Like any new landscape, California friendly plants require careful attention during their initial establishment period. What we want during the “establishment period” is for the root system to become expansive – in other words, we care less about how well the plant looks above ground, but more about how well it’s doing underground. Once its root system becomes well established (hence, “establishment period”), your new plants should thrive.
We recommend you follow a few simple Tree of Life Nursery guidelines to ensure proper establishment:
- Be careful not to overwater your new plants. If the ground stays soggy for too long, plant-damaging disease can develop. Let the first few inches of soil dry out between waterings, but do not let the root ball dry out during the first 2-3 months of a plant’s establishment period.
- When deciding about whether infrequent, deep soaking is preferable to short, frequent watering, consider the plant’s root system. Does your plant have relatively short roots such as with bunch grass? Or more expansive root systems as you would expect with most shrubs and trees?
- You many need to water your new plants 1-3 times a week if you plant in the summer. Once established, you can water deeply once every two to three weeks in the summer, depending on the kind of plant and the size of its root system.
- Rainwater alone is often enough to satisfy a California friendly plant in the winter. When possible, winter is the best time to plant native plants in order to get the benefit of that extra rainwater. During the spring, you may want to water on occasion to supplement infrequent periods of rain.
- Avoid watering during the hottest parts of the day, as this encourages evaporation and is not necessarily efficient for the plant. Also, as a general rule it’s a good idea to avoid getting water on the leaves in the late evening.
- To retain moisture, use composted mulch around the plant, but not up against the stem or trunk. This helps prevent evaporation, encourages the growth of beneficial organisms, and suppresses the growth of weeds.
Most California friendly plants will flourish without the use of artificial fertilizers. If you choose to use fertilizer, be sure to use an “all purpose” type of plant food during cool season plantings (October through May). Generally, you can cut the amount of fertilizer given for general ornamental plants in half when applying fertilizers to California friendly plants. Fertilizers often contain high levels of nitrogen, which can be environmentally harmful in high concentrations. This excess nitrogen is then carried through our storm drains and deposited directly in our coastal waters. Ultimately, it is up to you to decide whether or not to use fertilizer on your landscape.
You may need to thin and cut back certain types of plants in order to direct growth of the maturing plant. Pruning a plant often stresses the system but encourages new growth and flowering. It is not necessary to prune all plants. Some people like the appearance of a well-maintained, pruned garden, while others like a more natural look. Ask your local nursery if any of your plants require pruning and, if so, what time of year they should be pruned and by how much.
The more effort you put into maintaining your landscape in its early stages, the less you will have to maintain it in the long run. No more mowing, edging, or spending countless hours maintaining a water-thirsty grass lawn. Consider adding a couple of inches of organic mulch (preferably composted mulch) annually, and periodically weed your garden to avoid unwanted plants from getting established. It is also important to occasionally check your irrigation system to ensure that it is running efficiently without any leaks.