Archive for January, 2011
Strange winter, eh? We thought for sure we’d be skiing this month, but it has been hiking and climbing weather instead. Last weekend we went to Pinnacles National Monument. We had been there once before about ten years ago but only made it as far as the parking lot before it started raining and we had to go somewhere else to climb. (Pinnacles is famous for being crumbly, especially when wet, and you don’t want to break off the a key hold and transform a classic climb into something harder.) The rock is volcanic breccia, lava mixed with chunks of other rock picked up during the eruption. It’s originally from a volcano 180 miles south, and slowly moved north along the San Andreas fault to its present location. Even with the rock dry, I found it hard to feel confident that the chunks of conglomerate sticking out of the cliff were going to hold my weight. Though, of course, everything held. We did several short climbs, but mostly we checked out the scenery, the crags, the manzanitas (A. glauca) in bloom, the talus caves (tunnels beneath massive boulders piled in the narrow gorges, very cool), and for one moment several condors drifting over head (a good page on ID’ing them here, a couple of nice photos here). I’ve now seen both Andean and California condors. Not sure if that has caché in the birding world but it makes me happy.
Some of the rock and manzanita pairings reminded me of things we’ve tried to do in some of our naturalistic plantings, except of course on a much bigger scale. Rocks and manzanita go so perfectly together, as classic as any traditional companion planting.
And a patch of shooting stars (Dodecatheon clevelandii ssp. patulum per Katie at NatureID) was my first wildflower sighting of the year.
Over the holidays, two different people told me that Orinda had banned leaf blowers. That news didn’t bother me any; I don’t own a blower or use one, and I get tired of the way the mow-and-blow guys are always blowing the mulch out of our plantings while also blowing leaves into the crowns of the plants. And of course I don’t like listening to them while I’m working. But it turns out they aren’t banned, though there has been some anti-blower activity lately. A group called Quiet Orinda has been collecting signatures and got the city council to consider the issue, but the council decided against a ban, saying that the majority of people in Orinda don’t seem to support a ban at this time. The council is probably right, though popular opinion seems to be trending anti-blower. Googling around, it seems like most towns in the Bay Area currently have someone collecting signatures or otherwise trying to organize a ban.
‘Having a casual, wild, productive, diverse, beautiful vegetable garden is frankly a lot more fun than watering and mowing and pouring pesticides on our lawns.’ Fritz Haeg
Another collection of photos from last year, shots of a lawn-to-vegetable-garden conversion we did. Before this one, we hadn’t had good success installing veggie gardens for clients. We’ve incorporated them into larger designs and helped with ideas for the layout and so forth, and a lot of our clients have already had an area of veggies somewhere in their yards, but the couple of veggie gardens that we had personally installed and planted just ended up being neglected and later converted to ornamentals. Veggie gardens seem to require a certain amount of personal involvement and DIY spirit; you have to really want to go out and dig and weed and plant, and the sweat equity of the installation seems to be part of the motivation for following through and making it a success. Anyways, with this garden we did the layout and the lawn conversion around the beds, and left the installation and planting of the veggie beds to the client. It was a lot of fun to go back and see what got planted and to hear about the harvests.
The installation was actually pretty simple and easy. We dug out a little bit of the grass in the corner near the gate, but for the most part we left the lawn in place and just put the paths, boxes, and plantings on top of it, laying weedcloth in the places where we wanted gravel, cardboard where we wanted plants or veggie boxes. The clumps that we did dig out we buried at the bottom of the raised beds underneath cardboard. None of the grass has come back, without using any chemicals or hauling any of the grass to the dump.
The raised beds are prefabbed from a company in Oregon, just plopped down on top of the lawn and filled with soil. The client is a good carpenter and would have normally built the boxes himself, but the logistics of the project were much easier with them ready-made. It’s a pretty slick design (the boards are modular, the pins that hold the boards in place can also serve to anchor hoops or stakes, the wood is a rot-resistant hardwood) and installation took only a couple of hours, one of those things where it’s easy to copy the design but even easier to just buy it. A nice aspect of this site was that putting the veggie boxes on the diagonal made them orthogonal to north.
There’s an architect, Fritz Haeg (he has a blog while he is in Rome on a fellowship), who has made lawn-to-veggie-garden conversions a big focus of his career. He has a book, Edible Estates, Attack on the Front Lawn, and there’s an interview on the ASLA blog from shortly after I did this project. Clearly, he doesn’t work in deer country, or his attack would include 8-foot-high fences, but it’s great to see someone really promoting the idea of changing lawn to edibles as a political, cultural, and environmental act.
As a year-end housekeeping task I’ve been going through all the photos I took this year, and I thought I’d post some of the ones that never made it onto the blog. It’s not exactly the year in review, but it does cover some of the things we did this year.
About a dozen photos are below. (more…)
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