Cage-Free Hen and Chicks

We love most every kind of succulent, and why not--they’re beautiful, drought-resistant, and if your conditions are right, they produce elegant little flowers. One of our favorite succulents is Echeveria. Thick, succulent leaves appear as petals in loose, concentric rings or rosettes. Echeveria thrive in the garden and are easy to grow. So easy to grow that they’re often called Hen and Chicks due to the abundance of small offsets (chicks) that the mature plant (hen) produces. The “chicks” are stunning in dish gardens for your home or to pot and give as elegant gifts to friends.

You'll find echeveria in a kaleidoscope of unique leaf shapes, colors and textures. The leaf colors range from green to blue, purple to pink and even gray. In early summer you’ll find delicate bell-shaped flowers on pink stems; in winter, you'll notice your Echeveria emerging for its seasonal drink.

San Luis Obispo's Fall 2011 Home Show

San Luis Obispo County, where will you be this weekend?? Feel like a little renovating? Visit our booth at the Fall 2011 Home Show at the Madonna Expo Center, this Saturday and Sunday, September 24th and 25th.

Maybe friends have asked about the landscape we installed for you, or perhaps you've seen our signs in your neighborhood. We'll be there Saturday 10:00-5:00 and Sunday 10:00-4:00 to answer your questions and introduce you to our crew. Stop by and say hello!


Contain Your Compost!

How to make your neighbors love you
Containers, containers, containers, so many to choose from. They’re usually designed either as an upright open bin box or closed container.  An open box design collects rainwater and makes it easy to add materials. However, it can attract rodents, bees and other insects, become too wet and potentially be an eyesore for the neighbors. Compost containers tend to be more aesthetically pleasing and many designs have rotating drums making them easy to mix and unload. You’ll also need a turning fork (unless you have a rotating bin) and a shovel to remove your garden goodness.
I’ve got my compost, now what? 
After cooking for several weeks, you’ll find wonderful rich ingredient ready for use.  It’s best to till your compost into the soil in fall and spring. You can also side dress compost into your garden throughout the season for a slow released fertilizer. If you sift your compost, it makes a great lawn fertilizer and will save you money and save the environment from chemical runoff. Compost can also adds a boost to potting soil making for happier and healthier plants.
Value added benefits...
Thirsty? Compost tea is yummy, for your plants that is! Just soak a bag of compost in a bucket of water for about an hour and you’ve got a supercharged plant food for your house plants or garden that will boost nutrient levels and help prevent plant diseases.
You can relax knowing that with a little effort you're compost will grow healthier plants, save you money, and help the environment. That's a lot of good!

Compost Part Two: Let It Rot, Let It Roll!

The great (digestible) outdoors! 
Outdoor composting includes both green and brown materials. Which is to say, all you really need is food, water, and air, and maybe a bin (if you want to impress your neighbors). Good compost is made of the stuff you’d usually just throw away: table scraps, yard waste, shredded paper, pruned branches, eggshells, and so forth. With the right mix, millions of microorganisms will convert your raw leftovers into rich, beneficial compost.
How can I be sure the composting has started?
The little mico friends that make compost possible need a balanced diet of green materials (high in nitrogen) for protein and brown materials (high in carbon) for energy.  Once these elements are in place, there's no stopping them! The best combination is three parts brown to one part green.
GREENS:
  • Fresh green grass clippings
  • Kitchen scraps (fruit, veggies, coffee grounds, tea bags, egg shells, compostable plates and flatware)
  • Weeds and green leaves
BROWNS:
  • Brown dry leaves
  • Dried grass
  • Cornstalks and straw
  • Excess mulch
  • Pruned branches
DO NOT ADD:
  • Pet droppings
  • Materials treated with herbicides and/or pesticides
  • Too much meat, especially if your pile is uncovered
When do I stop adding stuff?

Start with a minimum of a cubic foot of raw materials, and add as you go. More material is always better to generate the heat core necessary for rapid breakdown. Remember that compost needs time to cook down before you use it in your garden: Each time you add new material it’s like resetting the clock on harvesting your product. You wouldn’t buy a bag of potting soil with a rotting tomato inside, so don't do that to yourself at home!

By adding leaves and natural ingredients, you’ve got all the bacteria and fungi ready and waiting to help.  If you want to give them a little boost, add a shovel of good garden soil to the mix. By regularly turning your compost you help the decomposition along and speed up the process.

 

Morro Bay Celebration: Dahlia Daze and Cypress Nightz

Morro Bay's city flower is the Dahlia--did you know? And early this year the city's fine folk voted to make the official tree the Cypress. Together, this is cause for celebration. Taylor Newton of Newton Cultivation (Taylor's nursery near the roundabout in Morro Bay that blasts classical music for the benefit of his plants) is a member of the Morro Bay Tree Committee, as is Gabriel. Together with the group's other constituents, Taylor and the Dahlia Society put together a celebration at the Morro Bay Community Center to meld horticultural inquiry and education with community fun and festivities.

Things kick off this Friday, August 26th, at 5:00 pm, and continue from 10:00 to 5:00-ish on Saturday the 27th. Enjoy presentations and booths of Kevin Larkin, president of the Dahlia Society of California, local Master gardeners, closet horticulturalists, Central Coast arborists, the California Native Plant Society, Dahlia-lovers, the California Rare Fruit Growers, and more. Also enjoy food, fun, wine, cheese, dancing, and the Red Skunk Jipzee Swing Band. Bring your friends, bring your neighbors!

We'll be at the walk 'n' talk presented by Matt Ritter, associate biology professor at Cal Poly on Saturday morning. Hope to see you at there!

 


Compost: The Lifeblood of Your Central Coast Garden

Our mild climate here on the Central Coast makes it easy to overlook the changing of the seasons. With all the back-to-school commercials, however, it's clear that fall is right around the corner. One of the best parts of autumn is making use of all those leaves that Nature provides for us. Yes, we’re going to have to rake a little, but it's worth it for the leafy reward! Don’t put your pile in the yard waste container. Instead, add them to your compost pile and reuse them as nutritious supplement for your garden, lawn or houseplants.
No compost pile of your own? Do any of these lines sound familiar?
“I’ve been meaning to start composting, but I’m not sure how.”
“My neighbor composts and her house plants and garden are stunning.”
“I try to eat healthy and I’d like to save some money and not use fertilizers for my fruit trees and spring vegetable garden.” 
Not to worry, now is the perfect time to start your compost adventure! First, to talk about why. Simply put, compost is decomposing organic material. While that doesn’t sound too appetizing, think about it this way. Have you ever gone for a walk in the woods and enjoyed the soft, springy soil, or the way sounds seem muffled and softer? You've been surrounded by compost! As plants die, foragers of all sizes (from larger mammals, birds, and rodents to worms, insects, and microscopic organisms) consume them. The result of this natural cycle is compost, a combination of digested and undigested food that’s left on the forest floor to create rich, usually soft, sweet-smelling soil. Mother Nature knows her stuff!
We all have a variety of organic material that ends up at the local landfill. But if we compost our table scraps, lawn clippings, and fallen leaves, we avoid the messy garbage heaps of rotting food by choosing to manage--and reap the benefits of--the decomposition process. Compost also cuts down the need for fertilizers and potential chemical pollution.
Win, win, win!
Our local clay and sandy soil doesn’t always hold the right amounts of nutrients, air and moisture for healthy and productive plant growth.  Enter compost (imagine if Stan Lee had a garden comic strip hero)!  Compost improves the soils structure and gives virtually all the essential nutrients, and it releases those nutrients over time to give plants a steady, consistent amount essential for growth.  Compost will transform our sandy soil and grow stronger plants that are more resistant to diseases.
Soon to come, answers to: “How do I start?”  “Do I need worms?” “Can I compost everything??”

Princely Protea for our Central Coast

Not all magic is from the world of Harry Potter!

With the highly anticipated release of the final Harry Potter movie, magic is in the air! This month we're featuring a little bit of magic whose plant ancestry goes back 300 million years to the family of Proteaceae. Sounds like Poseidon's cousin, right? It very well could be--this exotic plant line has its origins in the coastal mountain ranges of South Africa,one of the earth's five unique Mediterranean climates. As diverse and varied as the continent they originate from, Protea will add a magical touch to your garden and your home. Protea enjoy wet-dry cycles making them ideal for our central coast climate. With their unique shapes, their flowers add beauty and distinction to Los Osos, Morro Bay, Cayucos, and Cambria landscapes, and cut flower arrangements as well. When the blooms in your vase reach the end of their colorful life, simply empty the water into your garden and tuck them back into the vase. You’ll end up with lovely intricate sculptures of dried material that will make unusual and attractive decorations to adorn your home. An amazing magic trick you can perform without the need for a trip to Ollivander’s Wand Shop in Diagon Alley!


Kangaroo Paws Hopping Into Central Coast Landscapes

While you're still going to have to visit the zoo to see the marsupials, you may have noticed these stunning plants adding vibrancy to local gardens. These flowering plants have long, flattened leaves with striking tubular flowers coated with dense, fuzzy hairs. The claw-like paw formation of the flowers gives this garden gem gets its name. Although they have no fragrance, bright crimson, magenta, pink, and yellow flowers naturally attract birds and other curious pollinators. Kangaroo Paws love open and sunny places in the garden, making them ideal for life on our Central Coast. These plants need excellent drainage and thrive with little water. Kangaroo Paws offer your garden the beauty of Western Australia, without the need for a passport!


SLO Solstice's Extraordinary Expo

Tuesday, June 21st was the longest day of the year, and SLO Solstice's event made it extra-extraordinary. Hosted by Sunset Honda and REC Solar, Solstice held their annual Green Mixer at Sage Eco Gardens in Los Osos. Our own Maggie Ragatz represented the SLO Botanical Garden at a booth at the mini-expo, promoting the Botanical Garden's fundraiser raffle whose list of prizes includes world-class meals prepared by local chefs in your homes, a pair of brand-new kayaks, and even a trip to South Africa (to look at all the Mediterranean plants, of course!).

Solstice supports a different community organization each year, and this year's beneficiary was Woods Humane Society. Food and drink were provided, including Joy Cup, Be Love Cafe, Central Coast Brewing, and more. Two-person band "Acoustico" graced the stage and provided the perfect accompaniment to the backdrop of Sage's incredible nursery. A first-rate sunset (yes, even in Los Osos!), distinctive plants, and Green folks all around--the Summer Solstice was heralded by a stellar event.


Lawn: Use It Or Lose It!

What a treat it was for those lucky enough to hear the esteemed David Fross (plant guru and part owner at Native Sons Nursery) talk recently at the SLO Botanical Gardens. His talk touched on conservation in a myriad of ways, and the one that stuck with me was about water--do you know where it comes from? I'm not talking "from the hose" or "from the tap" here, but back at the source, the Colorado River. This 1,450 mile-long lifeline sustains more than 30 million souls and 3.5 million acres of farmland in seven states, 34 tribal nations and Mexico. Unsurprisingly, it’s in decline. What can we do? Well, for starters, just knowing that when we water anything, we’re draining this mighty river is enough to get you thinking.
Also, that green water-gulping lawn is certainly an area where we can make improvements. Fross talked a lot about the pros and cons of lawn, but his main point wasn't to exterminate all flat green spaces. Instead, he challenged us to think about how they’re used. What about the public park where Scouts meet and kids play baseball all summer? Water those and keep them soft and friendly! What about the patches of grass whose only foot traffic is the lone landscaper? These are wasted space. Rip ‘em out and re-purpose the land into something beautiful for people to visit. Not only is this be good for our wallet, but also for the entire marine ecosystem of the Colorado River. Sound radical? Maybe so. But endlessly watering something that gets no use could be considered kinda nutty.
A recent post of ours wrote about Fross's book, "Reimagining the California Lawn," enumerating changes you, yourself, can make to your property to make it water-wise and lush. Check out your space and see if you're using your garden to its fullest potential for enjoyment, food production, and conservation of our precious resources.

(Colorado River facts found here.)