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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!

Three cheers for Emily, Ecoscape’s Recycling Rockstar!

While most people are familiar with single-stream recycling here in Boulder, you may not know how easy it is to recycle wire, copper, steel, metal, and brass. During new landscape installations, our crew often runs across an assortment of components as the old landscape is being deconstructed. Broken irrigation fittings, bits of copper wire for electricity, brass from defunct spigots, and so on. Instead of heading to the landfill, these scraps get melted down and reused to make new items. Emily created organized bins and taught her fellow crew members to be more mindful when dealing with deconstruction waste.  Building our company’s best practices around recycling and is an ongoing effort…but having a company culture that encourages employees to share good ideas is paramount.   Thank you Emily for helping Ecoscape to do better in our recycling program!

Emily the Recycling Rockstar

Puttin’ the Bee in Boulder!

It’s official, Ecoscape will have a booth at the upcoming Healthy Bee / Bee Healthy Conference at the Millennium Harvest Hotel in Boulder! The event takes place Oct 1 – 3, and we will be there on Saturday from 9am – 5pm. We are proud to be a sponsor for this event to support the mission of apicultural outreach and education in Colorado.  To learn more about the presenters and how you can register to attend, buzz here.

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Boulder is First Bee Safe City in America!

Come Celebrate…

Saturday, August 8th,  4-6pm

Hors d’oeurves ~ Wine ~ Craft Beer ~ Live Music ~ Raffle Prizes ~ Bee Hives ~

And Lots of Fun!

As client’s, friend’s, family, and associates, I wanted to invite you to a fun celebration this coming weekend.  It is to honor Boulder becoming aBeeSafe logo bee

Bee Safe City passing city council resolution number 1159, which bans the use of bee-killing neonicotinoid pesticides on all city-owned and city-managed property.

In the past year I have become involved as an advisory board member with Bee Safe Boulder.  This was in response to my realization that even given my efforts to beautify Boulder, our plants  were damaging many pollinator species. The use of neonicotinoids in our communities is widely prevalent, yet hardly known. Please support Bee Safe Boulder, learn more, mingle with City Council members, board members, friends, and neighbors.

All proceeds from this fundraising event will go directly to furthering the mission of Bee Safe Boulder, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.

To purchase tickets please go to Bee Safe Boulder event.

I do hope that you can make this festive occasion and look forward to seeing you there. Till then, enjoy your summer!  Party Time Bee

Bill Melvin

Ecoscape Owner, Sponsor, and Bee Safe Advisory Board Member

Prepare for Planter Pots

Planter pots are a great amenity in most any landscape.  Whether it’s taking advantage of a small area or enriching a large area, planter pots offer a way to individualize your landscape.  Leaking Pot

 

It is not uncommon to think about adding your pots at the end of the project, but I encourage planning when it comes to this item.  The two primary goals of planning for your pots are; “get the water in automatically”, and “get the water out automatically”.  To get the water in I recommend drip irrigation coming up through the drain hole in the bottom of the pot.  It is also a good idea to consider a dedicated station on your irrigation clock as planters tend to need more water than plants in the ground.  Drip circle for container-photo

 

Getting the water out automatically can take some planning, but is well worth.  As you see in the photo above, this installation did not plan how to drain this planter pot.  Sadly this photo is from the new Transit Center at 30th and Pearl in Boulder.  The project is still under construction, and you can see they already have a problem on their hands.  This type of staining also can cause a slip hazard, which may leave a property owner liable if someone slips and falls.  holes for planter

 

So please continue to consider planter pots in your garden design, but don’t forget to plan ahead.

-Jim Haswell, Senior Landscape Designer

Water Conservation – By Volunteering or By Force?

Blackmore Rock Garden (large)

This turf-free Ecoscape design in south Boulder features native perennials, ornamental grasses, and very drought tolerant boulders.

Back in 2000 when Ecoscape got its start as a Boulder landscape company, we were in the height of our areas worst drought in over 300 years. We struggled but persevered doing what we love, installing landscapes that are appropriate for our region.

California has been experiencing their worst drought in many decades if not centuries. Last I checked their precipitation levels for 2015 were at around 5% of their normal rate. California in response has had to take drastic measures such as paying people to tear out their lawns. This attached link from today’s CNN Money outlines some of the great achievements being made in water conservation.

With our rain patterns these days here in Colorado, this type of extreme shift may not seem warranted. But you can realize a new lovely garden that uses 1/10th of your current water use on you lawns while creating an oasis in the process. We do live in a semi-arid desert after all.

-Bill Melvin

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.