Bay Friendly Gardening: From Your Backyard to the Bay


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Bay Friendly Gardening: From Your Backyard to the Bay

  1. 1. Bay-FriendlyGardening your backyFrom yard to the Bay
  2. 2. T he Bay-Friendly Gardening Program was developed to encourage residents to make environmentally friendly gardening choices. It is not a particular style, but an approach that works with nature to reduce waste and protect the watersheds of the San Francisco Bay. Bay-Friendly Gardening is a program of theAlameda County Waste Management Authority and Source Reduction & Recycling Board, also known asStopWaste.Org.Resources available to Alameda County residents through the Bay-Friendly Gardening Program include: • Bay-Friendly Gardening Workshop Series • Bay-Friendly Garden Tour Bay-Friendly Gardening • Bay-Friendly Garden Registration is a trademark and • Master Composter Training servicemark developed • Bay-Friendly Partner Nurseries and owned by • Low-Cost Compost Bins StopWaste.Org. • Compost Information HotlineVisit for more information, or call the Compost Info Hotline at (510) 444-SOIL (7645).Project Team Jeanne Nader - Alameda County Waste Management Authority • Jennifer Ketring - Green Logic Consulting • Anne Hayes, Principal Writer Cindy Nelson, Associate WriterThanks to the following agencies and representatives for contributing to the first edition: Alameda Countywide Clean Water Program Louise Cervantes Bio-Integral Resource Center Tanya Drlik East Bay Municipal Utility District Susan Handjian and Chris Finch The Watershed Project Sharon Farrell and Jen BrownA special thanks to the following Alameda County gardeners for sharing their gardening wisdom: Mike Geltz and Grant Minix, Oakland Ann Hutcheson-Wilcox, Oakland Marla Lee, Alameda Kathleen McCabe-Martin, Fremont Bill Merrill and Ellen Train, Fremont Wanda Nusted, Berkeley Jim O’Laughlin, Sunol Gail Schino, San Leandro Libby Teel, Oakland Disclaimer Kat Weiss, Livermore The information presented in this guide is provided as a public serviceCredits by the Alameda County Waste Management Authority and Recycling David Gilmore, Graphic Design Board, also known as StopWaste.Org. Joal Morris, Illustrations This information is not a substitute Kwai Lam, Rachel Michaelsen, Richard Rollins, for the exercise of sound judgement in Tamara Shulman, Photographs particular circumstances and is not intended as recommendations forPrinted on 100% post-consumer recycled paper with soy-based inks. particular products or services.2nd Edition. January 2008 4
  3. 3. Table of Contents Chapter 1: Gardening for a Sense of Place . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 Chapter 2: Into the Garden — Look Before You Leap . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18 Chapter 3: Gardening from the Ground Up . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27 • The Nitty Gritty on Soil . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27 • Building and Protecting Healthy Soil . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29 • Choosing Appropriate Plants . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30 • Putting Plants in Their Place . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36 Chapter 4: Gardening Day to Day and Through the Seasons . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40 • All About Composting . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41 • Worm Composting . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 45 • About Feed the Soil . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 49 • Mulch Basics. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 52 • Grasscycling Is Easy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 55 • Water Conservation and Bay-Friendly Gardening . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 57 • Pruning for Plant Health . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 60 • Pruning for Plant Structure. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 60 • Integrated Pest Management. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 62 • Contending with Weeds . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 65 Chapter 5: Gardening for the Birds and the Bees . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 70 Chapter 6: If You Don’t Own the Land . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 75 • Hiring Help . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 78 Chapter 7: Resources. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 79 Garden Design Survey. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 81East Bay Garden Profiles Local and Appropriate: Blending Styles in San Leandro . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16 Low Cost, High Satisfaction: Reuse and Renovation in an Oakland Garden . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17 The Play of Air and Light: Kid-Friendly Gardening in Berkeley . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26 Calm and Colorful: Creating an Urban Retreat in Oakland . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34 Doing Away with the Lawn: From Conventional to Bay-Friendly in Livermore . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39 A Tradition of Innovation: Growing Organic Edibles in Sunol . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 46 If You Build It: Gardening for Wildlife in Fremont . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 72 Gardening Tips Words from the Wise: Gardening tips have been gathered from Host gardeners from past Bay- local landscapers, organizations, books Friendly Garden Tours share and other resources.Tips of all sorts insights from their gardening can be found in each chapter. experiences. Look for these anecdotes scattered throughout the guide. 5
  4. 4. We live in an
  5. 5. 1amazing place. Gardening for a Sense of Place Gardening for a Sense of Place n the edge of a continent, bounded by deserts and mountains, California is a land of spectacular natural beauty. It is also a land of extremes — within our borders are the highest and lowest points in the lower 48 states. California also boasts a Mediterranean our towns and neighborhoods. The Sausal climate. A handful of places — regions that Creek watershed in Oakland covers just over lie between 30 and 40 degrees latitude on four square miles; Alameda Creek drains an the western limits of a continent — share area of almost 700 square miles, carrying California’s exceptional climate. The water from the inland cities of Livermore, Mediterranean basin, the Western Cape of Dublin, and Pleasanton into the bay. Africa, Central Chile, southwest and south Australia, and much of the state of The bay is a great mixing ground that is California: these are the only areas on the tremendously fertile and full of life. Fresh planet that experience our mild water meets salt water in its northeastern temperatures. Furthermore, each of these reaches; drifting phytoplankton form the regions is defined for half the year by the base of a complex food web that includes absence of rain. hundreds of thousands of resident and migratory birds. The bay is also a repository The Watershed of the for many abiotic elements — including San Francisco Bay urban runoff. Seventy-five percent of California’s annual Wherever there are surfaces that water can precipitation falls north of Sacramento. not penetrate, such as rooftops, driveways, Some of this area — 40 percent of the state streets, and parking lots, rain quickly runs — lies in the watershed of the San Francisco off. It picks up whatever it flows across — Bay. Two rivers, the Sacramento and San litter, motor oil, sediment, pesticides and fer- Joaquin, are the main channels of a system tilizers, plant debris — and carries it to near- that covers 60,000 square miles. by storm drains, which lead to our creeks, Immediately surrounding the bay are many which empty into the bay. smaller watersheds — the hills and valleys of 7
  6. 6. The bay contains high levels of some pesticides, Standard gardening practice is to remove all plantincluding diazinon. All Bay Area creeks have been debris off-site, to landfills or large compost facili-listed by the EPA as impaired by diazinon, which ties, which effectively mines our soils of organicis toxic to birds, mammals, honey bees, and other matter. Urban soils have often been compacted,beneficial insects. eroded, and so depleted that they are no longer able to function naturally. By keeping plant debris The ubiquity of diazi- and fruit and vegetable trimmings on-site in the Diazinon is highly non in Bay Area water- form of mulch and compost, we restore the soil’s toxic to freshwater ways illustrates the ability to absorb water or filter pollutants. fish and invertebrates impact that gardeners Returning organic matter to the soil is the link following acute expo- can have in harming or between protecting our watersheds and conserving sure. A typical 1,000- protecting our natural landfill space. square-foot urban resources. Because of application of diazi- its toxicity, diazinon is non contains enough being phased out of the What Is a Watershed? active ingredient to consumer market, but A watershed is the area of land that water flows pollute 170 million there are dozens of across on its way to a creek, river, lake, bay, or gallons of fresh other equally harmful ocean. water. products available to take its place. Throughchanging our gardening practices, many of thecontaminants in stormwater runoff could be elimi-nated. Just as important, solid waste can also besignificantly reduced.Watersheds and Wastesheds — What’sthe Connection?The passage of AB939 in 1989 set a statewide goalof reducing California’s waste stream in half by the What Is a Wasteshed?year 2000. (As of 2004, waste diversion statewide A wasteshed is the area of land from which allhas reached 48 percent.) Some counties set local of the “streams” of refuse — from individualsgoals to reach beyond the 50 percent. For example, and their communities — flow into the samein 1990 the voters of Alameda County set the landfill.ambitious goal to reduce waste by a total of 75percent by the year 2010. To achieve this, countyresidents will have to not only reduce the quantity Introducing Bay-Friendly Gardeningof materials they discard, but also divert more ofthem — that is, reuse and recycle valuable materi- Retaining organic materials on site is one of theals, instead of throwing them away. most important practices a gardener can engage in. There are also many other ways that gardeners canIn Alameda County, nineteen percent of the waste protect and care for the environment both nearstream is food and plant debris (that’s 294,110 and far.tons). Food, at 12 percent, is the single largest cat-egory of landfilled waste in Alameda County. By The Bay-Friendly Gardening program was devel-recycling these materials at home — composting oped to encourage residents to make environmen-kitchen scraps, converting plant trimmings into tally friendly gardening choices. Bay-Friendlymulch, leaving grass clippings on the lawn — we Gardeners work with nature to reduce waste andkeep valuable resources out of our landfills and we protect the local creeks, waterways, and watershedsreplenish the soil. of the San Francisco Bay. 8
  7. 7. Bay-Friendly Gardening mimics natural systems,which recycle everything — water, debris, andnutrients — endlessly. It pays attention to climate A Bay-Friendly Garden:and local conditions and uses plants that areadapted to those conditions. It followsmaintenance practices that support the goals of Builds Healthy Soilconserving resources and reducing waste. Thisapproach to gardening: • Landscapes locally Reduces Waste • Landscapes for less to the landfill in the Garden • Nurtures soil health • Protects air and water quality • Conserves water • Conserves energy Conserves Water • Provides wildlife habitatBay-Friendly Gardening does not advocate aparticular style of gardening. Bay-FriendlyGardens aren’t a mold you have to fit into — they Creates Wildlifeoffer endless opportunities, from backyard wildlife Habitatgardens and native plant communities to vegetablegardens, flower beds, and more. Protects Local WatershedsThe Benefits of Bay-Friendly Gardening and the BayBecause it works with nature, rather than againstit, Bay-Friendly Gardening simplifies garden care.Using fewer resources, such as water and fertilizer,can mean less maintenance. And because it Contributes to aemphasizes natural gardening techniques, Bay- Healthy CommunityFriendly Gardening offers a way to make ourcommunities healthier, safer places.Research has shown that children are particularly Saves Energyvulnerable to contaminants in the environment.They are also especially open to the opportunitiesfor discovery and play that a garden can provide.Inviting children to go for a snail hunt on summer In the following pages, you will find guide-nights is a safer way to eliminate the pest than lines for a variety of Bay-Friendly Gardeningsetting out poison. practices.They cover all the main activities a gardener undertakes — planning the garden,It has also been shown that looking out on agarden helps hospital patients recover more choosing plants, caring for the soil, planting,quickly. Even when glimpsed from a moving car, watering, pruning, and so on.The icons shownnatural scenery soothes the viewer. Whether you above appear throughout this handbook, towant an attractive yard to view from your home signal the benefits offered by every gardeningor a place where you can get your hands dirty, practice described. For a detailed list of thegrowing a Bay-Friendly Garden can help make practices, see pages a healthier individual and help you make yourcommunity a healthier place. 9
  8. 8. Putting Bay-Friendly Practices into PlaceIncorporating Bay-Friendly practices into your You may also find that your current gardeninggarden does not have to be difficult. In fact, many habits are already Bay-Friendly. You do not needBay-Friendly techniques can make gardening to do all of the following techniques to capturechores less of a chore. Using mulch for example, the spirit of Bay-Friendly in your garden.helps to build healthy soil, reduce waste and Including even one practice will reap multipleconserve water, but it can also save time spent benefits. Take the case of choosing Californiaweeding and watering in the garden. natives — this practice conserves water by selecting plants adapted to a MediterraneanThe following checklist can be used as a guiding climate, and creates wildlife habitat by providingtool for incorporating Bay-Friendly practices. food for local wildlife.Build Healthy Soil Amend soil with compost. Prepare garden beds by hand rather than with a tiller. Maintain garden beds with little or no tilling. Sheet mulch to establish planting areas or pathways, or to control weeds while improving soil. Create clearly defined paths and or raised beds to protect soil from compaction. Grow cover crops to enrich the soil.Reduce Waste in the Garden Create and maintain an active compost or worm bin for garden and/or food waste. Use your green waste cart for any plant wastes that are difficult to compost on site. Use leaves, chipped plant debris, compost, or other organic materials as mulch. Minimize plant waste by not overplanting, overwatering, or overfertilizing. Minimize pruning by choosing plants that are appropriate for the space. Avoid sheared hedges in the garden. Leave clippings on the lawn after mowing. Use recycled or salvaged products for artistic or functional purposes.Conserve Water Emphasize Mediterranean climate or California native plants. (Try to use these plants for at least half of your garden area.) Group plants in the landscape by water needs. Minimize or eliminate lawn area. Install efficient irrigation (drip, timers, soaker hoses, etc.). Water according to plants’ needs, not just on a fixed schedule. Use mulch in garden beds. Install a rainwater collection or gray water system. 10
  9. 9. Create Wildlife Habitat Provide food for wildlife with a variety of plants that flower and set fruit at different times of year. Provide water with a small pond, bird bath, or water dish. Create year-round protective cover with a planting of evergreen trees/shrubs, logs, rocks, or brush pile. Diversify your garden structure with layers of ground covers, herbaceous vegetation (non-woody) and/or grasses, shrubs of various heights, and trees. Leave some areas of the garden somewhat untidy — let flowers go to seed to provide food for birds, and leave dead leaves and stalks to shelter over-wintering insects. Feature native plants. (Plant more than 50% of your garden with California natives.)Protect Local Watersheds and the Bay For patios, driveways, or other hard surfaces, choose permeable materials that allow water to soak in rather than run off. Terrace steep slopes to reduce rainwater run-off and prevent erosion. Cover nearly all soil with mulch or plants. Avoid the use of synthetic fertilizers. Avoid the use of plants considered invasive in local wildlands (see page 33).Contribute to a Healthy Community Use an integrated approach for controlling weeds, insect pests and diseases with least toxic controls used first for safety of children, pets and wildlife. Tolerate pests as much as possible. Select disease resistant varieties of plants. Include plants that attract beneficial insects in the landscape. Grow vegetables organically for food and enjoyment. Plan outdoor lighting that is dim or directed downwards to minimize light pollution. Use hand or electric tools instead of gas-powered tools. Consider and control potential neighborhood hazards — including fire awareness, weed seed dis- bursement, and rodent habitat.Save Energy Place trees and shrubs to reduce energy requirements. For example, plant deciduous trees on the west side of the house to provide shade during the summer and allow sunlight to warm the house in the winter. Shade parking asphalt areas and air conditioners, if applicable. Select local garden products and suppliers. Choose outdoor lights that are energy efficient or solar. Select pumps for water features that are solar powered or energy efficient. Include space in the garden for a clothesline. 11
  10. 10. Gardening LocallyBay-Friendly Gardening recognizes that what we do in our yards has impacts on pesticide loads in theSan Francisco Bay and capacity at the Altamont Landfill. One way to reduce such impacts is to gardenlocally — that is, with an awareness of local conditions and the land’s natural inhabitants.As a part of this, Bay-Friendly Gardening uses natural plant communities as models for the garden.Plant communities are in large part determined by the conditions that a gardener needs to considerwhen selecting plants — such as soil, light, moisture, drainage, and exposure — so plant communitiescan provide inspiration for how to group plants in the garden and what plants to choose. Whether filledwith native plants or with exotics that do well in these settings, any garden can have a version of all ofthe following California plant communities.East Bay gardeners Gail Schino, Grant Minix, and Mike Geltz have individual approaches to theconcept of Gardening Locally. Gail Schino takes inspiration from nearby open spaces to create plantcommunities in her San Leandro garden. Grant Minix and Mike Geltz rely on local resources totransform an urban lot in Oakland. See garden profiles on pages 16-17. Coastal Prairie and Valley Grassland are distinguished by their proximity to the bay. Valley grassland occurs on the inland side of the East Bay hills; coastal prairieis close to the water. Both are a rich complex of perennial bunchgrasses PHOTO: RICHARD ROLLINS interspersed with perennial and annual wildflowers. Prairie and grassland species are adapted to full sun and summer drought; they will accept a variety of soils. Valley and Foothill Woodland includes open oak woodlands, which have agrassy understory; dense oak groves crowded with lower shrubs and herbs; and shady bay laurel woods. Oak woodlands are summer- dry environments; the plants of denser woodlands will take moister conditions and PHOTO: ELLEN ZAGORY soils high in organic matter. Many under- story woodland plants are shade tolerant. 12
  11. 11. Riparian Woodland is structured like other wood-PHOTO: EAST BAY REGIONAL PARK DISTRICT lands, with an overstory of tall trees and, in this case, a dense, lush understory of shrubs and smaller plants. This creekside plant community depends on year-round moisture; some ripari- an plants are sun-loving, others are shade tolerant. In the garden they prefer loose soils. Redwood Forest Redwoods are rightly famous, and the Oakland and Berkeley PHOTO: EAST BAY REGIONAL PARK DISTRICT hills are still graced with them. A distinctive group of under- story species is adapted to the deep shade of the redwood groves. Northern Coastal Scrub also lies close to the coast and along parts of the bay. In addition to grasses and other herba- ceous plants, this community also has a shrub layer. Plants in this community are adapted to exposed locations and at least a bit of fog. PHOTO: JANE HUBER 13
  12. 12. Common Plants for Bay Area Plant CommunitiesFollowing are selected lists of representative species for the most common plant communities in the BayArea. Understory plants are suggested for the Redwood Forest and Woodland communities — that is, anassumption has been made that there are existing redwoods, oaks or other trees providing the inspirationand environment for your chosen plant community.Coastal Prairie and Valley GrasslandAchillea millefolim YarrowCalamagrostis nutkaensis Reed grassCalochortus luteus Golden mariposaCarex tumulicola Dwarf sedgeDanthonia californica Wild oat grassDeschampsia caespitosa holciformis Hair grassDichelostemma capitatum BluedicksEschscholzia californica California poppyFestuca idahoensis Fescue bunchgrassIris douglasiana Douglas irisNasella lepida, N. pulchra Needlegrass, Purple needlegrassPteridium aquilinum pubescens Bracken fernSidalcea malviflora CheckerbloomSisyrinchium bellum Blue-eyed grassSolidago californica California goldenrodTriteleia laxa Ithuriel’s spearWyethia angustifolia Mule’s earsValley and Foothill WoodlandAchillea millefolium YarrowArctostaphylos Manzanita (some species more shade tolerant than others)Ceanothus California lilac (some species shade tolerant)Cistus RockroseCorrea Australian fuchsia ‘Carmine Bells’Festuca californica California fescueHeteromeles arbutifolia ToyonHolodiscus discolor Ocean SprayIris douglasiana Douglas irisKeckiella cordifolia Heartleaf keckiellaLepechinia Pitcher sageLeymus condensatus ‘Canyon Prince’ Giant wild ryeMahonia aquifolium Oregon grapeMimulus aurantiacus, M. bifidus, M. puniceus MonkeyflowerMuhlenbergia rigens Deer grassRhamnus californica CoffeeberryRibes sanguineum, R speciosum Pink-flowering currant, GooseberryRibes viburnifolium Catalina perfumeSalvia spathacea Hummingbird sageSatureja douglasii Yerba BuenaSymphoricarpos sp. SnowberryVitis californica Wild grape 14
  13. 13. Riparian WoodlandAristolochia californica Dutchman’s pipeAthyrium filix-femina Lady fernCarex species Dwarf sedgeClematis ligusticifolia ClematisCornus species Creek DogwoodEquisetum species HorsetailJuncus effuses bruneus Green rushMimulus cardenalis, M. guttatus Scarlet monkeyflower, Seep MonkeyflowerOenanthe sarmentosa Creek parsleyRosa californica California roseSalix species Red willowSisyrinchium californicum Yellow-eyed grassVitis californica California grapeRedwood ForestAquilegia formosa Western columbineAsarum caudatum Wild gingerCarpenteria californica Bush anemoneDryopteris sp. Wood fernFragaria vesca ssp. californica Woodland strawberryHeuchera maxima, H. micrantha Coral bellsMyrica californica Pacific wax myrtlePolystichum munitum Western sword fernRhamnus californica CoffeeberryRibes sanguineum, R. viburnifolium Pink-flowering currant, Catalina perfumeSymphoricarpos albus, S. mollis SnowberryVaccinium ovatum California huckleberryNorthern Coastal ScrubArctostaphylos uva-ursi ‘Pt. Reyes’ ManzanitaArtemisia californica Coast sagebrushBaccharis pilularis var. consanguinea Coyote brushCeanothus gloriosus CeanothusCeanothus cuneatus BuckbrushCercocarpus betuloides Mountain mahoganyChlorogolum pomeridianum Soap plantDiplacus aurantiacus Monkey flowerEpilobium canum California fuchsiaHeracleum lanatum Cow parsnipHeteromeles arbutifolia ToyonLupinus albifrons Bush lupineMimulus aurantiacus Sticky monkeyflowerRhamnus californica CoffeeberrySalvia melifera Black sageScrophularia californica Bee plantWyethia angustifolia Mule’s ears 15
  14. 14. Local and Appropriate: Blending Styles in San Leandro estled at the foot of the East Bay hills Leandro Creek. Thilgen pulled the ivy blanketingN along the flanks of San Leandro Creek, the Le Brun Park neighborhood of SanLeandro was developed in the ‘50s and ‘60s. When the creek bank and replaced it with a diversity of shrubs and herbs common to creek corridors. To further increase the wildlife value of the garden,Gail Schino bought a home there, the landscaping Schino and Thilgen built a large pond at the topreflected the era in which the house was built. of the creek bank. Many tree frogs have sinceThere were “spaceship” junipers — the tall, skinny moved in, migrating from creekside herbs andkind — and camellias in front of all the windows. trees. Having laid eggs and developed in the pond,“They were fifty-year-old trees — I tried to live the mature frogs — some no more than an inchwith them,” says Schino. “It wasnt feasible.” long — take shelter in the rushes, sedges, scarlet monkeyflower, and tule potato planted beside it.Although Schino describes the main To keep the ground around thegardening model in her neighborhood pond moist, as it would be inas “mowers and blowers,” she wanted the wild, Thilgen extended thesomething different. She didnt want pond liner beyond the lip ofto use pesticides, for example, because basin. Water seeps out to theof her proximity to San Leandro fabrics edges and into the sur-Creek and because she has pets. So rounding soil. A little farthershe began thinking about plants that away, at the corner of the lotcan thrive without toxic inputs. And under an old, spreading oak,as she walked around nearby Lake Thilgen planted local natives —Chabot, where the creek snowberry, Douglas iris,originates, she started pay- California fescue — that,ing attention to the plants like oaks, dont want summernative to her watershed. water.To learn more about native To take the intense heat ofplants, Schino made sever- the south-facing front of theal trips to Yerba Buena house, Thilgen created aNursery in Woodside, one prairie. He seeded red fescue,of the oldest native plant purple needlegrass, and wild-nurseries in the Bay Area. flowers in beds on either sideSchino also took several of the walkway to the door,local garden tours. She noticed the work of bordering them with white yarrow. These sun-Michael Thilgen, a landscape architect known for lovers can withstand the glare from a large expansehis expertise in sustainable landscaping. “It got so I of asphalt where four streets meet in front ofcould recognize his gardens,” Schino says, and she Schinos house.decided to hire his company, Four DimensionsLandscape Development. She asked Thilgen to On the warm and sunny southeast side of thehelp her create a garden that would be compatible house, a chaparral theme prevails. The tangy scentwith the oak woodland and creek plant communi- of Cleveland sage entices hummingbirds and bum-ties bordering her house. blebees; ceanothus and manzanita offer fragrance and bloom in early spring.The back of Schinos lot slopes down to San 16
  15. 15. Low Cost, High Satisfaction: Reuse and Renovation in an Oakland Garden rant Minix and Michael Geltz are such Even the plants they have put in are ones theyG good recyclers that their garbage company, Waste Management, gave thema $60 credit and six months’ free service. Minix recovered or were given by friends. Always focusing on ways to make more from less, Minix and Geltz favor plants that can be propagatedand Geltz take out a single bag of garbage once a from divisions or cuttings. In the spring, themonth. backyard is a riot of daffodils, tulips, dahlias, and iris; the front yard is graced year-round by theThe waste-not ethic so evident inside the house steady, undemanding presence of succulents.has also been put to work outside it, where Minixand Geltz have built a happy, Minix and Geltz say they’re not garage saleopportunistic garden from types — they don’t goreclaimed materials. They scouting for materials —estimate that 60 percent of their they just pick up what theygarden — plants, benches, come across. The two don’tornaments, and so on — is consider themselvesmaterial they personally scavengers or salvagersrecovered or recycled. The cost (they’re recyclers), nor areto renovate their entire lot, they packrats. Geltzwhich is just under 6,000 maintains a strict statute ofsquare feet, was less than limitations: “If you haven’t$5,000. used it or touched it in a year,” he says, “give itWhere Minix and Geltz away or sell it.” Withneeded a path along shirts, both men followone side of the the one-in, one-outbackyard, they made rule.simple paving stonesfrom concrete. They Another economy theybuilt a frame from Trex exercise is that ofdecking boards, then bartering. “If youve gotlaid it on a plastic tarp. a skill, trade withThey ruffled the tarp, someone who can dointentionally creating what you can’t,” saysfolds that gave each Minix. He and Geltzstepping stone a have traded plants fordifferent texture. To painting a room and forfinish the path, they set the stones in pea gravel. cleaning someone’s garden. They also exchange plant materials with many neighbors and friends.They also salvaged bags of hardened concrete —“they were in somebody’s trash,” Minix says — When asked where his zeal comes from, Minixand stacked them two-high to build border edges says he’s always had the recycling bug. “I’ve justin the backyard. Along the side of the house, always believed I should be doing it,” he says.where they needed to edge a narrow garden bed, When pressed further, he says he follows a maximthey pushed the cut tops of dozens of leftover passed on by a friend. “Don’t think of what it is,fence stakes into the ground, one right next to the think of what it could become.”other, at varying heights. 17
  16. 16. 2Into the Garden: Look Before You Leap Many an eager gardener can tell a tale of plant- ing first and then considering the consequences. Whether you create a garden yourself or hire someone to do it for you, the process can be made clearer — and the end result more successful — by taking the time to think things through at the outset. This chapter covers how to plan a garden and provides a visual example of all the elements a Bay-Friendly garden might contain. For help with assessing your site and planning the garden, use the tear out Garden Design Survey located at the back of this book. How to Plan a Garden 4. Think about how you use the space . . . The following is a general overview of the Every outdoor space has functions. Make a factors to consider when you want to reno- list of how you use the areas surrounding vate all or some part of your garden. The your home — do your children play in the best approach is to think first about form yard? Do you spend much time gardening? and function — what the conditions of Do you like to look out on the yard from your site are and how you use the garden different rooms in the house? — then consider details such as plant . . . and how you’d like to use it. Very choice. See page 30. likely you have ideas about the purposes 1. Get to know what you have. Spend you want your yard to serve. Perhaps you some time puttering. Knock around out want an outside dining area, or a patio there. Prune a few things, pull weeds, put a where none exists. Or you need a site for a few plants in the ground. The point is to bigger and better compost pile. Think get to know the place, to build first-hand about those things next, and make a list of experience of your little piece of the earth. them. 2. Consider the structure of the place. This means the hard features — driveway, buildings, fences, paved paths. It also Words from the Wise: means plant materials — what’s already Know What You growing in the yard and what shape does it Want, But Accept give your garden? For help inventorying a Bit of Chaos your site, see the Garden Design Survey on page 81. akland gardener Libby Teel 3. Make a simple plan of the property. A property survey was completed for your home at the time it was built, and if you O suggests that when youre starting out, its worthwhile to spend a lot of time thinking about how you want the space to feel. Are obtain a copy (available in the county you looking for something sculptured, assessor’s office), it can serve as a base plan. or more chaotic? “A garden offers the If you don’t have the survey or don’t want opportunity to have slightly organized to track it down, you can make one your- chaos,” she says. It is a creative space self. See “How to Draw a Site Plan,” that you do not control entirely— page 20. “sometimes you have to let it tell you a little bit too.” 18
  17. 17. 7. Try out various designs. Start laying out beds in your mind and on paper. Draw on copies of your site plan or use tracing paper to make overlays. Another good trick is to draw features on photographs, using tracing paper or a grease pencil. Black and white photos are best because they show the site in clear relief. 8. Take stock of your time and your budget. Now consider all of your lists and drawings in terms of what you can afford and the role you see your- self playing in bringing these changes about. If you’re doing the work yourself, how much do you really have time for? What do you want to5. Do a rudimentary layout. List-making consti- tackle first?tutes a simple form of planning, and from it youcan make some very simple designs. Think of the 9. Start small. Gardens are dynamicgarden in terms of rooms — connected spaces that environments. They’re always changing, over timehave different characters and purposes. Using your and according to season. Your efforts to renovatebase map (or just a blank piece of paper), draw your yard, and to care for it, will necessarily playbubbles that loosely represent these rooms. out over time too. Now, though, you have a clear6. Consider your materials. Once you have a sense of where you want to go. Work on one areageneral picture of how you want the garden to be at a time, gathering materials, building beds,laid out, you can begin to consider the particulars: putting in plants, watching the garden grow.the wooden fence, the paths, the plants. Makemore lists. At this point, think as much in termsof plant characteristics as specific species — Tip: Use Salvaged Materialsconsider height, form, color, and cultural Use fewer virgin materials in yourrequirements. In terms of other materials, keep landscape. Reuse existing materials orBay-Friendly principles in mind — plan to reuse salvaged materials, when possible, ormaterials on site and buy used or recycled select recycled products. A number ofproducts. new recycled landscape products are available in a variety of textures and colors. Many combine recycled plastics with wood by-products. These materials require almost no maintenance and last longer than wood. For information about sources for salvaged materials, call (877) STOPWASTE or visit www.StopWaste.Org.The California Materials Exchange program offers statewide listings for reused materials — visit concrete is used to create a retaining wall. 19
  18. 18. Tip: How to Draw a Site Plan You’ll need graph paper — the best scale is eight squares to the inch. To make sure your yard will fit on a single page at that scale, measure the width and depth of your lot.Translate that to the graph paper by count- ing one square of graph paper for every foot of your property. Most yards of 80 feet by 60 feet or less will fit onto a regular sheet of graph paper at eight squares to an inch. (The advantage of using this scale isthat every 1/8-inch mark on the ruler equals a foot, so you can use the ruler to measure distances, instead of having to count squares.)Once you’ve got the right graph paper, it’s as simple as making all themeasurements and transferring them onto paper. Measure the perimeterof the property. Measure from the perimeter to the house. Mark theperimeter and locationof the house on thegraph paper. Completethe outline of thehouse. Measure anddraw in sidewalks,driveways, and otherhard structures.Thiscan take a while, butthe process is fun andthe result — the siteplan — will be veryuseful.When it’scompleted, marknorth on the plan.Keep the originalclean. Make plentyof photocopiesand use them forexperimental plansand drawings.Adapted fromRosalind Creasy,The CompleteBook of EdibleLandscaping. 20
  19. 19. Picturing the Bay-Friendly Garden The landscape pictured below illustrates how Bay-Friendly Gardening benefits the gardeners, neighbors, local wildlife and the greater environment. You can reap the rewards of Bay-Friendly with these practices and others discussed throughout this guide. Creates Contributes to a Wildlife Habitat Healthy Community Bird-bath Organic vegetable Protects Local provides water garden provides Watersheds for wildlife. healthy, tasty produce and the Bay throughout the year. Permeable paving on the driveway and front walk- way prevents runoff.Reduces Wastein the GardenRaised beds arecreated from Saves Energy Conserves Waterbroken concreteand fence is Deciduous Lawn in frontconstructed trees on the replaced withfrom reclaimed west shade low water uselumber. the house in native ground- summer and Builds Healthy Soil covers. allow sunlight Repository for in the winter. leaves to collect under trees as mulch. 21
  20. 20. Tackle Climate Change with Bay-Friendly Gardening he news of global warming is We can expect a warmer and dryer environmentT incontrovertible. Signs of climate change are most evident in the polar regions —photos of stranded polar bears and glacial melt locally, and the plants and animals that inhabit our gardens will respond accordingly. The development of plants is temperature dependent, so many will leaf out and bloom earlier. Insect lifeconvey in no uncertain terms that the cooler cycles are also temperature dependent, so theirregions of our planet are warming quickly. But seasonal patterns will be altered as well. One studyeven in temperate climes such as our own, estimates that global warming will be a boon forscientists are seeing changes. Animals in aphids in California — warmer temperaturesmountainous areas of the United States are could enable them to reproduce in numbers threemigrating to higher elevations, seeking the cooler times greater than they do now.conditions they’re accustomed to. In the SierraNevada, as snow pack decreases, wetlands fed by Change is upon us, but all is not lost. Even as we begin to see the effects of global warming in oursnow-melt groundwater are drying up. own backyards, there are also steps we can take toThese trends will soon be playing out in our arrest climate change.gardens as well. Before long, our Sunset gardeningzones may no longer apply. The Arbor DayFoundation, an organization dedicated toencouraging people to grow trees, recently revisedthe national USDA hardiness zones. According tothe new map, parts of coastal California, includingareas both north and south of the San FranciscoBay Area, have been moved into a planting zoneabout 10 degrees warmer than in 1990. Greenhouse Gases and Bay-Friendly Gardening Global warming is caused by the accumulation of several gases—carbon dioxide (CO2) is the best-known among them — that persist in the upper atmosphere, trapping the heat of the sun like the glass panes of a greenhouse. These gases are primarily the result of burning fossil fuels, so this is the ultimate cause of the climate change we are now experiencing. Methane, which is a byproduct of some microbial decomposition processes, also helps contribute to global warming. Collectively, the residents of Alameda County are emitting more than 5,700,000 tons of CO2 annually. Burning fossil fuels in vehicles and for energy use in buildings and facilities is a major contributor to the county’s greenhouse gas emissions. Fuel consumption in the transportation sector is the single largest source of emissions, contributing 44 percent of total emissions. Bay-Friendly Gardening helps reduce greenhouse gases by: • Reducing transport of materials to the landfill = less CO2 • Reducing organic debris in the landfill = less CH4 (methane) • Reducing fertilizers = less N2O (nitrous oxide, another greenhouse gas) • Reducing water consumption = less electricity use = less CO2 • Increasing soil organic matter = greater absorption of CO2 22
  21. 21. Reduce Your Direct Output of Greenhouse Also Reduce Your Indirect OutputGases The single largest source of greenhouse gasIf the problem of global warming is the result of emissions is the generation of electricity. So keepan increase in greenhouse gases, then part of the in mind that when you use electricity, you aresolution clearly lies in reducing our output of burning fossil fuels indirectly, and thusthese gases. Take steps to reduce the amount of contributing to global warming. Here are someemissions released from related activities. ways to reduce your electricity use.Use hand- Reconsider your need for outdoor lighting.powered tools Most outdoor lighting is for decorative or securitywhenever purposes. Evaluate where you actually needpossible. All hand lighting. In many cases you may find that you cantools are zero- do without — particularly in those areas whereemission andtherefore should lighting is used for decoration. Consider motionbe preferred in the sensors where lighting is used for Where outdoor light is necessary, use compactChoose electric fluorescent bulbs. Compact fluorescent lights usetools when more 75% less energy and last up to 10 times longerpower is needed. than traditional bulbs. And they are especiallyElectricity has its good for outdoor use because they maximizeown climate-change impacts, but it is the lesser of efficiency when in operation for long duration,two evils. Quieter and less energy-intensive, such as overnight. For each compact fluorescentelectric tools are lower impact than gas-powered. bulb that replaces an incandescent, almost 700Use gas-powered tools as a last resort. When pounds of carbon dioxide are kept out of theyou do use gas-powered tools, choose the smallest, atmosphere. Since all compact fluorescents containmost efficient, lowest-emission equipment — and mercury, be sure to dispose of them with otherkeep it well tuned. You can improve overall fuel household hazardous waste.efficiency in a car by as much as 30% justthrough basic maintenance, and it stands to reason Use solar-powered path lighting and waterthat the results would be similar for power tools. features. Reduce your impacts even more byA machine that runs well runs cleanly, emitting stepping off the grid entirely and using the powerfewer pollutants. of the sun to power your outdoor lights and fountains.Avoid excessive fertilizer applications. Nitrogenbased fertilizers are a source of nitrous oxide —the third largest greenhouse gas contributor toglobal warming. Be careful to use the appropriateamount of fertilizer, whether organic or synthetic,and time your applications when plants most needthe additional nutrients and will absorb thenitrogen. 23
  22. 22. Design and maintain your garden for low water Plant a tree. Over its lifetime, a single tree canuse. According to Assemblymember John Laird, remove more than a ton of carbon dioxide frommoving water from place to place in California is the atmosphere. If sited appropriately around yourthe greatest single consumer of electricity in our house, trees can also help reduce your energy use.state. So by reducing your water use, you reduce Grow your own food. The benefits of growingyour greenhouse-gas output. and eating your own food are many. In terms ofThe current water usage for landscaping in global warming, you reduce transportation andCalifornia Coastal Zones (such as San Francisco related emissions and you increase carbon uptake.Bay Area) is about 55,000 gallons per year per Organic methods such as minimal- and no-tillgarden. In Alameda County, a 50% reduction in gardening, improve the soil’s ability to capture andwater demand — which is possible through Bay- stabilize carbon.Friendly Gardening — would result in a cut in Last But Not Leastenergy use equivalent to a reduction of 9,450 tons Bay-Friendly gardening is environmentally-friendlyof CO2 per year overall, or 54 pounds of CO2 per gardening. All its practices can help reduce youryear per garden. For tips on how to reduce water contribution to global warming. Especiallyuse — including using efficient irrigation — see important are these two simple practices.pages 57-59 in this guide. Don’t forget to compost. In addition to reducing the gas required to haul your garbage to the landfill, when you compost at home, you reduce methane gas emissions. At the landfill, organic materials decompose anaerobically — without oxygen — which results in the release of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Compost those leaves, grass, plant trimmings and kitchen scraps at home and they’ll break down in the presence of oxygen. No methane added. Soil quality andHang your clothes out to dry. After the quantity is expected to decline as a result of globalrefrigerator, the dryer is one of the biggest warming — making and using compost will helpconsumers of energy in your house. So make space to alleviate the garden for a clothesline, and reap thebenefits: lower energy use, lower utility bills, more Use leaves and trimmings for mulch. Intime spent outside, and good-smelling clothes. addition to offering the same benefits as composting, using mulch helps keep soil moist,Increase Your Intake thus reducing water needs. It also builds the soilIn addition to reducing outputs, you can also and increases its ability to store carbon.employ a variety of strategies for increasing theintake of greenhouse gases, resulting in a netreduction to the atmosphere. Plants take in carbondioxide; so can the soil. Take advantage of thesenatural processes to decrease the planet’sgreenhouse-gas load. 24
  23. 23. Build a Green Roof uilding a green roof — one that has plants on it — can conserve energy by keeping theB house insulated. Oakland gardener Greg Powell says his green roof reduces heat retention, reduces glare, and increases rainwater infiltration.The idea for a green roof came when Powell and his wife were remodeling their home. Theirparcel is sloped and they had sited a detached garage below the house. Rather than look out ona bare rooftop, they began to think about planting it. They dug into the slope to recess thegarage into the hillside and converted the roof, Powell says, into “a planter box.”Building and having a green roof is not as scary as it sounds, says Powell. “We build floorsstrong enough to support grand pianos, so we can build roofs strong enough to support dirt,”he says. To figure out how to do it, Powell first went online; he found descriptions of large-scaleprojects such as the living roof on the new Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, and adaptedthis information to his needs. He used housing foundation materials to provide waterproofingand drainage, added a layer of horticultural pumice on top of that for extra drainage and as aroot barrier, and then layered about four inches of dirt on top.Powell says plant choice is important — he avoided large, woody plants, choosing instead to putin shallow-rooted succulents and grasses. (The Academy of Sciences building in Golden GatePark features low-growing coastal natives such as beach strawberry and sea pink, as well as alocal succulent and herbaceous wildflowers.)For anyone considering a green roof, Powell recommends looking at one that’s been done andtalking to anyone with an interest in the topic. To plan and install his roof, Powell got advicefrom architect friends; he also paid an engineer to calculate loads and thus ensure that thestructure would be sound. 25
  24. 24. The Play of Air and Light: Kid-Friendly Gardening in Berkeley hen Wanda Nusted retired from the Nusted has also brought art into the garden.W classroom, she didnt want to stop working with kids, she wanted adifferent setting. An art teacher with little prior Always using plants as an inspiration, she painted abstract flowers on canvas and hung them along the fence. She also involved the children ingardening experience, Nusted turned her backyard painting a garden mural on the side of the house.into a playground Nusted made large ceramic beadswhere, on any given day, that she slipped over old standingher three grandchildren lamp posts, creating tall, narrow,and two or three colorful sculptures—“plantneighborhood friends shapes,” Nusted says, “that dontmight be playing have to be watered.” Usingtetherball, searching for inverted flower pots as a base, shespider webs, or driving made mosaic statues that give thehandmade cardboard garden even more color andcars between peaceful beds. Sometimes, when it is rainingThe garden serves as lightly, Nusted and the kids standcreative inspiration for under her photinia, a smallNusted, who goes into evergreen tree. They lookthe yard as soon as she at the wind in thegets up each day, and as a varied leaves and watch asand stimulating play space for the some of them fall,children. Nusted has created a later collecting themseries of playrooms along the fence for the mulch pile.around the perimeter of the yard; (Nusted is also goodin the center is a large garden bed. about keeping leafEach playroom is furnished with litter in place; intoys or tools to engage the autumn, her gardenimagination, encourage hand-eye beds all wear a loosecoordination, and so on. mantle of their own organic matter.)In the back corner is a ballcourt—a short pole is strung with As an artist, Nusted is enchanted by thea tennis ball, and there are plastic movement of air and the ever-changingracquets nearby. A couple five- light in the garden, and she encouragesgallon pots hold the tennis racquets the children to notice these things too. Aas well as plastic golf clubs waiting homemade windsock announces windto be picked up and swung. The direction and pace. A small grove ofgolf holes—plastic ramps and mylar pinwheels, planted in Nustedstraps—have been placed along the center garden bed, share the same news.edge of garden beds and the path. Along the fence, she has tacked up aElsewhere, a milk crate loaded with couple dozen CDs that sparkle and flash whentrucks and a plastic jar filled with figurines and the sun catches them. The kids make bubbles,farm animals await the animation that only chasing them as they float.children can give them. 26
  25. 25. Gardening is about plants, but it’s also about what plants growin — dirt. Without soil, very few plants can survive; without the organic material that plantsprovide, most soils become lifeless. Bay-Friendly Gardening starts here, on the ground floor,with a look at what soil is and how to care for it. Plant selection and plant placement are 3 Gardening from the Ground Up Gardening from the Ground Upalso considered in this chapter, which concludes with a brief description how to plant.The Nitty Gritty on Soil StructureEvery gardener’s ideal is a soil called loam. While constituent particles determine theDark and wonderfully crumbly, a good texture of a soil, the arrangement of thosequality loam has high organic content, is particles determines its structure. Just asteeming with life, contains all the water clings to particles’ surfaces, thenutrients that plants need, holds moisture particles themselves cling to one another,well, and drains well. It has excellent forming aggregates. These define a soil’sstructure and texture, and provides the structure. Like texture, structure influencesoptimum combination of soil’s main how much water the soil can hold, howcomponents: minerals, air, water, organic easily the soil releases nutrients, and howmatter, and soil-dwelling organisms. much air the soil contains. Unlike texture, however, which isMinerals more or lessGardeners categorize soils based upon the immutable,size of their mineral particles. Coarse sand Sandy Soil gardeners can(which has the largest particles) is at one change their soil’send of the continuum and fine clay (the structure, eithersmallest of the small) is at the other. In the for good or formiddle is silt. The physical character of any soil is determined by how much Clay Soilsand, silt, and clay it contains. When a gardener digs in the soil,You can feel this character — a soil’s tex- he or she createsture — between your fingers. Clay soil is openings andsmooth to the touch, and if you squeeze it Silty Soil introduces airwhen it’s wet, it holds together. Sand, on into the soil.the other hand, is loose and grainy regard- This is good.less of whether it’s wet or dry, and the But too muchgrains are visible to the naked eye. digging, or Loam digging in theSoil texture greatly influences a soil’s water- wrong circum-holding capacity, because water molecules stances, canare attracted to the surfaces of the mineral degrade soilparticles. Clay soils, because the particle structure. Shoveling or hoeing dry soilssizes are small, have greater surface area diminishes aggregation — instead ofand can become quite sodden. The larger, hanging together, soil particles are tornfewer grains of sand give water less to cling apart. Aggregation is also lost by handlingto. Texture also plays a large role in deter- very wet soils. Instead of being torn apart,mining a soil’s nutrient-holding capacity though, soils become too packed andand how quickly or slowly a soil warms in clumpy.the spring. 27
  26. 26. Tilling should be done initially to install a plantingbed and then only infrequently or not at all after Tip: Testing Your Soilthat. The preferred method for improving soilstructure over time is mulching or top dressing Soil tests typically tell you the nutrientwith organic materials. levels in your soil, what its pH is, and whether or not it contains anyCompost contaminants, such as lead. ConsiderOrganic material is different forms of living or doing a soil test when:dead plant and animal material. Fallen leaves. • You begin gardening in a new house andGrass clippings. Wood chips. Sawdust.Manure. Kitchen scraps. It is compost, which is want to identify nutrient deficiencies orthe cornerstone of organic gardening and a any contaminants left by previous owners.universally recognized soil amendment. Above all, • You are designing or redesigning andcompost is food for the living organisms in the installing a new garden.soil. And keeping soil critters well fed ensures thatall the other qualities a gardener seeks in soil will • Plants are having consistent and seriousgradually increase. Adding compost ensures that problems.soil will have: • You live in an older home with lead-based • Good structure paint on exterior walls. • Sufficient water retention • Proper drainage • You live within half a mile of a major road- • Nutrient supply and cycling way, freeway, or industrial area, and want to • Disease resistance produce food in your home garden. To obtain a home soil test kit, order from: Peaceful Valley Farm P.O. Box 2209 Grass Valley, CA 95945 (530) 272-4769 Order line: 1-888-784-1722 To have your soil tested and a report returned to you, contact: A and L Western Laboratories 1311 Woodland Avenue #1 Modesto, CA 95251 (209) 529-4080 Compost helps loosen clay soil, allowing air and water Lead Prevention to penetrate. Compost unites fine particles in sandy Lead poisoning prevention programs can pro- soil, allowing greater water-holding capacity. vide more information about lead testing and prevention in the home and garden. Check the phone book for your local program 28
  27. 27. Building & Protecting Healthy Soil easily and retain its integrity as you move it around. If possible, loosen soil with a fork instead hether or not you are one of theW lucky gardeners who already have loam, there are plenty of things youcan do to protect and improve your soil. of a shovel or rototiller. Once its structure has improved, minimize tillage. Add compost and mulch. Mulching is an easy way to begin. Grasscycling — leaving clippings onGuard against erosion. Plant bare soil or keep the lawn — is another simple way to restore soilit covered with mulch. Organic mulches are health. Compost, the foremost form of organicpreferable to inorganic ones, as they will slowly recycling, can be dug into the soil or laid on asdecompose, adding nutrients to the soil and topdressing.improving its structure over time. Encourage earthworms in the garden.Prevent compaction. Keep most areas in the Earthworms are the true tillers of the soil, digginggarden relatively untrodden. Use consistent tunnels, carrying leaves down into their burrows,pathways to navigate your yard. (A thick layer of and mixing and sifting the earth. To encouragewood chips on your paths can also help prevent earthworms in the home garden, keep a layer ofcompaction.) Avoid walking on wet soils and areas mulch on the soil year-round, and usewhere you have recently loosened the soil. In gardening methods that are environmentally- (andgeneral, don’t tread on areas under cultivation. earthworm-) friendly. In particular, avoid quick- release synthetic fertilizers and over-tilling, whichCultivate with care. Till the soil when it is moist, can kill or harm earthworms.but not wet. Experiment a little to get a feel forthe desired moisture level — the soil will handle Tip: Checking Soil Texture by Feel Take a one- or two-tablespoon sample of soil in your hand. Slowly add water and knead the sample until moist.Try to form the sample into a ball. Squeeze it to see if you can make a cast (an impression of your fingers). Gently stretch the soil out between thumb and forefinger and try to make a ribbon. Note the feel of the soil as you are working it and use the table below to determine its texture. Characteristics of Soil Sample Soil Texture Soil will not stay in a ball. Loose and single grained with Sand a gritty feeling when moistened A cast will form but it can’t be handled without break- Loamy ing and will not form a ribbon. Soil feels slightly gritty. sand A short ribbon can be formed but breaks when about Loam 1/2 inch long. A ribbon can be formed. It is moderately strong until it Clay loam breaks at about 3/4 inch length. Soil feels slightly sticky. The soil can easily be formed into a ribbon that is an Clay inch or longer. Soil feels very sticky. Adapted from S. J. Thein, “A Flow Diagram for Teaching Texture by Feel Analysis,” Journal of Agronomy Education 29
  28. 28. Choosing Appropriate Plants Know your microclimates. In addition to the ince Charles Darwin introduced it some broader conditions that influence your garden,S 150 years ago, much has been made of the idea of natural selection, that mechanismthrough which evolution occurs. Far less attention every site also creates its own conditions, or micro- climates. Those shady spots or dry patches, or the place where the soil’s rocky — these and myriad other factors specific to your home territory willhas been paid, however, to the fact that gardenersexercise the power of selection all the time, and influence what plants will do well, and where, inthat their choices also have powerful consequences your the natural world. Know your soil. Since soil is the matrix in whichPlant selection is one of the most important all plants grow, knowing your soil and choosingaspects of Bay-Friendly Gardening. Today, in plants that grow well in it will go a long wayaddition to choosing plants for their beauty and toward ensuring success. Most plants will thrive infragrance, we also take into account a plant’s soil that is well amended with compost, but a fewfitness for the environment in which it will grow. plants, such as buckwheat or cactus, thrive in poorAppropriately chosen and placed plants will: soils. • have greater pest resistance Grow Mediterranean climate plants. Almost any • require less care plant can be made to survive in a Bay Area • use fewer resources garden. But a plant that is native to an area with a • generate less wasteSelecting Plants Words from the Wise:But how to choose? This section provides a wealth Take Advantage ofof suggestions designed to help you do just that. Microclimates and GoThough these considerations may seem numerous, for the Slow Growersthey are all of a piece, each reinforcing the other. ill Merrill, an avid home gardener whoAs you try plants out in the garden, runningthrough these guidelines becomes second nature.Know your climate. California’s mild B manages a nursery in Fremont, demonstrates that in every yard, there are many microclimates the gardener can take advantage of. He points to a lemon tree,temperatures and persistent sunshine are famous which, he says, “creates the equivalent of afor a reason: they’re uncommon. Few places in the lathe house.” In the winter, Merrill hangsworld share with California its wet winters and potted Christmas cactuses, begonias, andsunny, dry summers. These are the characteristics cyclamen from the branches of the tree, where they receive some sunlight and areof a Mediterranean climate, and they bring with protected from frost and wind. Similarly, hethem special growing conditions — most notably has planted subtropical guava and cherimoyathe need to choose plants that are well adapted to trees in the shelter of a taller, hardieran annual six-month drought. avocado. Merrill also suggests avoiding fast-growingKnow your climate zone. The Sunset Western plants, as they can be a liability in the garden.Garden Book identifies 24 climate zones in an area They’re “a pain in the rump,” says Merrill,that extends from Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, when it comes to maintenance. “Their rootand New Mexico to the West Coast. The Bay Area systems are often highly invasive; the cost to remove such plants can become veryincludes zones 14-17; knowing your particular significant in a short frame of time, and theyzone provides a useful shorthand for many of the can also be more susceptible to insects andfactors that influence which plants are likely to disease. Plants that grow at a slow tosucceed in your garden. moderate rate,” Merrill concludes, “are good.” 30