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Grouping plants together by water needs by matching microcliimates creates efficient irrigation. Photo: Water Authority

Microclimate Matching in Your Landscaping Plan

Earlier in our Conservation Corner series, we described how to map the different types of microclimates present in your landscaping. Using this information helps homeowners arrange plants in a new sustainable landscape. For the most efficient water use, plants should be grouped together with similar water needs according to their preferred microclimate.

In nature, plants that like lots of water are found along the banks of a stream, or grouped together at the base of a depression. Plants that need fast-draining soils so roots don’t rot might be found on hillsides. Plants that love lots of sunshine won’t grow in the shade of a tree.

Follow The Microclimate Map

Look to the Microclimate Map for smart guidelines on choosing landscape plants. Consider this example yard with three identified microclimates:

  • A front yard in full sun most of the day.
  • A moist depressed area in full sun. This area will retain moisture more than the rest of the yard, so you could use this area for rain catchment. Raise hillside areas surrounding the depression and allow them to drain freely.
  • A shady area under the canopy of a neighbor’s large tree.

Three Different Plant Neighborhoods

Areas of your landscaping under large shade trees become individual microclimates. Photo: Ken Lund/Creative Commons License

Areas of your landscaping under large shade trees become individual microclimates. Photo: Ken Lund/Creative Commons License

When selecting landscaping plants, the yard in this example will require at least three different groupings of plants.

  • Sun-loving plants that prefer their roots dry and in fast-draining soil
  • Sun-loving plants tolerant of wet feet in winter months, which thrive in heavier clay soils
  • Plants tolerant in dry shaded areas

A final consideration before heading to the local nursery or garden center: how will you irrigate your plants?  Check the Plant Factors for each of the plants to make sure their water needs are all similar in each area. A previous Conservation Corner feature has information about Plant Factors.

Plants Speak Latin

Many plants have similar common names in English. Shopping for plants by their common names can lead to confusion between two very different plants. Instead, the best way to shop for plants is to use the Latin name. This reduces any miscommunication and any surprises in your landscaping. 

This article is part of a year-long series inspired by the 71-page Sustainable Landscapes Program guidebook available at SustainableLandscapesSD.org. The Water Authority and its partners also offer other great resources for landscaping upgrades, including free WaterSmart classes at WaterSmartSD.org.

Attract pollinators to your watersmart landscaping with native plants such as milkweed. Photo: Erin Lindley

Attracting Pollinators to Your Garden

Flowering plants rely on insects, birds, and other creators for pollination. In turn, plants attracting pollinators feed and house beneficial insects like bees and butterflies, and nectar-loving birds like hummingbirds.

Some bugs eat too much, destroying their plant hosts and spreading disease. Other beneficial insects fight off the destructive species, eating them or disrupting their reproductive process.  Birds, bats, and lizards help too, consuming pests both large and small.

Nature provides checks and balances in a garden. You can attract insects and creatures which will help maintain the health of a garden without pesticides.

Choosing a wide diversity of plants in your landscape can help attract helpful insects and predators on a regular basis. They improve the resilience of the garden and reduce the need to use chemicals for pest control.

To attract more garden helpers, create habitat for them. Consider adding a nesting box for bees. Leave a small rock pile for lizards to inhabit. Put a large tree branch in the garden and let it decompose naturally.

Planting a Butterfly Garden

Planting Narrowleaf Milkweed prohibits habitat and for the endangered Monarch butterfly. Photo: Wikimedia Attracting Pollinators

Planting Narrowleaf Milkweed prohibits habitat and for the endangered Monarch butterfly. Photo: Wikimedia

Numerous plants attract pollinators and support the life cycle of butterflies, including the threatened monarch butterfly.  Plant several in the garden to help the larvae and caterpillars as well as the full-grown, nectar-seeking adults. Some good choices:

  • Narrow Leaf Milkweed (Asclepias fascicularis)
  • Island Alum Root (Heuchera maxima)
  • San Miguel Island Buckwheat (Eriogonum grande var. rubescens)
  • Cedros Island Verbena (Verbena lilacina)
  • Island Bush Snapdragon (Gambelia speciosa)

What’s The Buzz?

Leave open soil around plants for ground-nesting bees and insects. Photo: Pixabay/Creative Commons Attracting Pollinators

Leave open soil around plants for ground-nesting bees and insects. Photo: Pixabay/Creative Commons

Not all ground needs to be covered in mulch. Try designating a five to ten square foot patch of open soil around plants for ground-nesting bees and insects, especially if your garden contains San Diego native plants. Succulents don’t like mulch right up against their stems, for example. Create a landscape where plants and pollinators work together 

This article is part of a year-long series inspired by the 71-page Sustainable Landscapes Program guidebook available at SustainableLandscapesSD.org. The Water Authority and its partners also offer other great resources for landscaping upgrades, including free WaterSmart classes at WaterSmartSD.org.

New Rebates For WaterSmart Irrigation Devices in San Diego County

A new rebate program for irrigation devices is available to qualified landscape contractors in San Diego County.

The WaterSmart Contractor Incentive Program, or WSCIP, is designed to help commercial, public and agricultural property owners improve water-use efficiency in large landscapes, through rebates for irrigation hardware upgrades. School districts, universities, and other organizations are also eligible.