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Welcome! What Grows Right Here is About – And the Golden, Silver, and Bronze Rules

As I watch robins and thrashers drink from the bird bath – I’d just like to welcome you to Grows Right Here.

I’ve not yet begun building up the web site that is in my mind! — But in case you stumble upon  my site, I’d just like to say a few words.

My intention is to provide a resource for people living in or near a wild land area, who want to garden and nurture their land with loving responsibility — but don’t have a clue how to start. Or not much of a clue.

That was me 12 years ago. It was also me 8 years ago. I was slow to get started. Don’t worry if you are too. It’s never too late. If there are no local natives on your land, not even any seeds in the soil, you can sort of do a skin graft, and spread natives into your garden from very nearby areas. More on that in another page to come.

A lot of the information will apply to my locale – the Central Coast region of California. But all the principles of restoration are universal.

I’m not an expert. I’m a beginner, just like you probably are if you’re reading this. I’ll certainly be talking to and reading experts to learn more and make this web site as useful a resource as possible to others living with and nurturing nature.

I may be a few steps farther down this road than you – or you may be farther along than I am. We can all help each other.

The Golden Rule: Don’t plant anything invasive. (And remove weeds!)

Whether native to other areas of your state, or native to another country, invasive plants do not belong on your property. Don’t plant invasive plants, like French or Scotch broom, or vinca, or English ivy. If they are present – remove them. Remove noxious weeds like bull thistle, hemlock, and so on. Here’s some useful links on this:

  • In California you can check here to learn what plants are invasive: California Invasive Plant Council.
  • And you can check this page of the California Native Plant Society to learn more about invasive weeds, and find useful links to other sites: Invasive weeds.

The Silver Rule: Don’t plant nursery natives that will cross with your wild natives.

This one seems paradoxical! — and it’s perhaps controversial. (And it doesn’t apply to people living in the middle of the suburbs.) It isn’t always clear what will and won’t cross. Monkeyflowers, iris, ceanothus, manzanita – anything that you can buy nice cultivars and selections of – they’ll probably cross with the natives. I grew some interesting brick red monkey flowers, which I’m guessing are a cross between some red nursery bought ones and my local orange ones. I removed them because I’m propagating my monkey flowers. I want to keep the local ones local. Local = unique. Unique = irreplaceable.

I should say not everyone agrees with the silver rule, but those who care about preserving what is unique about an ecosystem pretty much do agree with it.

Some people, for example, think we should plant more Southern California natives in the north, to prepare for global warming. Or introduce natives of the same species as your local indigenous ones, but from other areas, again, to introduce more genes into the pool, and make them more adaptable to changing climate conditions.

I’m myself following up on this question of introduced nursery natives in a wilderness area, and will get back to you.

The Bronze Rule: Maintain defensible zones against wildfires

You need to think about fire safety if you live in an area subject to wildfires. But don’t panic and just clear out all the vegetation. Some vegetation will actually slow a fire down. And don’t remove all your chaparral natives thinking they are just tinder waiting to explode – they are not. Some non-natives used to replace natives are actually more flammable what they replaced. See this fascinating page on Las Pilitas Nursery’s web site for more on this important topic.

If you live in a chaparral habitat, you’ll find a lot of really good information from The Chaparral Institute – including many pages on the topic of fire.

Here are the “traditional” fire zones, and how I apply them to restoration gardening.  I have to make a compromise between the ideal and what I can manage. And people have a different idea about what’s ideal too – anyway here goes:

  • A thirty foot radius around your home is your primary defensible zone. Irrigate it weekly or twice a month for 15 minutes or so. Plant any fire-safe pretties you want that are not invasive. Roses are nice. Dahlias are nice. See – I’m not telling you to plant only local natives! But calla lilies and sweet peas — no, not where I live anyway: they escape. We all have garden favorites. Plant things that stay green with a bit of irrigation. Succulents are nice, and fire-resistant. I garden for wildlife. I use pretty local natives and other plants that are relished by butterflies, hummingbirds, and the rest of the pollinators. Also, it’s a good idea to use hardscape, like rocks and gravel.
  • A hundred foot radius is the reduced fuel zone. Thin and space out your local natives so fire can’t easily jump from one to the other (vertically as well as horizontally – no “fire ladders” into your trees). Reduce the most flammable more than the least flammable. Reduce chamise more than coyote brush, as an example from a chaparral habitat. You can leave their roots, for erosion control. And if you want a nice accent here and there from your favorite garden plants – why not? It’s your garden. It’s good to irrigate here also, just a little, but regularly, to keep plants a bit juicy, but that is not always practicable.
  • Beyond 100 feet  – Las Pilitas says to continue thinning in this area. For me – I can’t manage the work load. I just remove weeds, those I can reach, and leave it alone as natural habitat, and enjoy thinking about nature undisturbed doing its natural thing.

This post is just the brain dump to get my web site going. I’ll be revising and expanding on these topics over time, and providing pages of material on propagating local natives, lists and pictures of common weeds, ways to restore a natural environment, useful links and a lot more!