Archive for Gardening tips

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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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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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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Simple Landscaping Ideas

Sometimes the best looking landscape is the one with the simplest design.  When we look at magazines and see great landscapes, they are usually several simple ideas put together and made into a cohesive whole.  So, here are some simple ideas you should consider when taking a look at your own landscape:Trellis

– Think within a specific color scheme.  Whether you are looking at hardscaping or plants, you can consider basic color schemes.  For example, if you love red, you can work that in to your yard with bright zinnia, poppies, celosia, or an accent tile or stone.  Keeping the color consistent will help your yard look more pulled together and cohesive as a whole.

– Don’t fret about bare spots.  Instead of worrying about bare spots in your yard, utilize them by placing a piece of art, a water feature, or a bench over that spot.

– Don’t worry about mixing and matching.  Mother Nature mixes and matches all the time and comes up with meadows filled with flowers or mysterious forests.  Try it yourself by utilizing different types of plants and hardscaping materials.  Just try grouping like things together as much as possible.

–  Create private spaces.  If you have a bit of room in your yard, you can get a simple, private space designed for you- separated by a low wall or a hedge.

– Install islands of plants or hardscaping.  Reverse the usual borders by making your grass a boarder for a hardscaped retreat or colorful island of plants.

– Have fun with textures and geometry.  Exploring different types and sizes of plants, as well as a variety of hardscaping materials can lead to an organic and interesting look you can’t get with a plain grass lawn.

– When in doubt, try something traditional.  If you aren’t sure what to do with that wide open space, plant a lawn there.  You can mix and match type of grass, add in flowers, or create an island later on.  Sometimes keeping things traditional opens up the space to more fun ideas later on down the road.

These are just a few of the many simple and interesting techniques you can utilize for your yard.  Here’s to a gorgeous yard filled with fun and laughter!

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Nine Ways to Update Your Front Yard

Is the walkway into your home boring?  Take a look at these nine ways to spice that front yard up:

1. Explore hardscaping options.  Just because everyone on your block has a front lawn they spend tons of money on each year to keep green doesn’t mean you have to.  Consider broadening your walkways, extending your front porch, paving the area over and adding in potted plants, or even creating a front yard firepit.  It’s perfectly possible for you to enclose your front yard and make it an extension of your backyard space.

2. Just add water.  Water features are beautiful, can add life to an area, and might even block out street noise.  Make your front yard into a watery paradise with a pond, fountain, art installation, or stream.Sage attracting a butterfly

3. Consider installing planters.  If your backyard is occupied with a pool, a deck, or a space for the kids, revamp your front yard into a traditional kitchen garden.  There’s no need to try to keep it all in the back.

4. Brighten up your day.  Not quite sure that you want a fully remodeled landscape?  Try planting naturally bright or light colored plants to greet you through the winter.  There are plenty of ornamental grasses, bright cabbages, and several flowers that will brighten up your mood as you approach your home this winter.

5. Start a vineyard.  You don’t have to love wine to love grapes, arbors, and other growing vines.  Install an arbor with climbing roses, wisteria, or grapes.  The plants won’t be ready to great you through the winter this year – but next year you may have a Secret Garden-like entryway.

6. Make your yard a private place.  Install a fence or hedge along the boarder of your front yard to create a feeling of privacy.  Perhaps your front yard will become the place to hang out!

7. Mulch away!  If you have a yard in which grass will not grow, or you just get patchy crab grass, stop fretting.  Plant some California natives in areas you might like to see some plants and cover the rest with bark chips.

Desert Landscaping8. Add a bench.  It may seem a little strange to set a bench into your front yard, but it might end up being the spot where you and your neighbors chat on a sunny winter’s day.

9. Go native.  Try designing your landscape with Southern California natives.  You might be surprised how easy they are to maintain and how beautiful they turn out to be.

Here’s to a bright and welcoming front yard!

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10 Tips for Sharing your yard

Dogs are fun and fantastic companions.  They also need a bit of space to stretch their legs.  This is where your yard often A kid and his dogcomes into play.  If your dog is anything like mine, he or she is probably a little temperamental about what they love in your yard, and what they won’t go near.  Sometimes what they love is the exact item you don’t want them to get into.  Here are some fun ideas for sharing your yard with a canine companion, and for keeping them out of the portions of your yard you want to keep for yourself:

1. Use raised beds or low fences to delineate areas where you’d like to keep your dog away.  Many dogs are decent jumpers, but if they are trained not to get into your beds or to jump a low fence, you can probably keep the veggie garden safe.

2. Install low-impact hardscape.  You’ve seen a dog slide on a wood or linoleum floor.  You don’t want your backyard to be a place where he or she slips and slides, but you also don’t want your yard to be uncomfortable on their paws.  Try getting smooth flagstones set in pebbles or grass.

3. Use fine mulch that won’t stick in the paws or dig into the skin of your pet.

4. Be sure to plant dog-friendly plants.  Plants like grapes, lilies, sago palm, azalea,  and daffodils are poisonous to dogs.  So, if you have a dog that likes to gnaw on your plants, don’t put these in your yard.  Also avoid planting anything that might have a burr-type seed like foxtails.  These can get into the fur, paws, nose, and ears of your pup and might create an infection.

Some friendly plants that can usually stand up to bigger dogs are: African boxwood, artemisia, canna, ginger, lilac, osmanthus, pines, and more.Shady dog house

5. Give your dog a shady place to rest.  Whether you will be outdoors with your dog, you have a doggy door, or your dog loves to hang out outside, it’s always smart to give them a nice, cool place to rest.  It’s also a good idea to keep a filled bowl of water there as well, so they don’t get overheated.

6. Make a path.  Most dogs love to run and explore.  A path gives them a natural place to jog, patrol your property, and generally feel like they are in charge of things.  Give them a nice pathway of dirt or low-impact hardscaping for them to jog along and be your home’s security system.

7. Build a fence or a wall.  Some dogs love to dig underneath your wall or your fence.  You might need to get a landscaper to install extra protection – underground.

8. Give your dog a way to get wet.  While it’s cooling down now, it’s usually HOT in Southern California – especially if you’re wearing a fur coat 24/7.  If you have a pond or are installing a water feature, see if you can make it a dog-friendly cool-down zone for your four legged friend.

9.  Install a walk up area.  If you have a hillside home or really any home with an incline or with elevated areas you don’t mind your pet wandering into, give your dog some steps or an easy incline to walk up.  Remember, even if your dog is just a pup, keeping them from jumping up and down can save their joints later on.

10. Try to use fewer chemically-based fertilizers, herbicides, or pesticides.  If you do need to spray your yard or lawn, make sure it had dried at least 24 hours before you let your pet loose out there.

Here’s to healthy, safe, and happy pets!

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