Native Planting Guide

When to plant: late fall, winter, or early spring.   Hot summer or early fall conditions are a difficult time to start most plants. They need deep and infrequent watering that encourages their roots to grow deep into the soil.

Determining the type of soil: Growing plants compatible with your soil will help your garden succeed. A simple test will tell you what type of soil you have: take a golf ball-size lump of soil and wet it. If it becomes sticky and can be molded into a dense ball, you have clay. If it is gritty and doesn’t hold together, you have sand. If it forms a soft ball that is neither coarse nor sticky, you have loam.

Determining the type of drainage: Dig a one-foot deep and one-foot wide hole where your garden is going to be planted. Fill the hole with water and time how long it takes to drain. If it drains within 15 minutes, you have fast-draining soil. If it takes more than an hour, you have slow-draining soil. If the hole drains somewhere in between those times, you have medium draining soil

  1. If the ground is dry, water the site two or three days prior to planting to make digging much easier.
  2. Carefully remove the pot from around the plant.
  3. Disturb the root ball as little as possible- run a finger along the edge so the roots are not coiling.
  4. Carefully place the plant into the hole, slightly higher (1/2”) than the surrounding soil.  Do not add amendments or fertilizer.  Backfill the hole with local dirt and don't use any high nitrogen soil amendment.
  5. Water lavishly (Make sure each plant receives at least 4-5 gallons of water within the first 2 hours after planting. If it rains a bunch, right after you plant you can skip watering) the first time. Water the plant, and the ground around the plant in a circle one foot past the drip line. Do not water against the crown, the main stem of the plant at the soil. Water should fall in the area of the drip line of the plant and beyond. The idea is do saturate deep in the soil about 18" down. Let the top inch or so dry out between waterings but you don't want the base of the rootball to completely dry up. Check at least a few times until you get the feel for the water and soil. 
  6. The first year, check the soil, down about an inch or two, once a week; if it is dry, water it to 18 inches deep; if it is moist, don't water it. The second and succeeding year-water, if needed, during the months of November through April, and try to abstain from watering in the summer (excepting desert plants, which receive summer rain showers, and sprinkling for coastal plants that normally receive fog drip/summer rain showers ). In really dry years add extra water once a week either between plants or a overhead sprinkler like a summer shower. You may have to do this for much of the year if the rainfall is below normal.
    Depending on the origin of the plant, you may need to water extra.  If the plant originates from an area with equal amounts of rainfall and equal rainfall patterns, you don't need to water extra; if the plant originates from an area of higher rainfall or different rainfall patterns, you may need to water extra during the time the plant usually receives rainfall.
  7. For perennials and subshrubs, consider placing a medium size rock next to the plant, on the west or south side of it to keep the roots cool and allow the moisture to evaporate slower.
  8. Place mulch on top of the soil around the plant in a four-foot diameter circle. Some suggest that for desert plants you use rocks.  Perennials and subshrubs-shredded redwood bark or shredded cedar bark.  Long-lived trees and  shrubs- mostly evergreen oak leaf mulch or shredded redwood bark or shredded cedar bark 2-4 inches deep.
  9. If you can't plant your plants immediately, place in morning sun or part shade, a few times a week as needed.