May 12, 2006

A Disaster in the Making

Bill Thompson, FASLA -- editor of Landscape Architecture News Digest Online -- observes that a rash of new housing in California's Sacramento Delta region is inviting a "New Orleans-style disaster". (Notice that the homes in the photo are below the water level of the river?) Between the probabilities of an earthquake and/or Katrina-scale rains, an owner of one of these homes has a 26% chance of being inundated by a monster flood sometime during a 30-year mortgage. The larger story is at LANDonline; check it out... especially before you buy a home along the Delta.

May 10, 2006

Where Have All The Butterflies Gone?

Just when we were preparing to celebrate the burgeoning population of painted ladies and other butterflies,
"Wild fluctuations in California's winter and spring weather have hurt fragile butterfly populations, causing numbers to fall to the lowest in more than three decades and increasing the concerns of scientists about long-term declines linked to climate change and habitat loss."
The full, depressing story is in the Chronicle.

May 7, 2006

The Emerald City

From the San Francisco Chronicle:
Wild San Francisco

The San Francisco Recreation and Park Department has released a final draft of a management plan that recommends ways to preserve and restore 1,105 acres as Significant Natural Resource Areas in nearly three dozen parks. The park commission is expected to hold public hearings this month, and vote on the plan, which can be found at

1 Balboa Natural Area
2 Bayview Park
3 Bernal Hill
4 Billy Goat Hill
5 Brooks Park and Lakeview/Ashton Mini Park
6 Buena Vista Park
7 Corona Heights
8 Dorothy Erskine
9 Duncan-Castro
10 Edgehill Mountain
11 Fairmont Park
12 Glen Canyon Park/O'Shaughnessy Hollow
13 Golden Gate Heights, Grandview Park, Hawk Hill, Rock Outcrop
14 Golden Gate Park
15 India Basin Shoreline Park
16 Interior Greenbelt
17 Kite Hill
18 Lake Merced
19 McLaren Park
20 Mount Davidson
21 Palou-Phelps
22 Pine Lake
23 Sharp Park (Pacifica)
24 Tank Hill
25 Twin Peaks
26 15th Avenue Steps

Source: San Francisco Recreation and Park Department
Gus D’Angelo / The Chronicle

May 5, 2006

Water Smart

The Irrigation Association has proclaimed that July will be "Irrigation Month." Even though that's a couple months away, it's never too early to develop some good watering habits that will save money, benefit the environment, and create a healthy landscape. I don't know anyone who doesn't have an automatic irrigation system already, but the following tips from The Irrigation Association will make your system even more efficient:

Adapt your watering schedule to the weather and the season. Familiarize yourself with the settings on your irrigation controller. Adjust the watering schedule regularly to conform with current weather conditions.

Schedule each individual zone in your irrigation system. "Scheduling" accounts for the type of sprinkler, sun or shade exposure and the soil type for the specific area. The same watering schedule should almost never apply to all zones in the system.

Inspect your system monthly. Check for leaks, broken or clogged heads, and other problems, or engage an irrigation professional to regularly check your system. Clean micro-irrigation filters as needed.

Adjust sprinkler heads. Correct obstructions that prevent sprinklers from distributing water evenly. Keep water off pavement and structures.

Get a professional system audit. Hire a professional to conduct an irrigation audit and uniformity test to make sure areas are being watered evenly. This can be especially helpful if you have areas being under-watered or brown spots. The Irrigation Association maintains an online list of IA Certified Landscape Irrigation Auditors.

Consider "smart" technology. Climate- or soil moisture sensor-based controllers evaluate weather or soil moisture conditions and then calculate and automatically adjust the irrigation schedule to meet the specific needs of your landscape. Learn more at

Install a rain shutoff switchInexpensive, effective, and required by law in many states, these money-saving sensors turn off your system in rainy weather and help to compensate for natural rainfall. The device can be retrofitted to almost any system.

Consider low volume drip irrigation for plant beds. Install micro irrigation for gardens, trees and shrubs. Micro irrigation includes drip (also known as trickle), micro spray jets, micro-sprinklers, or bubbler irrigation to irrigate slowly and minimize evaporation, runoff and overspray.

Water at the optimum time. Water when the sun is low or down, winds are calm and temperatures are cool - between the evening and early morning - to reduce evaporation. You can lose as much as 30% of water to evaporation by watering mid-day.

Water only when needed. Saturate root zones and let the soil dry. Watering too much and too frequently results in shallow roots, weed growth, disease and fungus.