Watering Your Natives

Watering your native plants

Plants that are naturally-occurring plants in our area are, by definition, adapted to thriving in our summer dry Mediterranean climate. This rainless period typically extends from mid-April to early November (for elevations of about 3,000 feet down).

A sustainable garden is one that does not require massive amounts of summer irrigation, even if we aren’t in a drought. Using a lot of water to keep plants alive or to have a green lawn is not only costly to you, it’s also not the most beneficial way to use our local supply of fresh water. The water you receive from EID—or even your private well—is not water that is exclusively yours; keep in mind that water comes from reseroirs or an aquifer that is shared with many other people, and critters too!

Using native plants with low (or even no) summer water needs also means less work for you, as well as money saved. Read more about drought concerns on our Drought page. For determining water needs of native plants you are considering, a great resource is WUCOLS (Water Use Classification Of Landscape Species), a plant search database, which allows you to select plants based on type of plant and water use parameters.

Getting your plants established

Now that you’ve chosen your plants, getting them established correctly is important to the success of your garden! When they arrive from the nursery they will have short roots. For success:
Review instructions for planting.

Year 1 Fall/early Winter, water deeply
  Wet season: let rain take over
  Dry season: Water deeply about once a week
Year 2Dry season: Water deeply about every two weeks
Year 3+ Dry season: Water deeply every 3-4 weeks (or not at all for many)

For more specifics in creating a successful native garden, read The Care and Maintenance of California Native Plants (pdf).

Caring for oaks

See our Care of California Native Oaks page.

Don’t overirrigate, as so many of us gardeners do!

Recent studies have found that we tend to use more water than necessary on our plants. That’s just not smart. For interesting research on this, which includes many natives, read about the UC Davis Irrigation Field Trials for Landscape Plants.

In addition to wasting precious water, gophers may be attracted to the cool moist soils. Staying with drought-adapted plants such as sages is an excellent strategy to avoid attracting gophers. If you plant plants with higher water needs— which might be a good strategy near your house in fireprone areas—then individual gopher cages may be required for each plant. For more on wildlife challenges, see Wildlife Challenges in the Garden at the bottom of our Attracting Wildlife page.