Archive for Natural Habitat

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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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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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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Fun Waterscaping Ideas

Waterscapes aid your landscape in many different ways.  Water features block ambient noise, add beauty, and (in some cases) allows an environment for new, low maintenance pets.

Here are some fun and interesting ways to incorporate waterscaping into your yard:

Create a space for small creatures

If you have plants of varied heights and types, it’s likely you will attract birds, butterflies, bumble bees, and other varied creatures that are fun to watch.  You can add to that attraction with a nice water feature.  There are a couple of approaches to this:

Traditional bird bath.  Just a plain-Jane birdbath.  Simple and effective.

Artsy fountain.  The idea is to provide these creatures with a place where they can access water.  Interesting fountains surrounded by small, damp stones can give various animals many places to rest, bathe, and drink.  The idea is to provide a perch in water deep enough for a small bird to bathe, and shallow enough that they won’t worry about losing their footing and drowning.

Small fountains for small spaces

If all you have is a terrace, deck or balcony, you can add a small fountain to your space in order to block out the ambient noise.

Small fountains can also be a gorgeous focal point for an entryway, for a back patio, or for that uneven portion of lot that you don’t know what to do with.

You can add a small fountain by installing a terracotta pot which appears to overflow into surrounding rocks, and with the watering then recirculating back into the fountain.  Another idea is to install a small sculpture or art piece with the same principle.  Or to install a waterline which runs up an adjacent wall and lets the water out through a spigot or piece of tile work on the wall.

Install a water feature disguised as a raised bed

That just sound weird, right?  But you can hide a pretty little water feature in among your raised beds.  Add some lily pads, maybe a turtle or a couple of fish, and you have a raised pond that accents your existing raised-bed look.

Plan for a shallow streamBackyard waterfal

What is better than the sound of a babbling brook?  Maybe the sound of a breeze rustling the leaves above your head as you lay back in your hammock and enjoy the harmonious sounds of nature.

If you prefer a little bit of drama, you can get a small stream installed which ends in a little waterfall.  This can be especially beautiful on a multi-level yard.

Allow water plants to run wild

If you have an existing water feature that you’d like to spice up, or if you want the sound of running water, but want to keep the motif green, try adding plant life.  There are some really gorgeous water plants that can add texture and dimension to your landscape.

Here’s to a visually and aurally beautiful yard!

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Wintertime Dreamin

It’s that time of year again.  Hopefully any lawn decorations and string lighting is set up, your yard is put to bed, and any lawn furniture is put away.  It’s time for us to look at our yards and plan for next year.

When it comes to home improvement, plans are generally modified by budget and available space.  So, what projects do you want to accomplish next year?  Here are some ideas:

– Go native.  It’s always good to add native plants to your yard – or to even take the plunge and plant only natives.  This will likely cut down your water bills and gardening costs – as Southern California natives like poppies, sage, Meeting Placedeer grass, California lilac, Coast Live Oak, Western Sycamore, etc are literally made for your soil.  These types of plants are great for hot, dry SoCal cities like Agoura Hills, La Canada, and Silverlake.  While you will need to keep them well watered to allow their roots to establish, over time they will help cut down that water bill.  Additionally, natives usually attract native birds and insects throughout the year, so your yard may become filled with butterflies, bumblebees and birds.

– Get sprinklers or a drip system installed.  As you well know, Southern California is hot and dry.  To keep up any kind of lawn or plants, you need some source of water.  Take a look at your space and decide if it would be better to go with a sprinkler system, or a drip system.  Drip systems get the water straight to the plant roots, which usually makes them more cost-effective.

Install hardscaping.  Are you sick of dealing with plants and sprinklers and so on?  Or maybe you want a place where your family and friends can gather outdoors and have a barbecue or a picnic.  These circumstances speak to getting hardscaping installed.  There are many different options for hardscaping – stone, concrete, brick, etc.  And your hardscaping ideas aren’t limited to a back patio or island.  Take a look at your entry way, your front walk, and your driveway.  These are all areas which can be improved with something as small as cleaning and sealing the concrete, stone or brick they are made of – or as in-depth and replacing the existing look with something completely different.

Make little changes.  It’s those details that make all the difference, from installing a fountain or lamp post in the back, to putting up a hammock for summertime or sprucing up your lawn furniture  you can make a big difference in your yard.

– Install a space for family gatherings.  Again, this can be as small as setting up a picnic table with benches – or as big as getting a firepit with surrounding seats installed.

– Get a nice screen to make your backyard your own little world.  Bamboo, tall bushes, and other plants can be installed to keep your backyard private and muffle outside sounds.  Take a look at what separates you from your neighbors and see if it can’t be improved.  If it’s a chain-link fence, perhaps you can discuss improvements with your neighbors and get a block wall or a wooden fence installed.  If you know your neighbor’s like the look of what separates your property lines, perhaps you can find plants you like to conceal it, or you can decorate it with a fountain or sculpture.

– Install any lighting.  This is actually something you should do over the winter, as this is the time of year when there is more darkness, and additional lighting would be welcome.

Here’s to a holiday season full of dreams fulfilled.

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