Posted on Categories Habitats, Sustainable Living, WildlifeTags , , , ,

Sebastopol woman transforms yard into a way station for feathered friends


See the article in the PD for more information about habitat and native plant gardening.

Almost as soon as Veronica Bowers bought her property in rural Sebastopol 18 years ago she began making over the backyard. She ripped out rose bushes, hydrangeas and other strictly people-pleasing ornamental plants and began transforming her two acres into a comfortable way station for songbirds.
It’s a pretty place, with masses of native plants and trees for forage and cover, fallen logs that will host tasty insects and their larvae, berry bushes to fuel up for long migrations, multiple nesting boxes for extended stays and a large pond for bathing. She has arbors covered with wild grapevines, which also provide seating areas to watch the entertaining show of birds as they come and go.
Not everyone, like Bowers, can create a Club Med-style resort for songbirds. But the former pastry chef and chocolatier, who eventually gave up baking to devote herself full-time to maintaining a hospital for sick and injured songbirds on her property, maintains that everyone can do at least something to create a little sanctuary space for songbirds. For many native species, habitat is dwindling and they are under assault from multiple forces, from free-roaming house cats, to climate change to light pollution that confuses migrating birds on their nighttime journeys.
Read more at: Sebastopol woman transforms yard into a way station for feathered friends | The Press Democrat –

Posted on Categories Habitats, WildlifeTags ,

Louise Hallberg, Graton’s 'Butterfly Lady,' dies at 100

Sonoma County lost a piece of history with the passing of Louise Hallberg on Saturday. She was 100 years old.
The lifelong Graton resident was affectionately known to decades of Oak Grove Elementary School students as “The Butterfly Lady.” Every year since the late 1980s, students at the school would take the 10-minute walk to the butterfly garden at Hallberg’s Victorian home, built by her grandfather around the turn of the 20th century.
“She was so sweet and so kind and she loved children,” said Ann Parnell, secretary at Oak Grove Elementary School and longtime Graton resident.
The butterfly garden got its start in when Hallberg’s mother, Della, planted the native Dutchman’s Pipe in the 1920s. The vine is the only plant on which the Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly nests. Those butterflies had almost exclusive reign in the garden until Hallberg began to plant vines and flowers to attract other butterflies more than a half century later. This original planting makes the west county landmark one of the oldest butterfly gardens in the county.
Read more at: Louise Hallberg, Graton’s ‘Butterfly Lady,’ dies at 100 | The Press Democrat

Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food System, Sustainable LivingTags , , ,

Toby Hemenway, leading permaculture promoter, dies at 64 

Toby Hemenway, a leading writer, teacher and crusader for permaculture, died Tuesday at his Sebastopol home because of complications from pancreatic cancer.
Hemenway, 64, wrote a top seller on permaculture, a term coined in the late 1970s mixing “permanent” and “agriculture” to describe a new approach to agriculture and community design bringing together elements that sustain and support each other.
“He was really a big deal,” said Kellen Watson, senior programs coordinator with Daily Acts, a Petaluma-based sustainability education program. “He wrote the top-selling permaculture book in the world,” for many people their first introduction to the subject.
That book, 2009’s “Gaia’s Garden — A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture,” was considered the most easily understandable book on the topic, presenting basic permaculture concepts and principles with clarity and elegance, as well as detailed how-to tips for implementing them in a garden.
It was named by the Washington Post as one of the 10 best gardening books of 2010 and has sold more than 250,000 copies.
Hemenway could talk about soil from a cosmic perspective — how the elements of life were molded during the Big Bang, inside stars, and in explosive supernovae.
Then he would bring it down to earth.
“Soil is miraculous,” he wrote in “Gaia’s Garden.” “It is where the dead are brought back to life.”
Read more at: Toby Hemenway, leading permaculture promoter, dies at 64 | The Press Democrat

Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food System, Sustainable Living, WildlifeTags , , ,

Tips, tricks to debugging your garden

If you discover that some kind of insect is damaging your garden, what should you do?The best thing you can do? Keep calm and carry on. The worst thing you can do? Spray your garden with insecticide. Here’s why.
First of all, a little insect damage is actually good for your crops, whether edible or ornamental. It stimulates growth hormones to repair damage and stimulates the plants to produce insect-repelling compounds.
But what if a pest is so numerous that it threatens to destroy your crop? That’s a signal you need to encourage more beneficial insects to live in your garden, the kind that eat pests for breakfast, lunch and dinner. You can invite them in by planting nectar and pollen-producing plants, especially ones with umbrella-shaped flower and seedheads, like fennel, dill, and carrot, even the wild carrots called queen anne’s lace.
Insect scientists also suggest leaving about 10 percent of your garden space planted in whatever happens to grow wild there (except blackberries and poison oak). This will be habitat for native pest-eating insects.
Pests are food for beneficial insects, so by spraying insecticide on your garden, you are wiping out the pests and the good guys. Pests, however, are designed by nature to be the first ones back into a garden that has been sprayed. After all, they eat plants, so the table is set.
Until pest populations build up, there’s not much for beneficials to eat, so they show up last. The result is that your pest problem will be worse than before.
Read more at: Tips, tricks to debugging your garden | The Press Democrat

Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food System, Sustainable Living, WildlifeTags , ,

Create a garden both you and Sonoma County bees will love 

There are a lot of practical and ecological reasons to turn your landscape into a way station and home for bees. In fact, the list of advantages is so compelling it may dramatically change how you see and use the space around your home.
Not only is a bee-friendly garden organic and sustainable, but a garden humming with bees will lead to a more bountiful harvest of larger and healthier fruits and vegetables. It will also attract other beneficial insects that will go after garden pests as well as provide habitat for butterflies, moths, bats, hummingbirds and other wildlife.
But on an even more global scale, bees provide a critical link in the world’s food chain by facilitating the fertilization of more than 70 percent of the world’s plants, says acclaimed North Coast garden designer Kate Frey. This includes many edibles, from nuts and fruits to tomatoes, peppers, berries and even some root crops like carrots and beets.
For all their virtues, bees have been suffering, not only from the mysterious Colony Collapse Disorder in which the worker bees in hives can die off or desert, but from new pathogens, parasites, pesticides on the flowers they visit, herbicides that wipe out the plants they depend on and pests. In addition, habitat is disappearing due to development and monoculture — vast acreage of the same crop — that leave no sustenance for bees.
The good news is that even urban and suburban homeowners can help the bee cause and without sacrificing beauty, says Frey, co-author with San Francisco State University biology professor Gretchen LeBuhn of “The Bee-Friendly Garden” (Ten Speed Press, $19.99).
Read more at: Create a garden both you and Sonoma County bees will love | The Press Democrat

Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food System, Sustainable LivingTags , , ,

The bug whisperer

Mark Sturges doesn’t advertise and clients have to find him by word of mouth, but find him they do. He’s become a master of an agricultural art as old as agriculture itself: basic compost.
Mark Sturges handed me a pair of green plastic gloves to handle his compost, but had no qualms about plunging his own bare hands deep into one of his aluminum bins. He emerged with a dripping fistful of organic matter that would discomfit a squeamish person – say, the woman who owned the Air BnB home in Bandon, Oregon, where I stayed that night and who shrieked and shivered when I described the scene.
“Does your compost look like this?” the 67-year old Sturges asked me. No, I’ve never seen any compost that looked quite like his.
His compost reminded me of a painting by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, the 16th Century Flemish artist who loved scenes teeming with humans and other creatures—eating, working, slaying, fornicating, sleeping, gossiping, squiggling their id all over the canvas. In Sturges’s cupped hands, there was the backdrop of what most of us think of when we think about compost—a crumbling, black mass resembling dark-roast coffee grounds—plus shreds of the materials that had gone into making it: eggshells, the paper-bag-like skin of a nearly dissolved pumpkin, carrot tops, and a pouf of potato salad from the town’s organic deli. More to the point, Sturges’s entire workforce was well represented in the handful. The dark mush was visibly alive with rove beetles, spiders, daddy longlegs, tiny white worms called enchytraedae that looked like lively fingernail parings, and the gray blemish of a fungus called beauvaria bassiani, which feeds on the beetles.
“These are the best workers in the world,” Sturges said with satisfaction. “They don’t have drug problems, they don’t beat their wives—although they might eat them, of course—and they work 24 hours a day. You just have to make sure you keep them alive.”
Read more at: The Bug Whisperer – Craftsmanship Magazine

Posted on Categories Sustainable Living, WaterTags , Leave a comment on Plant a rain garden

Plant a rain garden

Russian River Watershed Association, THE SONOMA COUNTY GAZETTE
The term “rain garden” is being used more and more by landscape architects and gardeners alike. It is a fanciful term that conjures images of a garden that magically creates rain. What a rain garden is, however, is one of many landscape features that fits into the category of “low impact development for storm water” or LID. Like many other LID features, rain gardens gather, hold, filter, and slow storm water runoff.
The basic principles of LID for storm water are to filter, infiltrate, and slow the flow of storm water. This is the “new school” way of thinking of storm water as opposed to the “old school” approach which was to design sites to move as much storm water as fast as possible off-site and into the storm drain system. Flood control and building foundation stability were the narrow focus. The problem with this old school, or traditional, method of managing storm water is that it can be detrimental to the health of our creeks and other waterways, including the Russian River. Storm water that flows off of hardscape, such as driveways, walkways and rooftops, typically carries pollutants with it into our storm drain system. The storm drain system then discharges storm water directly into our creeks and streams without being treated.
Another problem with directing storm water straight into the storm drain system is the effect of “hydromodification” of our streams. Hydromodification is the result of increased storm water runoff in terms of both volume and peak flow rate. The results are often eroded stream banks, downstream flooding, and increased sedimentation. These effects are harmful to fish and wildlife that depend on healthy and balanced waterways.
Fortunately, there are many options for reducing the effects of development with LID features. Rain gardens, just one example of LID, are sloped to gather rainwater from surrounding paved areas. They are underlain with soils and gravels that allow for slow percolation and then landscaped with plants that can tolerate saturated soils and even short periods of standing water while also keeping the soil in place, helping filter out some pollutants and slowing the flow of storm water.
Another LID feature that a homeowner can implement easily is to disconnect rooftop downspouts which drain directly onto hardscape and reroute the drainage to a vegetated area where roof runoff will be filtered and slowed before discharging into the storm drain system. Some of the runoff will infiltrate into site soils and be taken up by landscaping or natural vegetation.  Homeowners should take precautions to not pose adverse effects to the structural integrity of foundations or steep hillside slopes.
Read more via Your Watershed – Plant a Rain Garden – November 2014.

Posted on Categories Sustainable Living, WaterTags , , , , Leave a comment on Santa Rosa City Hall will have water-saving demonstration garden instead of lawn

Santa Rosa City Hall will have water-saving demonstration garden instead of lawn

Santa Rosa has been encouraging people to conserve water and protect creeks from harmful runoff for years.
Now it’s moving forward with a $1 million project to show them how it’s done.The Santa Rosa City Council on Tuesday signed off on plans to rip out two large lawns at City Hall and replace them with demonstration gardens designed to save water and special landscaping features meant to cleanse stormwater runoff.
“This garden is a great way to show people that there is a choice,” Vice Mayor Robin Swinth said. “They don’t have to choose between green and brown; they can actually make a third choice that is beautiful and great for the community.”
The city has many programs to encourage residents to reduce their indoor and outdoor water usage. The outdoor programs include paying people to remove water-thirsty lawns, giving rebates for gray water reuse systems and rainwater harvesting systems, and educating people and businesses about “water wise” gardens.
It has also required developers of new homes to install water efficient landscaping and design their projects to minimize stormwater runoff and improve the cleanliness of water that does run into creeks.
The City Hall project has been many years in the making and will allow the city to “walk the walk” when it comes to the water conservation and stormwater measures it requests of residents and requires of developers, said Utilities Director David Guhin.
Read more via Santa Rosa gives water-saving demonstration garden green light | The Press Democrat.

Posted on Categories Land Use, TransportationTags , , , , Leave a comment on Campaign for Santa Rosa's Southeast Greenway gets boost

Campaign for Santa Rosa's Southeast Greenway gets boost


Supporters of a plan to build a park and bike path network on a strip of vacant land through southeast Santa Rosa — property once eyed for a Highway 12 extension — were buoyed by developments in Sacramento this week that could accelerate the transfer of the 55 acres from the state highway system to the Southeast Greenway campaign.

The work of removing the freeway designation from Farmers Lane to Melita Road advanced on parallel tracks in the state Senate and the California Transportation Commission as local transportation officials backed the efforts and Greenway advocates met with Caltrans to discuss the logistics of a land transfer.

“We’re starting to talk in more detail about how the property might be transferred,” said Steve Rabinowitsh, a former Santa Rosa city councilman and member of the Greenway campaign. “There’s a lot happening.”

State transportation planners bought the southeast Santa Rosa land in the 1950s and 60s when the area of the city was sparsely developed. The intent was to build a two-mile freeway bypass from Farmers Lane over Spring Lake rejoining Highway 12 near Oakmont.

Spring Lake has since become a county park and popular recreation area and Bennett Valley neighborhoods filled in around the land planned for the freeway. Santa Rosa residents resoundingly rejected the bypass, including a bridge over Spring Lake, saying it would be environmentally damaging and unnecessary.

via Campaign for Santa Rosa's Southeast Greenway gets boost | The Press Democrat.

Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food System, Sustainable LivingTags , , Leave a comment on Gardening during drought

Gardening during drought

Wendy Krupnik, iGROW Blog

Hooray! Finally a little rain! I’m glad that I waited until today to post what I wrote yesterday, as this “much” (around a half inch) of rain was not expected. It was enough to wet my garden and will prompt some grass to grow in the fields – yea! BUT – we need to remember that we are behind on 2 season’s worth of rain. Although very welcome and helpful, a little rain does not end this drought.

 The drought is now official, serious and already having devastating consequences, especially for animals – with local livestock and already endangered fish populations diminishing. And also for farmers, who may not have water to grow crops. Although most jurisdictions have not yet called for mandatory conservation, I think restrictions – with penalties – should be enacted. It is too easy for those not directly affected to go on running the tap until we all run dry. I’d like to suggest reviewing what Sara and I wrote in our January blogs about gardening during drought, as it is all still very relevant.

 Birds are having a hard time as well. Several gardeners have commented that birds have been scratching up the soil like chickens do and sometimes eating crops more than usual this winter. I’m using row cover, strawberry baskets and chicken wire to protect plants. Consider providing water in a bird bath and bird seed to help the poor birds though this time.

via Gardening during drought | iGROW Sonoma.