Four Essential Actions for Wildfire Preparation Plus the Secret Ingredient to Effective Preparation Wind and warmer weather underlines the threat of wildfire for the rest of October.  This month is usually the worst, but if warming conditions prevail, “wildfire risk could rise again before winter rains arrive in earnest,” says Weatherwest.com. Preparing for wildfire is a combination of prevention (a longer-term solution) and short-term preparation.  Below are four essential short-term actions you can take now.  They will minimize the risk to you and your home. I have first-hand knowledge of wildfire preparation and prevention.  Living in a North Bay community designated as “at risk” for wildfire, I am well versed in both prevention and preparation.  The unnerving “Red Flag” warnings from Nixle (learn about them below) reminds us to stay focused on safety. We are a proactive group.  And, so far, we’ve been fortunate.  Following FireSafe Marin guidelines, our neighborhood works together trimming trees, scheduling fire department consultations and following their recommended activities.  This coming weekend is our second “chipper day.”  Funded by a grant, our Fire Department will send out a chipper and crew to dispose of the trimmings from cut trees and shrubs.  Hand-made signs posted throughout our neighborhood are friendly reminders for taking action.  I believe that what has made us successful (the secret ingredient) is teamwork. Working together with a common goal of fighting danger.  As a group we’ve been more effective than as individuals. The four activities below are the essentials of what you can do now.  There is also an evacuation checklist you can use. Preparation Sign up for Emergency Notifications If you haven’t already, sign up now. Nixle It will alert you to any emergency events and evacuations in your area. You will also receive non-emergency alerts about local criminal activity.  Those messages can be annoying, but trust me, Nixle is an invaluable system. County Notification This link from ABC7 news will direct you to where and how to sign up for your county. Your county may give you options, i.e., text, phone or VOIP, on how messages may be received. Decoding alert messages Evacuation order: Means evacuate now do not delay to gather belongings.  Fire expected in less than an hour.  Evacuation warning: Evacuate soon, but there is time to gather belongings quickly. Shelter in place: It is safer to stay in your current location.  Preparation What to know – Resources Know your neighborhood escape route. Work with family and neighbors if applicable. Make copies of important documents like passports, insurance policies, birth certificates. Then put them in a safe deposit box. Fire Department Risk Assessment Request a visit your local Fire Department representative for a free vegetation management inspection. Cal Fire has a comprehensive brochure and checklists Preparation Pack a “Go Bag” Put it in your Vehicle* What to pack and where to find items you will need *This list was adapted from FireSafe Marin. They also have a comprehensive checklist. Preparation Where to Purchase Disaster Supplies If you are looking […]

Water saving trends, tools and tips for your SF Bay Area landscape Irrigation technology is becoming more efficient. Our post lists trends and tips you can use to irrigation more efficiently.  Smart Irrigation Controller Trends What you need to know about trends in Smart Irrigation Controllers It’s about accessibility! And, cloud storage. Controlling your system on any device anywhere.  All you need is an app. Access using your cell service or WiFi. Remote access on your device enables you to Program the controller. Revise schedules; start and stop. Manage water budgets. They can detect leaks.  User will receive real time notifications, saving precious time and water for homeowners and Property Managers. Programming a Smart Irrigation Controller is more complex Get training or hire a professional To fully utilize their water saving capability a ton of data needs to be entered correctly. For example: soil type, slope information, sun or shade, plant types and type of irrigation. Weather data is accessed via the web or local weather stations. Historical weather data can help with a watering schedule and it can serve as a back up if there is an interruption in service. See our previous blog for rebate information.  Depending on the district, there might still be rebates for purchasing smart irrigation controllers. Irrigation Tips Practices that will save you water Hydrozone your plants It just means grouping your plants by their water needs.  Your drought tolerant plants are mixed in with water loving plants neither will be happy.  You will either have crispy leaves or root rot. Example: seasonal color beds have different water needs from turf areas.  They should have separate valves. Pay attention to the water needs of maturing plants Their water needs may change as they grow. Manage your irrigation system’s water pressure Adjust as needed.  An example: too much pressure will cause runoff and waste water.  Older sprinkler nozzles may need replacing.  See below on trends and tools for irrigation. Irrigation Trends & Tools Spray Irrigation Trends | Pros & Cons It is designed to irrigate with a high volume of water using spray heads. It is best for large turf areas that are wide and flat. Pros It is easy to repair. Spray patterns are adjustable. Water is distributed uniformly. Cons They waste water due to evaporation and runoff. Because water is applied to foliage – there is potential of plant disease. Winds will reduce its efficiency of application. They are only 50-70 percent effective. Trends High efficiency nozzles can reduce water use. We recommend them when appropriate.  “They require longer irrigation run times. “Make sure you are aware of your plant water needs”, says Paul Swanson, thirty-year veteran of GGI and the company’s Director of Business Development. Drip Irrigation Trends| Pros and Cons For plants other than turf, drip is most efficient.  Over 90 percent.  Water is released slowly and directly into the soil from its emitters. Pros The water goes directly to the base of the plant. It costs less to install, than a […]

Take advantage of these 2018 SF Bay Area Water District Rebates while they last. Water conservation rebates for 8 SF Bay Area districts.  Everything you need to know including how much you will save, prerequisites and other details. Plus links to each district. Commercial and residential water district rebates. Most popular are the “cash for grass” programs. Also rebates for efficient irrigation equipment.  Want a printable report? See link below.   EBMUD – Landscape Rebates Residential* Lawn Conversion Rebate** $.50 per square foot of lawn removed. Add $.25 per square foot when you convert the lawn area sprinklers to qualifying in-line drip irrigation Add $1.50 per square foot when you qualify for California’s separate lawn conversion program – residential only. Rebates up to $2,000 **Must have an existing lawn Irrigation equipment rebate – includes Rebate may not exceed $2,000 for residential and multi-family properties (with 4 units or less) Conversion – from sprinklers to in-line drip Replace conventional sprinkler nozzles with high-efficiency ones.  Smart/weather-based controllers to replace conventional ones. Install a system-wide brass/bronze pressure regulator. Irrigation submeter – install a submeter to improve leak detection and manage water use. Commercial & Multi-Family* Lawn Conversion Rebate** $.50 per square foot of lawn removed. Add $.25 per square foot when you convert the lawn area sprinklers to qualifying in-line drip irrigation Rebates Up to $15,000  **You must have an existing lawn Irrigation equipment rebate – includes Rebate may not exceed $12,500 for commercial and large residential properties. For qualifying EBMUD commercial customers Conversion – from sprinklers to in-line drip Replace conventional sprinkler nozzles with high-efficiency ones.  Smart/weather-based controllers to replace conventional ones. Install a system-wide brass/bronze pressure regulator. Irrigation Submeter – Install a submeter to improve leak detection and manage your water use. SFPUC Rebates Residential $2 per square foot of turf removed, for up to 1,000 square feet and a maximum rebate of $2,000 per household. This program is administered by the State of California. Laundry to Landscape Graywater program.  Applies to single-family or 2-unit residential property. For more information. Commercial & Multi-Family There are no SFPUC Commercial rebates MMWD Rebates Residential Up to $50 for each item on the list below Up to $250 for All Five Applies to single-family and duplex residential customers only. Pool covers Organic mulch Laundry-to-landscape system components: Rain barrels Turf conversion Receive up to $2 per square foot – up to $2,000. Per household Program funded by the State of California Commercial Turf conversion Up to $2 per square foot Commercial, industrial and institutional sites, as well as multi-family residential sites in areas served by dedicated irrigation meters are eligible To qualify, a minimum of 1,000 square feet of turf must be removed NMWD Rebates** Residential Cash for Grass program Remove automatically irrigated lawn. Replace with District approved, low-water use planted landscapes. Up to $50 per 100 square feet of lawn area. The incentive is limited to $400 for single family dwellings, $100 for townhouses or condominiums, and $50 for apartments. Weather Based Irrigation Controller Rebate Uses weather […]

California’s New Permanent Water Regulations Explained We explain California’s new permanent water regulations, in plain language. Why it was passed. Its effect on you. Below there is a link to resources that will help you conserve. And, we squish one ridiculous myth flying around the web! Freshly signed into law by Governor Brown, the bills now make water conservation “a way of life” in California.  Bills AB 1668 and SB 606 aim to reduce water usage by twenty percent, per capita by December 31, 2020. Background  While most of California has not been in a drought this year, there are still sections of Southern California in severe to extreme drought . (approximately 21%) Climate research predicts more extreme multi-year droughts as well as severe wet years.* Water use has spiked since Governor Brown’s 2017 announcement that the drought was over. Californians are using 18 percent more water  — nearly the same amount as before the drought emergency was declared. *Climate modeling by Climate Scientist Daniel Swain uncovers another trend – drier autumns with a late onset of the rainy season and a corresponding drier spring.  Source:  published in Nature Climate Change.    Who is affected? All California residents. Why? A high probability of future extreme drought conditions and the need to plan for them. It will motivate agencies to repair old and inefficient infrastructure. What do I need to know? The state mandates local water agencies to establish water use targets based on their respective region’s climate, land use and population.  Indoor water use limit of 55 gallons per person, per day through January 1, 2025.** Outdoor water usage standards are not developed yet.  (includes landscapes and pools).  DWR will study climate and landscapes around the state to determine guidelines. Commercial, institutional and industrial standards will be defined by 2021. **East Bay Municipal Water District website, see link below, has information to help you calculate your own water usage.  There’s also a handy table that lists water usage for showers, sinks, washers and other household appliances. Separating Myth from Fact Myth You can’t shower and wash clothes on the same day. Fact Not true. Most washers now use only 9 to, at the most, 26 gallons of water. An average shower for 8 minutes uses 17 gallons of water.  Some Perspective Average per capita = per person. San Francisco’s average water use is less than 55 gallons per person, per day. There was a 55-gallon standard set for indoor use set almost 10 years ago. The 55-gallon limit is more than what is allowed in some countries in Europe. There are numerous water crises in urban centers all over the world. Water pollution accounts for many of them.  Others, a result of extreme drought.  In all cases, experts say, poor water management is the reason it became a crisis.  Cape Town was expected to run out of water earlier this year, but a last-ditch policy of severe rationing  narrowly avoided a catastrophe.  The city’s doomsday alarm clock was reset for next […]

8 Easy Drought Tolerant Plants for Your SF Bay Area Climate. And, how to care for them. These plants are beautiful and tough. They will save water and add color to your garden. One of these 8 plants will work for your SF Bay Area climate.  Whether you live in the hottest inland part of the San Francisco Bay Area or on the coast. Get the printable version of our report below Download the Report   Lantana Attributes Non-native They come back, year after year. In an array of colors. Colors Pink, purple, yellow, red and orange Bloom times  Spring, summer and fall Light Requirements  Full sun Water Drought tolerant Maintenance Easy; deer resistant Notes Bees and butterflies love them They like well-draining soil Salvia Leucantha (Common Name Mexican Sage) Attributes From Mexico; one of numerous varieties of Salvia Colors This variety is purple Bloom times  Late summer to early frost Light Requirements  Full sun; will tolerate some shade Water Drought tolerant Maintenance Easy to grow Notes Butterflies and hummingbirds love them Hardiness to 15 degrees; tolerates windy conditions Achillea Moonshine (Common Name Yarrow) Attributes Native. Showy flowers that can be dried; fragrant Colors This yarrow flowers are yellow. Bloom times  Early to late summer Light Requirements  Full sun Water Drought tolerant Maintenance Easy; deer resistant Notes Attracts bees, butterflies and other beneficial insects Hardiness Heat tolerant Dietes (Common Name Fortnight Lily) Attributes From Africa, from the Iris family Colors White, yellow or pink flowers Bloom times  Spring to fall Light Requirements  Full sun to partial shade Water Drought tolerant Maintenance Needs regular pruning and deadheading Hardiness Adapts to wind and fog Ceanothus Diamond Heights Attributes Native ground cover or shrub Colors Yellow chartreuse and variegated foliage Bloom times  Spring has pale blue flowers Light Requirements  Shade to part sun Water Drought tolerant Maintenance Easy; deer resistant, pruning not necessary. Hardiness Likes coastal temperatures.  Hardy to 20 degrees Cistus x purpureus (Common Name Rock Rose) Attributes Non-native, fire-resistant, tolerates neglect Colors Bright pink almost purple showy flowers Bloom times  Spring, and summer Light Requirements  Full sun Water Drought tolerant Maintenance Easy; deer resistant Notes White (salvifolius) or light pink (xskanbergii) are adaptable to fog and wind Hardiness Tolerates heat Arctostaphylos Emerald Carpet (Carpet Manzanita) Attributes Native ground cover or shrub; evergreen Colors Deep green foliage, white flowers Bloom times  Winter to spring Light Requirements  Full sun, partial shade Water Drought tolerant Maintenance Easy; deer resistant Notes Bees and butterflies love them Hardiness to 15-20 degrees Penstemon Carillo Red Attributes Native, makes beautiful cut flowers Colors Red tubular-shaped flowers Bloom times  Early to late summer, blooms for 4 weeks or more Light Requirements  Full sun to mostly sunny Water Drought tolerant Maintenance Deer resistant Notes Attracts pollinators Hardiness Tolerates hot dry climates              

Prevention and Control of Top 7 Invasive Weeds Using the Least Toxic Practices Our report on the top 7 invasive weeds in the SF Bay Area was re-worked from one I posted in 2016 weeds typical in the San Francisco Bay Area including the most invasive weeds. The top 7 invasive weeds is focused on the worst for good reason. This summer promises to be hot. Some of the top 7 are highly flammable.  Our treatment options for getting rid of the top 7 emphasize the least toxic solutions. Hand pulling or mechanical means for some, at the right time, can be effective. Our Recommendations We suggest a combination of prevention, mechanical or biological means.  Sometimes a chemical solution is necessary, but only that is so. The results of 2018’s on and off rainfall and intermittent heat waves have seen a prolific  crop of bull thistle (pictured above) and oxalis. See the full report on managing weeds. It includes 13 weed types, prevention and control. Prevention – the First Line of Defense Plant Choices The right plant in the right place sounds simple but makes all the difference.  Healthy vigorous plants have the best chance of out-competing weeds.   Healthy Soil Make sure that plants are healthy by feeding the soil with organic products including mulch and compost. Mulching and Sheet Mulching Mulch keeps soil cool and moist.  It deprives weeds of light.  Organic mulches enhance soil structure and host insects which will devour weeds.  Sheet mulching is layering of cardboard, newsletter or fabric.  It serves as a weed barrier.  Water Management Proper irrigation is critical. We recommend drip because the water goes directly to the root of the plant, not in between them. Spray irrigation can encourage weed growth.   The Most Invasive Weed Types Source: California Invasive Plant Council Remove these plants from your garden!  They damage our ecosystems by leaching nutrients from native species. Some are highly flammable and at the same time consume valuable water. Broom Species (French & Scotch) Plentiful in forests or wooded areas. They spread along roads and appear like small trees. Despite their pretty flowers they are toxic to humans and animals. BEWARE. They are fire hazards. With a hot dry summer coming , get rid of these. Crowds out desirable species by leaching nutrients. Seeds spread by wind Treatment Options Hand pull between January-May Cut to just above ground Cut and treat with an herbicide Fennel or Licorice Plant Seeds spread by wind and competes with other plants for nutrients. They will displace native plants in coastal areas. BEWARE – This plant is also considered a fire hazard. Treatment options Hand pull when soil 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 Showy purple blooms and sharp needle-like leaves. Grows where soil is disturbed. Spreads rapidly. Leaches nutrients from desired plants. Treatment Options Hand pull and step on stem […]

  Sifting through a long list of 2018 trends in landscaping and gardening, we extracted ones more closely pertaining to the San Francisco Bay Area. These important trends reflect our changing climate and how/ what people are planting this year.  Plus there’s a brief, but inspiring case study about an old-fashioned practice made new again. Thank you to our sources: Sunset Garden Design Magazine Gardenista Turf Magazine Houzz Land8.com San Jose Mercury News Container Gardening A growing population millennials and retirees are moving into multi-family and tiny housing.  They want to garden. The answer to their small space challenge is containers. They provide color, texture and structure. There are a myriad of choices you can find from classic to modern.  Rustic to formal. Balcony boxes. See below. Do’s and Don’t’s on Containers Say no to dark colors or clay pots Dark colors get too hot; clay dries out in summer. Best is fiberglass, plastic or glazed pottery. Make sure they have drainage holes. Low Water Container Perennials Succulents are great. Hardy. They usually need full sun. California Poppies are native, hardy and cheerful. Lavender – Depending on your space you might try dwarf varieties.  They need full sun. Edible Container Plants Among the easiest to grow are – Lettuces, kale and herbs. Shallow-rooted, they need a container with a 9-12″ depth. Tomato plants are larger and need a container with a 12-14″ depth. Consider dwarf varieties as well. What You Need Good soil. Know your plant sunlight and water needs. Most edibles will need four-five hours of sun. Mulching will help your soil hold water. Feed the soil with: compost; worm castings. (Gardeners’ Guild has great success with worm castings.  It is odorless, natural and improves soil health). There are also natural products you can purchase at your local nursery. Acclimating Landscapes to Climate Change More people are taking action to prepare for the effects of extreme weather such as drought, wind, severe heat, cold and rain.  Adapting a landscape for a changing climate involves components such as design, plant types, maintenance that includes consistent and correct pruning.  Water management is also critical in acclimating our landscapes. Below are tips on how to prepare for these trends, what you can do and why. High Wind Resistance Plants, trees and retaining walls are used as wind blocks In large areas – plants are installed in a series of staggered rows that re-direct wind around and above. For small areas – a similar concept referred to as a wind screen. Wind isn’t completely blocked but tempered somewhat. Wind Resistant Plant Attributes More flexible stems.  Examples: Escalonia, Ornamental grasses. Fire Resistant Landscapes The Napa and Sonoma fires brought into granular focus three factors: “Defensible space” – a high priority.  The recommended clearance from a structure is 100′.  (More details on this topic in coming months). Planting firewise plants in the right place. (see examples above). Gardeners’ Guild has maintained and planted many of these. Heat Tolerant Plants Our micro-climates are changing. Areas that […]

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They probably will need water. We tell you what to look for – and how – so you know for sure if your plants need water. A Typical Winter Irrigation is normally turned off in the winter. Why? Plants need less water during that time. The soil is cool and moisture evaporates more slowly Moreover, an average rainy season is sufficient for plant needs for moisture This Warm, Dry Winter Requires a Different Plan A tenacious high pressure ridge is firmly in place, pushing rain further and further north. With no probability of wet stuff in the near future, follow the advice below. It will help you know for sure, which plants will need water. These Plants Will Need Water First Young Plants Their water needs are higher than mature plants.  Container Plants Moisture evaporates more quickly when plants are in containers But don’t guess. Know for sure. 1. Purchase a soil probe Where to buy one? Online or at your neighborhood garden center. Get one with a footstep it will be easier on your body. (see photo below) How you will know for sure if your plant needs water. Push the probe from 4-10″ deep into the soil. Make sure the probe goes all the way down to the plant root. Otherwise you won’t know for sure Pull the probe out. Look at the tip for evidence of moisture. The moisture or lack of it will tell you if the plant needs water.  2. Visual Observation Notice if your plants are drooping.  This can be misleading because plants that are drooping could also have a different problem. You could have a drainage problem. That is why a soil probe is important. That’s it!    

A Rebirth for Waldo Point’s Houseboat Community Still standing after over one hundred years, Sausalito’s Waldo Point Harbor sits proudly on the San Francisco Bay.  It is located off Bridgeway at the north end of Sausalito. Yesterday’s exposed electrical wires and other safety hazards is being replaced with beauty and order.  Waldo Point’s Houseboat Community now boasts a new sea wall. The land was raised upwards of 4 feet!  There is fresh new paving. Brand new landscaping with grass, well-mulched planter beds and robust perennials.  Gardeners’ Guild has been involved in the landscape installation portion of the project over the last few years.  Being a part of Waldo Point’s transformation has been immensely gratifying for us. Because of its historic significance we wanted to pass along the story of Waldo Point.  Its colorful history and the events leading to its renewal. As of the posting of this blog, the project is in its final phase of completion. The photos below show it in progress. Future updates will include final photos. Key Project Players Dan Hughes, DVC Group Civil Engineer, project management Betsy Clark, Landscape Architect Designed landscape Cats 4 U Site construction work Gardeners’ Guild Installed landscape A Storied Past The houseboat community’s history has been well chronicled Look Magazine, Smithsonian, The New York Times and San Francisco’s local media. Known as a haven for artists and bohemians, Waldo Point’s popularity surged after the WWII and peaked in the 60’s. It was colorful if chaotic.  Homes constructed from abandoned boats and shared electricity offered hippie squatters a place to indulge in creative self expression without the constraints of societal norms.  Parties were notoriously loud, and the drugs psychedelic. The 1970’s –  A Turning Point Reality in the form of City Hall – came knocking. Building code violations, sewage, shared electrical wires and other safety hazards signaled a turning point in the community’s fortunes. City officials ordered the community to invest in repairs.  Indignant, the residents were defiant.  Bitter clashes ensued.  Two long decades would pass before urgently needed remedial work would be approved.  And, as time passed Waldo Point’s demographics were quietly changing. By the year 2000, it was a different community that soberly acknowledged their dangerous infrastructure and took action. The Floating Home Association is Born The newly formed resident’s organization began meeting with local officials and professionals to plan for badly needed improvements. At this point their project was guided by stringent requirements laid out by the Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC). Rising Sea Level and Sinking Land Flooded parking lot at least once a year.  See photo above. At times flooding could sometimes flow toward Bridgeway, a main Sausalito artery. Drainage problems resulted from salt water leakage into storm drains, corroding underground utility lines Causing unsanitary conditions Dangerous Infrastructure Many houseboats were not up to code Numerous safety hazards Exposed electrical wires along the decks made walking hazardous Ramshackle docks were in danger of falling No Landscaping The residents wanted trees, plants and grass to soften […]