It’s time to embrace the wonders of nature by thinking of how we can become ecologically greener.

For this year’s Earth Day, Scott Kleinrock, landscape design and planning coordinator for the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens, has listed 12 ways to create a more sustainable garden. 

Use plants appropriate to where you live. Consider the amount of sun, shade, wind and rain each part of your garden receives. Native plants that are appropriate to your area can be very low in their water requirements and are the best plants for attracting native beneficial insects, song birds and butterflies. Drought-tolerant selections cut your water needs.

Hold as much of the rainwater that falls on to your property. You can prevent runoff by doing something as simple as making a small sunken area that can collect water. This precipitation can percolate into our ground water table. 

Mulch your garden. Mulch helps the ground absorb water and creates a barrier between the sun and the soil that keeps soil moist longer. As mulch breaks down, it improves the soil. The city of Pasadena offers residents free mulch, but Kleinrock noted you can also contact local arborists. 

Make sure your irrigation system is working optimally. Understand how your irrigation system works and check it regularly. Be sure to make adjustments when it rains according to local watering ordinances.

Water appropriately for the plants that you have. Even if you don’t have native or drought-tolerant plants, established woody plants, including roses and fruit trees, prefer deep watering less often than twice a week. Deep watering encourages the roots to grow downward instead of spreading shallowly.

Garden to provide a habitat for local animals, birds and pollinators. Drought-tolerant plants are fine, but they don’t always attract the local animals and insects that natives would. Piles of rocks can be a haven for insect-eating lizards. Some green waste such as leaves and twigs and even mulch provide a habitat for beneficial insects. 

Provide water for bees and birds. During a drought birds and bees still need water. A bird bath will do the trick, but Kleinrock suggests adding a few rocks for smaller birds to perch on. Porous rocks make it safer for bees and other pollinating insects. 

Have areas of bare ground or leave a flower pot with dirt in your garden for native bees. While most of us think of bee hives hanging in trees, native bees are more often solitary and ground dwelling creatures. 

Think of ways to really fill up a garden. Small spaces can be filled up cheaply by buying bulk packs of wild flowers like California poppies. While your garden is filling in, these plants can help hold the soil together and prevent top soils from washing away. 

Don’t be so quick to deadhead flowers. Native birds like seeds of flowers and grasses. This also allows the plants to re-seed for next year. 

Make your front yard a nice and attractive habitat and help make a garden that is primarily not a lawn the new normal. For this reason, Kleinrock feels front yard water-wise gardens are more important than hidden backyard refuges. 

Think about sustainability as a whole ecosystem. Kleinrock notes “a yard that is just gravel with a few succulents is not moving necessarily in a sustainable direction.” The gravel holds onto the summer heat. A lot of gravel spaces “become abandoned spaces that people don’t want to spend time in,” Kleinrock said. “A garden should be something for people and a pleasure to be in, a pleasure to maintain and a pleasure to experience all the birds and insects.”