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Only 28 more days to SPRING!

Early riser, the pasque flower is usually one of the first flowers seen in spring.

Thinking about transforming your landscape to be more ‘water-wise’ this coming landscape season?  Resource Central (formerly known as The Center for Resource Conservation) has quite a seminar line-up this spring, with some sessions that actually offer incentives to reduce turf through city-sponsored programs.   The City of Lafayette has piloted turf-removal programs these past two years partnering with CRC and their ‘Garden in a Box’ collections.  Now Boulder, Arvada, and Thornton are also offering incentives, rebates, or discounts to help homeowners transform their mono-culture lawns, into a haven for plant diversity and pollinators.

The Resource Central classes are FREE, but fill up fast!  See the complete list here, and sign-up soon.  Ecoscape’s Bill Melvin will be teaching the March 8th class at the Lafayette Public Library on the benefits of turning your turf into a Xeriscape.

Still not convinced that removing grass is worth the effort?  Here’s TEN great reasons to convert your turf  into xeriscape zones:

1) SAVE TIME.  Maintaining turf is time consuming.  Think of all the time you spend (or pay for someone to do it) mowing, fertilizing, aerating, weeding, string trimming edges, and monitoring sprinkler heads for problems.  Talk about a high-maintenance diva!

2) SAVE WATER. Kentucky bluegrass will use 24-26 inches of irrigation per growing season to produce the highest quality turf with no brown spots. Tall fescue will use 20-22 inches of irrigation per growing season, providing that a deep root system has been established, and substantial subsoil moisture exists.  Based on a Xeriscape Conversion Study (2005) by the Southern Nevada Water Authority, a 33% reduction in monthly water use could be realized in converting turf areas to a xeriscape.

3) SAVE ENERGY.  Converting to a xeriscape does not mean replacing turf with a heat sinking span of rock ‘mulch’.  Turf can actually reduce home cooling requirements by as much as 4%.  To realize a bigger home energy savings, a xeriscape with plants, shrubs, and trees, can help shade your home, thus potentially saving your energy costs in summer by 46%.

4) LOSE the noise and pollution.  Gas powered mowers and two-cycle engines (aerators, blowers, and string trimmers) are noisy and smelly. Plants in a xeriscape garden don’t require such equipment.

5) CREATE habitat diversity.  Large areas of lawn are ‘mono-cultures’, meaning one type of plant.  This makes grass more vulnerable to disease and pests.  A landscape with a diversity of perennials, shrubs, and trees, means that if an undesirable pest attacks a particular plant, it will be limited in food supply because of the variety.  If the pest attacks your turf, and you have tons of it, the pest will have a huge food supply and better able to multiply unchecked.  Plant diversity also attracts beneficial insects, which will work on your behalf to keep pest-insects in check.

6) SET A GOOD EXAMPLE for others.  By committing to a water-wise community of plants, you can set a trend in your neighborhood to use natural resources wisely.

Ecoscape designed, plant-diverse front yard. No turf here!

7) REDUCE FRUSTRATION.  Ill-maintained turf can be an eye-sore.  Dog spot, fertilizer burn, weed pressure, brown spots, and sparse turf, are a constant reminder that something hasn’t been done right, and needs attention.  Turf reduction could actually lower your stress level!

8) INCREASE RESILIENCE. Adapted arid-tolerant plants and native cultivars thrive in the changing climate conditions of Colorado (droughts, water restrictions, etc…), turf – not so much. Year to year, season to season, invest in plants that are hardy and well-suited to our region.

9) BUILD SOIL.  Xeriscape areas benefit from mulch, made out of natural materials, such as straw, leaves, wood chips, and even paper in some cases. These items in turn will break down and create an excellent food source for the microbes living in your soil.  Feed the soil, and it will feed your plants.

10) BEAUTY ABOUNDS.  Xeric plants can be colorful, smell wonderful, and have many interesting shapes and textures.  Winter interest in the garden can be found when plants take on a frosty mantle.  We usually don’t think of turf in those terms, so replacing it with xeric plants can open up new aesthetic avenues and vistas all year round.

Honey, honey….please take me to the Hootenanny!

The 1st Annual Honeybee Hootenanny is People and Pollinators Action Network’s largest fundraiser this year. The event is a gathering of community members, volunteers, and donors to celebrate and reflect on this year’s accomplishments, which includes passing Colorado Pollinator Highway Resolution HJR 1029 (protecting pollinators along highway 36) and the merger between Bee Safe Boulder and PPAN.

This event takes place on September 29, 2017 from 5:30pm-7:30/8:00pm–at the end of Boulder’s Pollinator Appreciate Month. Come out and see a honeybee mobile observation hive, try award winning honey, eat ample appetizers, and enjoy libations and live music!  Tickets for the event at 453 Highland Avenue, Boulder are available here.  Can’t get a babysitter or already have plans for that night, but still want to help?  You can make a tax deductible donation by buzzing on over to the People and Pollinator Action Network website.


 

Thorny Thistle Thievery & Testimony

Why, why, why are you here Mr. Thistle?

Ever look at something and be instantly triggered into anger or annoyance? Canada thistle provokes that for a lot of people. It’s prickly, it’s pushy, it gets a foot in the door and then takes over the place…and it wasn’t even invited!  Actually it was probably unintentionally invited. Thistle tends to inhabit environments that need rest and rejuvenation, like overused and depleted agricultural and rangelands. It sneaks into areas of disturbed soil, gardens, roadsides, mismanaged playground and sports fields, marshes, and even wet grasslands.

Canada Thistle with popping seed heads.

Canada thistle is a cool season perennial which spreads by seed and by creeping roots vegetatively. Undisturbed plants tend to become inactive during hot weather (July and August). Then new shoots emerge during September and survive into November. The growth on Canada thistle in late September and October helps restore its underground food reserves.

It is the extensive underground root system that may penetrate the soil to a depth of 10 feet or more and grow laterally 12 to 15 feet per year, that is both a blessing and a curse. Root buds occur randomly along the roots and initiate new shoots whenever environmental conditions are favorable. Root segments as small as 0.6 inch can initiate shoot growth and become established. All this aggressive growth of roots and plant material competes against desirable crops and native vegetation…and the cattle don’t care for it either. (This is the curse.) The benefits to this crazy underground root universe is that it helps to aerate hard compacted soil and increases biomass to restore and conserve topsoil from blowing away. Canada thistle has been cited in studies on phytoremediation of hydrocarbons in Lithuania.  For humans, thistles  generally help aid in the detoxification processes of the body, particularly the liver (often linked to the expression of anger).  Milk thistle is the most famous of them, but Cirsium arvense (Canada thistle) is a good substitute.  Pollen and nectar from this thistle is also an abundant source for bees and insects. (This would be the blessing and testimony!)

Two years underground growth of Canada Thistle from original one foot of root.

It has been said that the first step to healing is awareness.  If you’ve got Canada thistle, try to understand not only its’ thievery, but also what it may be trying to tell you. (Neglected soil? Compaction issues?  Toxin Smorgasbord?)  Then mindfully decide, what you do want in its’ place and what would be the highest good for the land & soil?  Desirable native plants and healthy, biodiverse soil is a good place to start, and know that it will take commitment and diligence on your part.

Three things to remember in tackling thistle: avoid letting plant go to seed, timing is key when applying an herbicide (go organic!), and don’t cut all the way to the ground level or pull the weed (it stimulates additional root bud shoots).  However, cutting high at 8-10 inches retains the chemicals in the stem (auxins) and fools the plant into thinking it is still producing flowers, so root bud development  is retarded.   Also, studies show that plants of that height are more susceptible to chemical damage and will translocate better to the roots. This is the time to apply an organic herbicide (containing acetic acid or clove oil) into the open stems. Adding a surfactant (to the organic herbicide) will aid greatly in sticking to leaf surfaces and allowing penetration to the roots.  The ideal time to treat is in the very early bud stage when food reserves are at their lowest point (early spring) and during the fall when the plant is storing sugars in its root system to get it through the winter.  If some thistle sprouts back next spring, hit them again with an organic herbicide, and be sure to plant desirable varieties that shade out any Canada thistle stragglers, and amend the soil with compost.  If you’ve got Canada thistle and don’t want to tackle it yourself…contact Ecoscape!

By Karina Zedalis (2017)

July is SMART IRRIGATION MONTH!

Colorado Governor Hickenlooper declared that July is SMART IRRIGATION MONTH, but truthfully, it really begins when your system is activated in the spring, and continues through the final irrigation blow-out in the fall.  Strategies for being ‘smart’ range from managing your irrigation system to water-wise landscape design and cultural practices.

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While you may consider your irrigation controller to be a nebulous box mounted to your garage or basement wall, and may be tempted to ‘leave it to the professionals’,  there are some simple ‘smart irrigation’ practices you can do for starters:

  • Inspect your irrigation system monthly by walking around your property checking for leaks, broken or clogged sprinkler heads, and other problems. Lawn equipment, thirsty raccoons, or improper winterization can cause damage, so be on the lookout for problems and get them fixed quickly.
  • Learn the basics about your controller: know how to turn your sprinkler system off, and do so after appreciable rain events. Remember to turn it back on, or have a professional install a rain sensor that does it automatically.

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  • Adjust your controller timer to water in the early mornings when winds are calm and temperatures are cool to minimize evaporation (between 4am and 8am).
  • With July and August being the hottest months here in the Front Range, be sure to increase your irrigation cycle to account for increased water needs of your lawn and plants. Re-adjust settings as we head into September and October.

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At Ecoscape, we value the preciousness of water and believe that you can have a beautiful landscape that is also water-wise.  By adhering to smart irrigation practices and working with our professional landscape staff, you can be sure you are part of making things better!  Schedule an appointment with our irrigation specialist, Richard Matteson, who can inspect, evaluate, and make smart technology recommendations to improve your irrigation system and  teach you some basic operating guidelines.

What Do You REALLY Know About Seeds…?

The saying ‘good things come in small packages’ is best exemplified by one simple word: SEED.  seed-in-hand

Every spring, whether intentionally planted or by volunteer, the humble seed, bathed in water and nestled by soil, cracks in the sunlight to reveal the gift of life.  From that seed-burst into plant life, countless others are nourished.  For humans, the seed represents a 12,000 year food legacy, that sadly, most take for granted.   As one of the most critical issues of our time, the seed industry is NOT so simple, and the loss of seed diversity affects us all.  This tiny package has a story, a story that is critical to every being on the planet who eats food.

In the last century, 94% of our seed varieties have disappeared. As biotech chemical companies control the majority of our seeds, farmers, scientists, lawyers, and indigenous seed keepers fight a David and Goliath battle to defend the future of our food. In a harrowing and heartening story, these reluctant heroes rekindle a lost connection to our most treasured resource and revive a culture connected to seeds.

From the award winning Collective Eye Films, comes the movie SEED: The Untold Story.  The newly renovated Dairy Arts Center is hosting this environmental documentary, November 30 through December 3.  Boulder friends, please don’t miss this film featuring  Dr. Jane Goodall, Vandana Shiva, Winona LaDuke, and Andrew Kimbrell.  Order tickets here

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How to Love a Pollinator

Gratitude to the buzzy ones that make flowers and veggies thrive and multiply!  The City of Boulder has declared September Pollinator Appreciation month to encourage the community to celebrate pollinators and take action to protect them.  Check out ways you can learn about, witness, and celebrate pollinators, in and around Boulder…click on the bee and buzz over to the City of Boulder’s webpage for a list of events.  bee-in-squash-flower

Boulder Green Homes Tour – September 24, 2016

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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.