Category Archives: Monthly Tips

California Approves Mandatory Water Conservation

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Folsom Lake Reservoir
Folsom Lake Reservoir

While this may not be news to some of you, it’s important that as many people in California are made aware of how serious a drought we are facing and how little is being done to conserve water. “People really don’t understand the gravity of the drought, particularly in urban California, where people are hundreds of miles from their water source,” said Felicia Marcus, chairwoman of the State Water Resources Control Board, which voted on Tuesday (7/15/14) to impose the following regulations, which are scheduled to take effect around August 1st.

Water Regulations

  • outdoor watering limited to two days a week
  • washing of sidewalks and driveways prohibited
  • washing cars banned without a shut-off nozzle on the hose
  • fountains using non-reciruclated, potable water are banned outright

Violations may be punished with fines of up to $500 per day

Beverly Hills Landscape
Beverly Hills Landscape

South Coast Region Water Use Has Increased

While none of the state’s 10 hydraulic regions have conserved as much as the governor asked for, most cut back at least 5 percent in May. The biggest exception is the South Coast region, which includes the Los Angeles and San Diego areas, as well as Orange County. There, water use increased 8 percent over previous years.

Almond Orchard
Almond Orchard

80% Of California In Extreme Drought

New National Weather Service data show that more than 80% of California is now in an extreme drought and is probably headed into a deeper drought this summer, making it harder to escape in the future.

The drought has already pummeled farmers in California, which is home to the nation’s largest agricultural sector. So far this year, about a third less water than usual has been available to the state’s farmers, according to a report released Tuesday by the Center for Watershed Sciences at the University of California, Davis. The report projected that the drought would cost about $2.2 billion in statewide revenue this year, and that 17,100 farm-related jobs would be lost.

Drought-Tolerant Landscape Design
Drought-Tolerant Landscape Design

What You Can Do

For more information on sustainable landscape design, water management and plant selection, here are links to articles I’ve written on the subject :

Save Water In The Yard This Summer

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I came across this excellent info-graphic about how we use water and some excellent tips on how to save it this summer, which will help our drought situation and could save you a good amount of money on your water bills. It’s well worth taking a look at and I have turned it into a downloadable PDF so you can print it out and post it where it will remind you about being “WATER WISE.” Click HERE to download.

In addition, here are three truly informative links:

Water-Infographic_TLC-magazine

Top Outdoor Living Trends That Add Resale Value

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I am, thankfully, busier than ever – both as a landscape designer and as a landscape contractor. I am working with a number of clients to transform their front and back yards into wonderful, livable spaces that are not only beautiful outdoor environments designed for relaxation and entertaining but are far more environmentally friendly and far less expensive to maintain than the water-guzzling grass that had previously covered the majority of these sites.

Garden Of Eva Landscape Design GroupA great deal of what I’m doing is the design and construction of hardscape environments. This increased interest in construction was highlighted when I came across a survey of 2013 Residential Landscape Architecture Trends conducted by the American Society of Landscape Architects. According to their survey (which follows) American homeowners are increasingly interested in creating outdoor rooms and outdoor kitchens (hardscape) for entertaining and relaxation. The results of the survey confirm what I’ve been hearing: with the economy improving and real estate prices heading upward, homeowners are now willing to invest in their homes. It’s clear that they want to maximize their properties’ enjoyable, usable spaces, to save money on maintenance while at the same timeincreasing their homes’ resale value.

Building What People Want Is A Wise Investment

Encino-9The following survey will give you an idea of how a serious sampling of homeowners are looking to improve their properties. It would be a helpful guide if you too are looking to make such an investment. Because, let’s face it, if you’re going to spend the time, energy and money improving you landscape, you might as well know what most people are looking for so that in the event you decided to sell … those improvements will turn out to be a wise investment.

 To continue reading … Eva’s Notes & News

Planning A Vegetable Garden

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Vegetable Garden Planning for BeginnersI’ve just had a request from a client to replace a chunk of her back yard (all grass requiring a lot of water) with a vegetable garden. She decided that if she has to pay for water she might as well as get a return on her investment. I thought other folks might be interested in getting a return on their monthly LADWP (Los Angeles Department of Water and Power) contribution so here is a primer from The Old Farmer’s Almanack on Vegetable Garden Planning for Beginners.

Smaller Is Better

If you’re a beginner vegetable gardener, here are basics on vegetable garden planning: site selection, plot size, which vegetables to grow, and other gardening tips.

Remember this: It’s better to be proud of a small garden than to be frustrated by a big one!

One of the common errors for beginners is planting too much too soon and way more than anybody could eat or want. Unless you want to have zucchini taking up residence in your attic, plan carefully. Start small.

The Very Basics

First, here are some very basic concepts on topics you’ll want to explore further as you become a vegetable gardener extraordinaire:

  • Do you have enough sun exposure? Vegetables love the sun. They need at least 6 hours of full sun every day, and preferably 8.
  • Know your soil. Most soil can be enriched with compost and be fine for planting, but some soil needs more help. Vegetables must have good, loamy, well-drained soil. Check with your local nursery or local cooperative extension office about free soil test kits so that you can assess your soil type. See our article on preparing soil for planting.
  • Placement is everything. Avoid planting too near a tree, which will steal nutrients and shade the garden. In addition, a garden too close to the house will help to discourage wild animals from nibbling away your potential harvest.
  • Decide between tilling and a raised bed.  If you have poor soil or a bad back, a raised bed built with nonpressure-treated wood offers many benefits. See more about raised garden beds and how to build them.
  • Vegetables need lots of water, at least 1 inch of water a week. See more about when to water vegetables.
  • You’ll need some basic planting tools.  These are the essentials: spade, garden fork, soaking hose, hoe, hand weeder, and wheelbarrow (or bucket) for moving around mulch or soil. It’s worth paying a bit extra for quality tools.
  • Study those seed catalogs and order early.
  • Check your frost dates. Find first and last frost dates in your area and be alert to your local conditions.

Deciding How Big

A good-size beginner vegetable garden is about 16×10 feet and features crops that are easy to grow. A plot this size, planted as suggested below, can feed a family of four for one summer, with a little extra for canning and freezing (or giving away).

Make your garden 11 rows wide, with each row 10 feet long. The rows should run north and south to take full advantage of the sun.

Vegetables that may yield more than one crop per season are beans, beets, carrots, cabbage, kohlrabi, lettuce, radishes, rutabagas, spinach, and turnips.

Suggested Plants for 11 Rows

The vegetables suggested below are common, productive plants but you’ll also want to contract your local cooperative extension to determine what plants grow best in your local area. Think about what you like to eat as well as what’s difficult to find in a grocery store or farmers’ market.

(Note: Link from each vegetable to a free planting and growing guide.)

(Note: If this garden is too large for your needs, you do not have to plant all 11 rows, and you can also make the rows shorter. You can choose the veggies that you’d like to grow!)

When to Plant?

Try our Garden Planner

It’s easy to plan your garden with our Almanac Garden Planner!
This planning tool spaces out your vegetables for you, provides sowing dates, and has many free garden plans for inspiration! Try it for free here.

Related Articles

Other Resources

There are numerous sites that deal with all aspects of this topic, so just search Google or check out these previous blogs: Growing Tomatoes in Southern CaliforniaVegetable Gardens – Good For Your Health & Pocketbook, and Creating Your Own Victory Garden.

 

Water Conservation Can Be Beautiful

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While this is probably not news to most of you, I believe it’s well worth repeating and considering. Last year, 2013 became the driest year on record in California; San Francisco had the least amount of rain since record keeping began during the gold rush of 1849, and here in Southern California, Downtown Los Angeles saw the driest calendar year on record.

Sustainable Water-Wise Garden

We have had virtually no rain this winter (our rainy season) and on January 17, Governor, Jerry Brown, declared a statewide drought emergency. He has urged a voluntary 20% reduction in the use or water saying, “We ought to be ready for a long, continuous, persistent effort including the possibility of drinking-water shortages. I think the drought emphasizes that we do live in an era of limits, that nature has its boundaries.” The department of Water and Power has announced that water rates will be going up and inspectors will soon be on the street checking to see that the thee-day water rationing is being respected and that sprinkler systems are in good working order.

I have written a number of newsletters and blogs about our diminishing water supply with ideas and suggestions on how to deal with it; I even have a page of my website devoted to Sustainable Green Landscape Design. Should you want to read what I’ve had to say over these past three years, here are their links.  There is a lot of valuable information in them on how you can save money and help protect your home from fires, which is also of serious consideration, since the Santa Ana winds are now blowing year round.

Creating A Beautiful, Water-Wise Garden

A drought is a perfect opportunity to change habits by re-conceiving your yard or garden as a landscape that reflects the reality of the environment we now live in.

To continue reading … Eva’s Notes & News

Green Cities – Part I: Good Mental Health & Functionality

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brooklyn-botanic-garden-new-yorI was sent a truly fascinating article about how interaction with nature can help alleviate mental fatigue by relaxing and restoring the mind. It was published by the College of the Environment, University of Washington. Because of the length and in-depth analysis of the article I have decided to add it to my blog over the next couple of months. Anyone interested in how important nature is in our lives and our mental well being should take the time to read it.

The Project support was provided by the national Urban and Community Forestry program of the USDA Forest Service, State and Private Forestry. Summary prepared by Kathleen Wolf, Ph.D. and Katrina Flora, December 26, 2010. You can read it in its entireity at http://depts.washington.edu/hhwb/Thm_Mental.html.

Mental Health & Function

Encounters with nearby nature help alleviate mental fatigue by relaxing and restoring the mind. Within built environments parks and green spaces are settings for cognitive respite, as they encourage social interaction and de-stressing through exercise or conversation, and provide calming settings. Having quality landscaping and vegetation in and around the places where people work and study is a good investment. Both visual access and being within green space helps to restore the mind’s ability to focus. This can improve job and school performance, and help alleviate mental stress and illness.

Fast Facts

  • The experience of nature helps to restore the mind from the mental fatigue of work or studies, contributing to improved work performance and satisfaction
  • Urban nature, when provided as parks and walkways and incorporated into building design, provides calming and inspiring environments and encourages learning, inquisitiveness, and alertness.
  • Green spaces provide necessary places and opportunities for physical activity. Exercise improves cognitive function, learning, and memory.
  • Outdoor activities can help alleviate symptoms of Alzheimers, dementia, stress, and depression, and improve cognitive function in those recently diagnosed with breast cancer.
  • Contact with nature helps children to develop cognitive, emotional, and behavioral connections to their nearby social and biophysical environments. Nature experiences are important for encouraging imagination and creativity, cognitive and intellectual development, and social relationships.
  • Symptoms of ADD in children can be reduced through activity in green settings, thus “green time” can act as an effective supplement to traditional medicinal and behavioral treatments

The Brain and the Environment

The brain, complex and vulnerable, is the only organ that undergoes substantial maturation after birth. This process is shaped in part by response to stimuli in our surroundings (including both negative and positive conditions), and continues throughout our lives. Substantial research shows that natural scenes evoke positive emotions, facilitate cognitive functioning, and promote recovery from mental fatigue for people who are in good mental health. The experience of nature can also provide respite for those who experience short-term and chronic mental illness.

Mental Fatigue Recovery

Nature: An Urban Respite

The constant stimuli of city life can be mentally exhausting, and life in the city can actually dull our thinking.3 In navigating the outdoor environment, one must continually monitor traffic and pedestrian flow while constantly focusing on where one is going and the means to get there. Constant response to even such low-level stimuli cannot be maintained indefinitely. A few minutes in a crowded city setting can cause the brain to suffer memory loss and reduced self-control. Even brief glimpses of natural elements improve brain performance by providing a cognitive break from the complex demands of urban life.4

Attention Fatigue and Recovery

Our immediate environment can prompt both negative and positive subconscious effects. A glance at an object that even remotely resembles a snake, for instance, may initiate an instantaneous fear response. Similarly, the presence of plants subconsciously and beneficially impact how the brain responds even when we do not focus attention on such surroundings.

In today’s lifestyles and work, we must focus our attention on critical information or tasks. Maintaining that focus by screening out distractions overloads our capacity for conscious attention.5 Yet, exposure to settings that are visually interesting (having “high fascination”) have been found to aid directed attention recovery.6 Comparing memory retention in people viewing low versus high fascination scenes in built and natural environments, respectively, people viewing natural environments performed significantly better (see Figure 1).6 So, in the case of offices and schools, where one must focus on tasks, the addition of natural features could significantly improve attention and content retention rates.

To be continued …

Give The Gift Of A Beautiful Garden

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Ahmanson-1
Ahmanson Estate Project – Hancock Park – Christmas 2012

On several occasions over this past year I’ve been asked if I’d provide gift certificates for landscape consultations and evaluations. One was for a anniversary, another as a surprise birthday present and, just recently, a former client called to see if I would create a Christmas gift certificate for his partner.

At the urging of a dear friend, who keeps telling me that, as one of the “Five Best Landscape Designers in LA.” (according to CBS Los Angeles’ “Latest Best of LA”), I need to provide a way of sharing my over twenty-plus years of knowledge and experience with folks who may not be interested in or currently prepared to pay for, what can be, an expensive garden makeover.

Therefore, I’ve decided to offer Garden of Eva Gift Certificates—suitable for holiday giving or for any special occasion—at three different levels, depending on the scope of the work involved.

If you’re interested in giving what will be a truly unique, thoughtful and very special gift, please review the information at www.garden-of-eva.com/gift_certificates.html, submit the Information Form and I’ll be in touch.

Fall Is The Time For Planting California Natives

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pumpkin-patch-playing-in-the-dirt-wordpressWhile a large part of this country is now in the process of preparing their gardens for winter and carving pumpkins for Halloween, here in Southern California our mild Mediterranean climate allows us the joy of year-round gardening. With the soil still summer warm and our rainy season just around the corner, from now (mid-October) through January is the ideal time to plant. And from all the landscapes I’m currently designing and building, fall appears to have surpassed spring as my busiest time of year.

California Native Plants

Except for tropicals, subtropicals and summer vegetables, which are best planted in early summer when the soil is warm, everything else is a go. This includes trees, shrubs and ground covers but most of all California native and Mediterranean plants. These species are particularly well suited to our seasonal rhythms. But don’t be concerned if, for the first couple of months, there isn’t much going on above ground, because come spring, the growth of healthy new foliage will demonstrate that during the intervening months, the plant has been busy establishing it’s root system.

I am particularly fond of using California native plants, not only for their diversity of foliage and blooms, but because the majority of them are drought tolerant, which is very important given the state of our water resources. What follows is a listing of California natives (extracted from Wikipedia) that I suggest you consider when laying out or adding to your garden or landscape this fall.

Selected Perennials

Sunny habitats

California Buckwheat
California Buckwheat

Shady habitats

Ferns

Selected bulbs

California Hyacinth
California Hyacinth

Selected annuals and wildflowers

Selected vines

Dutchman's Pipe
Dutchman’s Pipe

Selected grasses

Grasses:

Grasslike:

Selected succulents

Dudleyas

Sedums

See also

Growing Bamboo Is Not For Sissies!

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clump-bambooWhile bamboo may be beautiful–even exotic–in concept, it can be treacherous and very difficult to deal with in execution. To demonstrate my point, I offer this cautionary tale.

I am currently dealing with clients who are in the process of selling their home while having to contend with a next-door neighbor who is badmouthing both them and their property. This has come about because the stand of bamboo on my client’s property has sent runners under their neighbor’s garage. The bamboo runners are forcing their way up through the floor of the garage, breaking up its concrete foundation.

While my client’s are doing their best to resolve the situation, which is one reason I’m involved, it never would have happened had they not planted bamboo.

What is Bamboo?

There are over 100 species of bamboo, which is an evergreen member of the grass family, and it ranges in size from petite miniatures to massive giants that can reach over 30 feet in height. It can be found from the tropics to the tops of mountains and while most bamboos are tropical or subtropical, there are hardy bamboos that can survive temperatures of –10° to –20°F.

To continue reading … Eva’s Notes & News

Green Thumb vs. Brown Thumb or Seven Ways to Successfully Kill a Plant

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images-1Why do some folks seem to have nothing but success growing plants (the “green thumb”) and others barely look at a plant and it dies (the “brown thumb”)? I can assure you it has nothing to do with their DNA, and everything to do with their understanding of what makes plants grow. More importantly, if you really want to turn your brown thumb green, you have to be willing to take a little time to learn what the light, soil, water and feeding requirements are for the plant or plants that tickle your fancy.

What To Do To Keep A Plant Healthy

Unless you’re buying a plant for someone else (housewarming, hospital visit, birthday) or are adding a basket of mums to the dining room table for Saturday’s dinner and feel no obligation for its long-term health, I would suggest educating yourself before you buy.  I think it would be fair to say that, “impulse purchases most often lead to death.”

Seven Ways to Successfully Kill a Plant.

For a brief overview on what I feel are the most successfully ways to kill a plant, I offer the following:

  1. imagesOverwatering:  This is, without a doubt, the number one cause of most plant tragedies. Because, strange as it may seem, since plants are usually buried in dirt, most plants’ roots require oxygen in order to survive. If you compulsively water your plants you will successfully kill them by preventing air from circulating and encouraging root rot. Unless you have a moisture meter, and if you do, you probably don’t need to be reading this, I suggest sticking your finger into the soli up to your knuckle to see if it’s dry.  If it is, you probably need to water, if it isn’t, you probably don’t. And don’t “tea-cup” water them. A plant should be watered thoroughly so that water drains from the pot and then allowed to dry out. But, for heaven’s sake, don’t allow the plant to sit in water or this too will lead to death by drowning.
  2. Underwatering: A sure sign that a plant needs watering is if its leaves begin to wilt and it looses its look of vitality. By underwatering you cause it to become stressed, which lowers its natural defenses and allows insects and disease to infest it. While some plants prefer most soil and other like to dry out, most prefer to be kept “evenly moist.” This information should be available on the plant’s label or, if not, make sure and check with the garden center or Google the name of the plant. There are any number of website devoted to plants that can provide all the information you’ll ever need to know.
  3. pest-problems Ignore Intruders: There are all kinds of pests just waiting for you to ignore your plant. Plants should be examined at least once a week for scale and a variety of bugs, particularly when there’s a lot of new growth.  And make sure to look under the leaves where a whole host of creatures like to hang out. If you discover an infestation, there are a number of remedies including insecticidal soaps. If infestation is significant, the only solution may be to dispose of the plant and make sure that none of your other plants, particularly of the same specie, are infected
  4.  It’s Either Too Bright Or Too Dark: If the label says that it’s a shade plant, it probably means it doesn’t like to sit in direct sunlight. And if the plant’s label has the Sun on it, you can rest assured that it needs to be sitting in sunshine the majority of the day. The amount of sun a plant needs may change during the year, but if your sun deck is actually bathed in sun the better part of the day, chances are it would not be the right location for a large fern regardless of the time of the year.
  5.  Soil and PH: If you’re potting or repotting a plant either in the ground or a container, good quality potting soil that is appropriate for the plant is important. For example, if you’re planting succulents or citrus in pots, it’s important to use a cactus mix, so that the soil drains easily and there’s no chance of root rot.  Also, there are a number of plants that prefer acid (pH 4.5 to 5.5) soil. They include ferns, African violets, Azaleas, Begonias, Cyclamens, Dieffenbachia, Gardenias, Hydrangeas, Spruce, Birch Heather, Rhododendrons. Soil additives are available either to mix in with the potting soil or can be added after planting.
  6. Plant Depth Can Mean Plant Death: As mentioned above, a plant’s roots need oxygen. If you place a new plant too deeply in the ground you may kill it by suffocating it. A plant’s root ball should be approximately 10% above the soil level.
  7. To Mulch or Not Too Mulch: A two to three inch layer of mulch, particularly during the dry months, will help retain moisture and retard weed growth. However, too much of a good thing can be deadly and function much like too much water, depriving the roots of the necessary oxygen, with the resulting root rot and death.

Like almost everything in life, knowledge is power. If you want to turn your brown thumb green try doing it one plant at a time. Find a plant you like, do a little research and if what you can provide and what it needs to survive mesh, take it on and make sure that it grows and flourishes. If successful, you have the blueprint for future successes.