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Basalt rock water feature in the snow

Ecoscape is a Boulder landscaping company offering design, build, and maintenance services throughout Boulder County, including Longmont, Lafayette, Louisville, Niwot, Boulder, and the Foothills communities west of Boulder. More Details >

Boulder Green Homes Tour – September 24, 2016

hometour-photo-2016

Green and Sustainable are two words that get tossed around the market place, abstractly and ad nauseam.  But what if you had the chance to see those words in action, fully manifested, with measurable metrics to prove it?  What better place to start, then right at home?  Take a peak into some of the most innovative green building homes around Boulder, by signing up for this self-guided tour happening on Saturday, Sept. 24th.  The tour is put on by the Colorado Green Building Guild, a non-profit trade organization representing a wide range of green building leaders, that strives to promote the collaborative exchange of ideas on green building in the community.

From modern to traditional, from remodels to multi-family projects, see how these Boulder area homes became more energy efficient with less impact on human health and the environment.   The family residence of Bill Melvin, Ecoscape’s founder and managing director, will be included on the tour as well.  Tickets are only $15 and CGBC is donating 10% of their proceeds to Flatirons Habitat for Humanity’s local projects.  The tour will happen rain or shine, 10am to 4pm (last tour starts at 3:30).  Be sure to attend the After Party & Vendor Fair from 3:30 -5:30, where you’ll have the chance to talk with the architects, contractors, and vendors who are out on the leading edge putting real-time green and sustainable solutions into the home and garden.

 

Name that Weed….Question of the Week

Often we get questions from our clients or people new to the area about plant ID. Here’s a recent one that came across my desk from a homeowner in the mountain foothills west of Boulder:

What is that weedy patch of plants on my septic leach field??   Mullien patch on septic field-Aug2016- Staats

Looks like you have a thick patch of common mullein growing. They can take over if they don’t have any competition from other plants, but they also have some medicinal qualities, so they are not entirely all bad either. The thing to remember with controlling this ‘weed’ is that it is an ONGOING process: one hit of poison or even one year of hand pulling will not be enough.

It has a shallow tap root, so you can easily pull the tall plants after a good rain. Since the flowers & seed are already set now in late summer, best to dispose of these pulled plants in bags and haul away. You could try covering the low-growing mullein (the ones that haven’t sent up tall flower/seed stocks) with plastic, and you might get some die off as we cruise into fall (they have a 2 year life cycle, so it would be worthwhile). You could also weed whack them instead. Then I would suggest you seed this area in the late fall or early spring with a more desirable wild flower, prairie grass, or ground cover, so that they will crowd out the mullein. I would NOT suggest applying more poison for reasons too numerous to discuss!

On my mountain property, I strategically weed whack back some grasses & other undesirables throughout the spring & summer to allow the wild flowers more space. I often leave a few tall mullein here and there for visual interest & to make a cough suppressant tea for the winter, but hand-pull the rest. I don’t worry so much about the low growing ones, as I’m always increasing my seed bank of wild flowers & cool looking grasses to out compete things I don’t want. In the end, I strive for increasing plant diversity and don’t fret about a few weeds that I can knock out with my trusty weed whacker.  Plant recommendations for a leach field area are basically a wild flower/grass mixes since they have a shallow root system and low water needs.  Nature’s toilet paper, aka mullein, is considered a noxious weed when it has little competition, but when you understand its’ life cycle and encourage plant diversity, it doesn’t have to take over!                                                             Written by:  Karina Zedalis (c)2016Mountain garden in BEM - KZ June20016Plant diversity power! Photo: Big Elk Meadow home of KZedalis

Plant diversity power!
Photo: Big Elk Meadow home of KZedalis

 

The Work of Working in LANDSCAPE

You hear a lot these days about how grounding and nourishing spending time in nature is. We sit in our cars, our cubicles, our conference rooms, tasking the day away to make ‘a living’. The flip side to this are the people who work on the land directly, far from the confines of computers and commerce.  Skilled labor work is honest work.  It’s either done correctly, or it’s not. It’s complex and simple at the same time.  It’s hot and sweaty.  It’s wind chill and shivers. It’s taxing to the body. It is integral work to the landscape design + build process. And beyond.

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Photo by Eliza Karlson

Work / Life balance is another common thread of our times, you’ve seen the memes, the blog posts, the talk shows.  We see (or hope to see!)  our homes and yards as a sanctuary from the harried world of getting it done, getting it done, getting it done.  Spending time in one’s back yard is the best vacation some say.  Others see their back yard as an assortment of work that needs to be done, again and again.  People call us all the time looking for low or maintenance-free landscaping. They are the same ones looking for a maintenance-free car or body. True enough we all could do with less chores and work, but there is something about the activity of caring for something you hold dear. There is a moth-to-a-flame draw of a beautiful hand-made creation.

You can’t mass produce a landscape. You can’t ignore a yard full of living things and expect it to be unchanging. But you can change your mind as to how you view the intersection of people working on the land, whether it is yourself doing the work or a hired hand (or crew!). Expect that it may be messy at times, with many elements needing to come together in perfect sequence. See machinery and man working skillfully together, to avoid buried utilities and important things that would cost a lot of money to replace. Think about the last time you cursed your lawn mower, and then appreciated the smell and look of a fresh cut lawn when you finally finished. Pick and choose. Savor those things you like to do. Hire out that which you do not. Appreciate that either way, the human touch was locally and intimately involved with that outdoor space we fondly call, landscape.

Springing out of Winter

snowy elk scene photoApricot blossoms-Melvin2016Irrigation photo-tall

Some say the hardest part of a Colorado winter, is the spring. Back and forth we go between snow and sun and snow. February’s  wind storms and recent heavy wet snow have made quite a mess around Boulder County. Easiest way to deal with this fickle season: think of snow as slow release water for your yard and email Scott@EcoscapeDesign.com to set up your spring clean-up.

We also can meet with you about adding more plants, mulch, and improving your soil. Thinking about a new hardscape project, adding some outdoor lighting, or completely revamping your yard?  Now is the time to get the ball rolling. Call us at 303-447-2282 and we’ll connect you with one of our designers.

 Late April is our target for irrigation start-ups, so we will be contacting you soon to schedule. May is the time to give attention to your turf… spring aeration and organic fertilization will insure your grass is off to a good start.  If we’ve never provided irrigation or turf services to you in the past, call us and we can get you started this season.

Well-being begins in your own back yard…Call Ecoscape today.

Thinking about growing LESS grass this season?

Folks, turf grass is not the enemy.  Shocking I know, since every eco-gardener these days says grass is public enemy number one….but it’s all about perspective.  Swearingen Perennial bed (small)

It’s best to think of turf as a ground cover plant that holds the soil in place and makes a great place to play & roll around.  But like anything, too much of a good thing can be bad.  Acres of maintained and irrigated turf is a monoculture and doesn’t supply a diversity of food for pollinators, insects, birds, or animals.  Conventionally grown turf also means there is a heavy synthetic chemical burden to the local soil ecology and area watersheds (think run-off from chemical fertilizers and herbicide applications).  So that bad rap is true.  Bad, bad grass.

In Colorado however, we do have several drought tolerant turf choices that are way more reasonable then Kentucky bluegrass with water demands.  And with an organic lawn care protocol and best cultural practices, it is possible to maintain a healthy span of grass and not feel ‘guilty’.  Good grass, not such a bully after all.  But what if your yard has more turf than anything else?

On the home front, it is possible to convert some of your turf square footage over to more plant diversity. By doing this, you’ll be providing more nutrition to a larger range of critters, both above and beneath the soil.  You might even grow some food for yourself and family.   But just ripping out the grass and planting water loving plants is not the best way to go about it!

Learn how you can transform your lawn into a beautiful xeriscape garden from one of Boulder County’s most sought after landscapers, Bill Melvin, owner of Ecoscape Environmental Design. This seminar is sponsored by the Center for Resource Conservation, and will take place on April 5 at the Lafayette Library, 5:30 to 7:30pm. See more class details and register here.

There, now you can have your turf and eat it too!