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Saturday, July 25, 2015

Summer: The Time for Garden Planning

Summer is an excellent time for garden planning

Summer time and the livin’ is easy.  If you garden with California native plants, garden chores are minimal now, leaving plenty of time for pure enjoyment.  Summer is also an excellent time to evaluate and to plan ahead for the next growing season.   So grab your favorite summer beverage and your garden notebook, relax in a comfortable garden chair, and plan to make your garden even better in the coming year.

Start by giving your garden a critical look.  Are there specific areas on which you want to focus in 2015-16?  Note that down. Are you replacing your lawn (or decreasing its size)?  Have plants succumbed to the drought and need replacing?  Are there plants you dislike (for whatever reason) and need to remove?    Are some plants too big for their area?   

Focusing on specific plants/parts of the garden is a good way to begin your yearly planning.  It makes planning more manageable and suggests actions you can take to prepare.  For example, you can save water by not watering plants slated for removal.

Walk around the entire garden, looking closely at individual plants.  Are there plants that are/have been sickly or suffering from pests and diseases? You might want to look for more robust alternatives.  Are there diseased or dangerous limbs that require immediate removal and disposal? If so, sterilize your pruners/pruning saw and get to work.  Diseased or hazardous limbs call for immediate action.

Look critically at the hardscape (the non-living elements of the garden). Are paths and walkways located in the most logical places? Do you need better access to garden beds or other parts of the garden?  Are paths/walkways wide and stable enough to accommodate the people/equipment that routinely pass over them (trash barrels; garden carts; etc.).   Are paths/walkways safe to use?   Do they add to the beauty of the garden?

Look critically at the amount of shade your garden provides.  Summers (even winters) will be hotter in the future.  Are there shady places for outdoor seating and dining?  Would a screen, patio or awning make your house and garden cooler?   Shade should be a priority for at least parts of your yard.  Consider hardscape options as well as shade trees, vines on trellises, vine-covered arbors, etc.

Do you have a water feature in your garden?  Would you like one?  Water features can be small and water-wise (recycling water).  The sound of moving water is cooling and birds/insects can drink at many types of water features.  

Consider ways to make your garden more water-wise.  Review or determine your water goals for the garden (http://mother-natures-backyard.blogspot.com/2014/02/designing-your-new-california-garden-9.html).  Consider ways to make better use of precious precipitation and irrigation water (http://mother-natures-backyard.blogspot.com/2013/02/harvesting-rain-introduction.html) 

Review the garden photos you’ve taken through the year. (note: if you haven’t taken occasional/monthly photos of your garden, now is a good time to start).  Is there something of interest (flowers; fruit; foliage) at all times of the year?  Are there enough flowering plants to supply pollinators from March to October?   Are cut flowers available at times you need them?

Summer is a great time to look critically at your garden

Consider the views from common vistas.  Take a critical look at the aesthetic aspects of your garden.  Do you like the views from common vistas (like your front walkway, back porch or living room window)?   What don’t you like?  Can you hide an unattractive utility area or air conditioner?  Does the design appear unbalanced?  Lack a focal point?   For more design ideas review our posts on creating a design plan:

Consider the useful aspects of your plants.  Growing edibles (including native edibles) is gaining popularity and many gardeners raise at least some edible plants. But the choice is yours.  Does your garden produce the right amount of edibles (fruits & berries; vegetables; seeds; spices/teas)?   Does the garden provide enough materials for favorite garden crafts like potpourri or soap-making, paper-making, pressed flower crafts, natural dyeing?   

Think about the visitors to your garden.  Do people love to visit your garden?  What do people like most?   Are there changes that would improve their garden experience (more/more comfortable seating; shade; tables for food/drink, etc.)?

Does your garden smell wonderful?  However you define ‘wonderful’, scent can be an important addition to a garden.  Would your garden be more interesting with more scented flowers or foliage?

Consider signage for your front yard. You might be surprised at the number of  people who walk past your yard every day.   Front yards can be wonderful educational venues.  Let passersby know that your front yard is water-wise and life-friendly.  Consider small signs with the names of some of the more interesting plants.  

Inexpensive sign holders are available from Gemplers (http://www.gemplers.com/product/G49600/Galvanized-Sign-Holder-18-Stake-5x4?pfx=OAWP) or Westhort (http://www.westhort.com/store/pc/Sign-Holders-c23.htm?pageStyle=h&ProdSort=19&page=4&idCategory=23&SFID=&SFNAME=&SFVID=&SFVALUE=&SFCount=-1&viewAll=yes )  You simply design & print out your sign, laminate it and insert it in the holder.   Or purchase a native plant sign from the California Native Plant Society’s on-line store: http://store.cnps.org/.

Watch the birds, butterflies and other pollinators visiting your garden.  Is there enough for them to eat?  Is water regularly available?  If not, plan to improve that in the next year.  Are there specific birds or insects you’d like to attract to your garden?   Summer is a wonderful time to learn more about their needs.  Spend some time on the internet or at the (air conditioned) library; find out what your favorite creatures need to make their home in your garden.

Register your habitat garden.  Do you provide habitat for birds, butterflies, Monarch butterflies or pollinators?  Now is a great time to register your garden as a habitat garden.  Here are some useful websites:


Design new/renewed areas (if any).  If you’re new to the design process we recommend our series ‘Designing Your New California Garden’ : http://mother-natures-backyard.blogspot.com/2013/07/designing-your-new-california-garden-1.html    Designing a new garden area can be fun, creative and satisfying.  If designing’s not your cup of tea, now is a good time to find a garden designer who will help bring your ideas to fruition.

Order seeds and (especially) bulbs.  As native plant gardening becomes more popular, some seeds and bulbs disappear quickly from seed and bulb sources.   For a list of California native seed, plant and bulb sources, see: http://www.slideshare.net/cvadheim/southern-california-native-plant-seed-sources-1213.

If you don’t already have them, start a Garden Notebook and personal Garden Calendar.   Note when seeds germinate, plants flower and fruits ripen.  Jot down ideas for future projects.  Paste in pictures of inspirational gardens and luscious plants.   Note what works and, perhaps more importantly, what doesn’t.  A Garden Notebook keeps all the things you need in one place: and there’s something satisfying about that!



We welcome your comments (below).  You can also send your questions to: mothernaturesbackyard10@gmail.com



1 comment:

  1. Hi!So would you suggest to take photos of gardens in all the seasons of a year to acquire experience and knowledge about lawn design?I'm a beginner in this field, so I would like to learn more and more about it.