Green With Native Garden Envy

Autumn is the perfect season to start a native garden. The soil is still warm, which helps the root system of young plants grow healthy and strong, and the outdoor temperature turns cooler, putting less stress on the new plantings. And fall is water-wise. Shorter days, milder temperatures and (knock on wood) the occasional rain shower means you won’t need to water as often.

But the best reason to start a native garden is the garden itself. From Monkey Flower and Hummingbird Trumpets to Sea Pinks and Sundrops, Southern California has no shortage of native plants to keep your garden gorgeous all year round. Far less thirsty than many exotic varieties, those local beauties need minimal irrigation—a huge help in reducing your water use (and water bill) and gets you bonus points in water conservation efforts.

Planting natives helps preserve biodiversity in Southern California by providing food for our local birds and bugs. And because native plants have naturally built up their defenses against local pests, you can cut way back on pesticides. That saves you money and prevents pesticide-laced runoff from washing into storm drains and ending up in our local creeks, rivers and the ocean. Here are three tips to help your native garden grow:

  • Know your options. From low-light loving Douglas Iris to gorgeous ground covers like Pigeon Point, there’s a native plant to fit all your needs. Take a stroll through some of the city’s native gardens, such as UCLA’s Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden, the Lummis House or Marsh Park along the LA River. Or head over to the Theodore Payne Foundation in Sun Valley. They offer classes, valuable advice and more than 600 species of native plants for sale.
  • Forget the fertilizer. In many cases, a layer of mulch will do the trick when it comes to keeping soil healthy in your native garden. By adding fertilizer to the mix, you run the risk of overnourishing plants and ultimately cutting their lifespan short. Plus, snubbing chemical fertilizer’s another great way to curb stormwater runoff and protect our local waterways. LA Sanitation gives away free mulch at 11 locations throughout the city!
  • Be patient. Established native plants tend to be drought-tolerant and low-maintenance, but young natives need extra attention for the first year or two. Gardeners actually have a saying about native plants: The first year they sleep, the second year they creep and the third year they leap. Consult a nursery or plant-savvy source to find out how frequently to water and learn ways to protect the newbies from dry Santa Ana winds.

So dust off those gardening gloves and get planting. Before you know it, you will have created a beautiful native garden that will have the neighbors green with native garden envy!

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