Garden Trends in 2015

Blog Ideas – Garden Trends 2015

Firma Design Group is excited to notice a new trend in 2015…gardening! You may have noticed more neighbors starting a new garden, or some that have gotten rid of their lawn and replaced it with a low water-use vegetable garden. Gardens of all sizes, from one pot of brussel sprouts on the front porch, to a row of endless raised beds full of multi-colored vegetables, are popping up all over, and we couldn’t be more excited about it! According to Turf Design Build’s “ 2015 Garden Trends” article in their December 2014 issue, young men of the millennial generation are spending $100 more per year on garden products and plants than the average consumer. Consumers are estimated to spend $7 Billion on outdoor décor and garden accessories in 2015.


The past several years have brought about a new sort of revolution: one that values community, health, sustainability, and the planet. We have seen consumers come together to try to change laws, and hold companies accountable for their products. Many have begun to take matters into their own hands, growing their own food organically and in a way that they can control. Community gardens have sprouted up in communities all over the state and country, bringing communities closer together.

Many of our clients are interested in starting or maintaining their gardens, and we are happy to help them create vibrant, healthy gardens that will really become an extension of the home. If you are someone who thinks gardening requires a ton of time and effort, have no fear – there are solutions for even those born without a natural green thumb. It’s all about choosing the right vegetable. Working full time on top of trying to maintain a social life can leave you with not enough time to wash your hair, let alone water your vegetables. This however, can be resolved by choosing low water-use plants that require very little maintenance. Many vegetables can survive even if you do forget to water them on occasion.


So you may be wondering where to begin. has a calendar that shows exactly what to grow each month in Sonoma County. With recent mandatory water restrictions taking place in California, many potential garden growers are wondering whether or not they can justify the water use that a home garden requires. When done right, gardens don’t have to use an excess of water! Also, you have to factor in the water use that large scale farms use not only to grow the food, but to transport it as well. Eating locally grown produce is great, but growing it yourself can be even better.

Compost is essential, because if soil is sandy and dry, it won’t retain water. It is important to add rich organic material to your soil to promote root growth and retention of water.

Mulch isn’t always an attractive addition to your garden, but it does wonders for keeping soil cool and damp. There are a wide variety of mulch options out there, so choose one that works for you, and add 3-4 inches of it to the top of your garden to water less frequently. When watering by hand, pull back a small section of mulch to allow the water direct access to the plant.

Drip Systems are pretty high tech these days. You can get timers for them that allow you to set up a consistent watering schedule that is right for your plants. You can also get pressure regulators that allow the right amount of water to get to your plants without over or under-watering them.

Grow the right vegetables; don’t grow crops that need consistent soil moisture. Spinach, tomatoes, chard, amaranth, corn, and peppers don’t require an abundance of water. Planting high-yield crops is great too – more bang for your buck! Try tomatoes, squash, peppers, and eggplant if you’re going for abundance. Most brassicas (broccoli, cabbage, Brussel sprouts, etc. require more water and might not get a high enough yield to make it worthwhile.

Eliminate weeds, it might seem obvious, but weeding is a task that many put off until the weeds are overgrown. Weeds are competing with your plants for water, get them out of there as soon as possible!

Be smart with your water; everyone I know waits for the water to warm up before getting into the shower. During that time, gallons and gallons of cold water are wasted down the drain. Use that water for your garden!  It might be annoying to get a big bucket and lug it outside after your shower, but water is precious these days, so use it wisely!

Get Creative There are many ways to be smart with your water-use. While we have listed many, feel free to brainstorm more ideas. At-home gardens aren’t always easy, but they are worth it!


Keeping a Vegetable Garden During a Drought Year

California is having a dry year, and many of us don’t know how to keep a successful garden while still reducing our water use. Many of us love the idea of being able to grab fresh vegetables from the backyard garden, but struggle with the morality of using the extra water. Fortunately, there are many ways that allow us to have the best of both worlds. There are still plenty of ways to maintain a garden during drought years; it just takes a few easy steps.


Image via BFQP

  • Water plants in the evening (and water by hand)! During hotter parts of the day, water can evaporate before it is able to be absorbed by the plant. Most plants do not need to be watered every day. Allow soil to dry out a bit before watering again. Hand watering is the most water-efficient method, as you have full control!
  • Compost helps to retain moisture and increases organic content and microbial activity for increased root mass, allowing roots to dig deeper and find water sources deeper down.
  • Mulch moderates soil temperature, conserves moisture, and reduces weeds. Use a 3 inch minimum layer for optimal results.
  • Use shade to protect heat-sensitive plants from the scorching sun. Plant heat-sensitive plants in areas where they will get shade from larger plants, or use a shade cover.


Consider the following observations on which crops need the most water and when:

  • Some beans and sweet corn need considerable water to produce a good crop. Beans need water most when they are blooming and setting fruit.
  • Corn needs water most during tasseling, silking and ear development. Yield is directly related to quantities of water, nitrogen and spacing.
  • Peas need water most during pod filling.
  • Other vegetables, such as cucumbers and squash, and fruits, such as melons, need water most during flowering and fruiting.
  • Tomatoes, peppers and eggplant need water most during flowering and fruiting. (Note that after tomatoes set, they can do very well with reduced water).

For a list of crop-resistant plants visit:

Drought tolerant Plants

Other Ideas for Water Reduction

  • Remove your lawn! It sounds extreme but did you know that a three-person family in a single detached home uses about 150,000 gallons of water annually: 51% in the yard and mostly for lawn?! Removing your lawn or drastically reducing its size can help reduce water use by a significant amount. Rebates are often available for lawn removal. Visit for more information
  • Replace your lawn with a vegetable garden! Many people have begun to turn their front lawns into a vegetable garden instead, which can save water while providing food. Check with local laws and Home Owners Associations first though, because many may have restrictions against this.
  • Collect Water-Collecting rainwater is an easy and resourceful way to reduce your water usage. But not only rain water-what happens to the water that’s used while you’re waiting for the water to get hot? Stick a container under the faucet and use the water that collects to water your garden!
  • Turn off water when it’s not necessary such as when brushing your teeth, or shampooing your hair in the shower. If you reduce the length of your shower to 5 minutes, you can save up to 1000 gallons a month.
  • Update your appliances-many modern appliances were built with water-saving and energy savings in mind!

A Sneak Peek Into Our Backyards

Many of us here at Firma Design Group love gardening (big surprise there!) We can sometimes be found sharing photos of our gardens or discussing the tastiness of a fresh homegrown tomato included in the day’s meal. I thought you might be interested in seeing our gardens to give you some ideas for your own backyard haven.










Response to Mandatory Water Restrictions in California

For the first time in California state history, our government is enforcing mandatory water restrictions. Record low snowpack and near empty reservoirs and streams are signs that this matter is extremely serious.

“Today we are standing on dry grass where there should be five feet of snow. This historic drought demands unprecedented action”

–Governor Brown


You may be wondering what these water restrictions mean for your residence, landscaping, and how the cities you live in will be impacted. The first two questions you need to ask yourself are, “How much water am I currently using to water my landscape, and could I be using less?” If you are unsure of how to determine the answers to these questions, we can certainly help.

P1080851If you have a front lawn, you need to decide whether it’s a necessary addition to your home, if it provides any functional use, or whether you’re open to change. Here at Firma Design Group, we have experts to help you with these tough decisions. As a Bay Friendly Educator, Steve Kovanis, our residential Project Manager and Landscape Designer,  has presented “Lose Your Lawn” seminars in Contra Costa, Marin and Sonoma Counties over the past few years that demonstrate the benefits and ease of lawn conversions to low-water use landscapes featuring native plants. The talks provide participants with the knowledge of how to accomplish the conversion and offer detailed information about residential rebate programs available from many municipalities and water districts throughout the Bay Area.


P1040458We would be thrilled to help you convert your current landscape into a low water-use, low-maintenance, drought-tolerant garden without sacrificing beauty or aesthetics. In fact, your converted landscape will offer much more visual interest and will welcome in birds, butterflies and beneficial insects for a vibrant and alive landscape. Firma Design Group is passionate about our work, and we infuse sustainability in each of our projects to the extent possible


Governor Brown is also partnering with local governments and requiring that 50 million square feet of lawns throughout the state be replaced with drought tolerant landscaping. From a water conservation standpoint, this is a necessity, and will bring about creative and thoughtful design ideas from landscape architects throughout the state. There is great potential for additional local incentive plans to be developed where cities and municipalities will help subsidize your switch from thirsty lawn to drought-tolerant landscape.

While this drought is serious, we see it as a great opportunity to change how we design and maintain our landscapes. Hopefully, these mandated water restrictions will convince Californians to rethink their water use in every aspect of their daily lives. Whether it be focused on their landscape, or taking shorter showers, every little change helps. Let us work with you to help determine and implement water saving alternatives for your next landscape project or full conversion