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Growing locally native plants

Fall is the ideal time for planting! Cooler temperatures and the coming rain will bring moisture to the soil, which helps new plants establish their root systems and build the energy for new growth and spring and summer flowers. Although most California natives can be planted at any time of year, now, the fall and early winter, is the best time for planting.

Choosing plants that are native to our area will help ensure the plants’ optimum health and performance in your garden. For us on the coastside, consider selecting native plants that would naturally grow on our nearby coastal bluffs, streambeds, and hillsides. And by using native plants in your garden, your garden will be regularly visited by the many bees, birds, and butterflies that depend upon native plants for food and shelter.

By growing locally sourced native plants, you will:

• Use less water (and less energy pumping that water); save money on utility bills;

• Reduce the use of fertilizers and pesticides;

• Attract pollinators, including native bees, butterflies, moths, and birds — for your pleasure and their benefit;

• Provide for endangered species, and enhance corridors and habitat for native wildlife; and

• Have a beautiful, colorful, lively garden; and inspire your neighbors to do the same.

Yarrow, seaside daisy, lupines, Douglas iris, California aster, ceanothus, California poppies, buckwheat, and manzanitas are some of the lovely native plants that will grow easily and do well in most coastside gardens, and can be bought locally. Most nurseries now stock a growing selection of native plants, and there are also many nurseries in our area that now specialize in native plants.

Have you considered reducing or eliminating your lawn area? How much water does a typical lawn in our area require? A 1,000 square foot lawn in San Francisco can use up to 30,000 gallons of water a year. That’s a lot of water! You could shower 24-hours a day for 8 days straight and still not use that much water. The same 1,000 square foot garden, if planted in local native plants, would typically use one quarter as much water or less.

Many native plants can survive with minimal supplemental water once they have become established (after two to five years). Proper watering can present a challenge when first becoming acquainted with native plants. Under watering of young native plants is a frequent cause of death, while over-watering can cause root rot and kill more established species. Some native species can maintain a healthy appearance for much of the year while being watered only 1—4 times per month, and many native plants, once established, require little to no summer water.

For a garden full of thriving native plants, check plant-specific watering needs from authoritative sources. The local libraries have lots of informative books, such as “California Native Plants for the Garden”. Lots of information is available on-line too! The California Native Plant Society (www.cnps.org), Gardening with Natives (http://www.cnps-scv.org/); and Las Pilitas Nursery’s website (http://www.laspilitas.com/plants/help.html) websites can help you select plants, and include descriptions on site placement in your garden, growing conditions, seasonal interests, and water needs.

Look forward to using less water, little to no fertilizer, little to no pesticide, less pruning, and less of your time. Low maintenance landscaping methods are a natural fit with native plants because they are already adapted to the local environment. Plant natives!

(Editor’s Note: Freidel Cohen volunteers locally with the Pacifica Beach Coalition for their Linda Mar and Rockaway Switchbacks habitat restoration projects, and also volunteers at the Mission Blue Native Plant Nursery in Brisbane. She is an avid gardener and a former California Certified Nurserywoman.)

Article source: http://www.mercurynews.com/pacifica/ci_28897052/growing-locally-native-plants