compost pile, you can buy compost, and you can leave the grass on  your lawn as you mow.  These will all help the health of your soil and allow it to retain water better.

Tip #3: If you’re planting in a container, choose what you use carefully.  A metal container will heat up quickly and make water evaporate faster.  An unglazed clay pot is porous and will cause moisture loss through the clay itself.  One way to combat this problem in pots is to find a good, rich soil that will hold moisture.  Cactus Garden Window

Tip #4: Plant California natives, succulents, and cactus instead of their water-guzzling friends and neighbors.  I just wrote a recent blog post about designing a drought-tolerant yard.

Tip #5: Consult with a landscaper.  One of the best ways to utilize water properly in your yard is to design it in such a way that no water goes to waste.  Get in touch with your local landscaper about how to best design your space so it’s both water-efficient and your dream yard.  It can actually help you save money in the long run.

Here’s to some rain!!!

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Make your Home Unique

Many of us live on streets or in neighborhoods where one architect designed the whole block – so our houses are very similar.  There are some obvious ways to make a home stand out in these types of areas.  You can repaint your home, add shutters, changed the style of your door or even add on to the home.  But a great way to keep your home looking and feeling fresh is to do something unique with your yard.  Here are five ideas for doing just that: Front deck walkway

1. Get a front porch.  If you have some poor soil that you don’t want to work with or you simply like this look, you can try graduated decking from your front porch, all the way down to the sidewalk.  Another idea is to create a hardscaped front yard and set it up for guests, picnics, family, or simple relaxation.  This idea is a great one to consider in places prone to drought – like Southern California.

2. Add potted plants.  Whether you have a perfect green lawn or a hardscaped front yard, potted plants can give your yard a new look whenever you feel like changing it up.  During the winter holiday season you can plant red and white plants, in the summer you can go for a cactus look or do potted succulents. You can also experiment with color by adding pots that pop – along with vivid plants.

3. Go all out on the entrance.  There are so many great designs for entryways.  You can use different types of gates, a classic picket fence, or a gorgeous arbor.  You can also define your property line using stone or brick to set your yard apart from the sidewalk.

4. Make your front yard the place to be.  Don’t just design a great landscape, but provide the seating to enjoy it.  You can add the classic rocking chair to your front porch, hang a hammock, or set up a bench where guests can sit and chat – or where you can relax and enjoy.

5. Get exotic.  Southern California is the perfect place to get quirky with your yard.  There are already so many tropical plants, succulents, and cactus here in SoCal that adding something fun to your landscape just might set your home apart from the others.  This can be as subtle as installing lighting which makes your yard shine at night or you could add an art installation for some real eye candy.

No matter what you do, be sure your yard reflects both your personality and your needs.  Here’s to your home – may it be like no other home on the block!

 

 

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Designing a Drought Tolerant Yard

This time of year is usually filled with chilly weather and rainfall, but so far it has been dry and warm here in Southern California.  This may lead to some strict rules regarding watering ever-thirsty lawns.  So, instead of adding to the problem, here are some ideas for a drought tolerant and beautiful yard:

Go native:  Penstemon Husker's Red

We have so many wonderful native plants here in Southern California – and because they are native they are perfectly suited to our weather.   Some really wonderful plants are: Baby Blue Eyes, Black-Eyed Susan, Buckeye, California lilac, California poppy (our state flower), Calliopsis, Chaparral, Desert Evening Primrose, Fir, Fried-Egg Flower, Godetia, Hollyhock, Hummingbird Trumpet, Joshua Tree, Lavender, Penstemon, Ribbon bush, Sea Pink, and Sedum.

Plants that are used to our climate and the cyclic droughts we have can survive better with less water than plants from areas that get a lot of water.

Plant succulents: Stonecrop

Succulents and cactus are a natural fit for our desert-y climate. They hold in water for a long time and can survive in hot, dry weather.  Some great cactus plants and succulents for the yard are: Agave, Aloes, Bunny Ear Cactus, Campfire Crassula, Desert Rose, Golden Barrel Cactus, Hens-and-Chicks, Macho Moca Mangave, Star Cacti, and Zwartkop.

Utilize artistic arrangements: iStock_000010193902XSmall

Don’t just use plants to decorate your yard. Try out gorgeous rocks, arrange outdoor art pieces, or set up a dry fountain and plant it with succulents. There are such a huge variety of stone, brick, cement, and even metal materials you can use to make your yard look amazing without having to water it.

Even if you don’t go grass free, you can find many water saving tips and suggestions here.  Here’s to some rainfall this year!

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Planting Somethings Beautiful and Delicious

Usually this is the time of year when many start thinking about the shape of our yard and how they want it changed.  It’s always nice when plants serve a dual purpose and when you think about the shape you want your yard to take, consider planting something both pretty and edible.

“Kitchen gardens” and other terms often make one think of a traditional English garden or some kind of a garden patch, but that doesn’t need to be the case.  Check out these techniques for planting food that both look and taste great:

1. Use edibles for a border. Plants like cabbage, kale, chard, strawberries, mint, sage, or lavender all make a gorgeous edible border.

2. There is something romantic about a vine growing up a wall or around a fence.  Coax some edible vines up your garden wall.  There are plenty of great food plants that look nice and grow on a vine.  These include: eggplants, cucumbers, grapes, peppers, tomatoes, zucchinis and peas. Bright Veggie Garden

3. Enjoy something yummy and some shade from a fruit tree.  Great trees are: lemon, lime, orange, peach, apple, and many others.  There are many other trees with edible flowers or seed pods like redbud or bottlebrush.

4. Plant a ground cover of food plants or herbs.  Instead of growing grass around pavers, try something edible like strawberries, lingonberries, cranberries, wintergreen, thyme, mint, and prostrate rosemary.

5. Line your walk with edible bushes.  Plants like blueberries, Barbados cherry, loquat, elderberry, and hazelnut are all delicious and beautiful additions to a yard.

These are just a few of the ways you can rearrange your yard this year.  Here’s to a gorgeous and delicious front or backyard.

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Seven Great Water Features

The sounds of splashing water is always soothing – and it’s a sound we don’t hear often enough of in Southern California.  There are ways for you to enjoy the sights and sounds of water around your home without spending an arm and a leg to keep the water going.  Here are seven great water feature ideas that will turn your backyard into a soothing paradise:

1. Install a fountain.  A fountain is probably one of the easiest ways to get a water feature which lets you hear the sounds of splashing water – without a ton of hassle.  But, if a traditional fountain doesn’t match with your style, there are plenty of other options.  You can have an art installation which is also a fountain, install orbs that are small fountains, or even have a recycled water set up coming out of a surrounding wall.

2. Go with a pond.  Ponds can be big or small, they can include fish and other creatures, and you can even set it up so it doubles as a bird bath. Central Park

3. Incorporate a water feature into your existing landscape.  You can create a little river that falls down the middle of your stairs, a small waterfall that rolls down the side of your hillside home, or a pond for your flat lot.

4. Want to just try out the whole water feature business?  Try a pond in a pot or a bubbling water container.  These are small and inexpensive, but they will give you an idea of how a more permanent feature might match your landscaping.  iStock_000001549219XSmall

5. Think about using basins.  These are a more artistic expression of a pond.  A basin can feed into another basin in a small waterfall, it can be fed by an external pipe, or it can just bubble from a recycling system below ground.

6. Add a waterfall to your pool or Jacuzzi.  Jazz up your spa with a waterfall that feeds into it. Beautifully landscaped backyard pool with a waterfall.

7.  Go pondless.  There are some really great designs that allow a waterfall to drip onto rocks or some other feature.  This can create a pretty sound – and make it safer for kids to play around.

Here’s to a yard that makes you feel happy and calm every time you enter it!

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Preparing for Rose Season

We are very lucky in Southern California.  We have fantastic weather and with it are able to have an extensive rose season.  For example, this January you can plant bare-root plants like roses.  How do you prepare for roses?  Here are some ideas: iStock_000010086872XSmall

Rose planting preparations:

Make sure you’ve got a space dedicated to growing your roses.  These lovely flowers need plenty of food, so it’s best to plant them in weed-free areas where other high phosphorus eaters don’t also live.

Get your soil set up for roses.  You want a nice, loam composition.  This means it is about 40% sand, 40% silt, and 20% clay.  If you aren’t going to be planting bare root roses this year or you are amending soil where existing plants live, try building this type of soil using organic compost.  If you are attempting to plant right away, you should dig in a good compost mix.

Set up the area you will be planting with a good watering system.  Southern California can be hot for roses.  Your roses will need plenty of water as they grow.

Plant your roses:

Planting a bare root rose is an excellent way to beautify your garden.  Here is a quick overview of planting bare root roses:

  • Soak the bare roots in a bucket of water for at least two hours and not over twelve hours.
  • Prune any roots that are broken, injured, or overlong.
  • Dig a hole about 12-18 inches deep and 2 feet wide.
  • Add compost into the hole and mix it with the soil at the bottom of the hole.
  • Place the rose into the hole and spread the roots evenly around.
  • Backfill the planting hole two thirds full.  Make sure the bud union is above the soil level.
  • Add water and allow to drain completely, then fill the hole with more soil and water again.

Find more tips on caring for your new roses here.

Here’s to bright new buds and bountiful roses this year!

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Eight New Years Resolutions to Make for Your Yard

The time when we make decisions about the next twelve months is here once again.  While we all make decisions about our weight, our health, and possibly our wealth, it may be a good time to take a look at our yard and 2014 fireworks.make a few decisions about that as well.  Here are the top ten new years resolutions for gardening and landscaping in 2014:

#1.  Do one thing to make your yard more organic.  Amend your soil with natural fertilizer, add organic mulch, or use some elbow grease instead of weed and feed.

#2. Spend more time in your yard.  Your yard may be a paradise or a mess.  Either way, resolve to spend more time outdoors, enjoying all the benefits of living in Southern California.  This may mean you need to make some improvements to your yard or it might mean you need to drag a lawn chair outdoors.  Whatever you do, enjoy your yard this year. Enjoy your yard

#3. Try planting at least one thing which is both beautiful and edible.  You can be as minor as decorative (and delicious) cabbage or as complicated as planting new fruit trees.

#4. Tackle at least one outdoor project this year.  This might mean you need to call in a landscaper to set up your new outdoor gathering space.  It may mean you need to get down and dirty on a DIY project.  Whatever the project may be, tackle it this year.

#5. Help your local fauna enjoy your landscape too.  You can plant blossoms that attract butterflies and bees, add a bird bath, install a stream, or much more.

#6. Actually use the compost heap.  Many of us have a compost heap, but we don’t all use it.  Try getting the ratio right and actually using your composted plant material to improve your yard.  Sage attracting a butterfly

#7. Plant more local, Southern California plants.  Try adding natives into your gardening mix.  You might be surprised how easy it is to grow natives and how many local birds and insect life they will attract.

#8. Go to more gardens and on more garden tours.  It’s always great to get inspired by what others are doing with their yards.

Here’s to a bright new year!

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