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Gardener’s Notebook

Growing Food Near Native Oaks

native-oak

Is it possible to grow perennial food plants near native oaks? 
Yes, with the right plants and methods.

Here in Northern California, we are blessed with many stoic and picturesque native oaks. Quercus agrifolia (coastal live oak), Quercus lobata (valley oak), and Quercus douglasii (blue oak) are all found in this bioregion. While sudden oak death and other oak ailments may be a result of anthropogenic (man-made) influences, fear not: By following some simple rules and planting specially adapted native plants, you can foster life under and around your oaks.

Drip Line Denotes Microclimate

pink flowering currantOur California oaks have evolved to thrive in dry soil throughout our long summer drought. While those conditions would seem to discourage plant growth, an intact oak savanna ecosystem displays a diversity of plants growing in the “skirts” of the oak trees, due to the increased moisture present in areas around the tree where rain (and accumulated fog) drips from the branches. Called the “drip line,” this is a sweet spot for many of the oak savanna native plant species, and gardeners can put it to good use. 

In my consulting work with homeowners and on ranches, one of the main mistakes I see is that irrigation is installed too close to the drip line of the oak.… Read More

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