Time to Get Your Hands Dirty: Your Springtime Gardening Guide
April 19, 2024

Time to Get Your Hands Dirty: Your Springtime Gardening Guide

Long gone are the days when expansive green lawns and perfectly manicured shrubs defined a well-landscaped yard. Today, more and more homeowners are realizing the benefits of native plants and edible gardens in their landscape design. Making the switch not only saves water and money, it also reduces your carbon footprint.

There’s no better time than now to get started on your native planting. After all, Earth Day is April 22, a reminder of the importance of taking care of the planet. Founded in 1970, Earth Day has encouraged millions of people to plant trees, reduce waste, conserve nature, and protect the environment. Earth Day is the same week as Arbor Day, April 26, in which people are encouraged to plant trees to create clean air, biodiversity, and healthy communities.

Why are Native Plants Important?

Long before the Sacramento area was settled by Europeans, it was inhabited by indigenous people who lived off of and among the native plants that grew here. Native people knew of the important role native plants played in the area’s biodiversity. They support wildlife by providing food and shelter. They also attract pollinators, which are necessary for food production (and human survival). They support the entire ecosystem by aiding in flood control, preventing erosion, and filtering water. And many of them are drought-tolerant, making them a great choice for your yard.

Using native plants in your landscaping can help improve the local ecosystem. Ditching the grass for low-maintenance options such as groundcovers or hardscapes can greatly reduce your water consumption. Adding native plants can help bring pollinators such as butterflies and hummingbirds to your yard. Following are native plants and trees to consider, which are suited to Sacramento soil and climate, attract pollinators, and are relatively pest- and disease-resistant.

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Native Plants & Flowers

  • California poppy
  • Common yarrow
  • Fuchsia
  • Deergrass
  • Blue-eyed grass
  • Coffeeberry
  • Western redbud

Plant a Shade Tree

Did you know SMUD provides free shade trees? Since 1990, SMUD, in partnership with the Sacramento Tree Foundation, has planted more than 600,000 trees in the Sacramento area. No wonder Sacramento is known as the City of Trees! Native trees provide shade that is beneficial for wildlife (not to mention beneficial for lazy summer afternoons). Following are some great native trees to consider for your yard:  

Native Trees

  • Valley oak
  • Blue oak
  • Crape myrtle
  • Chinese pistache
  • California sycamore
  • Ginkgo

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Growing Fruits & Vegetables in Sacramento

But native plants aren’t the only option. The Sacramento area is also well-suited to growing many fruits and vegetables as well. Most of the region lies in the USDA’s Plant Hardiness Zone 9b. Hardiness zones help determine which plants are most likely to thrive at a given location based on minimum average annual temperatures. You can enter your address in this interactive map and find which zone you are in.

There are also the Sunset Climate Zones, which help predict a plant’s performance based on temperatures, humidity, wind, and length of growing season. Sacramento lies in Zone 14 (inland areas with some ocean influence) while outlying areas lie in 8 (cold-air basins) and 9 (thermal belts) and in the foothills, Zone 7.

What does this all mean for the average home gardener? Basically, it helps you determine what to plant and when to plant it. For example, April and May are the best months to plant beans, carrots, corn, cucumbers, melons, squash and tomatoes. There’s a downloadable guide that covers the other vegetables throughout the year.

Fruit trees are another great choice in the Sacramento area, and it’s no secret that citrus is the star. Oranges, lemons (especially Meyer lemons), grapefruit, and mandarins all thrive here. Other popular choices include cherry, fig, pear, apricots, plum, and pomegranate. At the higher elevations, all types of apples do especially well (hello, Apple Hill!) 

How to Prep Your Space for a Garden

To aspiring home gardeners, getting started can seem overwhelming. What kind of soil to use? How much space do I need? What about irrigation and pest control? But there’s no need to overthink it because, in the end, nature will take over and do its thing! Following are some steps in getting your garden growing:

  • Decide on the Space. Whether you’re planting directly in the ground or using raised beds, the most important element to consider is sunlight. Choose a space that gets adequate sunshine (at least 8 hours for most spring and summer fruits and veggies), is close to a water source, and is protected from wind.
  • Assess Your Soil. Many areas in and around Sacramento have soil that is conducive to planning directly in the ground. Good soil should be loose with a good mixture of organic material, sand, silt, and clay. Unfortunately, some areas near Sacramento do not have good soil — it can be dry, crumbling, and clay-heavy. Luckily, soil can easily be amended by one of the many products on the market. Some home gardeners prefer to use raised beds in order to control their soil. It’s also easier on the back and can help deter weeds and pests.
  •  Watering. How to water your garden is a matter of personal preference. Many home gardeners prefer automatic systems to take the guesswork out of it. Some use drip systems or soaker hoses. But watering by hand is another simple way to make sure your plants get the water they need to thrive.
  •  Map out the Space. After you choose the space, it’s a good idea to map out your plan before you get to planting. Some plants do well together, known as companion plants. Some examples include basil and tomatoes, beans and squash, cucumbers and dill, and peas and carrots. Also, consider the size of the plants and space accordingly. If you have limited space, a useful book is Square Foot Gardening, which can help maximize limited space.

The Power of Composting

Composting isn’t just beneficial to your garden and the environment — it’s also the law. Residents are now required to compost their food waste, including fruit and veggie scraps, coffee grounds, bread and pasta, and leftover food. Cities and counties have their own methods for collection, but many ask residents to collect waste in a countertop pail and empty it into their outdoor green waste bin. Or, you can compost it yourself and use it to improve your soil quality.

No matter what you plan to grow, there are plenty of options. Switching to native landscaping, planting shade trees, growing your own food, and composting are all beneficial ways to help the environment, with the added benefit of being a great springtime hobby!

Category Auburn, Davis, El Dorado Hills, Elk Grove, Fair Oaks, Folsom, Neighborhood Guides, Placerville, Roseville, Sacramento

Lyon Real Estate

With the Lyon Local blog, Lyon strives to deliver the most valuable information to both home buyers and sellers while highlighting our favorite local gems that make Sacramento the best place to live in California.