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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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Going Lawnless

Wide grass lawns aren’t really native to Southern California, and are often water suckers.  One way to solve water issues landscaped gardeninevitable to a lawn is to remove your lawn and do something else with the space.  Here are a variety of ideas and tips for “going lawnless:”

1.  Plant up with natives instead of grass.  Once your natives are established, you won’t have to water them nearly as much as you watered your lawn.  Some lovely natives are:  Lewisia, Penstemon, Thrift, Yarrow, Apricot mallow, Checkerbloom, Blue-eyed grass, Iris, Monkey flower, Lilac, Bearded tongue, Beach aster, Snowberry, and more.

2. Install and enjoy hardscaping.  Hardscapes can be filled with natural beauty by utilizing pots or borders, and it’s very easy to maintain.  Not only that, handscapes make great gathering places for friends, family, barbecues, and more.

3. Make your space a veggy patch or herb garden.  Growing your own food is rewarding and can be really fun for the young ones!

4. Install a waterscape.  Adding a pond or fountain can make your backyard feel like a haven of natural beauty instead of a flat, green, water-sucking expanse.  Water features can block traffic noise, and they can get you off the hook for getting your kid a pet (by filling a pond with fish or some such animal).

5. Plant an orchard.  You may not think you can make your yard into a shady haven of natural beauty, but you can.  Planting and establishing trees can take a lot of water, but they give a great reward and last for a very long time.Rake Chips

6. Take some time to repair your soil with mulch over winter, then try planting some of your favorites.  You can make your yard into a gorgeous place for butterflies, birds, and more by smothering your lawn over winter and planting something completely different in spring.

Here’s to the perfect yard for your needs!

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Growing Edible Ornamentals

Everyone wants their yards – front and back – to look gorgeous and green.  Some people also want to be able to eat what they grow.  So, how does one balance the beauty of their yard with its usefulness?  Here are some ornamental plants that can decorate both your yard and your dinner table:

Basil: There are a wide variety of beautiful basils which you can use to decorate your yard, your home, and your food.  Here are some great varieties: Sweet basil, Ararat basil, Purple ruffles basil, Thai basil, Round midnight basil, Lemon basil, Greek basil, Spicy saber basil, Genovese basil, Green bouquet basil, Cardinal basil, Green ruffles basil, Boxwood basil, Summerlong basil, and Lime basil.

Fennel: The licorice flavored seeds and young leaves of fennel are extremely popular in culinary circles.  Fennel also has beautiful, wispy fronds which can add a fern-like look to your yard.  Some varieties of fennel include: Florence fennel, Sweet fennel, or Bronze fennel.  Fennel can grow in partial shade, so it’s a good plant to help fill in empty spaces where plants that need more sunlight might have difficulties.

Artichoke: Even if you don’t like this delicious vegetable, the fluffy purple flowers can brighten up your yard.  Some of the common varieties are: Green globe artichoke, Baby anzio artichoke, Siena artichoke, Mercury artichoke, Omaha artichoke, Fiesole artichoke, Chianti artichoke, and the King artichoke.

Broccoli: The giant leaves of a broccoli plant are as decorative as a cabbage – and when the vegetable comes up, it can look even prettier.  Some pretty (and delicious) broccolis are: Gypsy broccoli, De Cicco broccoli, Blue Wind broccoli, Amadeus broccoli, Sprouting broccoli, Romanesco broccoli, and Arcadia broccoli.Sage attracting a butterfly

Sage: The delicious smell and the lovely flowers sage produces make it a wonderful addition to a yard – whether that be a yard with other spices in it or a yard only for ornamentals.  Here are some great varieties: Culinary sage, Pineapple sage, Russian sage, Gentian sage, Purple sage, Clary sage, Golden sage, Berggarten sage, Variegated sage, Blue Angel sage, Mexican bush sage, Silver sage,

Lavender: There are plenty of great smelling lavenders, some of which are culinary lavender.  This delicious and sweet smelling herb can make a nice bush and attraction for bees.

Mint: This can make a delicious smelling ground cover and a nice garnish for your food.  Some lovely varieties are: Bowles mint, Chocolate mint, Curly mint, Ginger mint, Variegated peppermint, Corsican mint, Pennyroyal, Spearmint, Peppermint, Apple mint, Lemon mint, and Pineapple mint.

Thyme: Thyme is actually a member of the mint family.  It is an evergreen shrub which can add extra greenary and spice to your yard.  Some nice varieties of thyme are: Common thyme, Lemon thyme, Golden thyme, Doone valley thyme, Redstart thyme, Vey thyme, Archer’s Gold thyme, Bressingham thyme, English thyme, and French thyme.

Lettuce: Pretty, broad leaved lettuce or stout little balls of lettuce can be both ornamental and delicious.  Some good varieties to line your home or flower garden with are: Butter lettuce, Little gem lettuce, Lambs lettuce, Oak leaf lettuce, Escarole, and Radicchio.

There are many, many beautiful and ornamental plants which are also edible.  What are your favorites?

 

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Side Yard Ideas

Southern California cities like Thousand Oaks, Simi Valley, and La Canada have homes that are anything but cookie-cutter.  There are plenty of hillside homes, small homes on large lots, and lots featuring strange dimensions.

With homes like this, there is often a small stretch of yard which doesn’t seem to fit the rest of the space.  This could be a small side yard or an irregular spot behind the garage.  What can you do with such a space?  Here are some ideas:

Make it a play area.  Whether you have children or not, a space to stretch Children feet in green grassout and enjoy the outdoors is always welcome.

Your landscaper can design the space into a play area for children with swings or a sand box.   Another idea for kids is to install man-made grass so they can use the space for a slip-n-slide in the summer and a comfy play area the rest of the year.

Your side yard can be made into a play area for you by installing a small firepit, installing hardscaping so that the space can be used for a variety of games or installing man-made grass for games like bocci ball.

Make your own farmer’s market.  Utilize that extra space to grow your ownSmall Fruit Tree veggies in raised beds.  Or, plant a mini orchard with your favorite fruit trees.  You can also install a small vineyard for your own, homegrown California grapes.

Let it go to the dogs.  If you have dogs or other pets that require running room, set up your side yard as a dog run or a place for your pet to play.

Grow your own bouquet.  Plant your favorite flowers and create a living Meeting Placebouquet.  You can also find out the best flowers to attract your favorite insects or birds and grow those in your side yard garden patch.

These are just some ideas for your irregularly shaped lot.  Here’s to a yard that works perfectly for your needs – no matter the shape.

 

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Calling all Bees, Butterflies, and Lady Bugs

If you live in a place like Pismo or Malibu beach, you’re pretty likely to see butterflies throughout the year.  But what about more inland cities like Thousand Oaks, Woodland Hills or Simi Valley?  How do residents get a chance to enjoy gorgeous and beneficial winged insects?  Here are some ideas:Honey Bee Polinating Sage Blossom

Get rid of dead or dying plants

Beneficial insects are attracted to bright, healthy plants that will produce plenty of pollen or nectar, or which haven’t been damaged too thoroughly by harmful insects like aphids.  Make sure to prune back dead foliage, remove dead plants, and find out if your plants that seem to be dying can be saved or if they should be removed.

Plant bright flowers with nectar or pollen in them

Butterflies and bees are attracted to areas where they can feed themselves and their fellows.  Try planting vibrant flowers like: marigold, lavender, blood flower, brown-eyed Susan, echinacea, salvia, yarrow, penstemon, salpiglossis, dahlia, scabiosa, gallardia, zinnia,  aster, butterfly bush, butterfly weed, lantana, bee balm, borage, sunflower, alyssum, lion’s tail, coneflower, and many more. Butterflies

There are also herbs that can be used both to attract pollinators and can be used in the kitchen.  Some of these are: fennel, oregano, garlic chives, sage, mint, mustard greens, and thyme.

Plan your garden

You can attract friendly insects with gardens big and small, but usually there is a reason you wish to attract them.  Maybe you enjoy watching butterflies flutter and bees buzz.  In that case, you’ll want your garden landscaped with areas for you to sit down and watch.  Maybe you’re planting pollinators to help with your tomato plants or a peach tree.  In this case, you’ll want to discuss how best to position the plants that attract beneficial insects so that they buzz on over to the plants that really need pollinating.

Take time to enjoy it all

In this hustle and bustle world, it may be hard to find time to contemplate the flowers or watch the bees and butterflies do their thing.  But make sure to make time to enjoy your yard.  Why else have a gorgeously landscaped space which attracts beautiful little insects?

Here’s to a summer filled with bright blooms and beneficial insects.

 

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Consider Going Native

Southern California native plants are gorgeous, and – once established – they can cut down on the water bill.  Not only can adding natives to your landscape help keep your yard green with less water, they also attract native animals like birds, butterflies and more.

Here are some great natives to consider planting:

Full Sun/Flowers or Flowering ShrubberyCalifornia Golden Poppy

Hollyhock, California Poppy, Fried Egg Flower, Godetia, Pineleaf Penstemon, Broadleaf Sedum, Eaton’s Penstemon, Calliopsis, Hummingbird Trumpet, Black-Eyed Susan, Sea Pink, Desert Evening Primrose, California Buckwheat, Bigleaf Lupine

Partial or Full Shade/Flowers or Flowering Shrubbery

Baby Blue Eyes, Ribes Currants, Mock Orange, Snowberry, Meadow Rue, Coral Bells, Coastal Sage Scrub, California Lilac, Bush Sunflower, Chaparral

Trees

Fir (red/white), Big-Leaf Maple, Desert Ash, Californa Black Walnut, Sugar Pine, Honey Mesquite, Velvet Mesquite, Douglas Fir, California Oak, Blue Oak, Engelmann Oak, Mountain Hemlock

These and many other plants make a great addition to any yard.  When landscaping, give some thought to native plants.  They can help you save on your water bill, are less of an effort to care for, and attract wonderful animals.

 

 

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Giving your Yard a Natural Feel

Whether your yard is hardscaped or grassy, is on a hillside or an irregular lot, creating a balance between nature and man-made is important.  Here are some ideas for keeping your yard feeling natural – no matter the soil or lot type.

  • Plant flowers and other pretty plants among “useful” plantsMeeting Place

Adding flowers into your vegetable bed attracts more bees and good insects.  Even if your yard is all trees, you can solve a “bare ground” problem by planting flowers along the drip line of your trees.  Additionally, if there is heavy shade that doesn’t let up, plants like ferns can thrive.

  • Use bright pots to decorate bare spaces

If you have a lot of hardscaping, or even just unworkable soil, try planting up colorful pots of flowers and herbs and placing them around your yard.  This softens up the landscape.

Another idea is to add a water feature to the area.  A fountain or pond cools down a hot yard, and can soften the most extreme hardscaping.

  • Plant a “green wall”

One of the “next big things” in the world of landscaping is a green wall.  This is a wall with plants installed within it so they grow off of it.  This is a beautiful statement – and a great sound barrier.

  • Utilize bordersGarden with stone landscaping

Planting up a small border garden with flowers, herbs, fruiting bushes or vegetables make a plain lawn look lush and gorgeous.  These border areas can also attract birds, butterflies and bumble bees to your yard.

  • Hang pots

Hanging pots full of fragrant herbs and flowers can make a stuffy back porch feel cool and beautiful.

Here’s to a great spring and summer, filled with bright blossoms and cool greenery!

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