Terra Nova Ecological Landscaping blog

11 Mar

Broom vs leaf blower challenge.

Terra Nova Ecological Landscaping offers a broom vs leaf blower challenge.

Terra Nova challenges any other landscape company to clean the exact same area of hardscape with the exact same amount of leaf debris. Terra Nova will use a broom and our challenger will use a leaf blower.

To be judged by a neutral third party for time, thoroughness, noise and air pollution level.

The media will be invited.

We will take on one challenger with a gas leaf blower and one with an electric leaf blower.

The Challenge Conditions:

  • Each participant will be judged by a neutral third party on the following criteria:
  • Total time spent will be timed with a stop watch starting from and finishing at their service vehicle.
  • Participants shall not run.
  • The participant with the broom may use any broom of their choosing as long as it is manually operated.
  • The participant with the two stroke leaf blower must start with an empty fuel tank. They must mix and add two stroke fuel as part of their total time.
  • The participant with the electric (extension cord) blower must start and finish with the cord rolled up at their vehicle.
  • The participant with a (battery powered) blower must start and finish at their service vehicle.

Participants will be judged on the following performance:



Noise level

Air pollution level

Each participant will clean the exact same amount, two trash cans full of leaf and other debris spread over the exact same hardscape area of approximately 75 x 3 foot pathway.

Who will take us on?

E-mail us at Ken@terranovalandscaping.com

Please post and spread the word about our ‘Broom vs Leaf Blower challenge.

Event time and place to be announced.



16 Jan

Spin City: Passion for pedal-powered permaculture

Ken Foster rides one of Terra Nova Ecological Landscaping’s rigs to a job site in Santa Cruz. (Shmuel Thaler — Santa Cruz Sentinel)

If you’re headed south along the coast next Tuesday, there’s a chance you’ll spot Ken Foster bicycling from

Santa Cruz to Monterey County on Highway 1.

He’ll be traveling at a leisurely pace, soaking in the scenery and pedaling his recumbent bike. Foster, 57, estimates the ride will take between five and seven hours depending on if he “dawdles.” During the approximately 65-mile trip, he may stop at an organic farm or chat with people along the way.

For Foster, the owner of Terra Nova Ecological Landscaping, and a permaculture teacher at Cabrillo College, the excursion is a “sojourn.”

“It’s a fun challenge and a chance for contemplation,” said Foster. “I love that the ride is a celebration of the Monterey Bay. Much of it is on a separate bike path (the 29-mile Monterey Bay Coastal Trail) that goes from Castroville to Pacific Grove. I go by large strawberry farms, artichoke fields and I’ve seen whales spouting. As a landscaper, I have an affinity with farmers.”

This year will mark Foster’s 15th annual round-trip ride from his home in Westside Santa Cruz to the Asimolar Conference Grounds in Pacific Grove, where he will attend the EcoFarm Conference from Jan. 21-24.

 At the largest and oldest ecological agricultural gathering in the West, now celebrating its 35th anniversary, Foster will present a workshop, “Drought Proofing Your Landscape and Garden.”

Bicycling to a conference about sustainable farming is the perfect marriage of Foster’s passion for all things green. For years, Foster has used bicycles as much as he can for commuting, recreation and work.

In 1991, he launched, “Tread Lightly,” a program of Terra Nova in which he and his workers use mountain or hybrid bikes to transport landscaping tools.

“I started Tread Lightly because we wanted to be ecological and this was a real authentic expression of being ecological.”

Foster packs shovels, brooms, rakes, an electric lawn mower and more into customized bike trailers designed and built by Santa Cruzan John Welch. There will definitely not be a leaf blower in that tool collection.

The founder of the Leaf Blower Task Force, Foster said, “My goal is to reduce noise and air pollution from blowers, weed whackers and hedge trimmers. The goal is to reduce the carbon footprint by not using gas. I prefer to use a rake and a broom.”

However, Foster does own and use a truck to haul big loads. He uses the bicycles as much as possible for jobs in Santa Cruz County.

Rupert Poole, with Terra Nova for three years, works with Tread Lightly.

“It’s a great service,” Poole said. “We put all our tools in the back. We use hand tools and electrical tools. We don’t use any toxic chemicals or fossil fuels. It’s all organic.”

Ken Foster and Rupert Poole are thrilled to have bikes back in the Terra Nova fleet. (Shmuel Thaler — Santa Cruz Sentinel)

The Tread Lightly program had been on hiatus, due to extensive repairs needed for the five trailers. Last fall, Foster raised $3,000 (out of a $5,000 goal) with an Indiegogo campaign to help restart the program.

Foster has a long history of commitment to a green lifestyle, something he says was directly influenced by his parents, who were Quakers and political activists who moved to Santa Cruz when he was one year old.

After he completed the acclaimed UC Santa Cruz Farm and Garden Apprenticeship, Foster launched Terra Nova with a partner in 1988. The full service landscaping business (solely owned by Foster since 1991) has focused on how landscaping effects the environment.

Foster remains passionate about his work and has completed a manuscript called, “Confessions of a Bicycle-Powered Landscaper.”

His upcoming ride is also a solo adventure.

“It’s like a personal retreat,” he said. “In the past, I’ve ridden with nine others and in the rain.”

Foster will load up bike bags with 40 pounds of gear, and settle into his beloved Easy Racers recumbent bike, made in Watsonville.

As he bikes, he’ll be thinking about his upcoming talk, finding a book publisher and admiring the beauty of his surroundings.

“Human power (transportation) is really a celebration of life — being outdoors, enjoying the weather and being able to stop and have a conversation with someone,” Foster said. “I think that connection with the natural world is a really remarkable part of being on the bike.”

Karen Kefauver (www.karenkefauver.com) is a freelance writer based in Santa Cruz who covers sports and travel.


Karen KefauverKaren Kefauver is a freelance writer who covers sports and travel. She’s based in Santa Cruz.

10 Jan

Permaculture With Terra Nova -Two day intensive

Learn about Permaculture

How the design principles can inspire true environmental stewardship and urban sustainability or simply to create an amazing productive garden

Dates: May 2 – May 3, 2015
Time: 9:00 am to 5:00 pm each day
Place: Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary Exploration Center 35 Pacific Ave. Santa Cruz, CA.
Ken Foster instructor / facilitator

Herbal mandala 20 Cabrillo Permaculture class - From dirt to soil

Some recent work by Terra Nova

Some recent work by Terra Nova

Cost: $175
Shared Pot-luck lunch
•    Early bird discount 15% off up to Feb. 28th
•    Limited to 20 seats
•    Refund policy 90% refund Jan. – Feb.
•    50% refund Mar.– April 10th
•    No refund available after April 10th

Contact Ken@terranovalandscaping.com 831-359-5717

Find us on Facebook Permaculture with Terra Nova- Two Day Intensive.

Send checks to Ken Foster, Note: Permaculture Intensive

PO Box 677 Santa Cruz CA. 95061

Weekend overview:

This weekend intensive will include lecture, power point presentations, discussion, brainstorming and hands on activities. It will be a highly interactive learning experience for all participants.

Day 1:

  • Unraveling Permaculture, a short history of the design science that is Permaculture including, how it is taught, by whom and where.
  • Introduction to the Ethics and Principles of Permaculture.
  • Revising the art of Observation: Pre-weekend homework: Sit Spot and observation skills assignments.
  • Place and Time: A review of the challenges of our time. Peak oil, Peak soil and Peak toil - What we are facing globally and locally and why it matters.
  • Design methodologies and techniques. Finding solutions within the problems.
  • Design for Catastrophe: Permaculture as a first responder to disasters small and large.

Day 2:

  • Obtain a Yield – Harvesting our Collective Brilliance
  • The Work that Reconnects: Joanna Macy’s ‘Widening Circles’ exercise.
  • Transition Initiative, An introduction to the international Transition Town movement (the child of Permaculture)
  • Reclaiming the Commons with City Repair
  • Experiential hands-on workshop
  • Permaculture Economy
  • On-going Permaculture Guild activities
  • Grow Food Party Crew!
  • On-going reading group


Instructor bio: Ken Foster

Ken with Toby and Larry 2

Ken with Toby Hemenway and Larry Santoyo

Ken Foster is native to Santa Cruz, CA. In 1985 Ken was an apprentice at the U.C. Santa Cruz Farm and Garden and has a certificate in Ecological Horticulture from there. Ken also has an A.S. degree in horticulture from Cabrillo College. Ken is a landscape contractor, a certified permaculture designer and the owner of Terra Nova Ecological Landscaping since 1988. Ken completed advanced Permaculture teacher trainings with Robyn Francis, Penny Livingston, Tom Ward and Jude Hobbs and began teaching Permaculture in 2000. Ken has taught with Toby Hemenway and Larry Santoyo as well as Penny Livingston, Lydia Neilsen and David Shaw with The Regenerative Design Institute. Since 2011 Ken has been teaching Permaculture at Cabrillo College.

17 Dec

Our ‘Tread Lightly’ Indiegogo campaign has completed.

Was our ‘Tread Lightly’ Indiegogo campaign a wild success?… No, not exactly.

Was it a success? …Yes it was!

Bread and Puppets   

Screen shot 8 2014-10-12 at 9.37.33 PM

Thank you!

Now that the ‘Tread Lightly’ campaign is over my honest reflection is that Crowdfunding is a bit of an enigma with tons of exciting potential. An alluring mystery.

I have had a lot of advice on how a campaign aught to be run.

It was clear I was making some missteps even early on. And there was a learning curve like you wouldn’t believe. We set the start date and then reset that date when it was clear we needed more preparation time. The night of the kick-off was fine but it seemed that I didn’t have enough details ironed out.

In hindsight I would have made sure all the donations that night where credited on the Indiegogo campaign page in real time. As it turned out 100% of the kick-off event income went to pay for the evening with the food, music and misc. expenses. If I was to do it over I would put on a free event without a cover fee, I would welcome and thank everyone for showing up, keep it simple and start the campaign with a $10,000 dollar goal.

Originally I think we got a little greedy and set our goal too high. Our original $50,000 goal was meant to fund a complete top-to-bottom redo of the ‘Tread Lightly’ service.

I have always (well since 1991) believed in the ‘Tread Lightly’ service. I do think now that an existing business re-launch needs the business to chip in the seed money and announce it up front. At least with our project I would have liked to have started that way.

Then half way into the campaign we realized that the $50,000 goal was just not realistic and we reset it for $5,000.

Still with all the missteps we proved that the community does indeed support the ‘Tread Lightly’ project. People showed up to the kick-off party, donated their money and their time and most of all their support.

Our final campaign intake amount was $3,230.00.

We are deeply honored and grateful for every single donation from $1.00 to $424.00 from as far away as Germany and as close as my brother our wonderful local community.

The Tread Lightly service is an authentic, profoundly ecological approach to landscape care.

Tread Lightly service11

This funding will allow us to fix our bikes, repair our landscape trailers and acquire the appropriate equipment the will allow the ‘Tread Lightly’ to get back on the road where it belongs.

Thank you all for your support, your attention and your time.

Ken Foster and the Terra Nova crew



16 Dec

Today is the last day of our Indiegogo ‘Tread Lightly’ campaign, your last chance to donate to the cause!

Our Tread Lightly Indiegogo campaign that started Oct. 17th is over at the end if the day today, Dec. 16. 

We have raised $2,000.00 so far.

*OUR NEW GOAL is at least $2,000 – To Outfit Two Bike Gardeners for the Road*

Terra Nova is a low-tech business operating a high-tech funding campaign, and it’s a learning curve (yikes!). Clearly $50k was way too high of a goal. However, we have authentically redefined a more modest success for the last 3 weeks of the campaign. We hope you will support us. Our new goal is to raise atleast $2,000  to purchase two custom-made bike trailers, two good bikes, and new signage. This will comfortably outfit a 2-gardener crew as they ride around town making gardens shine without chemicals. 

It’s not the fancy comprehensive makeover originally envisioned, BUT it’s the heart of Tread Lightly and it will make a difference to the gardeners who are out there riding around.

The Tread Lightly service was an authentic, profoundly ecological approach to landscape care. Over twenty years the community hailed the service as a symbol of innovation and hope. We are confident that new bikes, custom landscape trailers and the appropriate equipment will ensure that the ‘Tread Lightly’ service gains the success it deserves.

Every donation helps!

Tread lightly Food Bin Marquee   Tread lightly Carrie

We would like to send out a big thank you to…

  • Valerie Bengal (for getting us up to $2,000!)
  • David Fierstein
  • Chris Young and the Monterey Bay Sanctuary Exploration Center
  • John Rosenblum
  • Lisa McAndrews and the Cabrillo College Horticulture Department
  • Josh Fodor, Central Coast Wilds
  • Darren Huckle, Roots of Wellness
  • Jon Young – author of What the Robin Knows
  • Eric Johnson and Traci Hukill of Hilltromper.com
  • Tai Moses – author of Zoo Burbia 
  • Andrew Tuckman and Vision Recycling
  • Steve Schnaar and the Santa Cruz Fruit Tree Project
  • Darryl ‘Flea’ Virostko
  • Ron Swenson
  • David Foster
  • Jaime and Cheryl Snyder
  • Merry Luskin
  • The bands – Sama Dams, Cove and the Getaway Dogs
  • The Food Bin
  • Valerie Valdez
  • Catherine Gunderson and the Leaf Blower Task Force
  • Joseph Shultz
  • Deborah Lindsay

We have many more people to thank. Karen Kaplan,

Nick and Ruth Royal, Aliese Ware, Karsten Mueller, Tawn O Kennedy, Bruce and Janet Stahl, Ariela Haber and the Egger family

Thank you, thank you!

Please donate and comment on our 

Indiegogo page by clicking here!

Screen shot 2014-10-14 at 8.41.20 PM

View the ‘Tread Lightly’ video on YouTube


Screen shot 8 2014-10-12 at 9.37.33 PM



Photos of the ‘Tread Lightly’ service over the years. 

Tread Lightly high res 2 Tread Lightly service 2 Tread lightly service 13 Tread Lightly service 1001 Tread Lightly service Tread Lightly service2 Tread Lightly service3 Tread Lightly service4 Tread Lightly service5 Tread Lightly service6 Tread Lightly service7 Tread Lightly service8 Tread Lightly service9 Tread Lightly service10 Tread Lightly service11 tread lightly truck and crew 

19 Nov



Before and After 3Before and After 1

Before and After 8Before and After 2

Before and After 5  Before and After 6

Before and After 9 Before and After 10





21 Oct

Tread Lightly with Terra Nova! Please contribute to our Indiegogo campaign

Collectively Catalyze the Tread Lightly Movement to Regenerate our Cycling Ecological Landscaping!

Hello! my name is Ken Foster, I am a native of Santa Cruz, California, where my parents, Herb and Ellie Foster, were well-known peace and environmental activists. As a long-time organic gardener and landscape designer, and as a permaculture teacher at Cabrillo College, I believe I’m continuing the work they started here in the 1950s.

Terra Nova’s Tread Lightly Service :

Bicycle Powered Landscaping

Tread lightly Carrie

In 1991 I started a service I dubbed Tread Lightly. This was a bicycle-powered landscape service that served our Santa Cruz area clients. For over twenty years the community hailed the ‘Tread Lightly’service as  an authentic, profoundly ecological approach to landscape care and as a symbol of innovation and hope. One of the principles of permaculture is “Use Small and Slow Solutions.” Tread Lightly was definitely that! Pedal-Powered Permaculture!

While Terra Nova Ecological Landscaping continues its good work today, installing rainwater catchment, graywater systems, food forests and drought tolerant landscapes the Tread Lightly service, never a big profit maker, was discontinued one year ago. The equipment had aged and deteriorated, and it was hard to justify buying new trailers and bikes.

Now with a new business plan in hand we are confident that new bikes, custom landscape trailers and the appropriate equipment will get the ‘Tread Lightly’service back on the road where it belongs.  We are setting a goal to raise $50,000. This amount would fund the purchase of six new custom bicycle landscape trailers, the mountain bikes to pull them and new business signs. It will also allow us to outfit the trailers with all the hand tools an ecological landscaper would ever want: loppers, pruners, shovels, rakes and brooms. We’ll also buy the latest electric powered ecological equipment including shears, trimmers, weed-whackers, and mowers. This will also allow us to polish up our website, and to publish brochures and post cards for marketing purposes. 



Herbal spiral


16 Oct

Tread Lightly with Terra Nova ! Party! Party!

terranovaflyer  Screen shot 2014-10-14 at 8.41.20 PM

Screen shot 2014-10-12 at 9.02.24 PM  Terra Nova logo

14 Oct

And Now, the new ‘Tread Lightly’ video! Enjoy!

Screen shot 2014-10-14 at 8.41.20 PM



30 Sep

‘Tread Lightly’ Re-Launch Party! Friday Oct. 17th, 2014

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Terra Nova Ecological Landscaping

‘Tread Lightly’
Re-Launch Party!

Oct. 17th, 2014
6:00 – 9:00pm at the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Exploration Center 35 Pacific Ave. Santa Cruz 

Catering by India Joze!

Join us for the kick-off party for our Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to re-launch Terra Nova’s ‘Tread Lightly’ service.

For over twenty years

the community hailed the ‘Tread Lightly’ bicycle-powered landscape service as an authentic, profoundly ecological approach to landscape care and as a symbol of innovation and hope. The campaign’s goal is to fund new bikes, custom landscape trailers and the appropriate equipment so the ‘Tread Lightly’ service gets back on the road where it belongs.

Location: Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Exploration Center
35 Pacific Ave Santa Cruz, CA.
6:00 – 9:00 pm
Tickets:  $25.00 at the door. Buy advance tickets for sliding scale $15.00 to $25.00 + here…

Blue grass music by local musicians.

  • We will be premiering a short video about the ‘Tread Lightly’ service.
  • There will be tables with information from sponsors.
  • Many opportunities to support the campaign goals by sponsoring a piece of ‘Tread Lightly’ equipment from rakes and brooms to bikes and trailers.
  • Catering By India Joze Restaurant
  • Beer on tap and wine bar
  • Bluegrass music! 
  • Share the ‘Tread Lightly’ Facebook event!
  • See more ‘Tread Lightly’ photos on Pinterest
  • The place to be Oct. 17th! Invite your friends!
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