DIG THIS! SLO Landscape Strategies

Filling In The Holes

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The hostess approached tentatively as I put on my coat to leave the party. “I’m going to start a new veggie bed!” she said excitedly, and then her face fell. “But I don’t know what to do with the old soil. Is it okay to use it?”

It never fails: Once someone finds out I’m a landscaper the list of earthy questions they’ve been harboring comes tumbling out. It’s one of the parts of my job I enjoy the most–filling in the missing ingredient to the home gardener’s plans in order to empower them to take the next step.

No matter our enthusiasm, it’s easy to become stymied by uncertainties and unknowns in a project whose territory is unfamiliar. Searching online often provides too many solutions, rather than one sure path. But cultivating a garden space is about testing boundaries and making mistakes just as much as it’s about successful growth–and really there’s no separation of positive and negative in the garden. There’s a lot of death in the soil, and in fact healthy soil relies on the destructive process for nutrients. Gardening is about establishing a relationship of exploration, understanding, and compromise with the earth and plants. This relationship takes bravery as well as time to forge, and it’s natural that both garden and gardener will experience setbacks in the process. So ask those questions–and then get going.

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Designing For Success With Succulents

With their reputation for hardiness, it’s easy to think that succulents need only blazing sun, rocky soil and the occasional raindrop to survive. Fortunately for our earthy endeavors, that’s not the case! In fact, across the diversity of our coastally-influenced Mediterranean zone, from Cambria to Arroyo Grande to San Luis Obispo itself, San Luis Obispo County is home to many thriving succulent gardens.

It’s important to keep in mind that succulent gardens immediately on the coast will have different requirements than those just a few miles inland, which experience more sun and higher temperatures year round. With their warmer temperatures, succulents in San Luis Obispo will love the warmth but need a shady break from the intensity of the afternoon sun. These gardens will yield plants with rich color and bountiful blooms. Immediately on the coast, the same plants will have less intense coloration and a smaller stature, but be just as stately and beautiful.

Succulent Design Tips:

  • Inland, in San Luis Obispo, your succulents will benefit from some shade to provide relief from the hot afternoon sun.
  • The plants that want full sun on the immediate coast/want afternoon shade in San Luis Obispo include these species: Echeveria, aeonium, crassula, and kalanchoe.
  • Hardier varieties that can take full sun all day are the aloes, agaves, dyckias,  dudleyas, and sedums. (They’re adaptable to both a little shade and the full brunt of the sun’s heat.)
  • In the more extreme North County climates with hard freezes and days in the 100s,  your plant palette is limited to the hardiest of agaves, aloes, and dudleyas.
  • Succulents are even more dazzling backed by the texture of grasses, reeds, or striking Red Hot Pokers (kniphofias). They are brought to life by the echoing colors of neighboring perennials, or by the vibrant foliage of leucodendrons and the other-worldly flowers of pincushions (leucaspermum). We suggest blending in your other favorite water-wise plants with your succulent design for the greatest effect!
  • Above all, remember that succulents are highly adaptable, so have fun experimenting with them in different conditions!!

 

 

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When Aphids Attack!

David Spatafora: Insect Assassin

You’ve seen this guy hefting rocks, demoing concrete, and pruning, stacking, and planting away. Like all landscapers, David also spends a good deal of time fighting pests and plant predators. Gardens by Gabriel works to be as organic as possible, and that includes pest control. You may have heard of Integrated Pest Management (IPM), but if you haven’t, it’s a system we employ from start to finish (and beyond!) in our gardens that focuses on prevention and the least amount of intervention required.

David follows IPM when dealing with creepy crawly plant eaters, and none more often than the teeny-tiny aphid! Aphids  come in a rainbow of colors, are indiscriminate about their meals, and flock by the dozens to munch your plants. But because aphids swarm en masse, they can be easy to eliminate in large batches.

When dealing with aphids, it’s tempting, and it works short-term, to simply blast them off with a hose, but they often see that as a challenge to return! In terms of intervention, IPM means using the most benign products first in order to deal with pests. We like vegetable-based Horticultural Oil for pests like aphids. It’s a fungicide, a miticide, and an insecticide all in one. And according to Colorado State University Extension School, “Oils pose few risks to people and to beneficial insects.”

THE SCOOP

WHAT: Vegetable-based Horticultural Oil

WHY: IPM is safer for the environment, homeowners, and our crew. It leaves no residual effect on the soil.

HOW: Apply it with a small tank sprayer or spray bottle. Be careful of spraying the oil in full sun because the plant can burn, just a like a human being!

AND ACCORDING TO DAVID: “The key to controlling aphid infestation is persistance! Horticultural Oil may be used year-round during both dormant and growing seasons and may be used for organic production as well. Like rinsing plants with water, repeat application frequently!”

 

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Succulent Senecio

Happy coastal growers, Senecio are one of the most forgiving succulents when it comes to propagation. It’s time for us to start a new batch, so we’re going to take you through it step-by-step.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In order to start a new crop, clip the last 5″ of a plant that is doing well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You’ll see that some of the “leaves” are quite close to the cut–these few should be removed. Snap these off and drop them in your compost pile.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You’ll be left with a cluster of leaves at the end and a 1.5 inch stalk.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once you’ve amassed a collection, stack them on your potting bench.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plop the newly-exposed stalks into a receptacle with at least 2″ of soil mix (we combine our home-grown compost with a little pearlite).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Water them in, keep them warm and safe, and wait for their roots to grow!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Urbanscapes For Sustainable Living.com

Renee Gunter of Urbanscapes for Sustainable Living designs and creates drought-tolerant gardens in the greater Los Angeles area. Her passion for planting sustainably is evident on her Facebook page, which we follow. A post caught our eye about home-grown foliage that benefit the garden as well as the belly, and with her permission, we copied it here.

The following is a copy of Renee’s list of beneficial and insectary plants. While not all will do well in the varying San Luis Obispo microclimates, many will, and they’re worth experimenting with!

1. Anise – Repels aphids, snails and slugs.
2. Borage – Repels pests that attack tomatoes and attracts pollinators to squash, tomatoes and strawberries.
3. Chives – Planted near apples help to control apple scab and that for grapes as well. Repels aphids, Japanese beetles and spider mites.
4. Cilantro (Santo) – Repels aphids & grasshoppers, potato beetles, spider mites. Attracts Lady Bugs.
5. Clover (white sweet clover, or crimson) – Long used as a green manure and plant companion, and is especially good to plant under grapevines. Attracts many beneficial insects. Useful planted around apple trees to attract predators of the woolly aphid.
6. Dill – Repels aphids and cabbage moths. Don’t plant dill near carrots or tomatoes! Give them each room as dill can have negative effects on them both. Attracts ladybugs.
7. Fennel – Do not plant fennel near coriander/cilantro, caraway, or wormwood; they hinder each other.
8. Garlic – Repels aphids, cowpea curculio, flea beetles, Japanese beetles, Mexican bean leaf beetles, root maggots, spider mites and squash vine borers.
9. Horehound – Repels grasshoppers; tiny flowers attract Braconid and Icheumonid wasps, and Tachnid and Syrid flies. The larval forms of these insects parasitize or otherwise consume many other insect pests. It grows where many others fail to thrive and can survive harsh winters.
10. Mint – Repels ants, aphids, cucumber beetles, flea beetles, imported cabbage worms, rodents, squash bugs and white flies. Spearmint attracts predatory wasps. Mint and parsley are enemies. Keep them well away from one another.
11. Onion – Repels bean leaf beetle, cabbage loopers, carrot flies, flea beetles, harlequin bugs, Mexican bean leaf beetles, mice, rabbits, spider mites and squash vine borers
12. Oregano – Planted near cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, cucumber or grape vine repels pests that attack these plants.
13. Parsley – Pepels asparagus beetles and carrot flies.
14. Pennyroyal – Repels ants.
15. Radish – Repels cowpea curculio, cucumber beetles, harlequin bugs, Mexican bean leaf beetles, squash bugs and stink bugs.
16. Rosemary – Repels imported cabbage worms, flies and slugs.
17. Rue – [Dangerous for kids & pets in my front yard only.] Repels aphids, cats, dogs, Japanese beetles, onion maggots, slugs and snails.
18. Sage – Repels cabbage loopers, carrot flies, flea beetles, imported cabbage worms and tomato heart worms; do not plant near cucumbers, onions, basil or rue.
19. Tarragon [Artemisia dracunculus] – Plant throughout the garden, not many pests like this one. Recommended to enhance growth and flavor of vegetables.
20. Thyme – Repels cabbage loopers and white flies.
21. Wormwood – Repels slugs

 

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Wells At Work: We Love Wells Concrete Works

Maysun Wells dips his hand into a barrel full of what appears to be white sea glass. “Someone just gave this to me!” he says, loosing the semi-translucent pieces back into the bin. “I use clear glass like this if I want to create a different look from the wine bottles.” He gestures to a pile of green-, blue- and ochre-colored bottles collected from local restaurants. Earth-toned or clear, the tumbled fragments will soon become sparkling accents in one of Maysun’s pre-cast concrete fire bowls, benches, or countertops.

Maysun’s concrete studio, Wells Concrete Works, combines an indoor zone for pouring and molding custom concrete forms, with an outdoor zone for grinding, sanding, assembling, and finishing his pieces. After six years of working for local concrete artisan Roy Burch, Maysun bought the business and made it his own. “I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I got out of school,” he says, “but when I saw what Roy was doing and worked for him, I realized I’d found it.” Fortunately, his degree in Industrial Technology from Cal Poly dovetailed neatly with his newfound passion. A mere two years after buying Burch’s business, Wells’ work is featured at Sage Ecological Nursery in Los Osos, Porch Home Furnishings in Carpenteria, Potter Green & Co in Sonoma, and Niner Wine Estates in Paso Robles, along with shops and homes around California.

Designer concrete projects line the walls and sprout upfrom the gravel floor of Maysun Wells’ studio,
awaiting their next steps or further inspiration.

Decorative concrete is enjoying a renaissance in San Luis Obispo County, and Maysun is excited to be a part of it. “I like the collaborative design aspect,” he says. “Homeowners come to me with different needs and give me a chance to work on some real specialty pieces.” However, even Maysun’s simple concrete fire bowls are truly works of art. Domed or conical in shape, accented with clear or colored glass–or even stones and fossils, alone or paired with benches, each one is hand-crafted with both recycled materials and a sculptor’s eye. We’re finding they make a beautiful, natural addition to a landscape, tying together the elements of earth and fire–and in a recent project involving a fountain bowl, water.

Visit Maysun’s website at www.wellsconcreteworks.com for more information and a selection of photographs of the subtle, clean, and elegant indoor and outdoor accessories that he has perfected.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Radio CCLP!

Central Coast Landscape Products is one of our go-to destinations for soil, stone, mulch, and in general all things landscape prep. They’ve recently begun a radio campaign and invited us to put our spin on their products. Check it out and  CONVERT YOUR DIRT!

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Far Out Flora Is… Well, Far Out

Not to get too colloquial about it, but Megan and Matti are pretty far out. Horticulture hunters, this couple runs the eclectic and engaging faroutflora.com, a blog devoted to the exploration and documentation of all things horticultural and happenin’. Garden designer Kaveh Maguire (featured here in a fabulous green Gardens by Gabriel hoodie) invited this Megan and Matti to visit several garden projects we’ve been involved in, so they graciously agreed to visit our county on their travels.

Their first stop was Kaveh‘s fledgling Los Osos garden.  Next up was Vince and Janet Marino’s Morro Bay landscape (featured in this year’s AAUW Garden Tour). Two more stops in Cayucos completed the tour: One, a landscape (left and below) designed by Grow Nursery owner Nick Wilkinson; and Two, Wilkinson’s parents’ home garden. Succulent gardens and coastal views under our belts, we stole them off to dinner to ply them with food (thanks, Kaveh!) in order to get more plant-speak out of them.

As Megan and Matti await the birth of their first child and head off to explore the wilds of Wisconsin, we look forward to watching their blog expand from plants and puppies to progeny and beyond.

 

And here, a photograph of what it’s like to tour gardens with plant enthusiasts: Synchronized snapping!

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500 Visitors!

This year’s AAUW Tour was a smashing success! 500 people toured through one of the five gardens on the tour, that of Vince and Janet Marino, a garden that we created. The euphorbia were blooming, the variegated yuccas and agaves were radient, and the pincushions had held their blooms for a remarkable 8 weeks. Many thanks once again to the Marinos who were gracious enough to invite hundreds of plant enthusiasts into their garden.

 

 

 

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Morro Bay Marinos: The AAUW Garden Tour

Vince and Janet Marino’s Morro Bay garden is making waves! Their Gardens by Gabriel landscape, installed 2 years ago in the spring of 2010, was featured in an article we wrote for the Tolosa Press; highlighted by the SLO Tribune in November of 2011; and is now one of the five gardens in 2012’s AAUW (the American Association of University Women) spring Garden Tour.

“The AAUW is a great organization,” says Vince Marino, “and the proceeds of this tour are going to do a lot of local good.” The Marinos became involved with the garden tour through a number of channels: One of the Marinos’ neighbors is a member of the AAUW; another neighbor’s garden was in a previous year’s tour; and the SLO Tribune’s garden writer, Sharon Crawford, put in her recommendation as well.

Vince and Janet are preparing their garden for an influx of guests. “We’re trying to be as ready as we can!” says Vince. “We’ll have a welcome table set up, and a route for people to follow to best see the space.” The Marinos have enjoyed their garden since its installation, and have equally enjoyed caring it. “This place is a botanical garden,” Vince says, “with plenty of natural flavor and attention to detail. Janet works out here all the time, keeping it healthy and beautiful.” For all her hard work, however, Janet says, “The garden belongs to God and Gabriel; I just work in it!”

As for their motivation for sharing their space with 500 visitors, Vince says, “We’re both so proud of this place. Everyone says ‘Wow!’ when they see it. Since we’ve learned a lot by visiting other gardens and nurseries, we’re looking forward to sharing our creation with other people. We feel that people can enjoy our garden, learn from it, and get a sense of what’s possible.”

This year’s tour begins at 12:00 on April 29th, 2012, and continues until 5:00 p.m. that afternoon. Five gardens in Los Osos and Morro Bay will be displayed, and the price to enjoy them is a mere $10. Tickets are available at Miner’s Hardware stores, Volumes of Pleasure Bookstore in Los Osos, and Coalesce Bookstore in Morro Bay. The tour is self-guided; take the time to enjoy the plants at your own pace. Vince and Janet will be waiting for you, ready to answer questions and show off their incredible views and enchanting landscape.

 

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