Summer garden survival guide

In this article from the Sacramento Bee, Matt Morgan, sales arborist for Davey's Sacramento office, tells homeowners to look for signs of stress in their trees during times of drought.

Posted:  June 4, 2015 

By Debbie Arrington

Spring let us off easy. Cool daytime temperatures, even a few scattered showers, took the edge off the usual May heat.

That gave us a little breather before the real crunch time begins. Is your garden ready for summer heat – with less water?

Due to California’s epic drought, state-mandated restrictions will severely limit irrigation in many local landscapes. As summer heat escalates into triple-digit territory, visions of brown, parched and dusty yards seem inescapable.

The time to take life-saving action is now. Here’s expert advice on how to help your garden survive this dry summer of 2015:

Time to re-evaluate

“Look at what grows naturally in the West and take a lesson from that,” suggests Kathleen Norris Brenzel, longtime garden editor at Sunset magazine. “Look at how (plants) grow together in plant communities and try to mimic that. You’ll end up with a garden that will adapt (to drought) without a ton of care. Low-water really is easy care.”

Brenzel recalls the Great Drought of 1976-77.

“Not long after that, I became garden editor of Sunset,” she said. “I was looking for ideas on how we could save water, and I turned to the missions of California. I looked at the gardens put in by the first settlers of California and they were so smart. They used native plants, plants that did well in California naturally.”

Later generations brought their Eastern garden ideas with them, including lush expanses of lawn and greenery, she added.

“Our whole aesthetic changed and so did our whole relationship with water,” Brenzel noted.

Pushed by drought and other concerns, that aesthetic has shifted back to more natural-looking and decidedly less-thirsty landscapes. Focusing on these water-wise alternatives, Brenzel compiled many great drought-busting ideas in her new book, “Sunset Western Garden Book of Easy-Care Plantings: The Ultimate Guide to Low-Water Beds, Borders and Containers” (Sunset, $24.95, 288 pages).

In addition, she’ll also be among the experts offering advice June 6-7 during Sunset’s annual Celebration Weekend at the magazine’s Menlo Park headquarters. Among the hands-on displays and demonstrations will be several devoted to water-wise gardening.

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