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Turf Conversion & Smart Water Management in Times of Drought

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Dry-GrassHere is an excellent article that came from Valley Crest Water Management that ties in perfectly with my recent newsletter/blog No-Mow Grass – A Lawn Saver. If you’re considering replacing your grass, this is invaluable information.

We’ve all seen it—the brown, scraggly patches that were once lush, green grass. With the drought now almost four years into its fury, that sight is becoming all too common and if current projections are correct, there isn’t much relief in sight for much of the western United States.

So, it’s time to bid drought-battered turf good-bye and ideally, replace it with drought-tolerant plantings (xeriscaping and/or hardscaping) with water management in mind. Below we’ve rounded up seven alternatives, listed in order of worst to best in terms of water conservation.

Take a look and see if there’s an alternative that fits your needs. Also, before you begin your turf rehab, consider your entire landscape. Choose an alternative that meshes with your environment and matches your budget. Keep in mind the savings that will result from water-wise planting and hardscape, and factor that into your decision-making process.

Here, from worst to best, are seven turf conversion alternatives to consider:

 1. More of the Same – Re-Sodding

Undoubtedly, this is the quickest fix to that brown patch but it’s also the most costly in terms of dollars and the environment. In fact, with continued drought conditions, this option may also be the costliest in terms of labor and water, as you may well have to re-sod again before too long. On a more positive note, sod and seed suppliers are offering more and more low-water-use varieties, so if you must re-sod, use one of the xeriscape-friendly turf options.

2. Slightly Better but Water Intensive – Re-Seeding

Onyx1-282x179Re-seeding is definitely less expensive than re-sodding but again, it’s just a band-aid solution when it comes to long-term sustainability. Recently re-seeded turf requires constant moisture, which, depending on the season and temperature, doesn’t help when it comes to smart water management. And like the option above, with predicted continued drought, if the re-seeded turf suffers more due to ongoing drought, you may end up right back where you started.

One note: if you choose to go the route of either of the two options above, choose this opportunity to update your irrigation system. Check your sprinkler coverage and improve as needed with upgrades such as matched precipitation-rate nozzles and/or high-efficiency nozzles.

Both of the above options are not ideal for properties in areas where water restrictions are in effect. For those areas the options 3 – 7 are better suited.

3. Most Affordable, Least Aesthetic – Mulching

The cheapest way to cover up drought-ravaged turf is to mulch—or sheet mulch—the impacted areas. In terms of water management, this is the most desirable of the first three alternatives we’ve presented, but just like the others above, it’s probably just a short-term solution since the aesthetics of the mulched areas will most likely detract rather than add to your landscape visuals.

4. The All New Approach – Planting Xeriscape-Friendly Shrubs

Onyx2-282x179Another option is to remove the turf completely and replace it with clusters of low-water-use shrubs like Abelia, Phormium, Coleonema, Nandina’s and Oleanders. Of course, when choosing drought-tolerant plants, consider how they’ll blend in with existing landscaping.

You might also consider removing overhead spray or rotor sprinklers and replacing them with drip irrigation at the same time. Depending on the area you’re renovating and the existing configuration for your landscape and irrigation system, this might be challenging. Going with all new plantings to replace dead or dying turf makes sense if it works aesthetically or if it jibes with your long-term plans for the entire landscape. If not, this patch job could just end up looking like an ill-planned patch.

5. More of the Same – Extending Existing Shrubs

If it works with your landscaping, you could simply extend surrounding or adjacent shrub beds, filling in the drought-challenged turf with similar plantings. Again, if possible, you’ll want to replace any old or high-water-use irrigation with a drip system designed for good water management.

In terms of the options we’ve presented, this may just be the best value as it could just look like part of your original design. On the downside, if your original plantings are not low water use, it won’t help you long term in the way of sustainable xeriscaping.

6. Mix it Up –Blending Xeriscape-Friendly Shrubs with Existing Shrubbery

Onyx3-282x179A smart transitional approach involves extending surrounding or adjacent shrub beds into the drought-challenged areas and throwing some low-water-use shrubs into the mix. At the same time, replace old irrigation with drip for better water management throughout existing and new shrubbery. This is by far the most appealing alternative presented thus far as it updates tired, worn out shrubbery that’s grown woody and scores points for smart water management.

7. Make it Architectural – Adding Hardscaping to the Mix

Finally, perhaps one of the smartest moves is to think long-term and incorporate decomposed granite, cobblestone or some kind of decorative paver or stone as well as drought-tolerant plantings into the areas you’re rehabbing. Obviously you’ll want to consider the surroundings, traffic patterns and your overall landscape before doing this but if it is an option, this is by far the most water-efficient and aesthetic choice. It’s also the costliest but money spent on this project could be savings gained in terms of water use and increased property value.

A Few Final Words

When undertaking turf conversion, be sure to check in with your local water authority to see if your project qualifies for any of the cash-for-grass rebate programs. Typically these programs require that you replace existing turf with qualified low-water-use plants and xeriscaping. Every water authority differs in terms of their requirements and rebates so check in with yours before undertaking any extensive turf conversion work.

Also, don’t wait. As drought conditions continue, the more you do to conserve water and think ahead, the greater the likelihood that your landscape and budget won’t suffer in the months and possibly even years to come. The drought outlook is not a pretty picture, but the more we practice smart water management, the better off all of us—and the environment—will be.

No-Mow Grass – A Lawn Saver

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no-mow-residential-1With California facing the worst drought in its history is it possible for a responsible home owner or property manager to turn a water-consuming landscape into a drought tolerant one and still include grass as part of it’s design?

The answer is …YES!

No-Mow Grass (a collection of fineleaf fescue “grass” species that have been developed over the last 40+ years) is the answer for low-maintenance, low-input, environmentally friendly grassy ground covers. No-Mow is ideal for home, commercial and industrial landscapes that include slopes, median strips, golf course roughs, cemeteries and untrafficked areas of parks.

To continue reading … Eva’s Notes & News

Featured in Small-Space Gardening Magazine

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Small-Space-Garden-Half-Cover

March, 2015

The Photo Editor of Small-Space Gardening contacted me about a picture she found on on my website of a garden I’d designed. She loved it and asked  to use it in their Spring edition. I, of course, was thrilled that they liked it and wanted to publish it, so, of course, I said yes!

And here it is! I am so pleased that it’s in such a wonderful publication — currently available on newsstands. It’s filled with fabulous pictures and great ideas for container gardens, small vegetable gardens, small backyards, color palates, plant selection and a great deal more.

Here is the photograph from the magazine, which they titled “European Charmer.”

Small-Space-Garden-72ppi

If you’d like to read or download the article, click Small Space Gardening 2015!”

University of California – Helpful Gardening Information

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vegetableDo you want to know: What to plant? Where to plant it? How to plant it? How deep to plant it? How much to water it? What to feed it? How much sun it needs? and What critters will like to eat it? Then, The University of California Cooperative Extension for Los Angeles County is a wonderful resource for  almost anything having to do with gardening.

What follows is a wealth of information that flows from the UC system, including listings of their websites, divisions, publications, research papers etc. So, you might want to bookmark this for future reference. Take a look, try out the links and see how much valuable gardening information is available right here at your fingertips.

And if I can be of any assistance in answering your gardening or landscaping questions, please email me at eknoppel@garden-of-eva.com.

Happy Hunting!

Asian Citrus Psyllid – http://ucanr.edu/sites/acp/

Avocado Information – http://www.ucavo.ucr.edu/

Backyard Orchard – http://homeorchard.ucdavis.edu/

Beneficial Insects Poster – http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/FAQ/natural-enemies-poster.pdf

Berries – http://ucanr.edu/sites/gardenweb/Berries/

California Agriculture – http://californiaagriculture.ucanr.org/

California Center for Urban Horticulture – http://ccuh.ucdavis.edu/

California Garden Web – http://ucanr.edu/sites/gardenweb/

Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems – http://casfs.ucsc.edu/

Center for Invasive Species Research – http://cisr.ucr.edu/

Citrus Variety Collection – http://www.citrusvariety.ucr.edu/

Community Gardens (UC ANR Publication) – http://anrcatalog.ucdavis.edu/pdf/8499.pdf

Exotic and Invasive Pests – http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/EXOTIC/index.html

Fire-Safe Landscaping – http://ucanr.edu/sites/SAFELandscapes/

Flowers – http://ucanr.edu/sites/gardenweb/Flowers/

Free Publications – http://ucanr.edu/freepubs/index.cfm

Fruits and Nuts Center – http://fruitsandnuts.ucdavis.edu/

Gardening  Basics – http://ucanr.edu/sites/gardenweb/General/

Glossary of Gardening Terms, A-M – http://ucanr.edu/sites/gardenweb/Glossary/

Glossary of Gardening Terms, N-Z – http://ucanr.edu/sites/gardenweb/Glossary/Glossary__N-Z/

Grapes – http://ucanr.edu/sites/gardenweb/Growing_Grapes_in_the_California_Garden/

Healthy Lawns – http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/TOOLS/TURF/

Honeybee Research and Information – http://bees.ucr.edu/

Indoor Plants – http://ucanr.edu/sites/gardenweb/Houseplants/

Integrated Pest Management Program – http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/

Landscape Trees, Shrubs, Vines – http://ucanr.edu/sites/gardenweb/Landscape_Trees/

Lawns – http://ucanr.edu/sites/gardenweb/Lawns/

Natural Enemies – http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/NE/index.html

Natural Environment Pests – http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/NATURAL/index.html

Pest Notes – http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/index.html

Pesticide and Toxicology Network – http://extoxnet.orst.edu/

Plant Native – http://www.plantnative.org/

Postharvest  Technology – http://postharvest.ucdavis.edu/

Safe and Poisonous Plants – http://ucanr.edu/sites/poisonous_safe_plants/

Small Farm Program – http://www.sfc.ucdavis.edu/

Soil Solarization for Gardens and Landscapes –http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn74145.html

Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program – http://www.sarep.ucdavis.edu/

Sustainable Landscaping in California: How to Conserve Resources and Beautify Your Home Landscape – http://anrcatalog.ucdavis.edu/pdf/8504.pdf

Vegetable Research and Information Center – http://vric.ucdavis.edu/

Vegetables – http://ucanr.edu/sites/gardenweb/Vegetables/

Weed Photo Gallery – http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/weeds_intro.html

Weed Research and Information Center – http://wric.ucdavis.edu/

Publications Catalog – http://anrcatalog.ucdavis.edu/InOrder/Shop/Shop.asp

UCTV – Gardening and Agriculture – http://www.uctv.tv/gardening/

UC Riverside Botanic Garden – http://gardens.ucr.edu/

 

Creating Sunny California Shade Without Breaking The Bank

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Weingart-CenterOne of the joys of living in Southern California is its weather. It’s now the middle of February and the sun is shining, the sky is blue and the temperature is in the 80’s – what more could one ask for? But an irony of our beautiful, sun-drenched out-of-doors is that we must have shade in order to enjoy it and to protect ourselves from the sun’s damaging rays.

As a landscape designer and contractor, there are a variety of structures I can design and build (pergolas, gazebos, arbors, greenhouses) to satisfy my clients’ desire for shade. However, these structures (hardscape) are expensive and usually entail a substantial amount of landscaping to go along with their construction.

But there are alternatives to a permanent structure and while a few of these may require a certain amount of installation, they can be added to an existing patio or deck or poolside without much fuss and without breaking your bank!

Here are the three major categories:

To continue reading … Eva’s Notes & News

Beautiful Balconies

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Being a landscape designer, I wind up driving all over greater Los Angeles, and, believe me, seeing how many miles I put on my car ever week, the operative word is greater. But what I’ve  noticed, particularly as I snail along in traffic, is that our city has a great many balconies but so many of those balconies have no color — no life — they are just empty vessels waiting to be filled.

This is so different than what I experience whenever I travel through Europe — particularly through the southern regions along the Mediterranean. There, you can’t go through a village, a town or a city without seeing color dripping from countless window ledges and balconies.

While our weather is certainly similar to Italy, France and Spain, it seems our relationship with nature is not, and I think that’s a shame.  A balcony is a great opportunity to introduce a little nature into your life and beauty to your home. So, here are some really interesting and individually expressed balconies that might inspire you to add to some life to that empty vessel outside your window or even turn it into something spectacular. It’s easy to do, it’s inexpensive and you’ll be amazed at how much happier you’ll feel looking out your window.

Garden Of Eva - Balcony Ideas (7)

Garden Of Eva - Balcony Ideas (5)

Garden Of Eva - Balcony Ideas (1)

Garden Of Eva - Balcony Ideas (2)

Garden Of Eva - Balcony Ideas

 

Garden Of Eva - Balcony Ideas (6)

Garden Of Eva - Balcony Ideas (4) Garden Of Eva - Balcony Ideas (3)

A Landscape To Grow With

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Firepit-Kitchen-Pizza-OvenAs you can see from the “Before” picture below, the landscaping of this home’s back yard was, except for the pool, water feature and deck, non-existent!

Before

before

A blank slate is actually better for me as the designer because I don’t have to deal with a lot of existing and unwanted hardscape and/or plant material. With the removal of the palm trees and few other plants, we were ready to proceed with creating what my clients’ desired.

And what they had requested was an environment that was suitable for a great deal of entertaining as well as a place for them, their dog and their anticipated family to grow up in and enjoy. It also needed to be easy to maintain and be as drought-tolerant as possible.

The Kitchen

kitchen

There were two elements that were essential for the design. The first was an outdoor kitchen with a lot of counter space, a barbecue and stove, a pizza oven, a sink with running water, a counter to sit at and a roof that cantilevered out over the seating area, which was to match the existing, but refinished, wooden deck.

The second required ingredient was a fire pit surrounded by a large seating area.

The Fire Pit

fire-pit-2

Between the fire pit and the kitchen lay the existing deck. I used it as the axis of these two elements with the pool creating the third aspect of a triangle that visually tied all three elements together.

The Pool and The Deck

deck-pool

By creating a clearly defined entertainment area, it left the remaining yard to be landscaped as a separate entity.

The Landscape

landscape

Keeping in mind the desire to create a drought-tolerant landscape, the remaining yard was divided into a small area of grass (for the dog and the children-to-be) with the remaining property covered with pea gravel.

To help define the area, serve as backdrop for the entertainment area and provide a view from inside the house, three full-grown olive trees were craned in and planted.

Illumination and Irrigation

landscape-lights

Additional seating was provided at various spots along the graveled area and the trees and property were illuminated with low voltage lamps and spot lights. A drip irrigation system was installed through out.

The Pizza Oven

pizza-oven

While the re-designed landscape has received high marks from both friends and neighbors, the one thing the husband loves above all else is his pizza oven, which, I am told, is in continual use!

7 Excellent Screening Hedges/Trees

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Ficus Nitida
Ficus Nitida

Ficus Nitida and Ficus Benjamina are not the solution.

Whenever a client asks about installing a hedge they’re usually thinking of planting a row using Ficus Nitida (Retusa) or Benjamina.  They have been Southern California’s “go to” trees for privacy hedges for decades, but there are a number of reasons to pass them by. They can be very invasive and their roots grow close to the surface, damaging sidewalks. While they grow fast, they need frequent trimming and are not drought-toelerant. They require a substantial amount of water to establish and a moderate amount once established.

What follows is information on seven excellent hedges provided by the  North Park Nursery. If you’re thinking about adding a hedge and are concerned about how it will behave and how much water it will consume, here is valuable information about the best plant material for the job.

Best Screening Trees

What makes the the perfect screening shrub? The answer to this question may vary depending on the individual, but. generally, the desirable characteristics are as follows:

  • Between 15 and 20 feet tall.
  • Evergreen and dense.
  • Tolerant of full sun.
  • Fast-growing.
  • Low maintenance, particularly low water use.
  • Non-invasive.

Podocarpus, fern pine, yew pine, yellow wood, Japanese yew

Podocarpus-Screening-Hedge
Podocarpus-Screening-Hedge

Scientific Name: Podocarpus sp.
Height: 50 to 100 ft
Sun: Part shade to full sun
Water: Low to moderate
Description: One of the tallest trees on this list, we love podocarpus because it is an extremely resilient, fast-growing tree that is tolerant of full sun and low water. It can also stand part shade and holds up against windy, salty, coastal conditions. In addition, it responds well to pruning and shearing, meaning it can be managed at any height and made into a formal hedge. Of course, you can always choose to leave these trees in their natural form for a more organic appearance. There are a few varieties to choose from, including P. henkelii, which has long, slender and drooping leaves, P. gracilior, with fern-like foliage and P. gracilior, which has pine-like foliage and can be found in a variety called ‘Icee Blue,’ which has fabulous steel blue coloration.

Pittosporum, kohuhu, ‘Silver Sheen’

Pittosporum-Tenuifolium-Screening-Hedge
Pittosporum-Tenuifolium-Screening-Hedge

Scientific Name: Podocarpus tenuifolium
Height: 20 to 30 ft
Sun: Part shade to full sun
Water: Low
Description: Pittosporum tenuifolium is a drought-tolerant New Zealand native that makes an excellent screening shrub here in Southern California. It tolerates full to part sun and can be either sheared into a more dense formal hedge or allowed to assume a natural, upright and wispy form. The most popular cultivar for use in home landscaping is ‘Silver Sheen,’ named for the grey-green tops and white undersides of its small leaves, which appear to flicker when caught in a breeze. The dark stems on this variety make it a striking choice indeed. Other varieties include ‘Gold Star,’ ‘Gold Sheen,’ ‘Marjorie Channon’ and ‘Irene Patterson,’ which come in different shades of green, variegated or otherwise, with bright red to deep black stems.

California Bayberry, California Wax Myrtle, Pacific Wax Myrtle

Pacific-Wax-Myrtle-Screening-Hedge
Pacific-Wax-Myrtle-Screening-Hedge

Scientific Name: Myrica californica
Height: 15 to 30 ft
Sun: Part shade to full sun
Water: Moderate
Description: A shrub native to the West Coast from Washington to Southern California, it has slightly fragrant, evergreen leaves. Best used along the coast, it is tolerant of sandy, loamy and clay soils, high winds and salt spray, making it an excellent windbreak along the coast. Needs some protection from sun and supplemental water when used further inland. Beautiful natural form, does not tolerate shearing.

Privet, wax leaf privet

Ligustrum-Texanum-Screening-Hedge
Ligustrum-Texanum-Screening-Hedge

Scientific Name: Ligustrum japonicum ‘Texanum’
Height: 8 to 10 ft
Sun: Part shade to full sun
Water: Moderate
Description:  Many gardeners are averse to planting privet because it has a reputation as being invasive and aggressive. However, in spite of these characteristics it makes an almost perfect hedge: fast growing, dense, evergreen foliage, tolerant of shearing with profuse white flowers. We recommend choosing the cultivar ‘Texanum,’ which is a less aggressive variety that only grows to half the size of the species. Will .ppreciate supplemental watering during the warmer months.

Spartan juniper

Juniper-Spartan-Screening-Hedge
Juniper-Spartan-Screening-Hedge

Scientific Name: Juniperus chinensis ‘Spartan’
Height: 10 to 15 ft
Sun: Full sun
Water: Low
Description: There are many species of vertical-growing juniper that make excellent wind breaks and privacy screens. ‘Spartan’ is a cultivar we love for its moderate height, vertical form and rich green foliage. It is very responsive to pruning, and tolerant of heat, cold, wind and drought. Requires very little maintenance once established. Other similar choices are Juniper ‘Skyrocket’ and Cupressus sempervirens ‘Tiny Tower.’

Bamboo

Alphonse-Karr-Bamboo-Screening-Hedge
Alphonse-Karr-Bamboo-Screening-Hedge

Scientific Name: Bambusa sp.
Height: 15 to 30 ft
Sun: Part shade to full sun
Water: Moderate
Description: Bamboo is an excellent choice for a fast-growing, tall privacy screen with a tropical look. We recommend choosing clumping varieties that will not invade the rest of your yard – a favorite is the cultivar ‘Alphonse Karr,’ which has beautiful golden yellow stems and can be maintained at whatever height you desire with occasional pruning. Note that bamboo is a messy plant and tends to drop lots of leaves.

Bay laurel, sweet bay

Laurus-Nobilis-Screening-Hedge
Laurus-Nobilis-Screening-Hedge

Scientific Name: Laurus nobilis
Height: 15 to 25 ft
Sun: Part shade to full sun
Water: Low
Description: Similar in appearance to privet but lacking flowers, bay laurel is a slower-growing, less-aggressive shrub that can be sheared into a formal hedge and is tolerant of full sun and low water. Very low maintenance and can be allowed to assume its natural form for an organic look.

13 Bountiful Thanksgiving Table Ideas

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thanks-12

Thanksgiving has always been a very special holiday for me. It combines three things I care deeply about: my family and friends, the wonderful life that I’ve been given and the bounty that nature provides us.

In planning my Thanksgiving I thought it might be fun to select some very special Thanksgiving table decorations that display some of nature’s bounty. Almost everything in these stunning designs can be found in the garden or in the vegetable section of your grocery story. Add a few candles and a little imiganation and you’ve got yourself your own fabulous Thanksgiving table.

Happy Thanksgiving – may it be a loving and delicious one!

Thanks-1

 

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Fall & Winter Garden Color

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WinterGardenOne of the advantages of Southern California over the North and the East, is that our mild winters make it possible to plant and grow year-round. Fall is not only a time for garden maintenance and preparation of the soil for spring planting; it is the time to plant for winter and early spring harvests and blooms.

Clients have asked about adding color to their gardens, patios and balconies, so here are a list of 17 winter-blooming plants that offer a range of colors and structure that should do the trick.

Calendula (Calendula officinalis)

CalendulaDaisy-like calendula provides easy color from late fall through spring in mild-winter climates, and are long lasting in a vase. Choose classic orange and bright yellow, or opt for subtler shades of apricot, cream, and soft yellow.

Branching plants are 1 to 2 feet high and 1 to 1½ feet wide and look great as masses of color or in a container.

Calendula plants take full sun and moderate water. They will tolerate many soils as long as they have good drainage. Remove the spent flowers to prolong bloom.

Candytuft (Iberis)

candytuft-iberis-lCandytuft plants grow 8 to 12 inches high and wide; their narrow, shiny dark green leaves look great all year.

Pure white flower clusters are carried on stems long enough to cut for bouquets. Choose ‘Alexander’s White’ (pictured), ‘Autumnale’, or ‘Autumn Snow; they bloom in spring and again in fall.

Plants thrive in full sun or part shade and regular water. Candytuft needs well-drained soil and should be sheared ightly after bloom to stimulate new growth.

To continue reading … Eva’s Notes & News