9 eco-friendly gardening tips from local professionals

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As the warm weather calls us outside, it’s garden time. This year, however, we are facing a worsening drought this will likely make gardening a bit trickier for even the most dedicated green thumb. Fortunately, local gardening and farming experts have plenty of tips on how to make your garden more drought tolerant, fire resistant, and environmentally friendly.

Choose plants from places with similar climates

Vast green gardens may make your heart sing, but during drought years you will need to find plants that are adapted to dry weather. Cloverdale Nursery suggests using plants from regions with similar climates. To this end, they specialize in offering varieties from the Mediterranean region, South Africa and Australia.

Use mulch to save water

Edible plants generally need a lot of water to thrive. The Cloverdale Nursery recommends using mulch to help retain moisture in the soil, which in turn can help reduce water use. (According to a study by the Pacific Institute, mulching can reduce water consumption by 20%).

When picking mulch, you should take into account not only its ability to retain moisture, but also its resistance to fire. Shredded bark mulch, for example, is highly flammable, advises UC Master Gardeners of Sonoma County. The compost or wood chip arbor is your best choice.

Low-water gardens can be lush

The drought-tolerant garden doesn’t need to be all about stones and succulents. In their book “Gardening in dry climates in summerBay Area author Nora Harlow and landscape photographer Saxon Holt draw inspiration from photographs of Pacific Coast gardens and a long list of aquatic plants. Native plants are often a good choice for your garden, but many plants around the world have adapted to Pacific Coast climates, Holt said at a recent panel discussion with the UC Master Gardener program in Sonoma County. .

Sonoma Master Gardeners and the Sonoma-Marin Saving Water Partnership have teamed up to offer this ecological garden tour: 2021gardentour.savingwaterpartnership.org

Lean into the luscious craze

Succulents have the advantage of being both drought tolerant and aesthetic. Take advantage of these pretty graphic shapes to create an interesting low-water landscape – you’ll find plenty of inspiration for your garden at Cornerstone Sonoma.

Keep these pollinators in mind

Choosing plants that attract pollinators is good for all of us. You can support biodiversity while enjoying a visiting animal show. The Pollinator Garden at Cornerstone Sonoma was designed as a habitat for birds, bees and butterflies. Landscape Manager Benjamin Godfrey and the property’s lead organic farmer, Christopher “Landy” Landercasper, offer informative private tours of the gardens every Friday at 1 pm. Tours cost $ 15 per person (group of 10 people maximum). To fill an application form to make a reservation. Tours in Spanish are available on request on the second Friday of each month.

Save the monarchs with milkweed

Cornerstone Sonoma Landscape Director Benjamin Godfrey suggests planting milkweed to help save the endangered monarch. According to the Xerces Society for the Conservation of Invertebrates, the monarch population has declined by 99% on the California coast since the 1990s. Monarch caterpillars only eat milkweed, so planting more is crucial for their survival. Keep in mind that some species of milkweed are toxic to humans and animals.

Fertilize with fava

Chemical-free fertilization will help keep beneficial insects and animals alive. The beans are rich in nitrogen and are an excellent natural fertilizer. Cornerstone farmer Christopher Landercasper plants bean as a cover crop, which suppresses weeds and keeps the soil healthy.

Consider planting a bean in late summer or early fall, at the end of your growing season. The bean stalks will grow tall – the beans can be harvested and the soil will be ready and nutrient dense in the spring.

Offer a water feature

Provide water for bees, birds, lizards and other animals with a simple birdbath or fountain. In times of drought, these animals also face the effects of water scarcity.

Continue your gardening education on the fire

There is a lot to consider when it comes to creating a fire resistant garden. Stay on top of current research and recommendations with UC Sonoma Master Gardeners – they offer helpful guidelines here. Some takeaways:

  • Keep plants, wood, and organic material at least five feet from buildings, especially windows, vents, chimneys, and combustible siding. Use rock or hardscaping in the zero to five foot area.
  • Five feet apart, the plants are fine in small “islands,” separated by non-combustible paths to disrupt the ignition chain.
  • Cut tree canopies off the ground so that there is no ignition ladder.
  • Make sure trees and plants are green and healthy. Cut away woody or dead plant material.
  • Do not use shredded bark mulch.


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