The Benefit of Bugs

There’s just no getting around it - insects are in trouble. According to a recent New York Times article, insect populations around the globe are rapidly dropping. Insects are important for a number of reasons but one of the biggest for humans is that they help pollinate our crops.

This is scary but the important thing is each of us can do our part to help. Here are some ways you can help:

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Fire Safe Landscaping

Because of the recent fires in our state, it’s more important than ever to make sure your landscaping is fire-safe. Here are some great tips from Cal Fire:

FIRE-RESISTANT LANDSCAPING

A fire-safe landscape isn’t necessarily the same thing as a well-maintained yard. A fire-safe landscape uses fire-resistant plants that are strategically planted to resist the spread of fire to your home. Fire resistant plants are great in California because they are often drought tolerant, too.

The good news is, you don’t need a lot of money to make your landscape fire safe. And you will find that a fire-safe landscape can increase your property value and conserve water while beautifying your home.

Choose Fire-Resistant Plants and Materials

  • Create fire-safe zones with stone walls, patios, decks and roadways.

  • Use rock, mulch, flower beds and gardens as ground cover for bare spaces and as effective firebreaks.

  • There are no “fire-proof” plants. Select high-moisture plants that grow close to the ground and have a low sap or resin content.

  • Choose fire-retardant plant species that resist ignition such as rockrose, ice plant and aloe.

  • Select fire-resistant shrubs such as hedging roses, bush honeysuckles, currant, cotoneaster, sumac and shrub apples.

  • Plant hardwood, maple, poplar and cherry trees that are less flammable than pine, fir and other conifers.

Check your local nursery, landscape contractor or county’s UC Cooperative Extension  service for advice on fire-resistant plants that are suited for your area.

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It's Time to Fall Back on Your Watering

With rain finally in the forecast (yea!) and cooler weather, it’s a good time to adjust automatic sprinkler and irrigation systems.  This saves money on water bills, and also helps to prevent pollution in our creeks and streams.

California’s Save our Water website has some great information about how to save water around the yard.

You might also be interested in getting a rebate for switching out your lawn for water-efficient plants. The Santa Clara Valley Water District’s water conservation page has more information about rebates.

Happy Gardening!

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Rainy Day Landscape Management Tips

Are you sick of dealing with flooding generated at home or transported from nearby areas when it rains? Urban areas are especially prone to the negative effects of runoff because of the large amounts of impervious surfaces in our world. Although storm drain systems are effective at moving water off the roads and into our creeks and the bay, none of the water is treated and pollutants such as pesticides, fertilizers and trash can be difficult and expensive to remove.

Here are a couple ways to help reduce runoff and prevent pollutants from impacting water quality by mimicking nature:

1. Soil: Knowing your soil type can help you find ways to improve water holding capacity and drainage. Most native soils in San Jose are clay or clay loam. Clay can hold onto water for a long time, but it can also prevent water from infiltrating. Clay soils can be amended with gypsum and compost (organic matter) to break down tough minerals and increase the pore spaces in the soil. Check out this factsheet for more information:

2. Hardscape: Do you have a concrete path or driveway? Do the downspouts from your home drain roof runoff directly onto them? If so, consider replacing these with a permeable option such as porous bricks, perk grout, decomposed granite, permeable asphalt, etc. Or perhaps slope and redirect runoff from hardscapes so that they drain towards vegetated areas such as swales or rain gardens. Both methods will reduce the total volume of water reaching nearby water bodies, settle out fine particles, and give microbes in the soil a chance to neutralize or capture/remove pollutants. Check out this factsheet for more information:

3. Rainwater Harvesting: If you have rain gutters and down spouts that collect roof runoff, your site is likely a good candidate for a rain barrel or cistern. Capturing rainwater is easy and often requires minimal time and investment. Rainwater can be utilized for non-potable uses such as irrigation. Temporarily storing small amounts of rainwater can help prevent erosion, improve water quality, and reduce demand for drinking water.

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What time of year should I plant?

This is a good question, and the answer is usually "It depends on what you're planting."  But there are some pretty good general rules of (green) thumb to follow:

In general, early fall is considered a good planting time for most (but not all) plants since the soil is still fairly warm (to promote root growth), the air temperature is cooling down, the days are shorter, and the angle of the sun is lower in the sky.  Plants have a chance to develop stronger roots and to get established without having to transpire much.  Planting in fall also reduces the amount of supplemental irrigation a plant needs (due to the lower air temperatures, shorter days, and angle of the sun) so this is good for water conservation. 

Plants that are frost sensitive (citrus, avocados, bougainvillea, fuchsias and succulents) might do better if planted in the spring after the last frost date has passed.  

Most California natives and Mediterranean plants will do just fine if planted in the summer, but it means that they will need to be watered more frequently.  Even if natives are planted in the fall, they will still probably need some supplemental irrigation through their first or second summer.  

Happy Gardening!!

 

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