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Erosion Damage

The flooded trees and shrubs shown above are caused by erosion


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.  

Hillside Erosion Damage

Note the vertical ridges running down the hill. Evidence of erosion damage


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 will degrade right into the soil. 

Stake them on each side of the wattle and in the center.
Leave 2-3 inches of the stake protruding from the top.

Make sure there is no space between the trench and straw wattles – crucial for its success

Straw Wattles and Jute Netting on a Slope

Straw Wattles and Jute Netting on a Slope (more about Jute Netting below)


Mulch

Mulch helps control erosion.  However, it may need to be secured with jute netting.
Scroll down to read about jute netting.

Organic materials are recommended, even though we in the San Francisco Bay Area have the added concerns of wildfire.

Shredded bark is the best mulch for controlling erosion by stabilizing your slope.  (See photo below)
It binds to the soil more effectively.  A benefit – as it decomposes will impart nutrients to the soil.
No large wood chips.  They are attractive but will float down your hillside in the next rainstorm.
Do not use gorilla hair mulch.  This material is extremely flammable.

If your hillside is completely exposed, cover it completely with mulch that is at least two or three inches.  Some experts recommend more.  This lessens the impact of rain or wind.

Other options can include gravel or rock.

Cedar Mulch for Slopes

We recommend Cedar Mulch.  Note: the color and texture can vary depending on the supplier


Jute Netting 

As said above, jute netting may be needed to secure your mulch, depending on how steep your slope is.

Also called erosion control netting, or a jute blanket, this product is a fantastic way to protect your slope from erosion.  Like wattles, it’s all-natural.  Mesh – made of 100% biodegradable material (from the jute plant) that will decompose right into the landscape. The eco-friendly material is beneficial for the soil and the open weave lets in light to stimulate plant growth. Plus, it’s inexpensive.

This erosion control method is not recommended for every slope:  It may not work for slopes that are very steep, sandy, or rocky hillsides, or slopes impacted by wildfire.  Talk to a professional.

You can install jute netting directly on exposed soil of a slope, or on top of mulch, to secure it in place.

Where to purchase
It is widely available online and at your local home improvement store.

How to install
Dig a trench at the top of the slope to anchor the netting (experts say either 6 – 8″ wide)
The trench should be about 2-3 feet from the peak of the slope.
Affix the top end of the netting with stakes and/or staples into the trench and backfill.
Begin rolling the netting down the slope.  The number of jute netting rolls will depend on the width of your slope.
Once the entire area is covered, fasten with anchor pins/or staples.

Note: The link above is to a PDF with instructions on installing jute netting by the US Department of Agriculture.

Jute Netting Project

Jute Netting for Erosion Control – Project in Progress


Sources

I used several sources to compile this information.

USDA – They have a downloadable PDF on jute netting

UC Agriculture and Natural Resources – They have lots of information on erosion.

UC Master Gardeners


 

 

 

offices Integrating nature

Bringing the outdoors inside


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. 

What employees want in the workspace

What employees say they need for their well-being


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

WorkDesign Magazime


A great article – it explores the trend of employees’ desire to be connected to nature.  It suggests that merging the outdoors with interior workspaces will enhance their experience. As employers are challenged to attract workers back to the office, they need to recognize that preference.

Gensler Survey


Gensler is a global design and architecture firm.  Their research found “people are expecting health and wellness to be built into everything.” 

A 2019 workplace survey found that employers are “facing mounting pressure to synergize indoor and outdoor spaces, nudge healthy behaviors, and support a sense of psychological well-being”. This is in part because working from home (a trend even before COVID) has provided easier access to the outdoors and nurtured their need for a healthy lifestyle which is increasingly important to them.

Resimercial - a new term


No, this is not a typo.  The term cropped up in the last year, describes an emerging trend.  It’s an interior design approach incorporating home-like comforts to an office.  Architectural Design firm, Planforce describes resimercial design as having three aspects.  One is natural elements.  Elaborated in their March blog post. “The fancy term is biophilic design, but it really just means embracing more plants or elements that are reminiscent of nature.”

Healthy, Relaxed, and Green

All the above quotes and links to articles about the trend toward merging the outdoors with the indoors have been building for several years. COVID brought this to the forefront.  Employees’ message is loud and clear.  They want a workplace that reflects their values – healthy, more relaxed, and aligned with nature.

One Example


Big tech has always known that a big part of attracting and retaining talent is providing a workplace more integrated with nature.

Amazon’s (not surprising) building features three giant glass domes called “The Spheres”. Growing inside are 40,000 plants.  A profile in Seattle “Curbed” features a giant photo (I bet their employees never go home). 

How to incorporate plants in your office

Their legions of benefits are well documented.  (Stress reduction, cognitive improvement; enhanced creativity, and mood).

Good Earth, a Southern California Plant Company has great ideas for where to position plants in your office.  Some of them are listed below.

  • At the entrance for a welcoming, friendly first impression.
  • If you have a lobby or reception desk, put plants on the security guard desk.  Rotated color – meaning Orchids or Bromeliads are especially pretty for their color and texture.
  • Concentrate plant displays where they are visible to employees who do much of the work.
  • Use plants as dividers to separate work areas. (Regardless of social distancing).
  • Living walls.
  • In restrooms and break rooms.
  • Positioning larger plant pots, in multiple locations in the edges and corners of a room has a great positive benefit and softens hard lines.

Looking for more plant ideas?

Look through our catalog of plants

They are color-coded based on their light requirements.
Plants with the highest air cleaning properties are marked.

There are many factors to consider, size, whether they are a table or floor plant.

Do they grow upright and narrow?
Or short and wide?

GGI Interior Plant Catalog


Call us (510) 439-3728

 

 

Dry Creek Bed - North Bay

North Bay Drought-Stricken Creek

 


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 of SF Bay Area Drought

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)

How to water trees

How to water trees


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 professional.

Consider

  • Spray to drip conversion – it will save water.
  • Smart controller – it adjusts according to weather and will save water.
  • Irrigation audit to determine your system’s efficiency.

Check for rebates – See attached for details

Plants – Evaluate and Prioritize.

University of California suggests you prioritize the care of high-value plants such as trees, (as stated above) shrubs, groundcover, and herbaceous perennials.

Lawns and bedding plants can be re-established more easily and less expensively.

Start planning now.  Depending on your location, dry, brown turf areas can be a fire hazard.  You may need to replace your lawn with mulch and drought-tolerant plants.

Check for rebates – See attached for details

Mulch

Applying mulch will help the soil retain water.

There are many types of mulch, including tree service mulch, which is free, except for the cost of spreading.  Gravel is another increasingly popular form of mulch.

Mulch

One type of mulch


Additional Tips and Tools

Root zone moisture products such as Hydretain, will help supplement watering.

Rebates – some water districts are offering them for turf conversion and irrigation upgrades. 
Some offer free mulch.
See the downloadable list of rebates by district

What Gardeners’ Guild is doing

  • Tracking water districts in our service area for water policy updates.
  • Supplying you with tips on allocating water usage to save plants and trees.
  • Guidance on how to best prepare for any mandatory water rationing.
  • Tracking rebates and any updated information.
  • Helping clients to prioritize plants by their value.

Final Thoughts and Cautious Optimism

The above quote was taken out of context.  I found it encouraging, but there will be variances depending on the plant type, its age, landscape, and its environment.  More than anything it speaks to the extent that plants are over-watered.  

Some additional notes.

The drought has compounded the risk of wildfire.  Be mindful that a dry landscape can be at risk. Plan what plants you want to stop watering and/or plants you want to remove and what they will be replaced with.  This is essential.

We want and need attractive landscapes.  They make a difference in our well-being.  It just means we will need to re-invent how we manage them.

Talk with a professional who can help you plan.

We will continue to do our part – updating you on water district policies, rebates, how to plan, short and long term for adapting your landscape to the drought.


 

 

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. 

 

Landscape Drainage Problem

Landscape Drainage Problem


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.

French Drain

French Drain


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.

catch drain

Catch Drain


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.

Channel Drain

Channel Drain


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.

Bioswale

Bioswale


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. 

Grading

Grading in progress


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 be clay soil, heavy equipment use, foot traffic, or excessive tillage.  This will constrict soil pore spaces making them unable to absorb air or water.  One solution is to amend the soil with products like compost, worm castings, or other organic materials.  This will boost the population of microorganisms that are needed to create larger pores. The consistency of healthy soil is loose and crumbly and teeming with microorganisms.  Use the image below as a guideline.

Healthy Soil

Healthy Soil


Permeable hardscapes

Also called pervious (concrete) paving. Cheaper than standard concrete paving, more attractive, and better for the environment!  Plus, developers and designers love it.  In fact, it’s listed as one of EPA’s Best Management Practices.  Being porous, rainwater will drain directly into the soil, naturally filtering it, before running off.  Perfect for patios and driveways.

For more details, see our previous post on permeable pavers.

Prevent Problems by Managing your Drainage System

Be proactive.  Learn what to look for.

If you have a landscape contractor, make sure they understand how to spot drainage problems in the landscape.  A simple example – keep your soil from becoming compacted by regular aeration (if you have turf) and regularly input organic products to maintain its healthy structure.

And, call us with any questions.

Wishing you safety and good health.

(510) 439-3700

Once a field of dried grass and weeds it’s now a four-acre oasis of cool green grass, mulch and drought resistant plantings with walking trails, picnic areas, open space, a gazebo and colorful play structures.

Northgate Park is a brand new park in Vallejo and Gardeners’ Guild is proud of its work on this large commercial project.  Our contribution included extensive site development, layout, concrete work, site furnishings, play structures, plant and tree installation, drainage, slope work, erosion control and irrigation.

See the dramatic before and after photos!

Northgate Park - BEFORE

Northgate Park AFTER