Several local organizations are hosting programs timed with International Seed Swap Day of Action, a Jan. 31 event organized by Food Not Lawns co-founder Heather Flores. A sampling:
Claremont Food Not Lawns: Will swap and share seeds from 1 to 4 p.m. Jan. 31 at the Packing House, 540 W. 1st St., Claremont. Bring heirloom and home-harvested seeds to share. Those without seeds are also welcome. www.claremontfoodnotlawns.com.
Freedom Gardens: Will host a seed sharing event, potluck and film screening of "Human Footprint" on Sunday. Event runs from 5 to 9 p.m. at 626 Cypress Ave., Pasadena. Free. Reservations required: (626) 844-4586 or freedomgardens.org (look for "No Cal & So Cal Meetups" box).
Santa Barbara: A community seed swap will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Alameda Park, 1400 Santa Barbara St. Event will include demonstrations, children's crafts, seed ball making and music. www.sbseeds.blogspot.com.
California Seed and Plant Exchange: Hosts online discussions and exchanges throughout the year. Members may also participate in a round-robin exchange involving more than 100 seed varieties harvested by participants. Information: groups.
Linda, that's so interesting that what I am seeing and doing on our acre has a name! I'm discovering so many things that I don't know the terms for!
I have been watching what comes up and where things grow and don't grow, following the rains, or without rains. I've noticed that some parts of the ground stay dray and hard all year round, while other spots are moist and dark except in the hottest, dryest times of year.
I've used these patterns (as well as the fruit tree basins) to plant wildflowers and trees and berries. I put many of my pines in low spots that don't dry out as much. Then I put berries in their basins.
I also seed with wildflowers the places where I find moisture following any rains we get. I'll wait until most of the ground is dry, and notice where some parts of the ground are still moist, and plant wildflowers there. I also seed with wildflower seeds any spot my family pulls weeds from.
I use wildflowers to compete with the weeds to avoid herbicides and to keep the weeding task down as much as possible, as we spend many hours ever year weeding. I just reordered more wildflower seeds as there is a lot more ground needing cover.
I wrote a post here a week or so ago about wildflowers, listing what has worked well for me, but the post didn't show up. I don't know what happened to it, but I felt too tired to repost it.
I've had the best success with California poppies, which reseed heavily each year. Two other bright yellow plants that have done well for me are calendula and coreopsis.
I like to offset the brilliant orange-yellows with cool blues. Blue flax has done very well here, reproducing itself and spreading. The cornflower comes up again every year. We had a good show of lupines, but when we had a hard freeze in late April, they were about to seed but not yet ready, so they died out and I have had to reintroduce them by seed. I'm trying blue sage this year, called salvia in the plant stores.
For pink flowers, I've used mixed colors of bachelor buttons (also called cornflower) godetia, and am planting sweet william this year, as I just found out it is at least somewhat drought tolerant. I rarely plant anything here that isn't drought tolerant, as my kids sometimes forget certain spots in their watering, and the climate is so dry. I like to plant sure successes.
I am enthralled with planting wildflowers and other native plantings and seeing how they do. I would like to create a habitat for some of the wildlife that is disappearing in the nearby meadows, as people are mowing during nesting season and consequently killing off rabbits, meadowlarks, horned larks, killdeer, quail, and other wildlife.
We got some killdeer nests another year, but I have not heard them this year. (My sight is not great for bird identification so I go a lot by hearing.) There are way fewer meadowlarks now, which is so sad. And the rabbits are dying out, though my orchardist son is still seeing some.
My middle son has Asperbers, so it is harder for him to get employment like the others, but he loves to work in the orchard and gardens, and he sees things the rest of us don't see, like deer, raccoons, squirrels, rabbits, and skunks. (I have only seen the rabbits.)
He so loves wildlife that a hummingbird lands on his shoulder and lets him pet it. He has always gravitated to birds and wildlife. He is the one I most often work beside in the orchard.
I will be experimenting with other native plantings as time goes on. Do you happen to know anything about planting in ways that preserve creatures like the meadowlarks and killdeer? Or attracting quail? I suspect we don't have enough meadow habitat. That can't be helped, although I am letting some grasses and wildflowers thrive in the orchard. I wonder if that will help?
Marie, you reminded me of something I saw a little while ago: the idea of 'rain gardens'. Basically, "a natural or built depression in the landscape that diverts rain water that would normally flow into your gutter, retaining it in your landscape. It is a natural filtration system, filled with native plants, that cleans runoff and recharges our aquifers." Here's the Wikipedia entry on them, and here's a list of California natives suitable for one.
Xeriscaping, or low water use, is a concept I have used on my one acre property. We decided that since the fruit trees and shade trees must have a well watered basin in order to survive, that we would make the basins be the places where native wildflowers grow.
The rest of the ground in back, we decided to leave as dirt, without a lawn. There was already a lawn in front, so we left that, as we don't have time to redo that yet. But in back we decided to only water the fruit tree basins.
However, since some weeds have grown outside the basins in areas that are either low spots or perhaps are where the underground river makes the groundwater higher in certain areas. We did not want the weeds there, at least not those with thorns, etc.
But we saw that a weed we discovered is sand spurrey grows like a lawn, making a thick carpet that is green in spring, is very beautiful, and compatible with my wheelchair- it does not get in my way, and my power chair doesn't damage it.
We decided to keep the sand spurrey as a substitute lawn, to grow where it will without added water. This has worked very well. Some people might mind having patches here and there, not one neat mass, but we like things being natural, so we don't mind. It really is very pretty, if you shed the prejudice that all things grow in neat sided rectangles.
In summer the spurrey goes brown, part of its natural cycle. We don't mind the brown carpet. Why must a lawn only be green anyway? It seeds abundantly, so we spread the seeds to new areas where we think it has a chance to grow. So we have had more spurrey lawn every year.
Grass lawns require a great deal of water. Most Southern Californians have not yet realized that lawns are an unsustainable luxury for our dry climate and lack of water resources. They also don't realize that drought tolerant plantings can be just as beautiful if you have no need to use your grass to play on or sit or lay on. Why use heavy resources for something you don't use?
We use spurrey because it is so easy to keep. But you can use many other wild native plantings as well. We have seen lawns of ice plant do very well. YOu can also use clover, which grows in thick patches that look very good. Half of our front lawn area was left as gravel, and we are having it grow up in wildflowers. The clover seems to have done the best of all.
There are lots of books on waterwise gardening and alternative ground covers. We are just so programmed to use grass that we often don't even consider alternatives to grass lawns. Once you break out of that mold and accept other looks for the sake of conserving our very limited water resources, there is no end to the possibilities.
This post was modified from its original form on 24 Apr, 9:57
"Silver Lake Farms, which began in ’04, is an urban farm growing organic flowers, fruits, herbs and vegetables on a ½-acre lot not five miles from Downtown L.A. You’ll find us at local farmers’ markets with everything picked fresh that day.
I offer a range of services aimed at helping other people tap into their garden’s potential."
The Water Conservation Garden near El Cajon, Calif. has been selected by a panel of judges as the winner of The 2007 Intelligent Use of Water Award, an annual program to bring greater recognition to outstanding contributions by individuals and/or organizations towards the advancement of landscape water efficiency.
There are various 'Seed Savers' events around the UK, but I'm not sure if they exist here in the US:
If you don't have one locally, they're easy to organise. This way you definitely know that you're getting seeds that will grow in your local conditions too.
One of the biggest wate of resources we face here in SoCal is the use of potable water for our gardens and lawns. Obviously, if you're growing your own food, your needs might be different, but it's possible to have an attractive garden with just native plants. Since they're adapted to this climate, they shouldn't need any additional watering. A good place to start is The California Native Plant Society, and one of their local chapters.