2 Reasons this Urban Multifamily Community Garden is Thriving People are growing their own food in bigger number than ever before.  In urban areas this trend is surging, particularly in multifamily communities.  These communities include apartments and condominium associations.  It enhances the sense of community and increases property values.  An NYU study in 2006 (the last one we saw) found that regardless of the neighborhood’s income level, property values increased up to 9.5 percent. This month we’re talking about a client garden in Oakland and the reasons for its success.  It’s one thing to start a garden.  But, maintaining it requires a different set of skills, knowledge and time.  We’ve distilled the success of this multfamily’s garden to these two factors. How they are maintained.  It’s actually not the how – but who. Their vegetable garden pictured above is maintained by someone outside of the multifamily community.  Gardeners’ Guild performs the maintenance, but it doesn’t have to be us, or any company. It can be one or two people.  The key to its success is that the gardener is outside of the community. It’s a cleaner relationship.  No entanglements with the community.  See our explanation below. Fundamental for plant survival is – the right plant/right place; soil and proper amount of water and light But that’s not everything. How an Outside Gardener Helped Make this Garden Successful This is especially relevant for urban multifamily housing like homeowner’s associations or apartments.  Many of these residents are super busy and don’t have time to maintain a garden.  Yet these urban communities recognize the benefits of an edible garden. It is convenient.  Healthier and less expensive. The realities of plant maintenance, however, can sometimes undo all the hard work of planting an edible garden. We’ve seen it happen.  Plant problems occur.  The solution rests on a board or committee burdened by multiple priorities. Sometimes there is disagreement among the group on a solution. The garden may suffer.  When the maintenance is done outside the community it takes all the guesswork, planning and scheduling off the shoulders of residents.  They can enjoy their edibles without being pulled into the work of managing them. Some residents and/or committee members may be horticultural experts, equally experienced with maintenance. However, if they don’t have the time, or have conflicting loyalties, it could impede the garden’s success. If you choose to outsource the maintenance of your edible garden Develop a garden maintenance scope of work that includes these basics. Watering – either with irrigation or hand watering.  Keep in mind hand watering takes more time and will cost you more. If irrigation, make sure your gardener understands how to program and troubleshoot problems. Pruning – excess foilage helps direct their growth, let in light and helps protect from disease.  If they become overgrown it is harder to access air and nutrients.  Thinning -this is important so that each plant has sufficient space to grow and mature. Weeding Fertilizing – type of fertilizer and frequency will depend on the […]

Primary Landscape Trends for 2019 We notice some landscape trends return year after year.  They remain on the list because their popularity is still soaring.  Like edible and community gardens. These two are big – and encouraging.  More people are embracing plants – indoors and out.  Millennials are spending a lot of money on plants. And, Generation Z – loves them!  Gardens that save water, benefit the environment, are low maintenance and –  gardens that heal and feed.  They are everywhere.  Not just in the west.  Healing Gardens More hospitals and institutions are incorporating gardens.  Since we know that gardens can heal the mind and,the body, Horticultural therapy is a increasingly recognized profession.  How plants help in institutional settings. Alzheimers and dementia patients Patients with mental illness Improves hormonal balance Decreases violence by 19% Interior Plants are More Popular Than Ever From Garden Media’s annual report. Pinterest searches for indoor plants are up 90 percent. National Gardening Association found that 30 percent of all households bought at least one hourplant last year.  Millennials are driving this trend – they represent 31 percent of houseplant sales. People who spend a lot of time indoors behind a screen are craving nature.  Bringing the outdoors in – is a no-brainer. One organization in New Zealand has identified how apartment dwellers are using plants in their homes. Putting “masses of indoor plants on modular shelves.” Aranged for easy maintenance. At home they are not using living walls – too high maintenance. A partial list of indoor plants with the best air cleaning attributes (according to NASA)* Boston Fern Bamboo Palm Agloenema Sansevieria Ficus Benjamina Anthuriums Spathiphyllum Dracaenas (Marginata and Massangeana) Pothos See our website for photos of the above plants and others we use in our service. *Bill Wolverton, former NASA research scientist who conducted the 1989 plant study favors golden pothos.  He suggests placing two good sized plants per 100 feet of interior space.  He reminds us that they make people feel happier, reduce stress, improve mood and energy levels. ​Office Building Trends Sustainable design and bringing nature inside was once a new trend.  Now these concepts are the standard and essential for attracting talent. It’s called “Biophilic design”. Designers also integrate views, natural lighting and climate to mirror the outdoor environment. One study by Harvard University found that – In a strategically designed green office, employees had on average 61% higher cognitive function than their non-green counterparts. Big picture, sustainable buildings are just one aspect of what is called – healthy buildings.   Spaces are being designed with the employees’ well being in mind.  One example is relaxation or quiet spaces, featuring soft and comfortable seating; mini fridges.  Community Gardens The Trust for Public Land says this trend has grown 44% since 2012. 22% since last year.  Most community gardens grow edible plants.  The biggest way they make a difference is by providing low cost healthy food for underserved communities.  It’s hard to envision living in an area without a major grocery […]

Rose Pruning is Easier Than You Think! Our tips and tools give you all the basics to make it easy.  We tell you when and how. Plus advise you on the best tools to make it safe.  And, easy.  Straight from the experts.  Including a video. The Goal of Rose Pruning We call it the 3 D’s!  Remove DEAD, DISEASED or DAMAGED.  Remember this when you look at your roses. Another goal of pruning is to Increase air circulation. Shape your plant. Encourage growth on flowering wood. You want new, fresh canes.  They produce more and healthier roses than older ones.  Tools for Rose Pruning Safety Take precautions to yourself because thorns are very sharp.  Scratches and punctures from them can get infected. Having the right pruner is a big step toward making it easy. Rose Pruners that we recommend There are two types of pruners.  Anvil and Bypass pruners.  We recommend Bypass. Anvil pruners are not as sharp and do not make clean cuts.  See examples below. Bypass  Pruner – Our recommendation.  Note the curved blades in the illustration below.  What makes them effective is that the two curved blades cross eachother while cutting. It’s the key to getting a sharp clean cut.  Otherwise you risk injuring your plant. Anvil Pruner – They are not sharp and will tend to rip the cain.  You can see the difference as the blade is flat and flush against the back side. Gloves – San Francisco Rose Society, a trusted authority on roses, recommends thick leather gloves to protect you from sharp thorns. For more protection, there is the gauntlet which protects above the wrist.  See below. Clothes  – Should be thick and hard enough to protect you.  Long sleeves are a must.  SF Rose Society recommends a leather jacket. About Rose Canes Cane – It’s the stem of a rose.  It grows from the trunk.  A young cane is bright, smooth and green or a mahogony color. See illustration below showing a healthy cane. Old or dying canes are wrinkled and gray.  See dead gray cane below. When and How to Prune Roses Because of the mild San Francisco Bay Area climate, we  recommend pruning roses in February.  Our pruning tips are broken out below by three basic types of roses.  Carpet roses (sometimes called shrub or ground cover roses.) Climbing roses.  And, Floribundas and Grandiflora roses. The illustration below shows you proper pruning – how to make the cut. Floribunda and Grandiflora Roses They are the most popular roses in the San Francisco Bay Area and are pruned similarly. The Master Gardener video posted below is a great tutorial on pruning this type of rose. See the example below of a Grandiflora rose bush Remove any damaged, diseased, weak or broken canes, until there is only healthy growth. Cut back about one fourth to one third of the current year’s growth. Cut the center branch from each cluster of branches. Cut the remaining ones back to 3-4 undeveloped growth buds. Important […]

How to know when you should replace your plants How do your plants look?  Are they attractive, healthy and vigorous?  There are a few factors that deterrmine how they look.   Your plant’s maturity.  Are they in the beginning or end of their lifecycle? Are they planted in the right place?  This will determine how well they thrive. Maintenance is important.  But maintenance cannot compensate for plants that are past their prime or are planted in the wrong place.  We have seen numerous examples of plants in the wrong place that, in spite of diligent management, will never thrive.   Knowing Your Plant’s Useful Lifecycle is the first step With the right maintenance practices some plants can live for many years.  Ten, twenty, thirty and long beyond that.Others have a finite lifespan at which time they will need to be replaced. Do you have a shrub that looks awful?  Woody? Has it stopped producing foliage?  Like the rosemary depicted above? Can your plant can be saved with renovative pruning?  Or is it time to replace it?  An ugly looking plant reflects badly on your property.You will need to either rejuvenate or replace it. Know which options your plants need depends on their type.  Don’t spend your valuable time resurrecting a dying plant when it is better to replace it with a plant or plants that enhance your property.  Conversley, replacing mature plants cost money.  Make sure you know whether your plants can be rejuvenated. Be knowledgeable.  Then plan.Below are some examples of plants types and their expected lifespan. AnnualsTheir lifecycle is typically one year.  And, they bloom consistently. BiennialsTypically they complete their lifecycle in two years. Perennials Plants that live for more than two years.Horticulturalists categorize perennials as to woody or herbaceous.A woody perennias are trees and shrubs.Herbaceous perennials are non-woody plants that that flower during a specified time period and usually die back in the fall.Their lifecycle will depend on plant type and their environment How to Know When Your Plant Has Completed its Lifecycle A simple answer is – it becomes unsightly.Some plants that become woody and stop producing foliage should be removed.There are some exceptions – or plants that can be revived. Below are some examples of plants with a finite lifespan   Ceanothus has an average lifespan of ten years. At the very most – fifteen years. You can tell when it needs to be removed when the plant becomes sparse and it looks unsightly. Pruning regularly to remove older shoots will help extend their life.    Cistus’ lifespan is approximately ten years.  You will know know when it is time to replace your Cistus (Rock Rose). Because it will become very woody and will produce less and less flowers. Below are some examples of Perennials with a longer lifespanThey can be rejuvendated with appropriate pruning Photinia is usually grown as a hedge for screening purposes. A moderate grower. Reaches maturity in about 12 years. They can live for fifty years – with good care. Pinch […]

Gardeners’ Guild will deliver Poinsettias to your SF Bay Area office Having Poinsettias delivered will put a smile on your face.  Your office mates will thank you. Our interior division services San Francisco and the East Bay as well as Marin, Sonoma and Napa Counties. Limited quantities available.  Order today. Your poinsettia order options* Either with or without maintenance Sizes 4”,6” 8” or 10″ Poinsettia in a decorative foil sleeve We will maintain them from November 28th through first week January *A delivery charge may apply.  Replacements are at an additional cost. Colors Red, white, burgundy and pink What you should know if you want to maintain them yourself.   Poinsettias are temperamental need just the right light and moisture to last through the holidays.  This is why having a professional maintenance is the best option, especially for a commercial building. They need strong indirect light, love moisture but not too much and warmish temperatures.  Avoid drafty areas.  Keep them inside. Poinsettias aren’t poisonous but they can cause mild irrigation in puppies or kittens.  Best to keep them away. And, they won’t harm people.  An Ohio State University study found that a 50-pound child would have to eat 500 leaves for any harmful effect to occur. How to order Contact Angela Wrath Phone (510) 439-3707 Email awrath@gardenersguild.com

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