Starting a Northern California garden in a drought

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cicerone

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Starting a Northern California garden in a drought
« on: January 14, 2012, 07:54:08 PM »
I'm just getting started, planting a native Californian/Mediterranean garden here in the San Francisco fogbelt. Essentially, the temperature usually stays between 40-70 degrees (4-21c) year-round, never getting exceptionally cold or hot because of moderating effect of the cold Pacific. Where I live (South San Francisco) is not directly on the coast, so a bit sunnier, but still close enough to have pretty cool summers.

But as you know, winter is the growing season in our climates and this winter has been bone-dry so far. After a short spurt early in the season, there has been no rain for over a month and some of the warmest winter days on record. Not the best time to start a garden, but I'm proceeding with my plan.

My plan is essentially to tear out all the lawn and replace with native or Mediterranean plants, as well as a few fruit trees (an orange, 2 olives) and a small garden plot. Some of the many species include: Coffeeberry (Rhamnus Californica 'Mound San Bruno'), Hummingbird Sage (Salvia spathacea), Emerald Carpet Manzanita, Rosemary 'Lockwood de Forest', Greek Oregano, Acanthus Mollis,  Montara Manzanita (Arctostaphylos montaraensis), Douglas Iris (Iris Douglasiana), Giant Chain Fern, Western Sword Fern, Ceanothus 'Yankee Point', Evergreen Huckleberry (Vaccinium Ovatum), Western Azalea (Rhododendron Occidentale).

As you can see, my palette ranges from chaparral / classic Med (for my sunnier, drier, well-drained spots) to NorCal redwood forest (for the shade, part-shade spots). With a few exceptions, I'm favoring plants that are tough and proven over exotic ones as this is my first time out. I've gotten as far as tearing out the back lawn and planting/deep mulching about 2/3 of that (see pic).

I've learned a lot on this forum and others. I hope to give back once my garden matures a bit.

Thanks,

Brian
- Creating a California Native / Mediterranean garden in the San Francisco Fogbelt

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Alisdair

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Re: Starting a Northern California garden in a drought
« Reply #1 on: January 14, 2012, 08:10:55 PM »
Sounds a really rewarding project, Brian, thanks very much for sharing it with us! From the photo it looks as if you're doing it really thoroughly.
Looking forward to seeing how it all develops!
Alisdair Aird
Gardens in SE England (Sussex); also coastal Southern Greece, and (in a very small way) South West France; MGS member (and former president); vice chairman RHS Lily Group, past chairman Cyclamen Society

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MikeHardman

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Re: Starting a Northern California garden in a drought
« Reply #2 on: January 15, 2012, 07:24:48 AM »
Ditto - good luck Brian.

Interesting to see your use of those blocks for the low retaining wall. Their wedged shape indicates they are made to build a largish circular wall. But in your usage, the wedges have two useful effects:
- you can curve the wall in and out, yet not have gaps on the visible side (as would happen with rectangular blocks curved out)
- with your curvatures, the wedges create good pockets for planting wall/rock plants (bringing soil close to the face of the wall and giving good access for the roots to get back into the border).
Mike
Geologist by Uni training, IT consultant, Referee for Viola for Botanical Society of the British Isles, commissioned author and photographer on Viola for RHS (Enc. of Perennials, The Garden, The Plantsman).
I garden near Polis, Cyprus, 100m alt., on marl, but have gardened mainly in S.England

David Bracey

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Re: Starting a Northern California garden in a drought
« Reply #3 on: January 15, 2012, 10:23:36 AM »
Brian what mulch  are you using..............I think Californians use much more mulch than we use in med Europe possibly because it is easily available and free?............what sort is it and do you get it free of charge from your local municipality?  I think there is a trend here towards gravel simply because it is durable and possibly better ..............the last point is debatable,of course. 
MGS member.

 I have gardened in sub-tropical Florida, maritime UK, continental Europe and the Mediterranean basin, France. Of the 4 I have found that the most difficult climate for gardening is the latter.

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cicerone

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Re: Starting a Northern California garden in a drought
« Reply #4 on: January 15, 2012, 04:42:59 PM »
It's redwood bark mulch, which is very common here. Not free but not too bad (covered back yard 2" deep for a little over $100). Some cities will deliver mulch for a small fee as part of the recycling program, but not mine.

In any case, I felt I had to mulch deeply. I found out after the first rain the massive store of grass seed, weeds and invasive plants in the soil. It sprouted everywhere and took me a long time to clean up.

As far as gravel, here that's usually reserved for hot desert gardens. I considered it but felt it wouldn't be appropriate for my coastal site. It's also fairly expensive for some reason.

I can't claim credit for the retaining wall and cement work. It was a great job by the previous homeowner and inspired me to think of a garden design that used circles and curved lines..
- Creating a California Native / Mediterranean garden in the San Francisco Fogbelt

ezeiza

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Re: Starting a Northern California garden in a drought
« Reply #5 on: January 15, 2012, 11:09:24 PM »
Gravel would become beastly hot in full sun during three seasons of the year.

There is a huge amount of research on salvias for dry Califorinan conditions. Many of them are fantastic with months in full bloom.

I have heard that Western Hills has opened again. There you have an almost enldess variety of perennials to try, most suited to your conditions.