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Archives for February 27, 2015

Rally against winter

Get a bit closer to spring Saturday at the 11th annual Home, Leisure and Craft Show at Sullivan Auctioneers, U.S. Highway 136, Hamilton, Ill.

Doors will open at 10 a.m. and the show will go on until 4 p.m., no matter what the last gasp of winter has in store.

 “We have added several new vendors to our show this year with many returning from years past,” said Amy Morgan, advertising manager for the Daily Gate City. “With more than 40 vendors attending the show, we are excited to have such a variety again this year.”

The Daily Gate City and Hancock County Journal-Pilot are sponsoring the event, which is packed with the latest ideas for home decorating, renovations, landscaping and outdoor adventures.

Stare down winter by making gardening plans, setting up yard maintenance contracts, home updates, spring cleaning action, cruising aspirations and checking out the latest in four-wheel fun.

Vendors are Henry’s Service Center, Jim’s Greenhouse, Shipshape Landscape, Mississippi Rat Pak Car Club, Kraus Home Furnishings, Air Evac, Keokuk Auto Credit, Quincy Siding Window, Martin Sullivan, James Chiropractic, Generations Electric, Midwest Performance Power, D E Archery, Gavillet Nursery, Plowman Lawn Care, Wells Way, Abney Home Improvement, Tile Pro, King Waterproofing Foundation Solutions, and TNT Action Sports.  

Home-based businesses such as Avon, Jamberry Nails, Scentsy, Origami Owl, Younique, Pink Zebra, Skinfully Delicious, JBloom, Celebrating Home, Jeuness, Tupperware, Watkins, Le-Vel, Mary Kay, Premier Jewelry and Thirty One are setting up booths, along with many talented home crafters who will display and sell their products.

Straight Shooters BBQ will have American Barbecue Systems at their booth while serving barbecue sandwiches.

River Hills Village Assisted Living will provide baked goods, drinks and other food items for sale during the show.

Free registration and entry makes patrons eligible for a chance to win one of many door prize gifts from home and leisure vendors.

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All Dried Up: Students push for a more drought-tolerant campus

Three Stanford seniors have spent the majority of their final undergraduate year pushing to see change on Stanford’s campus that they may never have the chance to enjoy as students.

Zack Gold ’15, Akshai Baskaran ’15 and Laura Cussen ’15 created a petition asking the University to replace “grass landscaping with drought-tolerant native plants.” The petition has over 800 signatures and has garnered the attention of students, faculty and University officials.

Gold initiated the idea because he kept hearing from students in Students for a Sustainable Stanford (SSS) that Stanford’s water use was the issue that bothered them most. The more Gold, who is the co-president of SSS, looked into the problem, the more he found that one of the main perpetrators of water waste was Stanford’s irrigation of lawns and plants. According to the petition, watering plants makes up 40 percent of Stanford’s annual water use.

“One of the biggest recurring arguments [by administrators] was, ‘students don’t actually want drought-resistant plants, they want green athletic fields,’” Gold explained. “We wanted to get rid of the myth that students don’t actually want drought tolerant landscaping.”

Stanford's fountains have been shut off due to the drought since last year. (CATALINA RAMIREZ-SAENZ/The Stanford Daily)

Stanford’s fountains have been shut off due to the drought since last year. (CATALINA RAMIREZ-SAENZ/The Stanford Daily)

Gold, Baskaran and Cussen are thrilled with the response from the petition so far and note that over half of the signatures seem to come from alumni, dispelling the theory that Stanford needs to keep its green lawns for the sake of alumni who want to see Stanford when they visit.

“Actually, a lot of our signatures seem to be from alumni saying things like, ‘I always wished this had been a priority when I was a student,’” Cussen said.

The organizers emphasized that the petition was not targeting “signature Stanford” lawns like the Oval or Wilbur field, but instead focused on smaller features like strips on the sides of buildings.

 “It might be unrealistic to think the historic lawns on campus will be changed to drought-resistant plants,” Cussen said. “We’re focusing on lawns that are underused and don’t add value to the university.”


Involving the University

Once hundreds of names began to appear on the online form, Gold contacted university officials to set up a meeting and present the petition and his ideas for Stanford’s future landscaping.

“Unfortunately, we got no response over and over again,” Gold recounted.

Baskaran, the head of the ASSU committee for energy and the environment, was able to step in after hearing Gold’s problems with communication and got in touch with the University Architect/Campus Planning and Design Office (UA/CPD). Baskaran set up a meeting with the office almost immediately. He admits his title and position on the ASSU probably helped him get a response from the university.

“When Zack told me about the petition and how he was having trouble getting in touch with university staff, I told him, ‘Literally the goal of my committee is to make sure we connect student groups with the university,’” Baskaran said.

The three authors of the petition scheduled a meeting with Cathy Blake, associate director of the UA Planning Office, to present their petition and discuss plans for implementation.

“We set up a meeting and had the petition to say, ‘Look at this, students care about it.’ We really communicated that message, and we could tell they cared, too,” Baskaran said.

The students were overwhelmed by the amount of support they found. Because of the meeting, they were invited to look over plans for the current Meyer library green space, the Stanford Arboretum and other plans for the future of Stanford’s landscape.

“In general, it was great talking with the Students for Sustainable Stanford,” Blake said in a statement to The Daily.  “What I explained to them was that Stanford is fortunate that the original principles that the University was founded on from the 19th century Olmsted days was that Stanford should employ climate-appropriate, low-water-using plants consistent with the California climate.”

With the positive response from Blake and her associates in the UA/CPD, Gold and Baskaran are optimistic about the continuation of student involvement in some of these decisions.

“We’re trying to do the same thing – we’re just approaching it from two different angles. Students and Stanford are now working to solve these problems together. These are things we both care about; if we combine our efforts, we’ll be able to do much more than we would individually,” Gold said. “Students really want to work with Stanford University.”

Gold noted that a main facet of the petition was to demonstrate to the university that students want to initiate change and help mold the place where they will be living for four years. For Baskaran, while the sustainability portion was important, the main point of this initiative was to create a working relationship between student groups and university officials.

“My main goal is to develop a long-term relationship with the [UA/CPD] so that students have more of a connection,” Baskaran explained. “I want to make sure students are more involved with decision making on campus, and we’re trying to do that across the university. Our main goal on campus is to allow students to have more of an impact.”

Baskaran is hopeful that his efforts will be carried on after he graduates in June.

“I’m really optimistic about the students’ role here on campus,” he said.


The Meyer Library Green Space

One of the main reasons why the petition was started earlier this year was to target the green space that will be created once the demolition of Meyer Library is complete. Gold, Baskaran and Cussen saw this as a place where their plans could soon come to fruition.

“Meyer was a good opportunity for a central, high profile place on campus to get drought-tolerant landscaping and use it to educate as well,” Cussen said, citing the fact that many Stanford students will bike and walk through the area every day. “This is going to be a nexus for students.”

Gold was excited to be shown the plans for the space and said the three approved of the ideas presented. According to Blake, Meyer, once demolished, will turn into a grassy area for student uses encircled by drought-resistant plants.

“The ‘bowl’ portion of Meyer will be lawn to allow for seating at informal and maybe even formal events,” Blake wrote.

She went on to defend the University’s decision to place grass in the center and explained that green space actually cools the campus.

“I think the most misunderstood or targeted feature on campus is our lawns,” Blake said. “I would pose that the useable lawns that we have on campus are one of the most sustainable features of the University.” 

“The lawns cool the air up to 15 degrees from surrounding pavement or artificial turf, also reducing the heat island effect.” she added. “They are irrigated with our lake water, basically a water storage system that is, in part, created to feed our landscapes. We have the unique environment to allow this that makes many of our eastern counterparts jealous.”

David Freyberg, Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, agreed that lawns do offer a cooling system for surrounding areas due to the evaporation they cause but explained that to have evaporation, these lawns have to be watered in the first place.

However, he also said that he understands the importance of grassy lawns.

“You could make the Oval into a nice cactus garden, but it wouldn’t be a place for you to enjoy or kids to run and play,” Freyberg said. “For things like lawns, the main argument is an aesthetic one.”


Native plants



The petition starters also recognized the need for recreational spaces for students and explained that they were not upset about the use of lawns. In fact, they were more pleased with the incorporation of drought-resistant plants into the plan.

However, they also expressed concerns that the planned drought-resistant plants were not native California species.

“We were a little bummed out that most of the plants they are using are exotic – not really many California plants,” Gold said. “There are a ton of native flowers, like California poppies, that are beneficial in limiting water loss but also promote biodiversity around campus that could be used.”

The students provided Blake with a list of native species they would like to see, and Blake responded positively.

“Meyer will use a variety of native plants in the groves which are the predominant part of the design,” Blake said. “I did ask the students to provide a list of any particular plants they would like to see there which we can work in over time.  Some unique plants may not be readily available in the nurseries at a size that could survive student use, but they could be grown for us and incorporated into the plantings at a later time.”

According to Cussen, the goal of the petition is not solely to promote drought-resistant plants but also to incorporate native Californian species into Stanford’s landscaping.

“The wonderful thing about native plants is they attract all the native fauna which adds to the whole aesthetic benefits,” Cussen said. “We’ll be seeing hummingbirds, butterflies, and many other native species return.”

“There’s a section of the Main Quad that has native plants, and it is constantly teeming with hummingbirds,” Baskaran added.

Students are not the only ones asking for native species. Undergraduate Program Director for the School of Earth Sciences Richard Nevle, who knows and supports the students who started the petition, also spoke about the importance of conserving water in California.

“It’s likely that California will continue to have long-lived droughts,” he said. “This is not atypical. We need to find every means necessary to conserve water.”

Nevle is also a huge proponent for the use of native species on campus.

“Native plants are awesome for pollinators. They are also a part of our cultural and biological legacy,” Nevle said. “Every morning I bike into campus and get my own free symphony of birds singing to me. They’re here because of the plants. These native plants are not just useful for animals; they’re beneficial to human beings on a spiritual level.”

However, according to Freyberg, working with native plants can also be difficult. He cautioned that with a changing climate native plants are tricky to predict and may not be the best choice for future landscaping.

“The issue is that our climate is changing right now,” Freyberg said. “Will these native plants that have adapted over evolutionary time to our climate still be adapted to our climate of the future?”


Stanford’s sustainability of the future

As a result of the petition, students will be involved in sustainability efforts on campus long after the three initiators have graduated. Blake and her office have already requested that SSS and other interested students help plan the future of the Stanford Arboretum, a wide swath of flora that covers a portion of campus from Bing Concert Hall to El Camino Real.

“The arboretum has been central in importance since the founding of the University,” Cussen explained, citing Jane Stanford’s particular affinity for the area.

“There is a huge opportunity for greater use of that space for conservation and education,” she added.

The Arboretum features many exotic species, but after speaking with Blake, Cussen learned that university architects also hope to incorporate more native plants.

Beyond the planning of the Arboretum, the petition writers are hopeful that their efforts to target landscaping on campus will have a lasting effect on Stanford’s water use. With the current construction of more on-campus residences, the areas around those buildings will be prime spots for drought-resistant, native plants.

“Potential areas where we could see change would be the residential areas, like faculty housing,” Freyberg said. “I think there could be some significant reductions [in water use] there.”

Several signers of the petition have also asked whether the conservation of irrigation water could justify turning the iconic Stanford fountains back on. The fountains were turned off last year in light of the three-year drought that has continued to strike the area.

“We will evaluate if it makes sense to turn the fountains back on after the [Stanford Energy System Innovations’ Replacement Central Energy Facility] comes online in April,” said Jack Cleary, associate vice president of Land, Buildings and Real Estate, in a statement to The Daily. “As far as fountains go, all of ours are very well maintained and water efficient.  That said, we are very conscious of any non-essential water use during this drought and the fountains fit into that category.”


Contact Elizabeth Wallace at

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EBMUD offers plant ideas, rebates to promote conservation

OAKLAND — For longer than most Californians would like to remember, local water districts have been promoting water conservation and the East Bay Municipal Water District is right up there with the rest, stepping up its program to guide customers during the current drought.

EBMUD is continuing its program of offering rebates for residential landscape conversions. It has also developed new WaterSmart plant tags to guide consumers looking to convert to water efficient landscaping and is working closely with area nurseries.

“The plant tags are so customers who are in the process of converting their landscapes and are trying to make better choices of plants they are putting outside can figure out easily which are the ones that are more water efficient,” said Abby Figueroa, EBMUD senior public information representative. “They’re really to guide customers toward the best plants for the climate.”

Nine nurseries throughout the East Bay are using the tags sporting the message “I’m a WaterSmart plant,” including five in Alameda County: Encinal Nursery in Alameda; Westbrae Nursery in Berkeley; Thornhill Nursery in Montclair; Ace Garden Center Grand Lake in Oakland; and Evergreen Nursery in San Leandro.

The four Contra Costa County participants are: Tassajara Nursery in Danville; Mount Diablo Nursery and Orchard Nursery and Florist in Lafayette; and Annie’s Annuals in Richmond.

Customers can scan the back of the tags for information on water-wise plants and water-saving tips.

Each nursery determines its inventory of WaterSmart plants based on certain criteria.

The plant must be listed in the EBMUD’s “Plants and Landscapes for Summer Dry Climates” guide or appear in the state plant database, “Water Use Classification of Landscape,” as a low-water-using plant.

“Hundreds of plants qualify,” Figueroa said. “Drought or no drought, we have dry summers with warm temperatures throughout most of the year, so we really want to encourage people to pick plants that are going to be efficient.”

Rebates are another conservation promotion and EBMUD is offering rebates in three areas of landscape conversion.

The slogan “get cash for grass” refers to earning a rebate of 50 cents per square foot for removing a lawn.

Installing drip irrigation earns 25 cents per square foot and rebates are also offered for installing a Smart, self-regulating irrigation control.

Single-family homes can earn up to $2,500 as a credit on their water bill. Conservation is gaining momentum and EBMUD has seen a huge jump in the number of people applying for rebates.

“Last year, at this time we had less than 50 customers in the queue for landscape rebates and this year we have more than 500 somewhere in the process of receiving their rebate,” Figueroa said.

“Customers must first apply and be evaluated by a water conservation technician before being preapproved, then they have six months to make their upgrades and submit the final paperwork for us to approve the rebate.”

California’s drought is definitely a serious situation and mandatory restrictions statewide limit outdoor watering to no more than twice a week.

Along with this restriction, the best way to conserve water is by finding and fixing leaks in irrigation systems and taking control of what is being watered.

“If folks can think ahead and do anything that will reduce their outdoor water use long term those are the best steps they can take to help out in the drought,” Figueroa said.


For more information on new plant tags:
For rebate information:
EBMUD ‘Plants and Landscape for Summer Dry Climates’ guide:
Participating nurseries: Ace Garden Center Grand Lake, 4001 Grand Ave., Oakland; Annie’s Annuals, 740 Market Ave., Richmond; Encinal Nursery, 2057 Encinal Ave., Alameda; Evergreen Nursery, 350 San Leandro Blvd., San Leandro; Mt. Diablo Nursery, 3295 Mt. Diablo Blvd., Lafayette; Orchard Nursery and Florist, 4010 Mt. Diablo Blvd., Lafayette; Tassajara Nursery, 2550 Camino Tassajara, Danville; Thornhill Nursery, 6250 Thornhill Drive, Oakland; and Westbrae Nursery, 1272 Gilman St., Berkeley.

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Signs of spring about to bloom at Outdoor Living & Landscape Show

Can gardening — of all things — get more natural? Yes, it can.

It’s one of the trends in growing that is growing, along with the popularity of edibles, container gardening and plants that give the most bang for their buck, doing the double duty of looking pretty and tasting good.

The trends are being seen locally and nationally, echoed from the county extension agent to garden personality P. Allen Smith, who will be in Wichita next week to speak at the Outdoor Living Landscape Show.

“Interest in gardening has never been stronger,” Smith said this week from his farm outside Little Rock, right before the latest winter storm was about to hit. He and his farmhands were scurrying to make preparations, while Smith also was preparing for the onslaught of spring just waiting in the wings.

“What I find is that edibles have moved to the front of the pack,” Smith continued. “Container gardening remains at the top. Growing some of your food in containers combines the two top trends.”

Smith, who hosts three gardening shows on TV along with authoring garden books and giving workshops at his farm and appearing around the country, will give a slide presentation at the Outdoor Living Landscape Show at 10:30 a.m. on March 7. The show starts March 6 and runs through March 8 in Century II’s Expo Hall, coinciding with the start of daylight saving time for a double dose of warm-weather hope.

Smith remembers being in Wichita in 2004 at the old Wichita Garden Show, and he is the first national speaker to appear at the new incarnation of the show, the smaller Outdoor Living Landscape Show.

“This will be our fourth show, and this will be the first time we’ve brought in somebody,” said Brad Horning of Entercom radio, the show’s sponsor. It will feature more than 130 vendors of garden and outdoor-living products and services, local garden-club representatives, display gardens and seminars. The giveaway of a $4,000 backyard makeover has increased to $5,000 this year; register at the show office at the north end of Expo Hall for a chance to win.

The Extension Service and its master gardeners will be sponsoring the seminars, which will hit some of the garden hot buttons, including drought, new varieties of flowers, garden design, bees, and containers. Smith will be speaking in the same area of the hall where the seminars are. (He’ll also be the guest of honor at a cocktail party at Botanica the night before; tickets are $125, which include a copy of his latest book, a photo with him, a ticket to the outdoor show and a donation to Botanica.)

Bees and butterflies

“Bees and butterflies and protecting the monarchs” are among the areas of gardening interest that extension agent Bob Neier sees, and Smith agrees.

“People are more sensitive to the ecology of their own backyard, and probably the hallmark is the interest in beneficial insects and butterflies and attracting birds and the honeybee.”

The Kansas Native Plant Society last week announced that its Wildflower of the Year for 2015 is spider milkweed (Asclepias viridis), chosen in part because it is beneficial to monarch butterflies.

It’s one of the milkweeds that blooms at the Great Plains Nature Center in Wichita, recently registered as a monarch waystation by Monarch Watch at the University of Kansas.

“That’s really one of the most important ones,” Amanda Alessi, a naturalist at the center, said of spider milkweed, which flowers in clusters of pale green. “It’s one of the first ones we see blooming in the spring,” giving monarchs on their northward migration a place to lay their eggs.

“We are really pushing and seeing a lot of planting milkweed, one that’s native, so it’s a lot more hardy and needs less water and it’s also beneficial to monarchs and other pollinators.”

Spider milkweed is also known as green antelopehorn because its seedpods look like small antelope horns. It is shorter and has a less-weedy growth habit than common milkweed, which may make it more suitable for native landscaping, the native plant society says on its website. Roots and seeds are available, and, locally, Prairie Pride Plants, for one, expects to have plants for sale this summer.

Other trends

While eating well — both for health and flavor — is driving the popularity of growing edibles, a few trends accompany it: growing at least some of that food in containers, and growing edible plants that are also beautiful. At least some vegetables can sneak into the front yard that way.

So many vegetable plants “are just gorgeous,” Smith said. “I can’t imagine my garden without Ruby Red or Rainbow Swiss chard. It can compete with the finest of bloomers, in my opinion.” He likes to integrate flowers and herbs, and always plants marigolds among the tomatoes for cutting. “I love the fragrance.”

A favorite from last year’s garden: Tabasco pepper. “The peppers looked like little flowers. For the late garden, they’re just gorgeous.”

Wichitan Mike DeRee of Ball Seed Co. will speak at the outdoor show about new annual varieties at 7 p.m. on March 7. He said that kale “is off the charts.” People eat it, of course, and they also love the ornamental kind for fall decorating.

Smith noted another trend that shows people are trying to get away from the tech-dominated world and back to nature: urban farmsteading.

His Moss Mountain Farm, which is open for tours, has seen a huge interest in poultry workshops and beekeeping. He has a Heritage Poultry Conservancy of about 35 endangered breeds.

“People are raising a few laying hens in the backyard, keeping a vegetable garden, growing some herbs.”

Smith’s main passion right now: “local food communities and how we can work to amplify that.” He has had shows on TV for 15 years — “P. Allen Smith’s Garden Home” is on KPTS’s Create channel at 10 a.m. Sundays, and his “Garden to Table” airs at 6:30 a.m. Tuesday and Thursdays on Create — and more than ever sees the need for garden education.

“There’s so much to share. And I’m jazzed by that. I like helping.”

If You Go

Outdoor Living Landscape Show

When: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. March 6, 9 a.m.-9 p.m. March 7, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. March 8

Where: Century II Expo Hall, 225 W. Douglas

How much: $9, $7 seniors, $4 ages 5-12, free for children 4 and under;

Tickets:, 316-219-4849, at the door

Free parking will be available at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium, 300 S. Sycamore, with free shuttle service to Century II


Show seminars

Friday: noon, Kansas climate and gardening; 1 p.m., healthy grilling tips and trends; 2 p.m., landscape design; 3 p.m., salad gardening; 4 p.m., trees for Wichita (ICTrees); 5 p.m., backyard wildlife; 6 p.m., the home landscape and our environment; 7 p.m., water-wise trees and ornamentals

March 7: 1 p.m., maintaining your landscape throughout the year; 2 p.m., new perennials from Arnold’s Greenhouse; 3 p.m., new annuals, herbs and vegetables from Arnold’s; 4 p.m., recommended trees for south-central Kansas; 5 p.m., backyard wildlife; 6 p.m., preparing for drought; 7 p.m., new annual flower varieties from Ball Seed Co.

March 8: noon, containers and hanging baskets; 1 p.m., ornamental grasses; 2 p.m., rose disorders and their control; 3 p.m., bees and beneficial bugs

Article source:

Sustainable landscaping saves work, resources

• Sustainable landscaping workshops:

— 3 p.m. Saturday in the Red Room at the Fort Wayne Home Garden Show at Memorial Coliseum, 4000 Parnell Ave. Show admission is $10, adults; $6, ages 62 and older; and free, ages 14 and younger.

— 6:30 p.m. April 6, Allen County Public Library, 900 Library Plaza. Free.

— 1 p.m. April 18, Allen County office of Purdue Cooperative Extension, 4001 Crescent Ave. Free.

• Landscaping with native plants: This page on the Indiana Native Plant Wildflower Society website has a wheelbarrow load of tips for landscaping with native plants, including what plants to use and where where you can buy them in the Fort Wayne area.

• Rain gardens: The City of Fort Wayne’s website offers all of the information you need to plan, plant and maintain a rain garden, which helps collect rain and prevents it from rushing into storm sewers. The city plans to hold a series of workshops on how to plan, install and maintain a rain garden. The first workshop is 10 a.m.-1:30 p.m. March 7 at Plymouth Congregational Church, 501 W. Berry St.

• Plant help and information:, or 481-6826. The Allen County office of the Purdue Cooperative Extension Service has a wide array of information and a plant Help Line staffed by local Master Gardeners. The Display Gardens around the office, 4001 Crescent Ave. on the IPFW campus, also showcase various plants and types of gardens. The extension office also has started a Sustainable Green Home or Neighborhood program to help people develop sustainable landscapes and to recognize those efforts.

Picking plants

You can choose from a wide variety of native plants when transforming your yard into a sustainable landscape. They include:

• Perennials: Nodding onion, blue star willow, columbine, marsh milkweed, butterfly weed, false blue indigo, shooting star, purple coneflower, joe-pye weed, wild geranium, swamp rose mallow, prairie blazing star, sundrops, garden phlox, aromatic aster and zigzag goldenrod.

• Grasses: Sideoats gramma, riverbank tussock sedge, blue-eyed grass and prairie dropseed.

• Trees and shrubs: Serviceberry, redbud, hawthorn, smooth hydrangea, winterberry holly, grape honeysuckle, ninebark, fragrant sumac and elderberry.

Where available

The Indiana Native Plant Wildflower Society lists these businesses as selling native plants in the Fort Wayne area:

• Earth Source/Heartland Restoration Services, 14921 Hand Road, Fort Wayne, 489-8511,

• Riverview Nursery, 5635 DeKalb County Road 72, Spencerville, 704-5092, The nursery normally sells by appointment; at the Riverside Gardens Farmers Market 2-6 p.m. Tuesdays May through September; and at local events, such as the Earth Day celebration April 26 at Eagle Marsh, 6801 Engle Road in southwest Fort Wayne. For a list of events, go to the nursery’s website and click the link for “Plant Sales.”

Article source:

This Week in the Garden: Doing landscape the water-smart way

This portion of the yard was once a stretch of lawn. It’s now drought-resistant plants and a healthy oak. The tree wasn’t doing well when the area was watered regularly.
Sharon Hull — Contributed

If You Go

Design and Build Water-Neutral Landscape Class

What: A class offered through the Cabrillo College Extension. Participants will learn a whole-systems approach to landscape design that synthesizes available resources with a unified plan that stores rainwater in soil and cisterns, harvests graywater, chooses plants that require less water, and applies gardening and irrigation practices to reduce water use. The class will tour state-of-the-art examples of these principles and offer hands-on experiences.

When: Saturday Feb. 28, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Where: Cabrillo College, Room 711, and a hands-on lab in a private garden.

Cost: $25. No pre-registration is necessary, and walk-ins are welcome.


Think it is impossible to have a lush and beautiful garden with zero — yes, zero — irrigation from municipal water? A Capitola family is proving that it is entirely possible and they want to show you how they’ve achieved it.

Gwen and Tim Clark will be opening their garden this Saturday to participants in a Cabrillo College class on Water Reclamation and you can be there! Their garden will provide the hands-on lab for the class, taught by Golden Love of Love’s Gardens ( and will be the launch of a new program that will assist local residents in moving toward a water-neutral landscape. It is a project of Ecology Action.

“Many residents who let their lawns go brown are wondering what to do next,” the program backers said when launching the program. “The Monterey Bay Friendly Landscaping program is launching to help residents and businesses transform once-thirsty landscapes into beautiful, healthy and sustainable gardens and landscapes that send less waste to the landfill, conserve water and energy, and manage stormwater as a resource.” Check out the Monterey Bay Friendly Landscaping program standards at

When the Clarks bought their 1914-era home some years ago, the house was surrounded by extensive water-hungry lawns and other thirsty plants. A driveway of an impermeable material completely encircled the house, taking up much of the potential garden space and spilling rainwater onto the hillside below.

Their daughter, Jennifer Clark Colfer, a landscape architect with Arnone Associates ( helped them set goals in transforming the space.

• They wanted to keep precious rainwater on their property rather than let it run off.

• They wanted to use plants and fencing to enclose the space to create privacy.

• They wanted to have an orchard and vegetable beds.

• They wanted to save the many old roses that came with the place and create more space for ornamentals.

• They needed a shed for storage.

• Of primary importance was saving the two majestic native live oaks in the front yard, both of which were suffering from oak root fungus and other ills caused by years of irrigation during the dry season.

• And after the shock of receiving a one-month bill from the water company of more $600 when the existing drip system malfunctioned, they were determined to transition from all the water-greedy plants to those that needed little to no supplementary water.

Colfer designed the garden to incorporate these goals.

Christiansen Associates ( put in the front-yard hardscaping (permeable gravel paths, stonework etc.), Fernandez Stone Works build the backyard stone walls and patio, and arborist Nigel Belton of Arbor Art Tree Services (831-688-1239) determined that one oak was past saving but successfully rescued the second.

The lawn was removed and natives and plants from Mediterranean regions were installed in the front garden, creating a space that needed no supplemental water at all. In the back, the driveway was removed and the soil improved, while a line of Leyland cypress and other drought-tolerant screening plants plus new fencing provided privacy from the neighbors. Fruit trees went in and seating areas and growing beds were created.

The homeowners did much of the labor themselves. A laundry-to-landscape graywater system was installed to pump washing-machine water to the back garden. Under a deck, in consultation with Love’s Gardens, a water-catchment system of linked recycled food-grade barrels was installed that harvests rainwater from the roof, and stores water for irrigating plants in the back garden. A more attractive barrel was placed on the deck to store water for use on the container plants.

So what’s next at the Clarks?

During the lab section of the class on Saturday, participants will create an in-ground infiltration basin, and install a pop-up drain emitter connected by a line to a downspout. The line will direct roof water to the basin, where it will then gradually filter into the surrounding soil rather than run off down the hillside. The laundry-to-landscape graywater system also will be explained.

Colfer, meanwhile, will give tours explaining her design and plant choices. And Sherry Bryan from Ecology Action’s Monterey Bay Friendly Landscape Recognition Program will present a site sign certifying the landscape and explaining how our community is rallying around ways to reduce water use. The class fee is low because it is sponsored by the Water Conservation Coalition and local water agencies. I’ll be there — what a great opportunity to learn more about water conservation methods — and I’ll hope to see many of you!

Garden tips are provided courtesy of horticulturist Sharon Hull of the San Lorenzo Garden Center. Contact her at 423-0223.

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Gardening column: Here are some seed-starting tips for Superbells

A friend sent me a note telling me “I have hopes, Jane. My bell peppers are popping up, and I just started tomato seeds too.” Also, Stuckey’s nursery posted a picture of Calibrachoa seedlings of Proven Winners Superbells “Cherry Red” on Facebook which I shared with my list of Friends. I have a feeling those plants won’t last long once the season begins. (Hint: Hanging baskets of Superbells make great Mother’s Day gifts.)

Here are some seed starting tips and information about Superbells. I’m also including a link to Purdue Horticulture Publication HO-14-W “Starting Seeds Indoors” ( I’ve used the plants mentioned above as examples:

• “Superbells” Calibrachoa hybrid looks like tiny petunias but that isn’t the whole story. I’m told that Calibrachoa are related to petunias, but so are tobacco, tomatoes, and chili peppers. All of these are in the Night Shade family and also includes Datura or Jimson weed, eggplant, capsicum (paprika, Chile pepper), potatoes, tobacco and tomatoes.

• There seems to be some question as to whether Calibrachoa seed is sterile and the plants have to be started from transplants. On the other hand I’ve found several online nurseries that advertise the seed. This opens up a whole conversation on the subject — are they or aren’t they?

• Like wave petunias and million bells, Calibrachoa do not need to be deadheaded to continue blooming.

• Tomatoes and bell peppers take between 10-12 weeks from seed to being transplanted outdoors. These need to go through the hardening off process before being planted in the garden or hanging baskets hung outdoors. All plants raised from seed indoors or sold directly out of a greenhouse need this process as well. (

• These three plants I’ve mentioned are considered tropical’s and should not be moved to the outdoors until after threat of frost is past.

• Calibrachoa and hybrid petunias are heavy feeders so fertilize often.

• Most seeds need warmth to germinate. Many home gardeners place prepped seed trays on a heat mat and/or in a warm location under grow lights.

• Experienced seed growers suggest soaking any type of seeds in warm (not hot) water for 24 hours before planting in the seed starting medium. (Use boiled water which is sterile to soak seeds.) Doing this can speed up germination.

• Some also suggest spraying the soil with a fungicide before planting to help avoid damping off. This disease is in the soil and your plants can look fine — the next day they can be limp and dying.

• A natural preventive spray could be Hydrogen peroxide: Add one cup of hydrogen peroxide to one gallon of boiled water. Allow it to cool and mist the seedlings.

• Damping off is a disease created by fungi (rhizoctonia spp, fusarium spp, and pythium spp) that inhabits soils, particularly those that are wet and rich in nitrogen. Suggestions to avoid this would be to sow in sterile soil (also soilless soil works well), and use very clean trays.

• Seed trays made out of newspaper or unbleached coffee filters work well and are biodegradeable once planted in the garden.

• Be sure to separate seedlings. Overcrowding causes problems so give your plants room to breathe.

• Once the seedlings are up and have several sets of leaves, lightly run your hand over them several times a day or set an oscillating fan on low in the area where they are planted to cause air movement. This simulates the breeze outdoors and will help develop sturdy stems on the plants.

Jane Ford is an Advanced Master Gardener. Email questions to This column is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of The News-Sentinel.

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