Creating a California Friendly® Garden
by Ron Vanderhoff
I’m convinced – gardeners love the outdoors, love nature and love the earth more than most people. That’s why we garden, to be closer to nature. So when it’s time to make decisions about the plants to place into their gardens these folks are increasingly weighing things like water needs and climate suitability. Gardeners are asking good questions and they’re reading the fine print on fertilizer labels, soil amendments and pest controls. Indeed, gardeners are in touch with nature and they want their gardens to contribute to the health of the planet, purifying our air and water, supporting pollinators, birds and wildlife and cooling the environment.
When it comes to being a good citizen, gardeners really do want to ‘do the right thing’. But, often gardening can become complicated and confusing. So many plants and so many details. Gardeners sometimes just don’t know what the “right thing” is.
The story of the transformation of my own typical suburban garden into a California Friendly version is one that I hope will inspire you in your own garden and perhaps give you some ideas toward what ‘the right thing’ might be. In most ways, my story may be very similar to your own. Three years ago I moved to a new house with a landscape already in place. The house was thirty years old and the landscape was typical – one that you’ll see in almost any suburban neighborhood; one that you may even have yourself. It was a collection of lawns, shrubs, trees and a few flowers and potted plants. The standard irrigation system was run by a timer and, of course, a gardener visited once each week for a rather predictable routine.
Having just bought the house, I was out of money. Since I work 60 hours a week and am seldom home, even on my non-work days. I was also out of time. No money and no time. Sound familiar?
My story involves how I went about installing a low water, low maintenance and low resource garden. I dealt with the lawn, the irrigation, the soil, the green waste, the runoff, the boring plants and lots more. Many successes, a few failures. I created a garden of diversity, filled with interesting plants, succulents, native plants, tropical’s, potted plants, lots of birds and butterflies and even vegetables and fruits. It’s now a California Friendly garden, of modest water use, resource efficient, light maintenance and relatively inexpensive to create.
If you’re not sure what a California Friendly garden is, it is a garden that “fits” Southern California. It is a garden that does not rely on excessive artificial support, like copious amounts of water, nutrition or even a gardener’s time and energy. In turn, a California Friendly garden is one that works with the environment around it; not polluting, contributing excessive waste or spreading invasive plants.