Terra Nova Ecological Landscaping blog

05 Nov

Thank you for all the work you guys did. We really love it and enjoy it every day. :)

This is an e-mail exchange I had today with a Terra Nova client with a three year old son:

Mary planted a bunch of seedlings from  an organic place in Palo Alto called common ground.  Thank you for all the work you guys did.  We really love it and enjoy it every day.   :)

Jordan

Here’s the photo he sent.

Here’s my reply:

Hello Jordan,

I am glad you are enjoying it!  Gardening will be life long pleasure for your son. This is a good time to start!
Here is one of the questions I included on the midterm test I gave the students in my Permaculture class at Cabrillo College:

A key hole garden bed provides easy access with minimum path to bed ratio.

True / False

The answer of course is true.

All the best,
Ken
More about Key Hole garden beds.

08 Oct

Conserving water at home

 

Replacing water thirsty lawns with native grasses can help reduce dependence… ( @Shmuel Thaler ) Article reprinted from the 9/29/12 Santa Cruz Sentinel by Jason Hoppin
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SANTA CRUZ — When it comes to conserving water around the home, 13-year-olds can be excellent barometers.

That is true in Sherry Bryan’s household, one of many locally who’ve managed to compress their water use to a few dozen gallons a day. Together, they stand as an example of what the future may hold for everyone around the Monterey Bay, as the region grapples with pressures on its water supply, weighing a controversial desalination plant while critics say conservation is the way to go.

Raising two 13-year-olds with her partner, Bryan has convinced them to save water, even convincing teenagers to use a shower shut-off valve when not rinsing. With a few household changes, their use is down to an average of 37 gallons a day each, roughly a third of the county average.

“It’s pretty basic,” said Bryan, a consultant and water conservation specialist. “You just have to have the consciousness about it.”

Most of the conservation changes involve low-water household technologies, such as low-flow showerheads and toilets, or more efficient dishwashers and washing machines. Together, those measures can save dozens of gallons a day.

Other changes are behavioral — from not letting sinks run unnecessarily to using a basin to wash dishes to scraping dinner plates. And some push the envelope further, using grey water to support landscaping.

There are even conservation renegades, people who flirt with crossing legal lines. Their tactics include using wastewater to recharge toilets, capturing urine to condition soil or even composting human waste with special toilets.

It is those kinds of measures that make regulators — who’ve spent a career keeping new and used water separate, enforcing the division through building codes and fines — nervous.

“I think it’s important to remember that it’s only 100 years ago that entire cities were dying because of plague and various illnesses,” said Tony Falcone, Santa Cruz County’s top building inspector. “Where we draw the line currently is at bringing reclaimed or recycled water back into the house. … (T)hat’s just not allowed.”

But Falcone acknowledges that some milder conservation measures are probably here to stay.

“This is exactly what we’ve argued against for the last 100 years, and now we’re going backward. But water’s the new oil,” Falcone said.

Numerous water conservers contacted for this story stressed that the lifestyle changes needed to achieve major water savings are pretty basic. You don’t have to give up your vegetable garden or quit showering.

One local conservation evangelist is Arlos Anderson, who has drained his water usage to 17 gallons a day.

“I’m kind of over the horizon on this,” he admits.

Anderson’s home is a virtual conservation laboratory, including household inventions with pending patents that he eventually wants to give away to the public. He overflows with ideas, including using local abandoned quarries to capture winter runoff as an alternative to desalination plants, solving a water problem at a fraction of the cost while creating a new recreational destination.

“If we waited for the government to come up with the solution, we’d be standing on the docks waiting for Columbus to leave Spain,” Anderson said.

But Anderson also raised an ongoing debate about building codes often getting in the way of conservation. As an example, he points out that reused water must often be brought up to drinking water standards, even if it’s headed for the head.

“We need to stop thinking we’re going to be drinking water out of our toilets,” Anderson said.

Despite official warnings and legal prohibitions, it is widely believed that people around the county are experimenting with extreme conservation measures anyway.

“In Santa Cruz, we’re good pirates. Much to the horror of the county — and I’m just going to make some conservative estimates — there are dozens of homemade composting toilet systems where people are composting waste in their own backyards,” Anderson said.

Landscaping changes can be a big source of water savings, and through the years the county’s developed a cottage industry installing lush but low-water gardens, supported by several native nurseries and a UC Santa Cruz Farm and Garden project that has drilled generations in sustainable ecological practices.

One local specialist is Ken Foster, who started Terra Nova Landscaping 25 years ago and teaches permaculture at Cabrillo College.

“You can have a very attractive landscape without having it be high maintenance,” Foster said, who finds a local trove of customers anxious to convert water-consuming lawns into ecologically friendly landscaping.

Click this link to see time lapse of lawn removal by Terra Nova… http://crimdom.net/photos/2012/landscaping/movies/time-lapse.mov

Golden Love of Love’s Gardens installs grey water systems and said entire backyards can be watered with a 6-gallon load of laundry. Many are drawn to it because it keeps water out of overtaxed septic systems, but Love said environmental concerns are at the forefront of people’s minds.

“What a lot of it is, these are the early adapters. A lot of these people just want to do the right thing. They have solar panels on their house already, and they say, ‘What’s the next thing I do? Oh, it’s grey water? Let’s do that,’” Love said.

Anderson and Bryan may seem like conservation extremists, but they stand on a horizon toward which the rest of us are traveling. The state wants water use slashed 20 percent by 2020, and local water agencies are setting even more aggressive goals — and not just in water-strapped Santa Cruz County.

The Monterey Peninsula Water Management Agency has set a minimum figure for how much each person requires: 35 gallons, less than what Bryant’s family uses. In theory, people could be asked to use that amount during severe droughts.

“Thirty-five gallons is plenty of water for indoor needs,” said Stephanie Pintar, water demand manager for the agency.

But the county’s bang for its conservation buck could be reaching limits. Many county water users already have cut their use far back from what other most Californians use.

Partly because of the cool, foggy weather, the Central Coast uses far less water that the Central Valley, and Santa Cruzans use even less. Over the past 10 years, the state’s per capita average daily use is 133 gallons, though the number drops to 109 gallons along the Central Coast.

Over the same time, Santa Cruz Water Department customers have used just 67 gallons a day, and in 2010 it was down to 56. Soquel Creek Water District customers are also far below the statewide average, using just 66 gallons per day, according to the most recent figures.

For many who practice water conservation, the issue of a desalination plant bubbles just below the surface. Despite evidence of growing saltwater intrusion into area aquifers and even the abandonment of some wells, they see a desalination plant as unnecessary, even a sign of surrender.

“Part of it is, ‘How can we have a sustainable water system?’” Foster said. “And a desalination plant is not part of that.”

28 Sep

Blown Away

Article reprinted from Sept. 25th 2012 edition of Good Times.

Local landscaper leads anti-leaf blower task force
A brief jaunt of Googling “leaf blower” invariably finds you product promotions, bureaucratic jargon, and flaming forums where users challenge to blow “California hippies” off their property and where non-users share stories about how their grandmother almost out-raked a gas-powered leaf blower.


Locally, however, the leaf blower discussion is headed in a more environmentally minded direction. The discussion started when Terra Nova Ecological Landscaping owner Ken Foster wrote an open letter in the Santa Cruz Sentinel’s Feb. 12 issue, calling on landscapers to reconsider their reliance on the blower. A few weeks earlier, Foster had published a manifesto of sorts on the souring aspects of leaf blowers to his company’s blog.

In his letter, Foster challenged landscapers to dramatically reduce their use of gas-powered, two-stroke leaf blowers and instead supply their debris-clearing arsenal with rakes, brooms, and, as a last resort, electric blowers. Listing air pollution first and noise pollution third in a list of five reasons, Foster evidently drew the focus away from typical neighborhood complaints about blowers’ high-pitched whining noise and challenged landscapers to go a step further in their overseeing the health of the landscape.

Foster says that he got “a lot of response” from that letter, as several thank you cards and calls rolled in. In response, Foster mounted a call-to-task-force, inviting a dozen homeowners, professional landscapers and community activists to research and represent the woes of the device. The goal of the task force (called Leaf Blower Task Force Santa Cruz) is not to reinvent the rake, but to find dogmatic solutions to technology’s side effects.

However much his 2,768-word blog post attempts to discredit the common landscaping appliance, Foster’s sunset standpoint is more moderate. “An all-out ban is the wrong idea … we really just need to educate people,” Foster explains. “Since I’m a landscape contractor, I understand what contractors have to do to stay in business. At the same time, I just feel like we could be more careful about the community and the people we work with.”

With more than 300 cities across the nation—two dozen of them in California—which currently ban or restrict leaf blower use, Santa Cruz is not new to the issue: A proposed ban failed in the City of Santa Cruz in 1998.

Foster, who is also a permaculture instructor at Cabrillo College, wrote his own personal manifesto, titled “My escape from the land of the two-stroke backpack blowers,” in the 1990s.

“We have this attitude that we need power in the landscape,” says Foster, “and I think that a lot of people that are doing the [machine-assisted] work could easily be doing high-quality work with a little bit of training.”

The Environmental Protection Agency, American Lung Association, California Air Resources board and UC Riverside have published preliminary findings about leaf blower pollution, but further information, clearly and cleanly obtained, may help the dust settle.

The lure of irresistibly sardonic nicknames like “polluting noise bazooka,” “Lucifer’s trumpet,” and “death metal sur l’herbe,” have yet to convince Santa Cruz to abandon the device. But Leaf Blower Task Force Santa Cruz is nearing a “critical threshold,” as Foster puts it, and they hope to research, document and present their findings to the city council soon. Stay tuned. | KellyAnn Kelso

27 Jul

Herbal mandalas created by Terra Nova

The story of the photos below goes like this…

Good Earth Tea Company had a warehouse located on the west side of Santa Cruz for many years. Over the years they would call me when they had product that for one reason or another was going to the landfill. When they closed their Santa Cruz warehouse they called and said they had a semi-truck worth of herbs going to the landfill! “I’ll take it” I said, without thinking. I ended up with One Thousand + pounds each of Rooibos tea, Chamomile tea, Rose hip tea, Hibiscus tea, Papaya Leaf tea, Eluthero tea, and get this, over nine hundred pounds of Kosher food grade crushed pink rose petals among many other teas and herbs. We also have our ongoing Chai Mulch to add into the mix. What ever to do with all these teas and herbs???

 

Well, I have given a lot of good quality tea away to friends, made sachets with the rose petals and then started to play with mulching pathways with the herbs. From the beginning I saw these herbs as a resource, even as artist materials. The ground has become my canvas and the herbs my paint. The next thing you know I was making herbal mandalas whenever Terra Nova had a table or a booth at an event. These photos are from a variety of venues. The Home and Garden Show at the Santa Cruz Cocoanut Grove, Earth Day, The Spring into Summer Festival and the Garden Faire. Enjoy our little foray into herbal mandalas, mulched pathways and even welcome signs written with the herbs.

Some of the herbs piled in my driveway.

 

 Ken gives a talk on making herbal mandalas.

  Jillian Steinberger makes a welcome sign.

   

 

  

 

26 Jun

A Sustainable Alternative to Power Leaf Blowers

Reprinted with permission from Owen Dell’s Sustainable Landscaping Blog, The Earthworms Lair.

June 9th, 2012 by Owen

My dear friend and colleague, landscape contractor Ken Foster of Terra Nova Ecological Landscaping in Santa Cruz, California, has been one of the few brave landscape professionals to speak out against that sacred cow of the garden maintenance industry, the gasoline-powered leaf blower. And he speaks out well, having marshaled the many troublesome impacts of blowers into his definitive blog post of January, 2012. He has even founded a Leaf Blower Task Force in his community in order to bring some sanity to the unfortunate and widespread deployment of what he calls “Polluting Noise Bazookas” (also known in some circles as “Lucifer’s Trumpet”). Others too have decried the folly of the leaf blower, and there is even good data showing that there is no actual efficiency to be gained by their use.

But what are the alternatives? Well, of course brooms and rakes still work as well as ever, and there is much to be said for their revival. They are fossil-fuel-free, they always start right up, don’t make a racket, and are dirt cheap to purchase and maintain. But there are those whose dispositions seem to require a more elaborate technology in order to feel good about their gardening chores. To help meet their needs, I recently set out on a quest for an ideal, pollution-free alternative blower, and I believe I’ve found something that really works. It has taken no small amount of research, but I’m proud to say that I’ve come up with a great little device that’s human-powered, recycled, and, believe it or not, that also eliminates a completely unrelated but quite troublesome problem.

A little background: Not long ago I attended a concert of Celtic music. Things were going along pleasantly enough until they brought out the bagpipers. As you probably know, bagpipes were developed to use when sending armies off to battle. Medieval military strategists discovered that the sound of only two or three of the instruments was sufficient to stimulate the murderous impulses of up to a thousand soldiers. Bagpipes work fast, as I was reminded at this concert. After just a few seconds of exposure to the awful droning I was more than ready to slay a few of my neighboring audience members. As I gripped the arms of my seat, I realized that a great deal of wind was being blown about to no apparent purpose. That’s when it dawned on me that the bagpipe, properly modified, would be a wonderful eco-friendly substitute for the leaf blower. I envisioned teams of kilted gardeners roaming suburban streets, pumping the distended bladders of their instruments and happily whooshing litter into tidy piles.

Back at my laboratory, I put on my best tartan coveralls and began to tinker with a set of bagpipes, working out the details of its transformation into a fine gardening implement. (Tip: Used and reclaimed bagpipes are easy and inexpensive to come by. Neighbors of bagpipe players are often happy to break in and steal them for you, usually at no charge.)

I discovered that a few minor alterations (easily accomplished by any reasonably handy person using a power drain auger and a ball peen hammer) can quickly render the typical bagpipe mute, while retaining and even enhancing its Aeolian properties, sort of like de-scenting a skunk. This results in improved conditions in two entirely separate realms, in the manner of Will Rogers’ observation about the Dust Bowl migration: that it raised the collective IQs in both Oklahoma and California. Without bothering you with the technical details, I can tell you that a properly transformed set of pipes and a strong pair of lungs can equal or exceed the 200 mile per hour streams of air touted by power blower manufacturers.

Using the Scottish Leaf Blower™ is easy. Just mount the device under your arm in the traditional position, exhale into the blowstick to fill the bag, point the drones at the ground, and pump away at the bag to achieve maximum velocity. You’ll find that using the SLB, as I’ve come to call it, is quiet, easy, and enjoyable, and every bit as effective as that gas hog you’ve been using.

For detailed instructions on converting a set of bagpipes into a Scottish Leaf Blower, please contact me. I am making this information available as a public service to gardeners and music lovers everywhere.

In my next post I’ll show you how to turn a vuvuzela into an eco-friendly bulb planter. For now, happy puffing.

The Earthworm’s Lair: Owen Dell’s Sustainable Landscaping Blog

19 Jun

Ecological Landscape Management and the big picture

What is the best way to achieve a landscape garden that hums like a humming bird?

By designing it from a birds eye view of course.

This high level perspective brings the big picture into view and with it the information needed to create systems that tend to regenerate the landscape rather than deplete it. Being a maintenance gardener for some twenty years my appreciation for thoughtful design and careful installation has grown. One of my mentors, Bill Mollison encourages “Prolonged and thoughtful observation rather than protracted and thoughtless action.” Unfortunately conventional landscape maintenance is defined by and even based on protracted and thoughtless action. The need for endless toil may be interpreted as job security by landscape maintenance contractors but this does not consider the environmental impact. It is wasteful landscaping with a heavy carbon-foot-print exacerbated by ill-conceived design and hit-and-run installation. A truly ecological landscape is designed, installed and maintained to work with nature while many conventional landscapes seem to work at odds with natural processes and require maximum toil to maintain. I believe that tending the garden will always be a valued and honored skill. The toil on the other hand can and should be designed out. If we really want to we can replace leaf blower toil with broom use or even using Owen Dell’s famous Sustainable Alternative to Power Leaf Blowers, a modified Scottish bagpipe. ( See Owen’s article here)

We say it’s time to replace lawn maintenance chores with food forest management skills.

The ecological view of the landscape fits well with this big picture approach. When one thread of the fabric of the ecological system is pulled it becomes evident that it is connected to the next thread in the weave. Being able to identify what the different threads represent is essential. When considering the health of a garden the ecological gardener looks beyond the leaves of the plants and seeks to gather information from multiple sources, starting with the soil below, moving up into the canopy of the trees and into the sky above. It is a, “toe bone is connected to the foot bone and the foot bone is connected to the ankle bone’, kind of thing. With this in mind let’s take a look at the snap shots that make up the big picture of the ecological landscape.

Starting from the ground up.

SOIL

Soil health is the first piece. There is a vast network of life in the soil referred to as the Soil Food Web.

The interconnected nature of this web is it’s hallmark. Care of the soil is central to the ecological approach to the landscape and is a whole book in itself. It is interesting to note Leonardo Da Vinci’s insight that “We know more about the stars in the heavens than the soil beneath our feet.” While we know a good deal more than we did in Da Vinci’s time, there’s sure to be a boat load that we don’t even know that we don’t know about the stars and the soil.  The fact that there are billions of microbiological life forms in a single teaspoon of healthy topsoil is a hint at the wonder and complexity teaming therein. (see “Nurture the Soil” on StopWaste.org) When we understand the amount of life at play it is easier to appreciate the care and management needed. This teaming network of life has it’s ideal conditions and conversely it’s threats. It may not be a big surprise that human activity brings with it multiple threats to the soil. In fact just about everything we humans do to the soil causes it harm sooner or later. For instance both cultivation and overgrazing cause erosion due to exposure to sun, wind and rain.  Let’s assume a threat is anything that diminishes the soil life. The life in the soil matters because healthy living soil makes for healthy plants and is the cornerstone of the ecological landscape. Compaction and stagnation are further effects on the soil from human activities. Then toxification from pesticides and chemical fertilizers. When the overall health of the soil is disregarded and it is overused and abused there tends to be a negative feedback loop in which each ill affect compounds the next.

“The skin of the Earth must be approached with great sensibility. It is alive and it contains a spirit. It is easily bruised or damaged. In some respects, it is even more delicate than the bloom on the surface of a plum. Approach it without sensitivity, or at the wrong time, and you will damage it.” - Alan Chadwick

Alan Chadwick UCSC garden

 

Learning about these threats is the first step towards reducing or eliminating them.

The problem: Compaction causing reduced water penetration and oxygen availability.

The solution: Reduce or eliminate pedestrian or vehicular traffic in planted areas. Manually aerate compacted lawn areas annually. When possible only work the soil in dry conditions, avoiding wet or muddy conditions. Working wet soil destroys its structure and its ability to except water and hold onto oxygen.

The problem: Erosion due to wind, rain and runoff.

The solution: Protect the soil from the affects of wind, rain and baking from the sun with mulch or other erosion control measures such as jute netting or coconut fiber blankets. Work the soil when it is not wet, muddy and saturated.

The problem: Stagnation due to covering soil with impervious material like black plastic and concrete.

The solution: Use porous materials like pervious concrete, pavers, rock or brick laid on sand and alternatives to plastic like cardboard or newspaper or biodegradable weed barrier paper.

The problem: Plants showing signs of nutrient deficiencies.

The solution: Testing the soil to find out if there are deficiencies. Request recommendations for organic soil amendments.

The probem: Toxification from pesticides, fertilizers and other chemicals.

The solution: Discontinue or reducing the use of synthetic pesticides and chemical fertilizers.

 WATER

Water management is one of the most important responsibilities of the ecological landscape gardener. From a design perspective this includes the integration of aquatic areas from large estuaries to small ponds and fountains, with terrestrial areas. Integration is an important consideration because water elements add an aesthetic function for humans and is an attractor for insects and wildlife.

“Just as water is the foundation of life it must be the foundation of design in the built environment.” Betsy Damon

As water becomes an evermore precious resource, how we manage it rises in importance. There are many tools to achieve water conservation.

Terra Nova and water conservation.

The problem: Water waste

The solution(s):

  • Performing a water audit to determine how, how much, where and when water is wasted. Pinpointing more solutions such as…
  • Designing with hydrozones so plants with similar water needs are placed in the same irrigation zone. This helps prevent waste from under and over-watering plants.
  • Use drought tolerant plants and Xeriscaping techniques where appropriate.
  • Employ low flow irrigation, like drip systems that are designed to conserve water.
  • Install intelligent irrigation controllers. ‘Smart’ timers can integrate data on soil, plant and irrigation type, zip code and slope to achieve maximum water savings.
  • Repairing irrigation leaks
  • Install graywater systems, Taping household water such as shower, bath and laundry for reuse in the landscape.
  • Install rainwater catchment cisterns. Storing and using rainwater for use in the landscape.
  • Use reclaimed water where possible.
  • Slow it, Spread it, Sink it - Earth works such as bio swales and rain gardens to redirect storm water to be absorbed into the soil instead of drained and piped away.
  • Mulching to prevent evaporation.

Thank you very mulch!

PLANT HEALTH

Every plant species has its ideal conditions for sun, shade, chill hours, water, soil type, nutrients, drainage and space. For this reason it is important to know the specific species needs. This is the first piece of information when looking for answers regarding plant health. For optimum plant health placing it in the right place from the beginning is essential. Once it is clear these requirements are being met other possible causes can be investigated. No amount of fertilizer will fix a plant in the wrong place. Often plants will have pest problems simply because they do not have the correct conditions to start with and pests prey on plants that are stressed.

DISEASE and PESTS

Just as with humans there are many organisms that can cause disease or damage. Plant Diseases have two large categories. Non-parasitic disease caused by cultural conditions like incorrect pH balance in the soil, too little fertilizer or excess humidity and Parasitic diseases that are contagious and caused by fungi or bacterial passed from one plant to another through hands, tools, insects or other means of contamination.

The Problem: Plant health issues

The Solution: Get symptoms diagnosed. Identify if it is cultural, a disease or a pest problem. Treat specifically for the cause not the symptom.

The Problem: Leaf damage from insect

The Solution: Get pest identified before treating. Seek organic controls for specific pest. For example Holes in lettuce leaves. Early morning observation of snails on lettuce. Place empty plant pots propped up slightly for snails to hide from daylight, then collect during the day and feed to chickens. Use the organic snail killer called Sluggo.

WEEDS

Weeds are ubiquitous and as George Shultz once said, “The way to keep weeds from overwhelming you is to deal with them constantly and in their early stages.”

With the ecological approach to weed management persistent and toxic herbicides are not an option, therefore the weeds have to be out-smarted or manually removed. Hoeing, Solarizing (using temporary plastic tarps over the soil surface to trap the suns heat to kill weeds) , sheet mulching or just regular mulch are the primary control methods. There are a few organic herbicides available but they are expensive and are often not economically feasible. White vinegar is one exception for small weeds in pavement cracks. Weeds can be designed out of the system by a method called sheet mulching. With this method the weeds are cut down low then covered with multiple layers of cardboard and then the cardboard is covered with 4 to 6 inches of wood chips or other mulch. This smoothers the weeds and prevents new sprouts from reaching sunlight. In general mulch is one of the most important weed deterrents. Mulch helps cover the soil, keeps moisture in the soil and prevents weed seeds from sprouting in soil areas.

FUNCTIONALITY

For safety and liability reasons it is important to check how infrastructure is functioning in the landscape. This includes irrigation, drainage, retaining walls, pathways, parking lots and seating areas.

AESTHETICS

How is the landscape looking as a whole?

How are the individual elements contributing to the unified look and feel?

Is the current look consistent with the original designer’s intent?

Are there aspects that need to be redesigned?

The Problem: Dead branch at eye level:

The Solution: Prune out dead, diseased and damaged wood as soon as it is noted regardless of time of year.

Terra Nova maintenance client property

As we gain this higher view we can paste all the snap shots together to create a panoramic image with a check list. This checklist can be revisited weekly, monthly and/or annually as needed and can be a management tool for workers on site, landscape designers/architects and the home or property owner. It is important for all concerned with site management to have unambiguous indicators of quality, health and sustainability in the landscape. The following checklist is meant to help quantify these indicators for that purpose.

-Ken Foster

Ecological Landscape Management check list

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?

Jar 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?

Mulch in place to prevent evaporation?

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? Would the owner(s) like one? Have they been asked?

Has the site had a water/irrigation audit performed?

Would the owner(s) like one? Have they been asked?

- Terra Nova Landscape Management Team

23 May

The company retreat

Harvesting the abundance from the garden is one of the great joys of life. The fruits of your labor in a harvest basket. Lettuce and salad greens, greens for a super food smoothie, tomatoes for a sandwich, potatoes for soup or fruit for a salad.

A feeling of accomplishment and wholeness ensues and sharing this with family, neighbors and friends is the unavoidable benefit. I recently had my friend Eric over for lunch and most of the ingredients for our soup came right from the garden. I also had my 90 year old dad who has Alzheimer’s disease over for lunch and he enjoyed the omelet made with fresh eggs from my hens. A great way to share the joy of the harvest with my dear old dad.

 

Okay, so you get my point, the joy of the harvest is an unexpected fruit of our labor and makes all the work worthwhile. This is one reason why the design science of Permaculture admonishes us to obtain a yield from our designs regardless of whether it is a garden, a business or an art project.

I mention this because although it wasn’t a traditional garden harvest there was a very similar feeling present at a recent Terra Nova company retreat. The harvest was of our collective brilliance. We took the opportunity as a company to hold a retreat where we had the time to listen to each other and speak about the things that we thought would help the company thrive. Spending this time together we are doing our best to live up to our stated vision which is that, “We are proud to be a triple bottom line company. We achieve our goals of financial profit as we care for our people and our planet.” Steven Covey’s time matrix from his book ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’ is a good reference point to see why this kind of time together is so beneficial. The opportunity to find commonality and a bond as a company falls into the surprisingly important second quadrant of the Time Matrix. This is time spent on important but not urgent tasks like designing, strategizing and planning. Sometimes these activities seem like a waste of time yet without this kind of focus we revert to crisis management simply because we did not think ahead. The saying, “planning is best done in advance” becomes well heeded advice.

Here is the Time Matrix.

So there we are at the retreat and our primary exercise in the four hour retreat and lunch was for each person to present three ideas that would further the company as a whole. Ideas that would help us create the ideal company, where we are doing exciting work, we are paid what we are worth, we are serving the community and making a difference.

So there we are at the retreat...

Everyone presented their three ideas and then we were going to vote on five ideas that we collectively thought were the highest priority. The goal was to walk away with action items that we would pursue together and individually to further the company. When everyone had presented their ideas and we discussed them together we discovered that most of our ideas fell into three categories…Accountability, Mission and Marketing. So without voting we came away with three ideas and action items that we could work on as a company. We had lunch together and took a company photo for prosperity.

Terra Nova Crew: Ken Foster, Rupert Poole, Kate Brovarney, Kyle Sanders, John Kostoff, Zeya Schindler and Kory Mc Adam - March 29th, 2012

Quality time together produced a yield that the company will benefit from for months or even years. The experience had me drawing parallels between garden design and business design. Mission, focus and commitment produces a yield.

We held a similar yet more intensive company retreat years earlier in 2003. At this two day retreat we had an unexpected yield that benefited the company long term. We called this retreat a Collaboratory.  The first day of our Collaboratory we invited members of the community to join company staff for a brainstorming session. Our financial advisor present that day offered a piece of advice: he said we should install a garden at the San Francisco Flower Show and win first place! Well as it turned out a landscape designer, Susan Wyche who was at the retreat and heard the advice came to me a few days later saying that she wanted to have a garden at the San Francisco Flower Show and she wanted us to join her in the project. Together we designed a garden and it was accepted for the show. We planned and prepared for months and at the show our garden won Sunset Magazine’s “Western Living Award” which is considered the “best of show” award. A year later our garden was featured in two full pages of Sunset Magazine.

Sunset Magazine's "Western Living Award"

Terra Nova garden at the SF Flower and Garden Show 2004.

This is the kind of yield I’m talking about. The kind of yield that is a permanent shining feature of a business portfolio. Regardless of whether it is a “best of show” award or a beautiful purple cauliflower, when time is spent on important but not urgent concerns the yield is bound to be beneficial.

Ken Foster

 

23 May

A Worthy Vessel for the Garden

The musician and record producer Brian Eno once said that, “Landscape gardening is a very underrated form of sculpture.” He observed that it was not just a static art form but that it changed and evolved over time, it is a sophisticated form of art that has a close relationship with time just like music has with its “time signatures”.

Terra Nova T shirt

Hence landscape gardening takes on new proportions as living musical art and the gardener becomes a kind of conductor. My orientation to the landscape has been with designing or composing the “softscape” including the plantings, soil and mulch. The plant softscape has been for me a profound form of art with a wonderfully diverse palette. As my plant knowledge has grown the combinations of these colors, forms and textures have spilled onto the musical score of the garden. From this perspective the wood and nails and the rock and sand are used to hold and support the garden. Now the challenge is to design and build the landscape infrustructure to match this living, colorful sculpture.

  

Cob bench (On site clay, sand and straw)

Using these materials offers a platform to present the wonders of horticulture and make a worthy vessel for the garden. These landscape elements might take the form of a pathway to navigate around the garden, a fountain to contain the element of water, a deck or patio, a raised bed for vegetables, a grape arbor, a cob oven, a BBQ for food preparation or a picnic table on which to enjoy the harvest. Add in the green approach to building the landscape and it becomes a creative endeavor of the highest order. The green approach adds to the design palette a wide array of materials from which to choose like on-site and recycled materials.

Made from sustainably harvested lumber

Planter made from pallets by Branch Out Farm

Incorporating these materials not only allows the uniqueness of a garden to shine, their use highlights and even encourages the ecologically balanced landscape garden. A common thread with these materials is that they are low impact. When using on-site materials for example there is a low carbon footprint because there is no transport needed. With repurposed or recycled materials the embodied energy of the original product is captured and reused.

Garden art made from junk

“Embodied energy” is a term to describe all of the energy that goes into the production of a product including the manufacture, acquisition of natural resources, mining, transport, office administration and all other aspects of producing a product.

Here are more examples of low impact landscape elements and hardscape materials that are worthy of the ecological landscape garden:

 

 

Re-used concrete also called "Urbanite" pathway

Flow Form water fountain
Garden beds made from sustainably harvested lumber

Made with sustainably harvested lumber

 
Retaining wall made with throw away rocks and concrete blocks

Worm bin made from salvaged trex lumber

 

Patio with re-used concrete. (urbanite)

Reuse of building materials commonly saves about 95% of the embodied energy that would otherwise be wasted.

The adventure of hunting through the urban waste stream to source reusable materials is half the fun and thinking outside the urban box is an important part of the process. Reused, repurposed and recycled materials offer the perfect way to soften the hard-scape while leaving a lower impact on the planet.

Ken Foster

07 Mar

Chai it, you’ll like it! (Chai Mulch that is)

What is Chai Mulch you might ask?

Here’s Ken with the best mulch you ever smelled.

chai-mulch-1.jpg

This is a unique mulch, from the smell to the benefits given to your garden. We have put together a few benefits, and tips on this product to optimize your results. Enjoy the sweet aroma of Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Ginger, Allspice, Cardamom, Pepper, Cloves and Star Anise. Terra Nova is pleased to be the sole provider of chai mulch.

chai.jpg

Benefits:
*The PH Balance is neutral so it is not acidic to your plants. *Chai Mulch turns into compost after breakdown which improves the soil quality, retains moisture, and prevents weeds.
*Cats have been known to be repelled by chai mulch.
*Aroma last approx 1-2 months.

* Chai Mulch is a recycled product being diverted from the waste stream and is a natural collaboration between Masala Chai and Terra Nova.

Chai Mulch installed

chai-mulch-installed.jpg

Tips:
*This is a wet mulch, and should not be left in the bag longer than 24 hours. It will mold.
*The mulch should be spread with a consistent 2 inch depth.
*Like any mulch, don’t allow the mulch to touch the stems or trunks of plant. It will rot the plant. It is best to give a 3 inch radius.

Our source in the past for Chai Mulch was Sun Chai, Thank you Cary Sunberg!

Our new source is Masala Chai.

Call us to order Chai Mulch in bulk.

831-425-3514

Return

27 Feb

LEAF BLOWER TASK FORCE SANTA CRUZ

Terra Nova owner Ken Foster forming
Leaf Blower Task Force-Santa Cruz.

Looking for eight individuals to take on leaf blower pollution in Santa Cruz.

Come out, come out wherever you are!

A balanced task force seeks from the Santa Cruz area:
Three landscape industry professionals, Two homeowners, One Homeowners Association (HOA) member and  Two neighborhood/community activists.
If you or someone you know fits one of the above descriptions please send inquiry to Ken Foster at Ken@TerraNovaLandscaping.com. First task force meeting will be April 2012
Together we can end Leaf Blower Abuse.

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