Terra Nova Ecological Landscaping blog

02 May

Terra Nova made runner up in Good Times poll and Gold in the Santa Cruz Weekly readers poll in the same month! Thank you Santa Cruz!

We are very honored to receive these two acknowledgements from our community. Thank you Santa Cruz!


















22 Apr

IF you want to have your voice heard on this issue Please join us at the Leaf Blower Task Force Santa Cruz Meeting Thursday, April 25th, 3:00PM at the Ecology Action meeting room.

03 Apr

Terra Nova Wins Gold In Santa Cruz Weekly readers poll!

29 Mar

Terra Nova’s check list to help assess the ecological health of a site.

Ecological Landscape Management check list

An ecologically healthy landscape


Soil Health

  • How is the soil health over all?
  • Compaction?
  • Over or under watered?
  • What % of organic matter is in soil ?
  • Are leaves allowed to create natural mulch when possible?
  • What type of soil is on site?
  • Mycelium inoculation needed?
  • What is the health of the Soil Food Web ?
  • Jar soil test conducted?
  • Is there a need for a soil test?
  • Is there sufficient mulch to cover soil?

Water management

  • Irrigation controller schedule?
  • Irrigation efficiency?
  • Coverage uniform?
  • Hydrozones? Is the irrigation plant appropriate?
  • Leaks?
  • Graywater system in place?
  • Rainwater Catchment ?
  • Stormwater management?
  • Bio-swales?
  • Rain Garden?
  • Mulch in place to prevent evaporation?
  • Has the site had a water/irrigation audit performed?

Weed management

  • How is weed management working?
  • Are weeds controlled before going to seed?
  • Is sheet mulch being employed?
  • Are weeds: hoed, pulled and mulched often enough?
  • Non toxic herbicides being used? Vinegar, Burn Out (product), etc.

 Plant health

  • Are plants in the right place for sun and shade requirements?
  • Is appropriate pruning being employed?
  • Irrigation: over or under watering?
  • Nutrient deficiencies?
  • Pest problems?
  • Damaged foliage?

Is the landscape serving best needs for all users?

  • Humans? Pets? Wildlife?

How is it looking?

  • How are the aesthetics of the site. Is it consistent with the intent of the design?
  • Overall?
  • Individual elements? ie, the plants, water features and other design features, the hardscape and the mulch?
  • Is there a need for re-design?
  •  Has the site had a Sustainable Landscape Audit performed?

- Terra Nova Landscape Management Team

27 Jan

Ken’s ride to the Eco Farm Conference 2013.

A photo essay of Ken’s ride to the annual Eco Farm Conference.

Terra Nova owner Ken Foster is on the planning committee for the conference and has ridden his bike there since the year 2000.


Ken on his thirteenth ride from Santa Cruz to the Eco Farm Conference in Pacific Grove. A few sights along the way: a couple of heritage goats and swallow nests under a bridge.

Amigo Bob Cantisano, the founder of the Eco Farm Conference.

Josiah Raison Cain at a workshop that Ken moderated called Edible Architecture.  

Some of Josiah’s projects.

 A good crowd showed up for the Edible Architecture workshop.

 The winners of the annual ‘Sustie’ awards. The Emmy Awards of Sustainable Farming.

Ken proposed and moderated a workshop called, Permaculture, the Transition Initiative and the future of farming. Here’s Ken with presenter Penny Livingston at the session. Penny is the co-founder of the Regenerative Design Institute.


The sunset and moon rise over strawberry fields on the ride home from the conference.

A perfect conclusion to an amazing Eco Farm adventure.


22 Jan

Terra Nova takes leadership……………………………………………………………………. Santa Cruz County group to study leaf blower rules

Article Reprinted from the Tuesday, January 22, 2013 Santa Cruz Sentinel
By Jason HoppinSanta Cruz Sentinel Posted: 01/21/2013 03:56:59 PM
A local task force is in the early stages of studying whether to regulate leaf blowers — the always-droning, often-jarring, go-to staple of the landscape industry.

More than a dozen California cities have special rules for the backpack-sized machines, with several — Berkeley, Beverly Hills, Santa Barbara and Los Angeles among them — banning gas-powered versions outright. Critics call them a noisy headache that kicks up dust and pollutes the air.

“We see fit to destroy the sound scape in vain pursuit to perfect the landscape. It’s crazy,” said Ken Foster of Terra Nova Landscaping, who stopped using gas leaf blowers years ago. “There’s a lot of other ways we can achieve beauty.”

Foster is organizing the inaugural meeting of the task force in early February. He is hoping to draw as many interested parties and as much input as possible on what can, or should, be done.

The first order of business is to articulate the problem, Foster said. After that, he wants to research what works in other communities — whether it’s restrictions, a ban or just education — before possibly taking recommendations to local governments.

The California Landscape Contractors Association opposes leaf blower bans, while acknowledging concerns about their operation. The group makes several recommendations on their use, including noting there rarely is cause to use blowers on full throttle.

But the Sacramento-based group maintains leaf blowers
are fundamental tools and time-savers that efficiently clean rock, gravel or bark-covered areas.
“Leaf blowers are essential for landscape maintenance professionals,” the group said in a statement.

Phil Roberson, owner of Aloha Landscape, said leaf blowers are a necessary evil, particularly when it comes to large commercial clients. He said he instructs employees about proper leaf blower operation, but without them “there is no business.”

“I actually can’t stand leaf blowers,” Roberson said. “It’s the most efficient way, when you’re paying employees, to clean up a job.”

There are electric leaf blowers — though Santa Monica bans even those — and while Foster said they’re preferable, they still don’t address the issue of kicking up particulate matter, which can include pesticides, fecal material or brake dust.

“It’s a little bit like organic heroin. No matter how much effort you put into being ecological, it’s still a bad idea,” Foster said.

While the primary driver of regulations is noise — the machines sound like a bumble bee with an amplifier — environmentalists also are focusing more on leaf blowers and other equipment with small combustion engines.

However, neither the city of Santa Cruz nor the county address two-stroke engines in their plans to minimize climate change.

Since they burn both oil and gas, two-stroke engines can release more emissions into the environment than passenger trucks. And studies have shown two-stroke marine engines can splutter a quarter of their fuel, unused, into the water.

The Landscape Contractors Association calls air emissions a “spurious issue,” citing tougher state emissions standards and leaf blowers’ intermittent use. It also said any regulation on those grounds should be left to state and federal authorities.

For nearly two decades, the state Air Resources Board has enacted tougher restrictions for all two-stroke engines. Some local jurisdictions have even tougher rules on them, with older marine engines banned on Lake Tahoe and some Santa Clara County reservoirs, for example.

And when personal watercraft such as Jet Skis were banned from the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary in 2008, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration cited not only their erratic operation, but also reports noting two-stroke engine pollution.

Follow Sentinel reporter Jason Hoppin on Twitter at Twitter.com/scnewsdude


Leaf blower task force

WHAT: Inaugural meeting
WHEN: 7-9 p.m. Feb. 7
WHERE: Ecology Action, 877 Cedar St., Suite 240, Santa Cruz
DETAILS: 831-359-5717 or ken@terranovalandscaping.com

Jason Hoppin (scnewsdude) on Twitter
Instantly connect to what’s most important to you. Follow your friends, experts, favorite celebrities, and breaking news.

Jason Hoppin (scnewsdude) on Twitter
Instantly connect to what’s most important to you. Follow your friends, experts, favorite celebrities, and breaking news.

18 Jan

Alternatives to the gas powered leaf blower…….. Read it and sweep.

I’m going to think out loud here which I promise won’t be anywhere near as loud as a gas leaf blower in use. I’m thinking of alternatives to that particular piece of landscape equipment we love to hate. And while this may seem like I am just blowing hot air do keep an ear out for viable alternatives to the aptly named ‘Polluting Noise Bazookas’. Maybe there is a new idea here that I should run out and file a patent for because they are so good at collecting debris. A clean hardscape seems to be an obsession of ours. So let’s take a look at some of the alternative options to gas leaf blowers.

Some of these ideas may seem old fashioned, arcane or even silly yet we need to look at all options. The hope? … of finding a better way to get the job done than this…

Exhibit number 1:  The old stand-by is the broom made with broomcom. The broom has an impressive list of benefits, it is:

  • smaller than a blower
  • light weight
  • not a target of theft as a gas leaf blower is
  • cheaper
  • fossil fuel free and runs on orange juice and toast
  • exhaust free
  • very quiet
  • possible to be made from sustainable materials

Not bad for a piece of wood and some broomcorn bristles  :)

Consider the Grandmother Proves Rake and Broom as Fast as Leaf Blowers story.


Can’t forget the rake ( number 1.5) as a partner sometimes in preparation for sweeping with a broom.


Number 2 and 3 are variations on the broom, so they have all the same benefits but can be home made and free. I’ve been known to make an impromptu broom out of a palm frond. These two examples are whisk type brooms that can be made from a variety of plant materials .




The sweeper on wheels (number 4) has some potential for quiet efficient sweeping.



Number 5 is just a piece of fabric like a common 8′ x 8′ burlap landscape tote that can be used with a whisking action to clean a sidewalk.


Number 6. Here’ s my big idea, built a better billow! we’re talking a giant light weight billow that can be used to blow leaves. Patent time?





Number 7 is my personal favorite. Owen Dell’s hilarious blower alternative,

a modified bag pipe.

For small debris just use your lungs, no patent required, number 8.


There is a variety of trucks that vacuum or sweep, (number 9 ).
Big parking lots that require sweeping can use these. It is an alternative to a leaf blower yet it has it’s own downsides. At least it’s not blowing dust around.

Hosing off the driveway is an old practice that is wasteful of water. Number 10. There are however advances in equipment like this water broom, (number 11) that uses a fraction of the water of a hose for a quick clean sweep.




The equipment manufacturer Stihl makes a Lithium Ion battery operated blower. Then if you had some solar panels you could have a solar powered blower. kind of like organic heroin maybe? There are also propane powered blowers available.

The leaf Blower Pollutuion Task Force Santa Cruz will be looking at alternatives to gas powered

leaf blowers. Some of these options might be of interest to them.

The Leaf Blower Pollution Task Force Santa Cruz Facebook page .

Learn more about the down sides of gas leaf blowers.

Which alternative is your favorite? Do tell.



28 Dec


We love the Good Times article ‘Bright Ideas for 2013 and we especially love idea number three to ‘Create Food Not Lawns’. This has been our passion here at Terra Nova going on 25 years now. We want to help. To that end: WE ARE OFFERING A FREE EDIBLE LANDSCAPE DESIGN *TO THE FIRST PERSON TO MENTION the Good Times article ‘Bright Ideas for 2013  and the third idea to ‘Create Food Not Lawns’.




cover 2garden


At Love Apple Farms, we teach folks how to grow their own food. In my gardening classes, I point out that probably the best sunlight to achieve this is smack dab in the middle of their front or back lawn. In fact, I urge them to take it out altogether. They’ll get more use out of it by installing some garden beds and growing vegetables. But people say they need the lawn for their kids or dogs to play; that the lawn is more attractive than their garden would be.

But they should read the emails I get from students who take the leap and have removed their lawns. One of my most heartfelt messages was from a student who told me how surprised she was by an unexpected perk of growing her own vegetables—the community and togetherness that it engendered. All of a sudden, the kids wanted to know what was going on out there. “Look at that pepper! How do we cook these carrots, Mom?” And, “Wouldn’t Uncle Ted love to have some cherry tomatoes?”

It didn’t stop there, either. All of her visiting guests ended up out in the garden, admiring the lettuce and helping pick fresh herbs for dinner. It didn’t take a lawn for her vegetable garden to be the natural gathering place of her home. It stunned her that what she expected to be a solo pursuit brought so many people together.

I believe we have a primal drive to grow our own food. Our very survival over the ages has hinged on whether we can coax something from the soil to sustain us. Many of us have lost the skills that our ancestors acquired to keep us nurtured. It’s no wonder that when we use our precious plots of land to feed ourselves, our families, and our neighbors, that we reconnect in primal ways to those around us. No lawn, no matter how pretty, can achieve that. | Cynthia Sandberg, Love Apple Farms


04 Dec

Two Holiday Specials to Help You Celebrate the Season!

Tranquility Garden image

(Tranquility Garden design by Terra Nova)

Holiday Garden Clean Ups

Whether you are having guests over or just want everything to look spic and span for the holidays, take advantage of Terra Nova’s Holiday Garden Clean Up service for a limited time at a discount. Clean ups include:
  • Leaf removal
  • Deadheading
  • Pruning
  • Mowing and edging
  • Anything else we can do to get your garden into shape, including decorating or adding plants for winter interest.
Call 831-425-3514 now to schedule a free estimate by December 10, 2012 and get a 10% discount. Garden Clean Ups may be scheduled through the end of December 2012.

Gift Card imageTerra Nova Gift Cards

Show your friends and loved ones how much you care this holiday season with the lasting gift of a garden or landscape services! Terra Nova is now offering gift cards in any amount to apply towards our services, including:

  • Consultation
  • Design
  • Installation
  • Clean-ups
  • Pruning
  • Maintenance
Our garden designs and installations truly are the gifts that keep on giving, as we strive to create gardens that are beautiful, easy to maintain, and bountiful in fruits and flowers for your family. Our low-maintenance, drought-tolerant designs save you time, money, and water, which is good for your pocketbook and the environment.
Gift cards apply to all Terra Nova services. Use by February 14, 2013 and recipient will also receive a 10% discount on their project or 1st maintenance visit. Includes free estimate upon receipt.

To schedule a free onsite estimate or purchase gift cards

Call 831-425-3514 

For more information about Terra Nova services, visit our website:www.terranovalandscaping.com

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P.O. Box 677

Santa Cruz, California 95061

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12 Nov

Get Ready for Winter Weather and Save 5% Through November!

Protect your property and landscape before the big rains hit.

We are experts at routing rain-water away from structures to avoid mold and water damage that threaten your family’s health and home. And beyond just moving winter rains through your landscape to eliminate erosion and pooling, we build systems that are attractive and ensure plant and soil health well into the dry months.


A bio-swale like this is a functional dry creek bed where storm water can go without causing a problem.

Act now and save 5% on the design and installation of:

Bio-swales, used to gently move water away form your home while allowing soil percolation
Rain-gardens that collect water for deep penetration
French drains and, if necessary, sump pumps for rapid dispersion of water away from buildings.
In addition to the function of these important systems, we work to ensure that the methods and materials that we use blend beautifully with your landscape design.To schedule a free onsite estimate:Call 831-425-3514
(mention “5% Winter Special”)
For more information, visit our website: www.terranovalandscaping.com

Rules: 5% offer includes labor and materials on design and installation of bio-swales, rain-gardens, French drains, and sump-pumps only; project must be under contact by November 30, 2012 to apply.
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Copyright © 2012 Terra Nova, All rights reserved.
We send our newsletter and special offers to customers who have provided their e-mail address.
Our mailing address is:
Terra Nova
P.O. Box 677
Santa Cruz, California 95061

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