Mi Jardin es tu Jardin – My garden is your garden

To all our garden allies we say Mi casa es tu casa – My home is your home or to be more precise, Mi Jardin es Tu Jardin – My garden is your garden. Terra Nova has been building and maintaining homes for ‘beneficials’ for many years. Here is our garden casa story.

 Honey bees

As beekeepers we have installed and maintained bee hives for Terra Nova clients. The honey bee is one of the most fascinating creatures on earth and an essential member of the garden community. They provide an impressive array of services from pollination to honey making and wax production. Observing a bee hive is simply some of the best entertainment in the garden.

Bees at Ken’s Top Bar Bee Hive.

Native bees

The honey bee is one of the better known celebrities of the bee world but we must not forget native bees. Native bees are some of the forgotten pollinators. There are around 1,500 native bee species in California. You can invite them to your garden with a native bee hotel. I gave one to my Grandaughter. She is now inviting these beneficial friends to her backyard.

Native bee hotel
Native bee hotel

Red worms

As ‘Vermicomposters’ Terra Nova has built and maintained worm bins for our clients for many years. Red worms – (Eisenia fetida ) are one of the best composters. Turning kitchen waste into garden fertilizer par excellence. Every kitchen and garden should have one in our opinion.

This is a challenge to raise more worms than I have in my worm bin. There are millions in my bin and they all have names. The first 100,000 are named Sally Ann, Sally Ann the 2nd etc. the second 100,000 are named Billy Bob, Billy Bob the 2nd and so on. My secret? Giving them plenty of kitchen scraps and covering them inside their bin with moistened recycled burlap coffee bags.

Red worms in burlap coffee bags.



We have built a few chicken coops over the years. We built one for our own chicks recently. Like honey bees chickens perform numerous chores in the garden that help to close the loop. For this reason we call our chicken casa the ‘Closed-Loop Chicken-Coop’.

We dream of a world where a chickens motives are not questioned, it’s simple, they just want to scratch for weed seeds, peck for bugs and lay eggs. Watching chickens in the garden rivals the entertainment of the bee hive.

Chicks and Rita
Ken’s grandaughter Rita with a chicken and Ken with Rennie.


Owl boxes for both Barn and Screech owls are a recent addition to the list of homes we have built in client’s gardens. Now that is a fine way to control gophers! Building these owl boxes was the seed that germinate into this Mi casa es tu casa story in Jillian Steinberger’s brilliant mind. Thanks for the idea Jillian!


Then there’s mosquito control. How about inviting bats (Cleopatra) to your garden with a bat house? Bat’s are skilled pest control agents catching and eating up to a thousand mosquitos per hour. If that wasn’t enough this incredible flying mammal produces guano (yup, bat poop), one of the best high nitrogen fertilizers you can buy. Most bats species are endangered due to habitat loss and pesticides. Invite them in with a bat casa and a pesticide-free garden. A perfect win / win for the garden and the bat.

Bat house
Bat house

Blue birds

Blue bird boxes are next. Another opportunity to house an at-risk species that provides excellent pest control in the deal. Since Western bluebirds also have to compete with the more aggressive, introduced species like house sparrows and European starlings, for food and nesting sites. Blue bird nest boxes are a welcome haven for these blue feathered beauties.

The science of maximizing beneficial relationships

During the Permaculture class I teach at Cabrillo College we have a whole day dedicated to ‘Building Bonds with Allies’. Including these homes for beneficials is a key part of this lesson.

My iconic and beloved horticulture professor at Cabrillo, Richard Merrill always said that the study of horticulture is the study of everything. I now tell my students at Cabrillo that the study of Permaculture is the study of how everything is connected.

Bill Mollison, the co-founder of the design science known as ‘Permaculture’ once wrote,

“Design is a connection between things… Education takes everything and pulls it apart and makes no connections at all. Permaculture makes the connection, because as soon as you’ve got the connection, you can feed the chicken from the tree.” This is why Permaculture is called, The science of maximizing beneficial relationships.’ Making these connections and building these relationships is what the sentiment Mi Jardin es Tu Jardin is all about.

Everything Gardens

There is a Permaculture principle that ‘Everything Gardens’. What this means is that nothing in nature works in isolation, including us humans. Everyone of us affects our environment. The challenge is to design specifically for beneficial affects. Instead of controlling everything in our gardens we can get better results if we sit back and let our allies do some of that beneficial work for us.

Intrinsic characteristics

The trick here is to invite creatures (garden allies) whose intrinsic behavior benefits other creatures or elements in the garden ecosystem. Intrinsic = in·trin·sic is the basic characteristic of a person or thing. There is a synergy that happens when we design these intrinsic characteristics into the system.

Final notes about designing and building a garden that is inclusive.

Water and Soil

Water is important for all species of beneficial allies. They need water like that rest of us. Including a water feature (like a flow-form fountain) helps keep everyone hydrated. This is a good first welcome sign for our garden friends.

flow form 2


Building your garden soil is also part of building the garden casa. The life in the soil (the-soil-food-web) depends on available organic matter. Some of our most important allies are the smallest ones: the microbes! We need the cooperation of soil bacteria and fungi. Making compost to use in the garden and spraying your vegetable garden regularly with aerated compost tea and effective microorganisms, inoculating mycorrhizal fungus and adding plenty of mulch keeps your microbes fat and happy. The mulch provides homes for all the denizens of the soil (tierra).  Thus we can say to the Soil-Food-Web … Mi tierra es Tu casa – My Soil is your Home.

soil food web

Plant diversity

Designing in plants that will provide forage and habitat for beneficials is a key strategy. The importance of including trees and shrubs, perennial and annual plants that offer pollen and nectar (forage) for birds, butterflies, bees and other beneficial insects should not be underestimated. Include plants that provide nesting materials and cover (habitat) for birds. You might say the garden as a whole is essentially a casa, that is, Mi Jardin es Tu casa- My Garden is your Home.

What other homes can you think of to welcome in garden allies?

To recap, our garden casa and the garden ally list looks like this…

  • Bee hive for honey bees
  • Native bee hotel to welcome in native bees
  • Worm bin to house Red worms
  • Chicken Coop for our favorite egg layers
  • Owl box for both Barn and Screech owls
  • Bat house for nature’s pest control agents
  • Blue bird box for Blue birds
  • Healthy soil for the Soil-Food-Web
  • Diverse plant species for diverse life in the garden

Let us call our allies to join us as we create and tend the Garden so all may benefit from its abundance, nourishment, beauty and joy.

 – Ken Foster


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.

Ken Foster of Terra Nova on the teacher team of Permaculture Design Course in Santa Cruz

An exciting new workshop series in collaboration with Jon Young

Designing a regenerative culture depends on a harmonious relationship between nature and people, in which observation and thoughtful interaction provide the knowledge and inspiration necessary to being a resilient community. In this program we take the time to listen to the birds, follow the stories of the animals through their tracks and sign, use our hands to grow our food, learn about and practice the art of peacemaking in our interactions throughout and much, much more. Through the collaboration of theGetting Nature Connected program and the 4 Seasons Permaculture Design course, our intention is to provide participants with tools and experience to begin living in a mutually enhancing relationship with the Earth.

This two-part series is presented in Santa Cruz and takes place one weekend a month.
Each weekend includes:

Friday evening and Saturday: Getting Nature Connected, with Jon Young and staff
Sunday: Four Seasons Permaculture Design Certification course, with Lydia Neilsen and the RDI staff

You can register for one or both parts of the series. To register for Getting Nature Connected click here, or go towww.jonyoung.org. Register for the Four Seasons Permaculture Design course below.

Youth programs are available throughout the weekend! Click here for the First Child in the Woods program.

From oil dependency to local resilience

Transition S.C.tsc_logo_3color.png

Terra Nova owner Ken Foster serves on the steering committee of Transition Santa Cruz. Using guidelines outlined in The Transition Handbook, we are reinventing Santa Cruz as a city in transition from oil dependency to local resiliency. You can learn more about this international movement at the Transition Culture website.


Graham Strouts of Zone5.org offers the following review of The Transition Handbook, From Oil Dependency to Local Resilience:

“The concept of energy descent, and of the Transition approach, is a simple one: that the future with less oil could be preferable to the present, but only if sufficient creativity and imagination are applied early enough in the design of this transition.” — Rob Hopkins, author of The Transition Handbook

The publication of the much anticipated handbook marks the latest landmark in what has become the fastest growing environmental movement since CND in in the 1960s: the phenomenon that is sweeping the UK, the Transition Towns movement.

The book is clearly written and entertainingly illustrated—including some original line drawings by the author. Primarily it is a handbook for inspiring and guiding communities into a new sustainable future with less dependency on fossil fuels. Comparisons with the recent early-industrial past—food production and allotments during Britain’s ”wartime mobilization” in the 1940s for example—make fascinating reading and give some pointers for how large-scale change could happen again—if we only had the collective will and sense of urgency to achieve it.

What makes it unique is that this is not merely aspirational, but also documents the meteoric rise of the transition movement. Its advice and exercises have been hewn on the workbench of real local communities making the first steps of a radical transformation that the whole of the developed world will have to confront over the coming years.

Placed through the book are 12 Tools for Transition describing in detail different workshop activities that can be used to help develop a process and facilitate discussions, including Open Space and World Caf; the web-of-life game is described, which has become the web of resilience—a game whereby participants stand in a circle and pass a string back and forth between them representing links between different elements of a woodland or a community.

As it becomes clear that the cheap oil required to sustain our oil-dependent lifestyles is not going to be with us indefinitely, we find ourselves looking around at the severed strands of web and starting to wonder which strands might reconnect to which others. The Transition approach is one of re-weaving this web, and remaking the connections which will be needed by a resilient post-oil economy. Every new harmonious relationship we forge is a step back to sanity.

It all started at the end of the summer of 2004 when Rob was teaching permaculture in Kinsale, the course he had set up three years earlier—a 2-year Practical Sustainability course, one of the only courses of its kind anywhere in the world. Davie Philip of Cultivate had just shown me The End of Suburbia and I gave a copy to Rob just before the start of term. He immediately arranged to show it to the students along with a talk by Colin Campbell, and presented with them what must still be the greatest challenge to have faced permaculture students on that course: to write an Energy Descent Action Plan for the town of Kinsale.

This daunting task was undertaken with considerable enthusiasm and the document they produced has been hugely influential in framing the tasks ahead for those seeking effective responses to peak oil and climate change.

An alternate view of introduced species


As part of our 2008 Permaculture Design Course, David I. Theodoropoulos taught a class based on his book: Invasion Biology: Critique of A Pseudoscience, and in doing so, made a very convincing case why he classifies invasion biology as a pseudoscience.

Invasion biology is the attempt to address—through science—the ecology, influence, and impact of introduced species.

In a well-written review of David’s book, D. Holmgren elaborates:

“The author puts a very strong case that invasion biology is a pseudoscience and that nativist ideology is a danger to environmental thinking and society at large as well as a direct threat to biodiversity conservation.

The evidence provided of beneficial effects of naturalised plants and animals is drawn from the author’s own observations and a significant number of peer reviewed scientific papers supporting his case. However he makes even greater reference to scientific papers and reports, which draw conclusions of great and varied harm from human spread of plants animals and microorganisms. In other words, Theodoropoulos uses evidence from the Invasive biology literature to support his own conclusions.

In my more limited reading of both scientific papers and more popular presentations of the nativist ideology I have been struck by how much of the evidence that is typically used to describe ecological harm can in fact be equally interpreted to indicate ecological benefits…”

Click here to download the entire pdf book review by David Holmgren.

Here I am with David Theodoropoulos and Larry Santoyo at the Cabrillo College Horticulture Center with the Monterey Bay in the background for our Permaculture Design Course.


Here’s the cover of Dave’s book with an excerpt from a book review. Click here to order the book.


“In this provocative work, Mr. Theodoropoulos uses a combination of detailed bibliographic research, precise language, and skillful polemics to analyze invasion biology as a pseudoscience… it is an organic work of great analytical force and bibliographic intensity…. The credibility of the book’s arguments is based in fundamental evolutionary ecology…. Critics may dispute some of his analyses or judgments, but their own credibility would need to be measured against Mr. Theodoropoulos’s analytical rigor, clarity of expression, and transparency of agenda…. Mr. Theodoropoulos’ ideas are, in this book, ecologically coherent, precisely conceived, and effectively articulated.”
—Dr. D.L. Scarnecchia, Washington State University. Book Review, Rangelands 26(2), April 2004.

Green roofs grow on you !

We have been fascinated with green roofs since we first learned about them the mid 1990s. Terra Nova received Sunset Magazine’s WESTERN LIVING AWARD for a garden with a green roof we presented at the 2004 San Francisco Flower and Garden Show.

Here we are building that green roof using succulents and native grasses


Below are pictures of that finished garden

green3.jpg green-roof101.jpg

A green roof that blends into the landscape

The following excerpt describes a green roof that Terra Nova and Rana Creek Native Plant Nursery co-created in Carmel Valley:

Built as an embodiment of nature’s gifts, the Ocho House by Feldman Architects, in the Santa Lucia Preserve (a 20,000-acre private preserve in Carmel, California), was designed as an example of sustainable Mediterranean Modernism. The house was designed to integrate itself back into the land through sensitive design including low water use, solar power and habitat enhancement. There are actually three small structures that are built into the hillside where the land seamlessly continues onto the green roofs of each one. Rana Creek ensured that an ecological design approach enhanced the project with a sustainable landscape and green roofs that consist mostly of locally adapted, indigenous plant materials already found thriving onsite prior to building. Their oversight of design and implementation focused on stabilizing all disturbed soils by planting grasses and forb mixes approved for the Santa Lucia Preserve, controlling non-native species, and simply allowing natural regeneration of the local plant assemblages. Adaptive management techniques proved to be the most valuable strategy, as the roof that was being taken care of by weeding, pruning and irrigation was less successful than the roofs left unattended, due to lack of access.


There are 4,250 square feet of green roof installed at a cost of $21 per square foot. The 6” depth of growing medium is composed primarily of sand, lava rock and amendments, which allow for both moisture retention and drainage. The growing media included mycelial inoculants and supporting mushrooms that appear in the cool wet winters. The roofs were installed with irrigation to support the establishment of the plants and for minimal summer maintenance. The waterproofing membrane is American Hydrotech MM6125 followed by a Hydroflex30 Protection Course and Root Stop WSF40. The drainage system is Floradrain FD40 underneath the growing medium layer and gravel with perforated pipe and surface drains at the roofs’ edges. The perennial plant species selected for the roof such as Sand Sedge, Pt. Joe Fescue, Yarrow and Wild Strawberry are typical of the oak woodland understory and representative of the Monterey Peninsula region flora. A host of annual wildflowers were over-seeded in the fall and by springtime tidy tips, lupine, poppies, and goldfields surprised the owners with a colorful bloom. These annuals continue to sprout and flower each spring.


There are 4250 square feet of green roof installed at a cost of $21 per square foot. The 6 depth of growing medium is composed primarily of sand, lava rock and amendments which allow for both moisture retention and drainage. The growing media included mycelial inoculants and supporting mushrooms that appear in the cool wet winters. The roofs were installed with irrigation to support the initial establishment of the plants and for minimal summer maintenance. The waterproofing membrane is American Hydrotech MM6125 followed by a Hydroflex30 Protection Course and Root Stop WSF40. The Drainage system is Floradrain FD40 underneath the growing medium layer and to gravel with perforated pipe and surface drains at the roofs edges. The perennial plant species selected for the roof like Sand Sedge, Pt. Joe Fescue, Yarrow and Wild Strawberry are typical of the Oak Woodland understory and representative of the Monterey Peninsula region flora. A host of annual wildflowers were over seeded in the fall and by springtime tidy tips, lupine, poppies, and goldfields surprised the owners with a colorful spring bloom. These annuals continue to sprout and flower each spring.

The green roofs are designed to provide usable landscape, filter and store rainwater, attenuate sound, increase thermal insulation and provide site sensitive beauty for the home. The occupants benefit by reducing their energy consumption up to 30% during the summer months from the insulation of the roofs. With a growing media depth of 6” the sound is reduced by approximately 43 decibels. The sounds from the humans and their activities within the buildings are also being buffered to protect the wildlife, given the sensitive nature of the habitat in the Preserve.

The Ocho House is a superlative example of a green roof’s potential to limit environmental disturbance and integrate architecture with ecology—the 33 species of native plants used have made for a successful recovery after the disturbance caused by building on the site. The ecology of the site will continue to become more complex and resemble the natural analogs that were emulated in the design!

Article contributed by Rana Creek

Resource: Green Roofs Directory

Santa Cruz Permaculture Design Course on going through July

This is a photo of the first weekend of the Santa Cruz Permaculture Design Course with Larry Santoyo holding court.
soil.jpgTesting soil in the soil class.

Larry Santoyo will be joining local Santa Cruz Permaculture teachers including Ken Foster, Lydia Neilsen, Bruce Beernink and Brian Barth and Heather Flores for a Permaculture Design Course begining February 16th and 17th, 2008. The third weekend of each month:
February – July 2008 Tuition : $90.00 per day* $175.00 per weekend

Please go to EarthFlow Design Works to register or for more information.