SHARING SECRETS: Making Changes Due To Looming Water Issues?

Edited by Cathy Tylka for Let's Talk Plants!, October 2021.

Photo credit: Ida Rigby.
The driftwood bench an artist made for Ida Rigby in her waterwise garden.

Thank you, Ida Rigby, for these wonderful questions…


Because we have water issues looming and you might want to edit your garden…

Are you choosing to not replace many things?

Are you choosing adornments? And what kind, metal, ceramic, etc.?

Are you planting small vegetable gardens?

Are you going native? And utilizing plants that do not need much water?


Karen Miller, 92128, answered . . .

. . . we live in north county inland. I long resisted natives, thinking they looked “dead “in the summer; however, I planted some native California-fuchsia, which bloom in the summer. I have also planted native milkweed and California poppy. I get most of my plants from Moosa Creek Nursery.

Barbara Crawford, 92129, answered last month and it is still relevant today . . .


. . . My decades-long quest to grow shade has been so successful that I am turning my hopes for vegetables to my disused west-facing side yard.

Formerly the catch-all for outgrown grandkids’ toys, it has now been emptied, weeded, leveled, lined with weed cloth, and covered in bark. I’ve converted a front sprinkler to run drip irrigation for pots; I’ve bought self-watering resin food-safe elevated beds (44Lx19Wx15D) for veggies that rabbits would like. A Thomcord grapevine will be in a tub against the warm wall come fall (nothing goes directly in the ground over the sewer line). A dog days of summer project indeed, but a hopeful improvement. And the chickens love it.



And, Barbara Crawford, 92129, shares this month also. TY Barbara and Mea culpa!



Since you ask, I can report that the elevated beds can hardly be seen now.


As to editing down to California natives for water conservation, my collection has edited itself over the years by surviving as the trees have grown up and dappled the property with shade. I have careful irrigation strategies and remind myself that every green thing I care for cools the planet and helps it breathe.

Additionally, Suzan Peterson, 92124, replied…


. . . I have planted drought tolerant plants in the ground but have more potted plants. I have diverted my A/C water to use in the garden and still maintain my more water-thirsty plants.

I have forgone planting any additional plants, even flowers this last year.

While Carolyn Buckman, 92028, states…


. . . I am planting more pots with water reservoir and drainage 3" from the bottom. I am having success with melons, string beans, gourds, tomatoes, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, squash and lots of herbs. My purple garden has ceramic and glass decor that I made. I am planting drought tolerant plants here and there, mostly around my structures for fire safety. My goal is to make many garden type rooms within the gardens, each with shade elements. I have a few with many more to come. I have a few natives that I am propagating but most of the ornamentals are succulents.



Liz Dernetz says…


. . . Yes, I am editing my garden plan and taking out some plants that need too much water to survive and thrive.


And no, so far I am not choosing adornments. I am adding more water wise (native) plants, slowly but surely. I'm still in process with these changes so photos aren't really in order.


I have planted small vegetable gardens in wooden boxes with screening under the planting soil. They are and will be my primary focus for several months.

Andrea Wagman-Christian sent me these pictures…




Debra Clarkin, 91906, responded . . .


. . . Yes, I plan on planting next year. Actually, I want to add more flowers. I’m not worried about the water since we have a well and conserve water elsewhere.

Nina Ostebsen from San Juan Capistrano shared …


. . . My garden is thriving, even with the recent hot summer and lack of water. My yard is predominantly all natives, so at their natural state just before the fall prune. Many years ago, probably over 15-20 years, I incorporated a lot of aloes, euphorbias and cacti. Even though predominantly drought tolerant, I have had to supplement deep, slow soaks to help them along with all this summer heat.

I haven’t had a lawn since 2005 and use Japanese Kurapia and Dymonda as a grass replacement for the dogs.


My citrus trees are seeing more scale and pests than usual, but I don’t use pesticides so I just spray streams of water to help alleviate. Vegetables were difficult this summer with the intense heat and lack of food and water for critters. My veggies fed them well. I, DO, use a lot of garden ornaments, but mostly natural logs, leaf litter, rocks and boulders, drainpipes as habitat for birds and others.

Ida Rigby, 92064, added…


. . . I am taking this challenge as an opportunity to severely edit my 29-year-old garden, finding ways to feature the survivors, such as chitalpas, toyons, palo verdes, pineapple guavas, pomegranates, etc., by clearing around them and using their textured trunks as sculptural focal points. I’ll perhaps fill in a bit with more short natives this fall. I am thinking more in terms of garden adornments, including a driftwood bench an artist made for me and ceramic fish sculptures that she is creating for a bend in the dry creek bed. Eons ago our garden was a lakebed, so every time we dig a hole, beautiful rocks emerge. So, I feature them, as in the setting for a Buddha. I can feature them individually, too. Then, the heat has been to the liking of our 25-foot wall of a night blooming cactus, which for the last month has had 125 or more huge blossoms from 9PM to about 8AM most nights. I have decided to enjoy them even while knowing full well that their beauty in my garden is the product of global warming. Their home was a real desert. So, I choose to accept and enjoy a few things like the cactus blossoms’ exuberant celebration of the very dangerous “new normal” and do what I can to mitigate it.

Gerald D. Stewart, 92084 responded . . .


. . . I'm doing what I've done for over 30 years: I plant what I want. If it survives my thrifty water habits, fine. If it dies, it makes room for me to try something else. I've learned many plants are more drought tolerant than their descriptions indicate. As a consequence, let the drought deepen. Most of what I have in my " tropical" approach to landscaping are going to do just fine, because they are used to going dry. When I water, it is for a long time (30 minutes - and there's still no runoff), to train the roots down. At this time of the year, I water the landscape only 2 to 4 times a month, in preparation for particularly hot spells. Most of the year it isn't watered at all. What serendipitous and eclectic metal, concrete, and ceramic garden ornaments I have accumulated over the years are long-lasting, so no need for more. I quit growing many vegetables because I didn't feel I was getting a good return on time and money (water being one of the big costs). In the future I'll only grow things that are far superior when home grown; (not many) tomatoes, some stone fruits, and Chandler strawberries (because I can't find them available locally, only at a farm stand in Byron, 500 miles north). I've not been particularly interested in native plants, going all the way back to when I took a class on them at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, 50 years ago, so no, I have no intention to go native, landscaping-wise.


Cathy Tylka, RN, retired Emergency Nurse, found her love of plants and the SDHS merge many years ago. Cathy acted as Treasurer for the organization and volunteer for many activities. Now, more than happy to assist in gathering questions to ask you in the Sharing Secrets area of the Newsletter.