Twelve ESSENTIAL Gardening Truths


This is how we should have ALWAYS been planting and watering...

I have shared with you on many occasions how important it is for your designer to have strong opinions.

Not to use them to run over you, not listen to you, or ignore your wants or needs or your budget… but to be an artist with an artists passion to see what you can’t see and take the integrity of the project beyond where you might otherwise go on your own.

I design homes and so what I just described … that’s what I do for a living. You may have noticed or suspected this but this isn’t just a job for me, it’s a profession. Which means I’m a believer in good design and good building and I don’t just care THAT it gets done but I care about HOW it gets done.

I care about us, about our houses, and about how our houses effect our world.

Garden Hose With Wet Spot

Photo: Getty Images

Twelve ESSENTIAL gardening truths …

1. Plants fight drought (and climate change). They don’t contribute to it.

  • Through transpiration plants cool the air around them
  • Plant roots hold moisture in the soil and prevent runoff to the sea
  • Plants create their own micro-climates

2. The Greater Los Angeles/Orange County basin is NOT a desert.

  • But if we keep on this way we’re going to get there.
  • So Cal is a Mediterranean climate or more specifically a Coastal Sage and Chaparral environment.
  • So Cal also has numerous micro-climates

3. Water belongs in one place … at the roots of our plants. Not in the air. Not in all the soil.

  • Water should be delivered as close to plant roots as possible.
  • Water can evaporate in the air.
  • Water can be blown away by the wind
  • Water can run off on the surface
  • Water can evaporate on the surface before soaking in.
  • Traditional sprinklers lose 25-50% of their water due to these factors

4. Southern Californians should water at night.

  • See 3 above

5. Tree roots grow toward the water you give them.

  • Very few tree species have “surface roots.”
  • Roots go to the water given them.
  • Plant trees with bottom-of-root-ball irrigation and deny them surface water to train roots to grow down, not out.

6. Anyone NOT using mostly micro-drip irrigation is doing a great disservice to their budget, their plants, their city, and the environment.

  • Drip irrigation is inexpensive
  • Drip irrigation is simple to install and maintain
  • Drip irrigation doesn’t need trenching.
  • Drip irrigation can reduce waster consumption by 50% or more.

7. Anyone paving over their gardens or using artificial turf (same thing) for anything other than a sports court is doing a great disservice to the environment.

  • Paved or plastic areas create heat islands
  • Paved or plastic areas kills top soil.
  • Paved or plastic areas destroys habitat.

8. We should be creating more than gardens. We could be creating habitat.

  • National Wildlife Federation defines habitat as
    • FOOD
    • WATER
    • COVER
    • HOME for YOUNG
    • SUSTAINABLE PRACTICES
  • Habitat starts with
    • Microbes in top soil (a handful should contain more microbes than all the humans that have ever lived)
    • Plants
    • Moisture
    • Insect life

9. Any plant that isn’t native to California is an exotic. That includes citrus, palms, eucalyptus, and eastern grasses. Some exotics thrive here, but any plant not accustomed to our environment should be planted with care and in limited quantity.

  • Native insect life has no use for 95% of exotic plants
  • Exotics (like eastern grass lawns) place undo demand on regional resources.

10. Trees are the single most important structures on any piece of property (including your house). Understand them and learn to care for them properly.

  • Trees create their own micro-environments.
  • Trees lower temperatures
  • Trees capture carbon!!!!
  • Trees make oxygen.
  • Trees are the most powerful terraforming factories known to man.

11. Rich organic soil belongs on your property, not somewhere else.

  • Good soil COUNTS EVERYWHERE.

12. Urban gardening makes a difference.

  • Newly planted, young trees only require between 10-20 gallons of water every week to maintain whereas lawns require approximately 62 gallons for every 10-square-foot patch weekly.
  • Melbourne Australia is planting 3000 trees per year to cool the entire region by 4º by 2050. And it’s working!
  • The science is in … studies in the Amazon prove that large-scale deforestation reduces rainfall in some areas by up to 30%, and reliable rainfall in continental interiors of Africa, Australia and elsewhere, appears to depend on maintaining relatively intact and continuous forest cover from the coast.

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