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Get Started with Bay-Friendly Gardening

Putting Bay-Friendly Practices into Place

Incorporating Bay-Friendly practices into your garden does not have to be difficult. In fact, many Bay-Friendly techniques can make gardening chores less of a chore. Using mulch, for example, helps build healthy soil, reduce waste and conserve water, but it can also save time spent weeding and watering in the garden. You can use this checklist from the Bay-Friendly Gardening Guide to start gardening the Bay-Friendly way. You may even find that many of your current gardening habits are already Bay-Friendly. Keep in mind that you don't need to do all of these techniques to capture the spirit of Bay-Friendly in your garden. Including even a few practices will reap multiple benefits.


Click on the titles below for drop-down lists of helpful tips:

Build Healthy Soil

  • Amend soil with compost.
  • Prepare garden beds by hand rather than with a tiller.
  • Maintain garden beds with little or no tilling.
  • Sheet mulch to establish planting areas or pathways, or to control weeds while improving soil.
  • Create clearly defined paths and or raised beds to protect soil from compaction.
  • Grow cover crops to enrich the soil.

Reduce Waste in the Garden

  • Create and maintain an active compost or worm bin for garden and food waste.
  • Use your green waste cart for any plant wastes that are difficult to compost at home.
  • Use leaves, chipped plant debris, compost, or other organic materials as mulch.
  • Minimize plant waste by not overplanting, overwatering, or overfertilizing.
  • Minimize pruning by choosing plants that are appropriate for the space.
  • Avoid sheared hedges in the garden.
  • Leave clippings on the lawn after mowing.
  • Use recycled or salvaged products for artistic or functional purposes.

Conserve Water

  • Emphasize Mediterranean climate or California native plants. (try to use these plants for at least half of your garden area.)
  • Group plants in the landscape by water needs.
  • Amend soil with compost and use mulch in garden beds.
  • Minimize or eliminate lawn area.
  • Install efficient irrigation (drip, timers, soaker hoses, etc.).
  • Water according to plants' needs, not just on a fixed schedule.
  • Install a rainwater collection or gray water system.

Create Wildlife Habitat

  • Provide food for wildlife with a variety of plants that flower and set fruit at different times of year.
  • Provide water with a small pond, bird bath, or water dish.
  • Create year-round protective cover with a planting of evergreen trees/shrubs, logs, rocks, or brush pile.
  • Diversify your garden structure with layers of ground covers, herbaceous (non-woody) vegetation and/or grasses, shrubs of various heights, and trees.
  • Leave some areas of the garden somewhat untidy — let flowers go to seed to provide food for birds, and leave dead leaves and stalks to shelter over-wintering insects.
  • Feature native plants. (Plant more than 50% of your garden with California natives.)

Protect Local Watersheds and the Bay

  • For patios, driveways, or other hard surfaces, choose permeable materials that allow water to soak in rather than run off.
  • Terrace steep slopes to reduce rainwater run-off and prevent erosion.
  • Cover nearly all soil with mulch or plants.
  • Avoid the use of synthetic fertilizers.
  • Avoid the use of plants considered invasive in local wildlands.

Contribute to a Healthy Community

  • Use an integrated approach for controlling weeds, insect pests and diseases with least toxic controls used first for safety of children, pets and wildlife.
  • Tolerate pests as much as possible.
  • Select disease resistant varieties of plants.
  • Include plants that attract beneficial insects in the landscape.
  • Grow fruits and vegetables organically for food and enjoyment.
  • Plan outdoor lighting that is dim or directed downwards to minimize light pollution.
  • Use hand or electric tools instead of gas-powered tools.
  • Consider and control potential neighborhood hazards — including fire risks, weed seed disbursement, and rodent habitat.

Save Energy

  • Place trees and shrubs to reduce energy requirements. For example, plant deciduous trees on the west side of the house to provide shade during the summer and allow sunlight to warm the house in the winter.
  • Shade parking asphalt areas and air conditioners, if applicable.
  • Select local garden products and suppliers.
  • Choose outdoor lights that are energy efficient or solar powered.
  • Select pumps for water features that are solar powered or energy efficient.
  • Include space in the garden for a clothesline.