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California Landscapes for Low Maintenance

December 31, 2012

Do we understand what plants need in our climate?

We need to think about what nature gives us for free! and take advantage of it.  Want a low-maintenance landscape?  This would be the place to start.  Our natural native plant community here in the Santa Clarita Valley of Southern California is a combination of “Chaparral” and “Oak Woodland.”  For more information on the plants that live naturally together in this climate, check out Las Pilitas Nursery’s Website.  He has put together all of the information you will need to make plant choices.  There are thousands of plants.  And this kind of landscape will make you very “green” and very unique and interesting unlike most landscapes that are just rubber stamps of the same thing, mostly lawn.

Water is of course necessary for life and especially when we are trying to get plants established.  In Southern California, the best planting time (because the time of year you plant  impacts your success) starts in the fall (after the brutal heat and drying conditions of summer and fall) when the days are shorter, cooler and some natural rainfall will occur.  In nature, Southern California’s winter/early spring rains are about all we get.  That’s why planting in fall is so helpful in establishment of new plantings.  Plants need more attention when they are new.  They need to not dry out completely while they’re trying to reach out with tender new roots.  Once new plantings are established (you can tell this when you start seeing a reasonable amount of new growth as new roots have to form first), you need to back off on the water.  Give them a little more in the first year or two than nature by herself would, then back off some more.  You will probably want to mulch the ground around the plants, using a bark mulch (if you’re in Chaparrel or Oak Woodland); if in actual desert areas, the mulch should probably be some kind of stone.  Visit a brick yard for stone including gravel and decomposed granite (DG).  There are a few of them in or around Santa Clarita.

If you can afford to hire a designer and can find a good one, it is a good idea; if you are going to be your own designer, do some research.  Mistakes that you discover seven or eight years down the road are things you want to avoid.  Designers are very helpful here.  Like me (I do maintenance, real gardening),  they’ve seen all of the mistakes way too many times, i.e., don’t buy the plants until you are ready to put them in!  You have your bed laid out and maybe even the hole(s) dug.  Otherwise, either the plants will die in the nursery cans from neglect or root through the pot into the ground.  I recently saw a tree a lady bought three years prior and was still thinking about where she was going to dig the hole.  The tree’s roots (going through the pot holes into the ground) were as big around as the trunk and they were coming out of every hole.  Try moving that now!

Thanks for reading.  If you need some garden/landscape help, landscape cleanup, E-mail sugarbush@sbcglobal.net.  Happy New Year!

Willie

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