Fire Fuel Reduction is more important now than ever.  Some people refer to it as Vegetation Management. They mean the same thing – reducing and eliminating any hazardous vegetation that poses the risk of wildfire.  Weed abatement is a part of this process. What you need to know is – that now is the time to have hazardous vegetation removed or reduced.  It is the first step in wildfire resilience.  Hazardous vegetation includes invasive and/or noxious weeds and plants known to be highly flammable. This updated post from 2020 is simple with easy-to-digest basics. We guide you through Fire Fuel Reduction and its role in preventing wildfires.  Our guide covers these essentials What Fire Fuel Reduction is and why it’s more important now. The 3-Rs of Fire Fuel Reduction activities. Methods of invasive weed removal. How to tell if your property is at risk. Why is Fire Fuel Reduction more important now? The wildfire threat is worse because of two factors: drought and warmer temperatures (with warmer temps coming earlier and more prolonged heatwaves).  Cal Fire says “These continued dry conditions, with above-normal temperatures through spring, will leave fuel moisture levels lower than normal, increasing the potential for wildland fire activity.”  It’s unnerving to see that grasses are tinder-dry and brown so early in the season. Here’s what Daniel Swain, climate expert and author of WeatherWest.com, says in a recent post on weatherwest.com. “All signs point toward widespread extreme drought by mid-summer.” Swain has also asserted that the west no longer has a distinct fire season, but rather fire potential “straight through the winter”.   The Big Sur fire in January is one example. Local Fire Departments are offering more programs to help residents.  Examples include offering grant money to property owners for weed abatement and related work.  Additional programs include chipper days and wildfire preparation workshops.  An example of these programs from Firesafe Marin. Read on about the 3 facets of fire fuel reduction. The 3-R’s of Fire Fuel Reduction Removal Of dead fuels (vegetation), grasses, weeds, brush, invasive species, and plants deemed fire accelerants.  Here are some examples: Types of invasive weeds to remove See our previous blog that identifies the top 7 most invasive weeds and includes photos.  They include: Broom species (French and Scotch) Fennel or Licorice plant Bull Thistle Cape Ivy Himalaya Blackberry Periwinkle or Vinca Major Ice Plants Beware of these plants – once-popular – now considered fire accelerants Juniper Italian Cypress Rosemary Bamboo Fountaingrass Eucalyptus Reduction Thinning heavy brush and trimming trees.  Crucial to reduce the spread and intensity of a wildfire. Pruning shrubs and trees will provide adequate separation between them and away from your structure.  Check with your local fire department for plant spacing requirements in your area.  The section below has a link on spacing tips for properties on a slope. Replacement Replace with fire-resistant plants.  These plants should be non-oily, deciduous, or have higher water content.  Make sure they are free of deadwood and well hydrated. Because of the drought […]

Marin County Updates Water Restrictions Marin Water, reporting that reservoirs are higher than they have been in years, (95% full in fact!) voted unanimously to ease the ban on irrigation.  The district serves both Central and Southern Marin County, except for Novato and West Marin.  See the next section for NMWD updates. This update means that residents in this district now have the green light to water twice a week. A list of the updated water regulations below has been copied and pasted from their website. Irrigation using sprinkler or drip systems is allowed two times a week and only prior to 9 a.m. or after 7 p.m. The refilling of a completely drained swimming pool and the initial filling of any swimming pool for which application for a building permit was made after December 1, 2021, will not be allowed. Covers are required for all pools and spas. Liquid pool covers are acceptable.  Do not wash vehicles at home. Use a carwash that recycles water instead. Do not power-wash homes or businesses. Do not wash driveways or sidewalks. Do not wastewater. Flooding gutters is prohibited. Leaks must be fixed within 48 hours of being discovered.* Garden hoses must have a shutoff nozzle. Golf course irrigation is restricted to greens and tees. Do not water grass on public medians. Do not use potable water for dust control, compaction, sewer flushing or street cleaning. Do not refill or top off decorative fountains. *Heads up – make sure that your system is regularly checked for leaks because the district may inspect periodically. The Marin Independent Journal, reporting on the updated restrictions, stated that the ban for golf courses remains.  The IJ also reported that unfortunately, water conservation efforts have diminished from up to 25 percent last year, to 10 percent so far for 2022.  Check here for up-to-date reporting on water supply and usage. Water usage restrictions for Novato residents remain in place. The message from West Marin’s amendment is copied and pasted below from their website Water Waste Prohibitions Effective February 1, 2022: Permitting water to escape down a gutter, ditch, or another surface drain. Irrigation that has excessive runoff or unreasonable overspray. Failure to repair a controllable leak of water within a reasonable time. Using water for non-recycling decorative fountains or single-pass cooling systems. Washing down exterior hard surface areas. Washing cars, boats, trailers, or other vehicles and machinery directly with a hose not equipped with a shutoff nozzle Potable water on ornamental turf in public street medians Drinking water other than on request in eating or dining establishments Water for the daily laundering of towels and linens in hotels and motels without offering guests the option of choosing not to have daily laundering. Reminder – recycled water is exempt from restrictions It conserves our potable (drinking) water.  In fact, every gallon of recycled water used saves a gallon of potable water. Recycled water is even beneficial to plant growth because it has higher nutrient levels than drinking water.  It could reduce […]

Temporary solutions that will prevent erosion on your slope If you have your property has a slope – taking quick action now could prevent damage from erosion.  We will probably have more rain before the end of the season and if your slope is not stable read our post. It explains erosion in the landscape, the damage it causes, and how to determine if your slope is at risk for erosion. Our solutions are temporary but effective.  Endorsed by experts, they will stabilize your slope prevent erosion now, and give you time to plan for long-term permanent solutions. Permanent methods are a combination of hardy vegetation (plants suited for slopes and its local environment), soil amending, grading, retaining wall(s), terracing, and mulch.  Drainage may also be needed.  We will cover this topic in-depth in future posts. Erosion – what is it and where does it occur? Erosion is runoff that occurs on a slope or hillside when the top layer of soil is loosened and worn away as a result of heavy rain and/or winds.  The impacts can be devastating, not just to the landscape but to the environment as well.   How to know if your slope is at risk for erosion? The steeper the slope, the higher risk of erosion. If your hillside has any of these characteristics it will be susceptible to erosion. Previously eroded or exposed soil.  Bare soil – with no vegetation or vegetation just getting established. Vegetation that is not hardy enough to withstand heavy rain. (mature plants past their lifespan or not suited to a slope) Compacted soil. Soil depleted of nutrients. Soil that has been disturbed by wildfire, construction, or human activity like tilling. The slope pictured below has been damaged by erosion.   Erosion Damage – The Domino Effect Collecting all of the pollutants in the soil, runoff washes down the slope and into your public waterways, contaminating them. The sediment produced is a who’s who of hazardous waste including motor oil, detergents, herbicides, and pesticides. Besides having the potential of damaging structures and endangering people, it can ruin your landscape, particularly high-value trees and shrubs. 3 Temporary Solutions Straw Wattles A straw wattle is a horizontal barrier made of compressed straw tubing approximately 8 to 12 inches in diameter.  Designed to block the flow of water down a slope, it’s wrapped (envision a large sausage) in bio-degradable materials such as jute.  As we said, this is a short-term solution to stabilize your slope, controlling erosion.  (See a list of materials below). Straw tubing – You can purchase 6′-20′ lengths at home improvement stores.  (inexpensive) Wooden stakes – 18 – 24 inches per wattle.  Hand tools such as shovels Small machines for plowing trenches (as needed) Proper installation of straw wattles is critical for them to be effective in controlling erosion. Wattles are installed in small trenches (3-5 inches deep) across a hillside in a shallow slope.  They should be effective for one to two years.  What’s great about them – they […]

Delivering joy in red, white, and red glitter! We will deliver Poinsettias to your office in San Francisco or Marin County.  If you are back in the office, treat yourself to some well-deserved cheer.  In Italian they are called Stella di Natale; in German, Weihnachtsstern.   They come to you in a decorative foil sleeve.  We can maintain them through the holidays, or you can maintain them yourself. Limited quantities are available.  Order today. Poinsettia order options With or without maintenance Sizes 4”,6” 8” or 10″ Poinsettia. At this time 8″ comes only in red and white 10″ comes only in red See our pricing sheet for more information Safe delivery during COVID-19 Our staff follows safety protocols including social distancing and wearing masks. Poinsettias also help to clean the air.    Natural air purifiers, Poinsettias help remove formaldehyde, one of the worst indoor air pollutants. How to maintain Poinsettias.    Poinsettias need just the right light and moisture to last through the holidays.  Professional maintenance is the best option, but if that is not possible here are some tips. Maintaining Poinsettias They like indirect light for at least six hours per day. The ideal room temperature is 68-70 degrees F. Water thoroughly when the soil feels dry to the touch.  They don’t like cold drafts (below 50 degrees) or excessive heat. How to order Contact Angela Wrath Phone (510) 439-3707 Email awrath@gardenersguild.com

Recycled Water Delivery in Marin County Do you have drought-stressed trees or plants? If so, and you live in the County or its surrounding areas you could have recycled water delivered to your door!  Marin Water’s website explains some of its benefits. “Using recycled water for irrigation saves our drinking water supply and benefits the San Francisco Bay”.  UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UCANR) recommends getting your trees inspected to find out if they are drought-stressed.  They are your highest value plants and without sufficient water, they’re vulnerable to pests or diseases.  See our recent post that describes symptoms of drought-stressed trees. This post has what you need to know about recycled water, how it is delivered, and its benefits. What is Recycled Water? It is wastewater that has been treated chemically and biologically.  And, it’s highly regulated for safety by the California Department of Public Health. The recycled water program began as a collaboration of eleven North Bay water districts.  Their goal – a more reliable water supply. An increasing number of districts in the San Francisco Bay Area are also offering recycled water as an alternative to potable water. Why Should I Use Recycled Water? Marin Water has now restricted irrigation with potable water to spray, once a week; drip twice a week. Because of these mandates, your trees and other high-value plants may be at risk. What are the Benefits of Recycled Water? It’s exempt from water restrictions. It conserves our potable (drinking) water.  In fact, every gallon of recycled water used saves a gallon of potable water. Higher nutrient levels than drinking water, which is beneficial to plant growth.  It can reduce the need for fertilization. Who can receive recycled water delivery? Gardeners’ Guild will deliver to both commercial and residential properties. Gardeners’ Guild Delivers Recycled Water Description of our Service We schedule a site visit to assess plants and determine which ones could benefit from recycled watering. We send you a proposal. Pricing is based on the quantity of water needed and labor required. Once you approve the proposal, Gardeners’ Guild will schedule a date and time to deliver recycled water to your home or business. We transport recycled water to your home or business on a truck that is equipped with a hose for direct application to the plant(s). Gardeners’ Guild will also provide a sign that says “irrigated with recycled water”. Qualifications for Recycled Water Delivery Any company that wants to truck recycled water must have a use permit issued by the County of Marin.  The application process requires training, the appropriate insurance, and the truck must meet specific requirements to ensure that storage tanks are airtight and are cleaned of contaminants. Gardeners’ Guild has met all requirements and has a use permit that is visible at all times. For more information – contact us (510) 439-3728 Email      

Employees want more nature in the workplace How do employees envision the post-pandemic workplace?  I’ve combed the web to find out.  Studies have been trickling in – starting last year.  This post is a compilation from a myriad of sources.  A trend is taking shape.  Nature is a common denominator. A note about the process.  I’ve mined data from actual research and expert sources, rather than just opinion. In broad terms, workers want to feel safe, see their co-workers and have an adequate work-life balance.  A pesky fly in the ointment – most employees really liked working from home.   You could say they are torn – enjoying the comforts of home yet missing the comradery of the office.  It looks like the best of both worlds is a hybrid work schedule.  (building in the flexibility to work remotely as needed or on a schedule).  Most importantly, employees will be driving this change in the workplace, because companies recognize that their success relies on attracting and maintaining talent. What’s in this post. The verdict on the post-pandemic office What the experts say How and where to incorporate nature in your workspace Employees liked working remotely Comfort, access to nature, fresh air, natural light, and soft lines; shapes. Greenery inside and outside.  In fact, employees felt they had a healthier lifestyle.  In a survey conducted by Morning Consult, 40 percent said they spent more time outdoors. An NPR story on the post-pandemic office underscores this idea. A panel of five experts assembled for the story evoked the same theme.  For an office building to be healthy, it is essential for employees to be in contact with nature.  They recommended strategies such as living walls instead of partitions as room dividers.  They cited the term biophilic design (bringing nature indoors) as boosting productivity and overall well-being.  The panel also discussed using natural construction materials – further connecting the office to nature. Silverado Roundtable – Bringing Nature into the Workplace A white paper published by an organization called Silverado Roundtable and distributed via their website and collaborating green industry organizations is a compelling read.  Compiling research from architects, architects, social scientists, and psychologists.  The paper offers an engaging rationale for the post-pandemic workspace to be reinvented and more aligned with nature.  A Healthy Workplace is a Necessity Quotes from the report “The American office building has to really confront what’s been done in Netherlands and Germany: office space requires high volumes of fresh air. Natural light. We know plants work in an office, but they also purify the air.” “A healthy workplace used to be perceived as a benefit; now it is a necessity. Access to fresh air, light, nature, and any other option to give employees the confidence their work environment is as safe as it can be, will be the primary driver in a return-to-work strategy. Access to nature is increasingly critical for employee mental health and overall wellbeing.” What the Experts Say A great article – it explores the trend of […]

  Adapting Your Landscape We’re going to help you adapt your landscape to the drought.  Yes – you can adapt.   We see it as a combination of being well-informed, horticultural best practices, and creative reimagining.  Beautiful landscapes can and will prevail.  They may look different. How we use plants and water will change, and we will guide you through each step of the journey. First, know that San Francisco Bay Area water utilities have spoken.  At this moment, only a few have scheduled mandatory water rationing but all are urging cut-backs.  Keep in mind – this could change tomorrow. What’s in this post. An up-to-date report on water usage restrictions – organized by district. Download PDF for the latest policies. What Gardeners Guild is doing to support you. What you can do – now – and later. Water District Policies Below is a snapshot of four Bay Area water policies.  (the attached has more information and districts) San Francisco – as of today, no mandates. The district is urging residents to conserve. MMWD – Marin County has a very specific water rationing policy. NMWD – North Marin until July 1st residents are asked to voluntarily conserve by 20% Santa Rosa residents are asked to voluntarily conserve usage by 20% EBMUD – Declares Stage 1 drought and urges a voluntary reduction of 10% ABC7 map shows the extent of the drought in the San Francisco Bay Area What to do now According to the US Drought Monitor, most of the Bay Area is in either what is called D3 or D4, Extreme or Exceptional Drought.  Exceptional being the driest. For some perspective, in a Severe Drought, the US Drought monitor describes what happens to plants.  “Trees are stressed; plants increase reproductive mechanisms; wildlife diseases increase.” Protect your trees first. Trees are your high-value plants.  They provide shade, give off oxygen, regulate extreme temperatures, nurture wildlife habitat and help us adapt to climate change.  But they may be stressed because of our dry winter.  Symptoms of stress include wilting and undersized leaves, leaf drop, and disease – these are just a few. A drought-stressed tree needs water.  Some watering methods include soaker hoses, gator bags, or deep root watering.  Proper watering depends on the species, its age, and where they are planted.  Water them slowly, says UC Master Gardener Program. See the image below. Mulch – two to six inches of mulch around your trees.  Organic mulch will help the soil retain moisture.  (See the link below for rebates) Irrigation – Is your system is working efficiently? Water early or late – before 9 am or late – after 7 pm. Fix any broken sprinklers and repair leaks Correcting them could save 10 percent off your water bill, and improve your plants’ health.  University of California suggests you also check Automatic valves, heads, and other connections to ensure they are functioning Other irrigation problems can include broken, sunken, crooked, or clogged emitters. This evaluation can be complex, we suggest consulting with a […]

Prevention and Control of Top 7 Invasive Weeds The top 7 invasive weeds that we highlight this month are predators that will leach water and nutrients from your desired plants.  Some of them are highly flammable.  Our treatment recommendations for getting rid of the top 7 emphasize the least toxic practices. Getting rid of these weeds is a combination of mechanical or biological means.  Although Integrated Pest Management (Best Practices) sometimes requires a chemical solution.  Seriously, they are tough t to control.  Consult a professional if possible. Because the weather is already warming and experts forecast a dry spring, this is the time to remove them. Fire district warnings may come sooner than expected. What are invasive weeds? This definition is based on their real threat to native plant and animal communities.  Their impact includes the risk of fire, flooding, and the potential to lower land value. What are noxious weeds? One weed on our list is considered noxious.  This term is a legal one used by state regulatory agencies.  A weed is categorized as such if it poses a threat to agriculture or plants and enables the agencies to ban, quarantine, or eradicate them. The First Line of Defense is Maintenance (Prevention) The Top 7 Invasive Weed Types You may notice some weeds entangling their branches around your desired plants, or growing in the middle of them. It may take time to trace their branches to get to their roots.  Some are flammable – noted in red below. Broom Species (French & Scotch) Fire Hazard Plentiful in forests, wooded areas, and roadsides. They spread along roads and appear like small trees. Despite pretty flowers, they are toxic to humans and animals. Crowds out desirable species by leaching nutrients. Seeds spread by wind. With a hot dry summer forecasted, get rid of these now. Treatment Options Hand pull between January-May Cut and treat with an herbicide Fennel or Licorice Plan – Fire Hazard Seeds spread by wind and compete with other plants for nutrients. They will displace native plants in coastal areas. Treatment options Hand pull when soil is still wet. Dig out as much of the root as possible with shovels, hand picks. Mowing needs to be done at the right time or will encourage seed growth.   Bull Thistle A noxious weed.  Toxic and difficult to control once established. Showy purple blooms and sharp needle-like leaves. Grows where the soil is disturbed. Spreads rapidly up to 6 feet. Aggressively leaches nutrients from desired plants. Treatment Options Dig out with a shovel making to get the root before pulling. Mow before they flower. California Invasive Plant Council says herbicides are effective. Cape Ivy Poisonous, toxic, and aggressive.  Will reduce habitats for pollinators. Forms a dense blanket over desired plants. Its weight can cause a tree to fail. Distinguishing from less invasive ivy is difficult.  They choke off nutrients from understory vegetation, harbor rats, and snails. Treatment Options Requires precision as every stem must be removed. Removing around the perimeter […]

Landscape drainage problems like standing water in your yard, deck, hardscape, and around your building or house can be a nightmare! Let’s talk about it. There are some great solutions for drainage issues.  Ones that work best with Mother Nature, whether you have a yard or a commercial property.    Signs of a Landscape Drainage Problem If you notice these you probably have a drainage problem. You have a mosquito or other insect problem. Soil is wet for prolonged periods of time. Moss growth. Plant material that appears unhealthy or stunted. Exposed tree and plant roots. Soil erosion. Severely compacted soil. Uneven or cracks in hardscapes or paved areas We recommend the 7 drainage solutions below.  With a description of how they work.  Do yourself a favor, talk to a professional with the experience and equipment to do the work right. 7 Drainage Solutions French drains Type of drain: subsurface It’s basically a trench filled with gravel or rock and contains a perforated pipe designed to address subsurface water.  A French drain in your yard or commercial property will redirect surface water away from its foundation to landscape beds or other areas that need water.  Consider this if Water is pooling near the foundation of your building Your soil excessively compacted. Catch basin or storm drain Type of drain: subsurface One of the best investments you can make to your landscape drainage system.  It moves water fast.  Keeps it away from your structure, or from pooling in your turf or planted areas.  Catch basins have a grate on top and an underground drainage pipe that slopes away from the basin. They are often installed in turf or hardscape areas.  Periodic maintenance involves both clearing out debris and sediment underneath the grate and flushing it out of the pipe. Channel Drains (also called a trench drain) Type of drain: surface It moves water through an underground drainage system.  Channel drains are long and narrow (see below) and are often used to protect hardscape from expensive water damage.  Tip – keep the surface around the drain clear of debris so the water can flow unobstructed. Bioswales (also called dry creek bed) Type of drain: surface A shallow trench designed to direct stormwater runoff from one area of a property to another. Installing plant material, rock or mulch will slow the movement of stormwater filtering it from harmful chemicals.  They typically have a drain at one end to take away water that doesn’t infiltrate.  Bioswales can also help recharge groundwater.  See the photo below of a GGI project in Santa Rosa. Re-grading If there are uneven surfaces in your landscape, it can cause water to start pooling in the landscape or around the perimeter of your building. Re-grading is another solution.  It’s the process of leveling out the land, redirecting rainwater, away from your building or paved areas.  Improve Soil Structure – for compacted soil  Severely compacted soil (see below) will result in poor surface drainage in turf or landscape beds.  Its cause can […]

Joy comes in red, white, burgundy, and pink! You’ve had a tough year. Let some fresh Poinsettias help you celebrate the holidays with well-deserved cheer. These classic Poinsettias arrive in a decorative foil sleeve.  If you like, we will maintain them through the holidays, or you can maintain them yourself. Limited quantities are available.  Order today. Your poinsettia order options With or without maintenance Sizes 4”,6” 8” or 10″ Poinsettia. At this time 8″ or 10″ only come in red. Our maintenance period is from November 28th through the first week of January. Safe delivery during COVID-19 Our staff follows all safety protocols including social distancing, wearing masks, frequent handwashing, regular cleaning, and disinfection.  Our vehicles are cleaned between delivery routes. How to maintain Poinsettias.    Poinsettias are temperamental and need just the right light and moisture to last through the holidays.  Professional maintenance is the best option, but we understand we’re living through unique times. Some tips on maintaining Poinsettias They like indirect light for at least six hours per day. The ideal room temperature is 68-70 degrees F. Water thoroughly when the soil feels dry to the touch.  They don’t like cold drafts (below 50 degrees) or excessive heat. How to order Contact Angela Wrath Phone (510) 439-3707 Email awrath@gardenersguild.com