Reasons vary to have a California Friendly garden. Each gardener does so for a different reason. A truly sustainable landscape minimizes negative impacts and maximizes positive ones. It thrives on rainwater and it keeps plant clippings and greenwaste on site. It requires a minimum amount of outside products and resources to sustain it.
The conventional, suburban landscape, much like those up and down your street, equates to “work” because it is inherently unmaintainable, whereas a sustainable California Friendly landscape is just the opposite. Sustainability, or I’ll call it “maintainability” can be built into the design of the garden, but it requires some out of-the-box thinking.
One doesn’t have to be a good gardener to have a good garden. In fact, most of what the landscape industry and homeowners call “maintenance” is unnecessary, a by-product of poor design.
Consider most lawns; a green area that is fertilized and watered incessantly – to make it grow. When it does, we pay people to come cut it off, fertilize it so it will grow again, and come back and cut it again a week later – ad infinitum. Lots of “work”.
Consider plant size. All plants grow every day of their lives – there are NO exceptions in the plant kingdom. Plants don’t grow to a certain size and, like your children, then one year just stop growing. Planting shrubs that are genetically programmed to become ten feet, but planted in a four foot space creates an ultimately unmaintainable dilemma. More “work”.
Why do we bring our green clippings to the curb every week to be driven away, then we buy bags of soil amendment and drive them back to the garden? Why do we spray herbicides on weeds when a layer of mulch would be more effective? Why do we work so hard?
This past Sunday I visited a strikingly beautiful garden right here in Corona Del Mar that actually contributed resources, rather than consumed them. Most gardens are graded to drain excess water away; to the property lines on each side and from there to the street. At this California Friendly garden water actually drained “into” the garden and collected in three small unobtrusive low spots in the ground. Sometimes called “soakaways”, these gravel-filled sumps percolate water back into the ground, naturally cleaning it of pollutants and ultimately replenishing our underground aquifer. Water was actually added to the environment rather than removed. Brilliant. Meanwhile, against the house, rain gutters drained more water into a rain barrel where it was stored for later use. Why not?
Begin a compost bin in your yard. Get rid of the chemicals and pesticides in your garage. Plant species that will naturally grow to the size and form you want. Mulch your soil. Kill your lawnmower.
Ron Vanderhoff is the General Manager at Roger’s Gardens, Corona del Mar