East Bay Nursery
The Bay Area's Place for Plants
2332 San Pablo Ave, Berkeley, CA 94702
Open: Tues - Sat 8:30-5:00; Closed Sun & Mon
2332 San Pablo Ave, Berkeley, CA 94702
Open: Tues - Sat 8:30-5:00; Closed Sun & Mon

Creating Beautiful Gardens in Our Dry Climate

Much of California and all of the Bay Area are in a mediterranean climate zone. There are five of these zones around the world. In addition to much of California, the others are mediterranean Europe, the central coast of Chili, the coastal regions of South Africa, and southwestern coastal Australia. All of these zones have dry summers and what rain they receive occurs in winter and early spring yet all have a wide range of wonderful plants. Water is always an issue in dry climates and it becomes an even greater issue in drought years. The most effective way to save water is to lessen or eliminate lawns and replace them with plants native to dry climates. Lawns, though beautiful, are not native to mediterranean climates. They are used most appropriately in temperate climates that provide summer water and winter snow. These climate zones include eastern North America, northern Europe, and northern Asia.  To use lawns in summer dry climates requires large amounts of supplemental water throughout the dry season.

Here at East Bay Nursery you can find a range of plants from all of the Mediterranean regions. All of them grow well in our climate and are quite happy with dry summers. They all provide a range of colorful flowers, sizes, and shapes. Even in the drought we are currently experiencing, these plants can thrive on very little to no water.

Here are some ways to create a garden that takes very little water and still produces a wide range of thriving, colorful plants: 

  • Choose plants from dry climate regions. They are well adapted to dry conditions. 
  • Water wisely.  Even when planting a summer dry garden, you will need to use some water until your plants are established.  Here are some techniques for more efficient watering:
    • Use a drip system or a system of soaker hoses to minimize water loss into the air.
    • Water infrequently but deeply. Also, water early in the morning to lessen evaporation further.
    • Mulch by laying down a thick layer (at least 2 inches) of mulch to help cool the soil and retain moisture. This encourages plants to grow deep roots to follow the water and stay cool. Make sure to keep the mulch a few inches away from the base of plants.  Also, adding compost regularly, adds organic matter to your garden soil and provides added nutrients to the soil.
    • Weeding your garden beds is another way to make water go further by eliminating competition for the scare water you use. 
  • What about my vegetable garden, can I plant one in a drought? Sure. Growing food crops in our home gardens allows us to use water wisely, using all the methods of saving water described above. In many cases your home vegetable garden can use water much more carefully than commercial growers.  We can all take additional steps in growing vegetables to save as much water as possible, such as the following:
    • Choosing early ripening varieties, planting our garden beds in blocks instead of rows to create more shade for roots and thus reduce evaporation
    • Choose vegetables that produce a lot of food on on one plant like tomatoes, squash and peppers.
    • Asparagus, chard, eggplant, mustard greens, Roma tomatoes, and California native strawberries are all water efficient edibles. 

Drought conditions create opportunities to expand our gardening know how and at the same time introduce us to new and wonderful plants for our gardens.


Written by Martin St. John


June 28th, 2017