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Gardening Tips

Landscape flowers in a yard.Landscaping: it's a natural

The homeowners of the 21st century have embraced conservation landscaping with a passion. Borrowing liberally from Mother Nature's landscape plan, conservation landscaping groups plants into separate areas of the landscape according to their various water needs. The result is a significant reduction in the amount of water needed for plants to survive.

Before jumping into a conservation landscaping project, envision the overall look and uses of the lawn:

  • Is there a need for deck with lots of room for entertaining?
  • Do children need a large lawn area for romping?
  • Will there be a backyard vegetable garden?
  • How much privacy is needed?
  • Where are the sunny and shady areas? Note the location of existing rocks slopes, drainage areas, structures and plants.

Plant selection and placement are key elements in conservation landscaping. The use of low water-use plants is only one aspect of water-saving landscaping. Many medium or high water use plants can be used if they are grouped together and watered together by area.

Full irrigation areas

These areas are usually expanses of grass. Grass needs more water than other areas that get a lot of use or are highly visible.

Moderate irrigation areas

Plants and shrubs in these areas take advantage of some natural runoff from downspouts, driveways and patios. For instance, an entryway using groundcovers and low or moderate water-use shrubs will require little watering.

Low irrigation areas

Border areas containing low or moderate water-demanding flowers, shrubs and trees provide the greatest water savings. Drip irrigation applies water only the plant’s roots, saving even more water. Very little water is lost to evaporation.

The right water in the right place

When the weather warms up, residents ask advice on how to keep the landscape healthy and the water bill down at the same time. Here are the answers to a few questions:

Water on flowersWhen is the best time to water?

Morning is the best time to water the lawn. When  watering early, water less because more is absorbed into the roots.

What can prevent water from running down the sidewalk into the gutter?

Instead of watering for 10-15 minutes straight, set the irrigation timer to water for five to seven minutes, and then set a second watering session for one to two hours later. This gives the first watering session time to absorb into the soil. When the second watering begins, the soil is already loose and the absorption rate will be higher, thus preventing most of the runoff.

What can be done to prevent water from gathering at the bottom of the embankment?

That depends on how many sprinkler stations are assigned to the embankment. If one station  controls the whole hillside, turn off or lower the volume of the sprinklers at the bottom of the hill by turning down the screws at the top of the sprinkler heads. If there is more than one station that waters the hillside, set the station at the bottom to water less or not at all. The runoff from the upper sprinklers will flow down the hill to water the lower foliage. If the lower station is completely turned off, increase the watering time on the upper stations to increase runoff.

Why are there brown patches in certain areas of the lawn if increased watering time didn't help?

Check the sprinkler heads to make sure they're not blocked. Also, check to see if they are aligned correctly. Most brown spots are due to blockage or incorrect alignment. If all seems well, make sure the water from the sprinklers is reaching the brown spot. If not, increase or decrease the range of the sprinklers by adjusting the screw on the top of the sprinkler head.

Some of the plants are dying even with watering everyday, what is wrong?

Water might be suffocating the plants. Plant roots need air to survive, and by watering them too often it could be drowning them. Give plants one to two days off to give the soil a chance to dry out and the roots a chance to breathe. This will promote deep root growth.

Moss is growing on the side of the house. What is the cause?

Too much water and not enough sunlight. When irrigating shady areas, watering times can be reduced since evaporation is minimal. Eliminating one or two days from the watering cycle in this area may help to dry out the soil and reduce the moss problem.

Choosing the right plant for the right place

flowers"He who plants a garden plants happiness."
-- Chinese Proverb

Plant selection has beguiled and befuddled many a landscape professional, not to mention many a homeowner. So imagine trying to find a plant to put near the front entry, one that's about eight feet tall, with big leaves and orange flowers, that doesn't need much light and does well in damp soil.

Don't know where to start? CMWD can assist with the help of Plant Master, a state-of-the-art computerized horticultural program. Plant Master sorts through its multi-thousand plant database searching for plants that match the characteristics specified. The result is a list of plants, with their botanical and common names, that will fit in perfectly with the landscape.

Sun loving, drought tolerant plants

cactusMany beautiful plants are available that will flourish in our region on minimal amounts of water. Many species prefer only periodic watering once they are established. These are known as drought-tolerant plants.

The following is a list of sun-loving, drought-tolerant plants that may work well in landscaping. Remember that fall is the best time to plant since it allows plants to develop a good healthy root system. These roots will get them through the hot dry seasons. 

Ground cover - slope  
Bougainvillea Sky Lupine
California Lilac "Wheeler Canyon" Dwarf Coyote Bush
Manzanita "Carmel Creeper" Dwarf Rosemary o Lantana
Ground cover - planters, beds and borders  
Artemisia Germander
Gazania Santolina
Douglas Iris Yarrow
Evening Primrose Cistus Salvifolius
Small to medium shrubs  
Autumn Sage Encelia
Cleveland Sage Lavender
Dwarf Pink Hibiscus Orchid Spot Rockrose
Large shrubs  
California Lilac Mahonia
Flannel Bush Manzanita
Grevillea "Noellii" Toyon
Shade trees
California Pepper Tree Chinese Pistache
Coast Live Oak Torrey Pine
California Black Walnut
Patio trees
Chitalpa Strawberry Tree
Crape Myrtle Western Redbud
Hedges and screens
California Lilac Mahonia
Catalina Cherry Red Flowered Escallonia
Blanket Flower California Poppy
Blue Eyed Grass Lupine
Coreopsis Penstemon
California Fuschia

RadishesPlants that repel pests

Some plants repel insects naturally. These plants have their own chemical defense systems. Plant them among flowers and vegetables.

Plant repellent
Ants Mint, Tansy, Pennyroyal
Aphids Mint, Garlic, Chive, Coriander, Anise
Bean Leaf Beetle Potato, Onion, Turnip
Codling Moth Common Oleander
Colorado Potato Beetle Green Bean, Coriander, Nasturtium
Cowpea Curculio Garlic, Clove, Radish
Cucumber Beetle Radish, Tansy
Flea Beetle Garlic, Onion, Mint
Harlequin Bug Radish, Turnip, Onion
Imported Cabbage Worm Mint, Sage, Rosemary, Hyssop
Japanese Beetle Garlic, Larkspur, Tansy, Rue, Geranium
Leaf Hopper Geranium, Petunia
Mexican Bean Beetle Potato, Onion, Garlic, Radish, Petunia, Marigold
Mice Onion
Root Knot Nematodes French Marigold
Slugs Prostrate Rosemary, Wormwood
Spider Mites Onion, Garlic, Clove, Chive
Squash Bug Radish, Marigold, Tansy, Nasturtium
Squash Vine Borer Clove, Onion, Garlic
Stink Bug Radish
Tarnished Plant Bug Garlic, Pepper
Thrips Marigold
Tomato Heartworm Marigold, Sage, Borage