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 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 […]

Last weekend, Robert Mercado, Manager at Gardeners’ Guild helped the Girl Scouts of Sonoma Valley pick up Christmas trees from 42 residents. The troop also collected $300 in donations. Christmas trees, (shown below) are loaded in Robert’s trailer headed for recycling. Troop #10240 brought much end-of-holiday cheer to residents glad to have one item crossed off their 2018 To Do list!     

I’ve updated our post about drainage from March of this year. We talk again about solutions to landscape drainage problems. There is additional detail added including graphics that describe the drainage problems and solutions. One of the solutions described below is a dry creek bed. It was a project of Gardeners’ Guild at Spring Lake Village. 1. Hardscape with Standing Water Includes patios, pavers, driveways, parking lots and steps. If these areas have had standing water for some time it could be due to these issues listed below Improper grading Your hardscape may not have the proper slope and is directing water toward the building foundation.  Blocked drains Tree roots, leaves, mulch and other debris can blow into the drain from winds and rain Corroded pipes Over time, your drainage pipes deteriorate and will eventually collapse. The Risks Water can put your structure’s foundation at risk. Storm water carries with it chemicals, debris, dirt, pesticides and other toxins. Solutions for Standing Water  Regrading.  Over time a property will settle. Clear out drain grates and pipes (make a plan for their regular future maintenance) Arrange gravel around the perimeter of drain grate to deter debris from blowing in. On larger hardscaped commercial property areas more drains may be required. 2. Flooded Turf The culprit can be grading but a more likely offender is compacted soil. Summer drought conditions and degraded soil will shrink pore space that normally accepts water and nutrients. High foot traffic will also contribute to soil compaction. You can identify it by its hard surface. Soil texture needs to be loose enough to allow water to pass through. Clay soil, common in the San Francisco Bay Area is the opposite! The Risks When water pools on top for a prolonged period, turfgrass will decline and rot. You can observe it by smell – foul odor.  You will also notice grey, red or orange spots and insects. Solutions for Flooded Turf Re-grading Aeration. The soil is perforated which opens up its pores to allow nutrients and moisture. (See graphic above) Build a dry creek bed.  It is a gully or a trench usually lined with stones and edged with plants to mimic the look of a stream.  They are beautiful and will help with drainage. See example below. 3. Flooded Planter bed and other planted areas   A planted area or bed should be designed to allow the water to flow out and be distributed to other areas.  A proper slope needs to be calculated with a site level during the design process. The Risk Plant root damage will occur if soil is saturated for a prolonged period. When soil’s abililty to absorb water is tapped out it is considered saturated. Solutions for Flooded Planter Beds Re-grading will help with slope problem. Correcting this involves directing surface water to the lowest spot on the property which will empty into a drainage ditch, catch basin or well. Good options include: Creed beds (illustration above) French drains Bioswales. Increasingly popular and […]

San Francisco Street Tree Maintenance Implementation Schedule The passage of Proposition E last November, was welcome news for San Francisco property owners. There is, however, a lengthy start up period as San Francisco’s street tree maintenance implementation doesn’t begin until 2019. Depending on the type, health or age of the tree, waiting until that time could be problematic. Consider That Trees Should be Evaluated Annually It is ideal to have an Arborist evaluate a tree’s condition and advise if pruning is necessary. Generally, some trees may need annual pruning. Others bi-annually and others an “as needed” basis. Reasons for pruning a tree. Maintain its health Reduce risk of failure from dead or weak branches Improve tree structure Save a storm or wind damaged tree Safety Provide clearance Mitigate risk that weak branches could fall Other reasons Improve aesthetics Manage flower or fruit production San Francisco’s Responsibility – A snapshot Effective as of July 1st San Francisco Street Tree Maintenance Responsibility Includes Maintaining all San Francisco street trees within The City limits Any sidewalk repair due to tree root damage Any injuries and property damage resulting from failure to maintain the trees Street Tree Maintenance Implementation Schedule Order of Priority First – trees in decline or that pose safety threats. This work is expected to last two years. Routine pruning schedule will be posted July 2018 Routine pruning will not start until 2019 Trees will be subsequently scheduled for pruning every 3-5 years. Exclusions Any tree pruning requests from The City prior to July 1st. The property owner is responsible for that work. Sidewalk repair not due to tree roots. San Francisco’s Urban Forest Vision Proposition E, the ordinance describing The City’s street tree maintenance program is Phase I of an overall vision for growing San Francisco’s Urban Forest. It was a collaboration of SF Public Works, and Friends of the Urban Forest.  Trees were inventoried and placed on a map Friends of the Urban Forest highlights their goals as Increase The City’s street trees by 50%. There are currently 125,000 street trees. Improve maintenance efficiency and effectiveness Ensure a more equitable distribution of trees throughout San Francisco’s neighborhoods If You Choose to not Wait Until 2019 for Routine Street Tree Pruning Guidelines haven’t been formalized. You can have your trees evaluated and/or schedule work without opting out.  The City only asks for information that assures them that your Arborist conforms to ISA standards.  It can be sent in an email that includes Name of the Arborist Description of work and location A statement that asserts that the work will meet ISA standards Gardeners’ Guild is consulting with clients and non-clients whose trees have not been tagged but want work done now. Call us if you have questions about tree care. (510) 439-3700. SF Department of Public Works will also answer your questions. (415) 554-6700  

Order Poinsettias help North Bay fire victims Gardeners’ Guild is launching this campaign for the 2017 holiday season because of the catastrophic effects the wildfires have had on San Francisco North Bay residents.  It will take a lot of support for survivors to rebuild their lives.  And, Gardeners’ Guild wants to help.  The “how” of – Order Poinsettias help North Bay fire victims.   Gardeners’ Guild will donate 10% of each poinsettia order to help North Bay fire victims.  When to Order Poinsettias Now.  Our nurseries grow limited quantities and to ensure availability Order by the second week in November. Readers Digest calls the Poinsettia “the official flower of Christmas”.  Their cheerful colors and air cleaning properties are a winning combination.  What is included* Poinsettia delivery to your office. Maintanence from November 28th through first week in January.  Removal is the first week in Janary *See more details below about Poinsettia options colors and sizes. Gardeners’ Guild Interior Division Our interior division services San Francisco, East Bay including Richmond, Emeryville, Berkeley, Oakland; as well as Marin. We do interior plant maintenance as well as installation of plants and containers.  Lease or purchase options. Poinsettia Care Poinsettias are temperamental. They need just the right light and moisture to last through the holidays.  Leave it to us to maintain expertly. They need strong indirect light, love moisture but not too much and warmish temperatures.  How to order Interior Account Manager Angela Wrath can take your order and answer any questions. Direct: (510) 439-3707

Our hearts go out to everyone impacted by the north bay wildfires. Massive swaths of Santa Rosa decimated within hours.  Countless numbers of residents now homeless.  Other evacuees, anxiously praying for a home to return to. October, with its notorious Santa Ana winds, is upon us. Below are tips for keeping your property and family as safe as possible from fire damage. Keeping Property Safe – What We Can Do We can’t outrun Mother Nature.   But, there are actions we can take to blunt her effects. Example. It was impossible to stop the fire’s path of destruction on Sunday with 50 MPH winds.  But, we can minimize danger by creating a buffer between trees and structures.  The Cal fire website is loaded with educational materials on fire prevention. They advise on creating a “defensible space” around your home or building.  This is the best protection from the ravages of fire.  Secondarily, they suggest replacing highly flammable plants with those known to be more fire retardant. Summary of Cal Fire’s Ready Set Go Action Planner. Minimize nearby plants and create a buffer zone Zone 1 – Priority – Create a 30 foot buffer between your structure and any nearby wildlife by Trim all nearby tree canopies, remove leaf litter, and all vegetation near windows Cutting back low level flammable vegetation that can ignite a nearby tree Zone 2 – Create a 30 to 100 feet buffer Remove what Cal fire terms “ladder fuels” including low level grasses and other debris Secondary Actions to Safeguard your Property Cal Fire has a list of the most fire retardant construction materials They recommend touring a fire-ready home Included are details on advance planning for evacuation and a checklist Check out their handy infographic with tips on one page. Stay safe.