Spring blooms aren’t always about budding flowers. Get the best bang for your buck by cultivating indigenous drought resistant plants that offer vibrant color year-round. My clients often ask, “How do you plan yourgarden; where should I start?”
Planning a garden can be a daunting task. It was for me in the past. I had a brown thumb until I gained loads of knowledge through trial and error.
As with any topic these days, gardening information is endless, so I share three tips to start.
1 ~ Create a balanced mix of annuals and perennials so you aren’t committed to start from scratch each year. Make a mental note of which plants thrive.This simple habit will increase your bloom real estate each year.
2 ~ Watch your garden closely over the course of several days (or several seasons) to assess which areas are shaded or sunny.
3 ~ Take the time to get to know your plant’s watering needs.
All three points are vital, yet number three is essential. If you envision a dazzling garden,you’ll need to assess your lifestyle. Do you travel, do you forget to water, do you live in a dry arid area, do you live in a foggy moist area or somewhere in-between?
With the basic three observation steps in place it’s time to commit and purchase your flowers. Deciding which plants to grow is a tad overwhelming. There are so many choices. Again, where to start?
Consider succulents. People tend to think succulents are fragile and difficult to grow. Actually, the opposite is true. You may be surprised to know most succulents thrive in full sun. A drought resistant beauty, perfect for California’s hot and arid weather. Cold and foggy mornings keep succulents happy & cozy. They also thrive in shallow dirt or sand which makes them easy to replant.
Succulents tend to be a bit pricey $$. So if your neighbor happens to have some, don’t be shy, ask for clippings as if you’re asking to borrow sugar.Luckily, succulents are perennials and prolific. Here’s a link to Amazon, where the prices are reasonable if you have Prime and don’t have to pay for shipping. Otherwise, Home Depot is another option – unless you have a good neighbor.
If your goal is to create a low maintenance garden, succulents are a perfect choice. You’ll plant them once and enjoy their beauty year after year, unlike annuals, which need yearly replanting.
For European countries like France, Italy, England, and Germany, farmers markets aren’t a novelty, they’re an essential element of daily life. Europeans don’t stockpile their groceries in huge refrigerators or store massive amounts of toilet paper from Costco.
The primary reason is that Europeans don’t have ample storage space for bulk shopping. Your first reaction may be to think they’re less fortunate. On the contrary, they’re better off by default for several reasons. I list five here, coupled with my favorite local Sonoma County farmers markets you won’t want to miss.
1. Less Waste
Shopping daily or even twice a week wastes less food. Buying in bulk harbors a false sense of security and isn’t advantageous. Admit it, we’ve all done it. We’ve all thrown food away because we didn’t eat it fast enough.
~According to a survey conducted by the American Chemistry Council, the average American household throws out $640 of food each year.~
2. Save Money
A 2015 Bureau of Labor Statistics report concluded the average American household spent $4,015 on groceries in 2015, resulting in 16% waste due to spoiled goods. At first glance, this percentage may seem insignificant. However, when considered collectively, this number equates to a whopping 80 billion tons of waste each year.
3. Healthier Lifestyle
Produce consumed from farmers markets is more nutritious simply because nonlocal produce travel thousands of miles and takes at least a week to reach its retail destination. This journey doesn’t even include shelf time in the supermarket. Fruits and vegetables begin to lose nutritional value within three days. So in order for bulk import farmers to compensate for lag time, crops are harvested early. Local produce harvested during prime picking time reaps the most nutritious bounty. Produce nutrients are optimal when consumed within the first week of harvest.
~The Institute of Food Research reports that fresh vegetables traveling long distances lose up to 45 percent of their nutritional value between being picked and landing in a supermarket.~
4. Reduces carbon footprint
Supporting local farmers markets equates to fewer food miles by reducing emissions from transport vehicles, including airplanes, ships, and trucks. Conventional food distribution uses more fuel and emits more carbon dioxide than local and regional systems. Local food systems, on the other hand, rely on a geographically desirable network of small family farms. Most are sustainably operated translating into minimized pesticide use, no-till compositing agriculture practices, minimized transport to consumers, and virtually no packaging.
~A comparison between locally grown and conventionally grown produce found locally grown produce travels about 50 miles to reach the consumer’s table half a day from harvest, while conventionally grown produce travels 1,500 miles and reaches the table 13 days past harvest.~
Indeed it’s awesome to have access to mangos, strawberries or blackberries all-year-round. The truth is though, not only do we cheat our bodies of essential nutrients lost during travel time, buying produce from across the world is a detriment to our local farmers. If we buy produce from a different hemisphere we are starving our bodies of essential nutrition and taking money from the pockets of our local communities.
~According to the USDA, since 2006, farmers markets have grown by 180 percent, regional food hubs by 288 percent, and school district participation in farm-to-school programs by 430 percent.~
5. Discover your local culinary treasures
However important reasons one through four are, I’m most passionate about number five because it’s what feeds my soul. I love strolling through transformed makeshift markets shaded with little treasure canopy kiosks. While eclectic aromas ignite my inspiration, each little-shaded tent creates curiosity and offers something new to discover.
Plus, chatting with local artisans create a community connection like no other. This weekend, during a visit to our local farmers market at the Veteran’s Market in Santa Rosa, my daughter and I came across fantastic finds featured in the article photos.
When you get to know your farmer, you get to know your food. Heigh-ho-the-derry-o the farmer in the dell. And remember, don’t let the cheese stand alone.
In 2015, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation on more than $1 billion in spending for water projects.
Hundreds of millions of those dollars are allocated for long-term projects associated with flood control, desalination, water recycling, and conservation.
Gov. Brown’s water fund measure is one piece of a much larger effort to help those most impacted by the drought and prepare the state for an uncertain future, Brown said during a press conference in spring 2015.
However, State Water Resources Control Board authorities said Californians have fallen short of Brown’s goal of reducing water use by 20 percent.
One particular project currently in the water works is Southern California’s plan for desalination by turning 50 million gallons of the Pacific Ocean into potable water per day. The plant opened in December of 2015 as the first in the state to tap an ocean for drinking water. More than a dozen other plants in California are in the planning stages.
Even though Governor Brown is working to prevent another water shortage on a large scale, there are profound practices we can put into place as individuals in order to conserve. The question you may ask yourself as you read this article is, “Why would I need to conserve if California is currently enjoying a water surplus?”
The answer is quite simple, with an exponentially growing population, if we use more than mother nature replenishes, we’ll be right back where we started – sucking our resources dry to the bone.
If you typically shy away from math you may actually be surprised at how easy it is to discover your rainfall collection potential. You can find the formula equation at the end of this blog post. I personally shy away from math and numbers, so I was astonished by how easy it is to solve the puzzle. Mapping out the measurements, researching the source of rainfall in your area, and solving the equation can actually be fun.
I’m a huge fan of water harvesting. The entire process is fascinating. I admire other countries such as Australia that promote water harvesting in cities like Melbourne that started collecting water out of a major need due to an extended 10-year drought.
If you rent, you may not have control over implementing a water harvesting system, though you may be inspired after reviewing the Harvesting Rainwater website. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could recreate communities with solar rooftops and water collection systems?
The Harvesting Rainwater website gave me insight into how the simplest implementations can affect the amount of water saved by redirecting its flow to where it’s needed most. The website shows how slow water percolation positively affects soil, foliage and subsequently conservation.
If I had a water harvesting system, I would have been able to collect over 5,000 gallons of water so far this year. How much could you collect in a year? Feel free to share your potential.
With the possibility of having a few thousand gallons of water per year, it’s an astounding amount of water to me. If I had this option, I would use my harvested water for watering plants, doing laundry, cleaning and bathroom use.
Limitations associated with harvesting water within your geographical area may apply. Attempting to harvest water in a Mediterranean climate, for instance, has its advantages and disadvantages. An advantage would be that they can use water harvested in the rainy season for the non-rainy seasons.
However, this means the water must go through long stretches of stagnation and would need to be filtered, or it may collect mosquitos and bugs. Another disadvantage is in most cases a Mediterranean climate may not produce enough water even during the rainy season to sustain the residents’ needs throughout the year.
California is approaching its dry season, yet, this is a great time to begin conserving. Starting now with simple summer plans can include changing your shower head to a water efficient spout and installing a low-flow toilet. Not only will these two simple adjustments conserve water, but you will immediately save money on your water bill. And in most areas, your county offers a rebate with proof of conservation installation.
If you’re interested in discovering your rainwater collection potential take a look at this quick and easy formula.
Determine your collection area in gallons of water:
* Rooftop Collection Area (sq. ft) x Rainfall (inches so far this year) / 12 (in/ft) = Cubic Feet of Water/Year
* Convert to gallons of water:
* Multiply your Cubic Feet of Water/ year (answer above) x 7.43 (gallons/cubic foot) = Total Gallons/Year.
* For example, a 500 sq. ft roof that gets 36 cubic feet in one total year has the potential to collect 1,500 Cubic Feet or 11,145 Gallons of water that year.