Tips For a Bay Friendly California Garden

Are you looking to update your garden to be more lush and eco-friendly this summer? We have a few tips to ensure your garden will be healthy and thrive in our northern California conditions.


With warm, dry summer months in Northern California’s unique climate zone and our proximity to local waterways in San Mateo County, it is important to take into consideration Bay Friendly gardening. Bay-Friendly gardening is a holistic approach to gardening and landscaping that works in harmony with the natural conditions of the San Francisco Bay Watershed. Bay-Friendly practices foster soil health, conserve water and other valuable resources while reducing waste and preventing pollution. For many of us, growing a blooming garden while conserving water, can be a challenge to say the least. Add in concerns about water quality impacts from fertilizers and pesticides, and even the greenest of “green thumbed” gardeners may feel discouraged to get started on a new project. Fortunately, Bay-Friendly practices offer simple solutions to grow a beautiful garden in the Bay Area while protecting the environment.


Rescape California, also known as the Bay-Friendly Landscaping and Gardening Coalition, provides seven principles you can use to have a more Bay-friendly landscape:

  1. Landscape Locally, recognizes that built landscapes are a part of the larger ecosystem of the San Francisco Bay Watershed and that they can contribute to its health if designed and maintained using sustainable practices.
  2. Landscape for Less to the Landfill, means that we should reduce waste by choosing the right plants, avoiding invasive plant species, using recycled and salvaged products in the landscape and by composting, mulching and grasscycling plant debris.
  3. Nurture the Soil, soils are living ecosystems and when landscape practices allow the soil food web to thrive it can filter: pollution, store water, provide plant nutrients, and help plants resist pests naturally.
  4. Conserve Water, means using a holistic approach of creating drought resistant soils with compost and mulch, selecting plants naturally adapted to summer-dry climates, using stormwater, greywater and recycled water in the landscape as much as possible and using efficient irrigation systems that include self-adjusting, weather-based controllers.
  5. Conserve Energy, by reducing the need for mowing and shearing, by shading buildings and paved areas, using efficient outdoor lighting, and buying local landscape products.
  6. Protect Water and Air Quality, through maximizing permeable surfaces and minimizing stormwater runoff, using integrated pest management, minimizing the use of synthetic pesticides and avoiding overuse of fertilizers, reducing fossil fuel consumption, and planting trees to remove CO2 and absorb air pollutants.
  7. Create Wildlife Habitat, recognizes that biodiversity is crucial to the health of natural ecosystems and that by using native plants and increasing the diversity of plant palettes, our built landscape can provide food, water and shelter for birds, butterflies, beneficial insects and other creatures.

Additionally, choosing California native plants can help your Bay Area garden thrive in all conditions -- especially in a drought. Plants native to California are accustomed to the natural soil conditions in our region. Over time, however, and with increased rains as seen this past winter season, soil can become depleted and unable to supply plants with necessary nutrients. You can replenish your soil’s nutrients by adding organic material to it every year.  Mulching and composting are great ways to do this. Not only will mulch prevent water loss by trapping precious water in the ground, it also reduces the amount of water runoff and decrease your water bill. Mulch and compost will provide nutrients  and conserve water, but what about pests? By planting Bay-Friendly native  plants, you can refrain from harsh chemical pesticides, as Bay-Friendly plants are naturally tough once they are established and tend to resist pests without chemicals. However, if you do notice pests, check out this website and use the plant problem diagnostic tool to identify the problem and find the best solution.


Another change you can make in your garden is to take out your lawn.  The typical grass species you see in neighborhood lawns are not native to Northern California and can be real water guzzlers. If you replace your lawn with a beautiful, drought-tolerant landscape, you can even get a rebate! Check out BAWSCA’s Lawn Be Gone rebate program and find out more here.


For more information on Bay Friendly Gardening, check out these resources: