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Go Native!

The benefits of drought tolerant, native landscaping

by Diana Morris

California has recently experienced several years of below average rainfall and a "conserve water" alert has been issued by our governor. With this in mind, fall is an excellent time to consider landscaping with drought tolerant plants. Our Mediterranean climate (little or no rainfall in the summer months) offers a great opportunity to use long established landscaping choices to reduce water use and still create a comfortable retreat.

Consider Native Plants

The use of plants well adapted to the (sometimes) wet winters and dry summers will allow less use of water, fertilizer and pesticides than non-native types. Native plants are welcome shelters for native birds and insects providing natural pollinators and natural pest controls.

Planting new plants in the fall allows for less heat stress on the plants and the need for less water to get the plants established. It also lets the root system become established before the spring growth occurs. A strong root system ensures the plant gets a jump start on producing a vigorous, healthy spurt of spring growth capable of sustaining the plant for the coming summer.

Consider Mediterranean Gardens

Mediterranean gardens fit nicely in the quest for drought tolerant landscaping because the gardens are adapted to, again, wet winters and hot, dry summers. The plants in a Mediterranean garden usually need twice-a-month irrigation, more in extreme heat and thrive on less care than water hungry non-native or non-Mediterranean plants.

Recent events have found gardening experts promoting less use of water-hungry lawns and more use of Mediterranean-type landscaping. Using plenty of drought tolerant ground covers, shrubs and bushes along with shade producing trees may keep gardens lush during extended drought periods.

Consider the Source

A good source for discovering the drought tolerant, native plants unique to your area is the master gardener program. Each county has a master gardener program easily accessible on the web. County master gardener websites are full of helpful information including seminars, classes, and print-outs of native, drought-tolerant plants. Plus, many counties have master gardeners available to answer specific gardening questions via phone or email.

Another source for information is the University of Davis Arboretum website. The site has an extensive list of native plants along with a site for water-saving gardens (Mediterranean gardens).

Be sure to choose plants recommended for your area, there are many "Mini-climates" in the Bay Area and Sacramento/Central Valley.

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due to the time element between receipt of material and date of publication.

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