Your California Garden
While we might not have had much of the April showers, mother nature is still blessing us with May flowers. We can bless her back with what we choose to plant in our very own gardens! Here’s a short guide to making the most of your Southern California garden this year!
There isn’t a fast fashion company out there that doesn’t have a t-shirt with “Save The Bees” plastered across it at this point. Still, the sentiment remains. Bees are responsible for pollinating one third of our food crops so if you like your avocado toast and mimosas at Sunday brunch, this should be a worthy cause for you. 1,600 different species of bees are native to California and there are a plethora of plants that you can add to your garden to support their habitat.
If you have the space, Dr Gordon Frankie of the University of California, Berkeley recommends you plant a variety of at least 10 different plant species as this gives the bees a variety of nectar and pollen rich options. He also recommends not using any pesticides and doing minimal manicuring. California buckwheat and red buckwheat are both beautiful, summer bloomers that withstand the heat with minimal water. Gumplant, California Aster, Lessingia, and Elegant Madia will also flower in the summer and make your local bees happy.
While Berkeley’s studies did find that planting 1 meter in diameter or larger per species is ideal, this does not mean that effort from balcony or patio gardeners is not helpful. Some of the best plants you can put in pots on your apartment terrace are sunflowers, black eyed susans, lavender, gerbera daisies, lantanas, and lupine. These will be easy to find at your local garden center and you can find out additional care instructions HERE.
Plant Fruits and Vegetables
Planting your own fruits and vegetables can be both relaxing and rewarding. One of the major benefits of our SoCal climate is we are able to have produce gardens year round. In the summer, you’ll find success with plants such as tomatoes, cantaloupe, watermelon, corn, squash, snap beans, celery, cucumbers, and brussel sprouts. In winter, you’ll want to pick plants that can tolerate the colder night temperatures, such as beets, lettuce, onions, potatoes, and broccoli. See a helpful table from the University of California HERE. Fruit trees are always lovely, and if you have extras, you can share with your neighbors! To keep bugs from getting to enjoy the fruits of your labor before you do, use an eco-friendly, home-made vinegar spray to deter them from your flourishing foliage.
Add some seasoning to your life with an herb garden! Italian parsley, lavender, sage, rosemary, thyme, and oregano all do well in our hot, dry climate. You can use these fresh and add them to meals you make using your home grown veggies, or dry them for a later date! A small starter plant at your local grocery store will cost you about as much as buying a can of the seasoning itself, so if you take good care of them, these plants are quite cost effective.
If you need a little motivation to start gardening, it helps when you get something out of it. Planting your own fruits and vegetables is good for you, as you can assure that you are not going to be putting harmful pesticides into your body and nutrient levels are highest when produce is first harvested (the fresher, the better). It is also good for the planet as there is no fuel or packaging wasted when you transport a lovely salad straight from your backyard to your plate!
Plant Desert Plants
If you are short on time and purely going for an aesthetically pleasing landscape this summer, stick to succulents and cacti. In the hustle and bustle of the city, it’s easy to forget to water your plants, and these guys are troopers that won’t quit on you.
More importantly, it’s pertinent to remember we live in a desert climate, and water is a valuable resource. When we walk past manicured lawns everyday, it is easy to forget that this isn’t what California’s natural landscape is supposed to look like. With the driest January, February, and March in the last 100 years, it is undeniable that we are in the middle of a drought. Californian’s use 30%-60% of their water outdoors and have been battling this drought for the past three years. To meet the Governor’s goal of reducing our water use by 15% (we have currently reduced 3.7% since 2020), we need to relook at how our precious resource, often taken for granted, is allocated.
Chalk dudleya, Catalina Island dudleya, yucca, and the San Diego barrel cactus are all drought tolerant plants that do well in a SoCal garden. To add a pop of color, mix in some tulip prickly pear cacti. If you are looking to get a little additional use from your garden, plant aloe and agave to have low maintenance plants that you can harvest. Use the CALSCAPE GARDEN PLANNER to guide you on a free design and plant list that fits your yard and your needs.
Additionally, you can reduce the water that you use for your plants by making the water you use last longer and be more efficient. According to Save Our Water, using mulch can save you between 20-30 gallons of water for every 1000 sq. ft. each time you water as it helps the soil retain moisture. It also helps to water your plants early in the morning before the sun is at its highest. This allows the water the opportunity to soak in before it is absorbed.