Landscape Architecture

Smart Irrigation Month 2016

 

Smart Irrigation Systems

A Greener Idea

If you’re a typical homeowner, you probably put your automatic sprinkler system into the same category as your home’s heating and cooling system. You expect it to work reliably and efficiently with minimum fuss. The latest technology offers just that — and more.

Automated irrigation systems offer convenience while protecting your landscape investment. A well-maintained system keeps your lawn and landscape beautiful and healthy, while minimizing water waste.

To raise awareness of the benefits of efficient watering practices, the Irrigation Association has named July Smart Irrigation Month. Make time this summer to be sure you’re getting the most out of your irrigation system, while keeping utility bills low and helping to protect the environment.

Sprinklers Get Smart

The new generation of “smart” irrigation systems monitor weather, soil conditions, evaporation and plant water use and automatically adjust your watering schedule.

The secret to smart systems is the controller. Smart controllers use weather and/or site data to determine when and how long to water. Then, sprinklers apply just enough water at exactly the right time in each zone of your yard.

Smart controllers:

Save water. Smart systems automatically suspend watering during rain, freezing or high wind conditions. Careful scheduling minimizes evaporation and encourages water to soak in, reducing the total amount of water needed. Preventing overwatering actually keeps plants healthier by encouraging stronger roots and discouraging weeds, disease and fungus growth.

 

  • Save money. Smart systems can reduce your annual water bill by as much as 30 percent by preventing water waste. Plus, many local water providers offer rebates for purchasing specific smart controllers.

 

  • Save time. Once an irrigation installer has programmed your site data into the smart system, the controller adjusts the watering schedule based upon weather conditions and soil moisture without manual intervention.

 

  • Add convenience. Smart controllers adapt to seasonal weather changes without requiring reprogramming. And their “set and forget” technology is perfect for complying with any local watering restrictions, as well as for frequent travelers and vacation or second homes.

 

Firma Design Group’s Michael Cook is a Certified Landscape Irrigation Auditor (CLIA) that enables him to not only design highly-efficient landscape and irrigations systems, but also allows Mike to audit the systems (his design or not – as required by California Building Code) to ensure that the installation has been installed correctly and that the equipment and layout is the most efficient (this certification is completed through the Irrigation Association), License #00008031.

Mike can be reached at (707) 792-1800 ext. 103. This article adapted from the Irrigation Association, with permission.

Keeping up with Water Awareness!

 

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May was Water Awareness month and to keep up with the ongoing awareness of conserving water in June, we are highlighting some key points as a reminder and update.

The Press Democrats Tuesday, May 10, 2016 issue under the front page header “State weighs easing drought cuts” talks about how the days of when residents were legally able to hose down driveways or have lawn sprinklers running on rainy days, are over. This article highlights some of the specifics as to how these drought cuts will affect Californians on pages A1 continued on page A2. Governor Jerry Brown also comments on the executive order issued permanently banning water-wasting practices. Brown said, “We know that drought is becoming a regular occurrence and water conservation must be a part of our everyday life.”

The State of California Office of Administrative Law stated, “This emergency regulatory action is effective on 5/31/2016 and will expire on 2/28/2017. The Certificate of Compliance for this action is due no later than 2/27/2017. To prevent the waste and unreasonable use of water and to promote water conservation, each of the following actions is prohibited, except where necessary to address an immediate health and safety need or to comply with a term or condition in a permit issued by a state or federal agency:

(1) The application of potable water to outdoor landscapes in a manner that causes runoff such that water flows onto adjacent property, non-irrigated areas, private and public walkways, roadways, parking lots,. or structures; (2) The use of a hose that dispenses potable water to wash a motor vehicle, except where the hose is fitted with a shut-off nozzle or device attached to it that causes it to cease dispensing water immediately when not in use; (3) The application of potable water to driveways and sidewalks; (4) The use of potable water in a fountain or other decorative water feature, except where the water is part of a recirculating system; (5) The application of potable water to outdoor landscapes during and within 48 hours after measurable rainfall; (6) The serving of drinking water other than upon request in eating or drinking establishments, including but not limited to restaurants, hotels, cafes, cafeterias, bars, or other public places where food or drink are served. and/or purchased; (7) The irrigation with potable water of ornamental turf on public street medians; and (8) The irrigation with potable water of landscapes outside of newly constructed homes and buildings in a manner inconsistent with regulations or other requirements established by the California Building Standards Commission and the Department of Housing and Community Development. (b) To promote water conservation, operators of hotels and motels shall provide guests with the option of choosing not to have towels and linens laundered daily. The hotel or motel shall prominently. Display notice of this option in each guestroom using clear and easily understood language. (c) Upon on this subdivision taking effect, all commercial, industrial and institutional properties that use a water supply, any portion of which is from a source other than a water supplier subject to section 864.5 or 865.of this article, shall either: (1) Limit outdoor irrigation of ornamental landscapes or turf with potable water to no more than two days per week; or (2) Target potable water use reductions commensurate with those required of the nearest urban water supplier under section 864.5 or, if applicable, section 865. Where this option is chosen, these properties shall implement the reductions on or before July 1, 2016. (d) The taking of any action prohibited in subdivision (a) or (e), or the failure to take any action required in subdivision (b) or (c), is an infraction punishable by a fine of up to five hundred dollars ($500) for each day in which the violation occurs. The fine for the infraction is in addition to, and does not supersede or limit, any other remedies, civil or criminal.”

CURRENT WATER STATISTICS in Sonoma County:
RESERVOIR LEVELS: As of May 16th, reservoir storage in Lake Sonoma is 99% of capacity and Lake Mendocino is 98% of target water supply storage.
RAINFALL: Rainfall this year to date (October 1, 2015-May 15, 2016) is 32 inches.
Current water supply levels can be found on the Sonoma County Water Agency’s website.

Irrigation Tips

Water Smart Irrigation Tips

Santa Rosa Water offers free watering and irrigation tips each week. Recommendations are based on data from local weather stations.

READ MORE

References:

Sonoma County Water Agency: http://www.scwa.ca.gov/current-water-supply-levels/

City of Santa Rosa: http://srcity.org/departments/utilities/conserve/Pages/WaterSmart.aspx
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California State Water Resources Control Board:  http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/publications_forms/publications/factsheets/docs/boardoverview.pdf
http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/northcoast/board_info/board_meetings/06_2016/
http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/water_issues/programs/conservation_portal/docs/emergency_reg/oal_approved_reg053116.pdf

Celebrating World Landscape Architecture Month!

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The career of being a Landscape Architect is one that plays a huge role in modern civilization through transforming outdoor areas, public and private, into aesthetically pleasing and useful spaces.  April was World Landscape Architecture month and to celebrate, we are reflecting on the history, current industry, and the career of being a Landscape Architect.  This post is dedicated to taking a look at what it means to be a landscape architect and how to get into the field that is in need of a more diverse community of architects.

How long has landscape architecture been a part of society?  The first gardens existed in 10,000 BC and from there on, civilizations in the early world began to create enclosed open-spaces as gardens.  Tending to the land for more than just farming use, countries all over began detailing their own landscape to incorporate the natural land to create lavish scenery.  Around 15 BC, Roman architect, Marcus Vitruvius Pollio wrote “De Architectura” which translates to “Ten Books on Architecture.”  The books covered various topics such as town planning, qualifications of an architect, building materials, temples, civil buildings, pavements, aqueducts, sciences that have influenced architecture, and more.  When urban planning took off in the 19th century, landscape design was a crucial part of the developing cities.  Urban planning and landscape design emerged together from there and have since gone hand in hand within cities and towns to encapsulate the local characteristics of the community and culture.

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Villa Mimosa, Calistoga, California

Landscape architecture renovations provide the opportunity to recreate outdoor areas to maximize utilization of space and resources while making it aesthetically unique within its own location.  In America today, the industry of landscaping architecture brings in approximately 77 billion dollars in revenue per year.  Home gardening, horticulture, and micro-farms have risen as trendy hobbies to maintain at home.    Environmentally-friendly trends have caught on amongst the public over the past few decades to encourage recycling and attention on our dwindling supply of natural resources.  Drought awareness has become a priority for Californians over the past four years, and with it, water conservation measures have been emphasized as a priority amongst landscape and irrigation systems.  Residents, businesses, and municipalities have sought out landscape renovations to upgrade their look as well as their ability to be environmentally-conscious while conserving natural resources.

To be a Landscape Architect, one must have a passion for creativity, style, and a greater appreciation for the outdoors.  Landscaping Architects are used in many areas including: private residential projects, public parks, commercial and municipal locations.  Duties of our designers are: project estimates, designing and planning of areas, and management of needed consults and installation crews, while working directly with clients to manage projects through completion.  Skills a future landscape architect should harness include: critical thinking, design and drawing skills, computer-aided design (CAD), excellent written and communication skills; and mathematic and scientific knowledge as applicable.

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Mayacama Residence, Santa Rosa, California

Prerequisites for becoming a landscape architect include holding either a Bachelor’s of Landscape Architecture (BLA) or a Bachelor of Science in Landscape Architecture (BSLA).  It is possible to go for a Master’s in Landscape Architecture, but more important than that is receiving a Landscape Architect license through the State.  There are other certifications available to add on top of a license, such as ones obtainable through the International Society of Arboriculture and the Irrigation Association.  These certifications allow landscape architects to have more control over different aspects of their projects that they would otherwise need to seek outside consulting for.

Landscape architects are encouraged to join the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA).  Members are able to be a part of the national landscape design community, keep up on new policies, regulations, design styles, and be a part of a network that includes architects from all over the nation.

In celebrating the history and career Landscape Architecture, Firma Design Group hopes to shed light on the amazing work that is done in public spaces while simultaneously taking action to implement environmentally-conscious upgrades.  We hope we’ve inspired those who may be interested in Landscape Architecture to pursue it as a career to serve the future needs of our communities.

References:

American Society of Landscape Architects: https://www.asla.org.

International Society of Arboriculture: http://www.isa-arbor.com.

Irrigation Association: https://www.irrigation.org.

Landscape Architecture. (2016, April 25). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.  Retrieved April 25, 2016, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Landscape_architecture.

Luther Burbank Home & Gardens, a Local Neighborhood Favorite

Jul_DahliasSpring has arrived – and what better way to celebrate than by visiting a local historical garden? Luther Burbank Home and Gardens is just one of the many exciting places to visit within walking distance of our new office building!  Luther Burbank once said of his home & gardens, “I firmly believe, from what I have seen, that this is the chosen spot on all of this earth as far as Nature is concerned.”

Luther Burbank was born in Massachusetts, but lived in Santa Rosa, California for more than fifty years. The famed horticulturist conducted endless plant-breeding experiments that made him famous, and today his home and gardens have been turned into a museum, open to the public for tours & educational visits. Tour season at Luther Burbank Home & Gardens  starts Friday April 1st, and the tours will be run Tuesday-Sunday from 10-3:30, however, gardens are open daily, year-round, from 8am-dusk.

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Fun Fact: Arbor Day is celebrated on April 29th in California in honor of Luther Burbank’s birthday. It is celebrated in mid-late April in most parts of the country. California even celebrates for a full week, March 7-14. Check out arborweek.org for more details.

Luther Burbank Home & Gardens has four specialty gardens: Wildlife Habitat Garden, Edible Landscape Garden, Medicinal Garden, and Spineless Cactus Garden.  Throughout April and May, expect to see vibrant yellow daffodils, gorgeous camellias, and their tulip tree, along with roses, poppies, cherry blossoms and more. It is the perfect setting for a weekend afternoon with the family, or an evening stroll through the garden on the way to dinner downtown.

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Luther Burbank Home and Gardens has a sister farm, Luther Burbank Experiment Farm, located in Sebastopol, California. Burbank had a 15 acre farm on Gold Ridge in Sebastopol which he purchased in 1885. There he experimented with plants and introduced over 800 varieties of fruits, flowers, vegetables, and grains. Local historians have worked to preserve the site and there is a volunteer work day every Wednesday from 9 am to noon where you can drop in to help, or just check out what they’re up to!

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Perhaps a visit to one of the famed gardens will spark a desire to start a garden of your own, or revamp an existing garden. Here at Firma Design Group we are happy to help you brainstorm, plan, and design your new garden!

Day of Caring – California Parent Institute

Last week Firma Design Group was honored to participate in the local Day of Caring Event! While volunteering went on throughout the county, FDG employee, Steve Kovanis, dedicated his morning to helping install drought tolerant landscaping & irrigation at the California Parent Institute location. We were delighted to be a part of this project from the design and planning phase all the way through the implementation of our designs. We love helping out in the community and are honored to be mentioned in the Press Democrat article posted below (and also found here at Press Democrat Article)

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Wearing bright orange T-shirts and armed with paint brushes, garden and power tools, brooms and mops, a corps of 1,200 volunteers fanned out across Sonoma County on Wednesday for the local United Way’s massive Day of Caring event.

At 50 different locations, many of them nonprofit organizations, the volunteers from 30 local companies and groups as well as government employees donated their time to paint walls, erect fences, spread mulch, install drought-resistant plants, and clean creeks, trails and residential streets.

“I brought my team out today to give back to the community,” said Daryl Schmidt, manager of manufacturing and test engineering at L-3 Sonoma EO, an aerospace and defense engineering company that contributed a half-dozen employees to the annual effort.

Many of the volunteers participated in a ceremonial kickoff at the Sonoma County administration headquarters in Santa Rosa at about 8 a.m. After the rally, the volunteers quickly dispersed to various projects throughout the county.

At the newly expanded offices of the California Parent Institute, or CPI, a force of more than 60 volunteers rooted about 500 drought-resistant plants, laid 1,500 feet of drip irrigation tubing and spread about 31 cubic yards of fragrant redwood mulch.

The project consisted of general landscaping and a new garden for CPI’s New Directions school for troubled kids and the Parent Education Center. The project, which CPI said would have otherwise cost up to $20,000, cost the nonprofit group only about $5,000 for materials and prep work.

“We would not be able to do a project like this without volunteers,” said CPI spokeswoman Tiffani Montgomery.

Montgomery said the giving goes beyond those who volunteered their labor. She said Firma Design Group provided landscape design and on-site supervision, while the plants and other landscaping materials were donated by Santa Rosa area companies Emirsa Gardens, California Flora Nursery, United Forestry and Driwater.

In the past two years, CPI expanded into the metal warehouse structure across from its original offices at the site. The building, formerly a tile warehouse and showroom, now is home to parents and kids learning new life skills.

“With all the new landscaping, it’s going to feel a little less industrial,” Montgomery said.

About 30 employees from Sonoma Raceway were at work on the CPI project. The raceway, which has participated in the annual volunteer event for more than a decade, also sent employees to the Sonoma Valley Teen Center.

“It’s just a really great way to leave a lasting impact on some of the nonprofits in our community,” said Sonoma Raceway spokeswoman Diana Brennan.

The event, which launches United Way’s charitable fundraising season, also gave those who benefit from local nonprofits the opportunity to show their appreciation.

Reymundo Sandoval, 17, and Kyle Jones, 24, are both leaders in Youth Connections, a high school diploma and workforce development program run by Community Action Partnership.

“We’re just out here trying to make this place look beautiful,” said Sandoval, who along with Jones was lending a hand at the CPI site.

Jason Carter, program manager of Youth Connections, said volunteer work is a big part of the program.

“We want them to give back to the community that supports them reaching their college and career goals,” Carter said.

Other organizations that benefited from volunteer work Wednesday included the Redwood Food Bank, the Earle Baum Center of the Blind, Friends House, CERES, Catholic Charities, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Santa Rosa, Russian Riverkeeper, Food for Thought and the Rohnert Park Animal Shelter.

As in previous years, one of the biggest participants in the Day of Caring was Keysight Technologies, formerly Agilent. With 400 employees out at 26 different sites, Keysight supplied nearly a third of the total volunteer roster. Another large batch came from the county of Sonoma and city of Santa Rosa, which together contributed about 300 employees to the effort.

“This is one event that our employees really love,” said Jeff Webber, a spokesman for Keysight.

At Samuel L. Jones Hall, a homeless shelter in Santa Rosa, Keysight employees took part in the facility’s biggest one-day cleaning event.

The work included touch-up painting, scrubbing of dining tables, reorganizing of food and linen storage areas and tidying up the library.

Val Peterson, an electrical engineer for Keysight, found himself cleaning a shelter hallway with a rotating floor buffer. Peterson quickly mastered the task.

“I haven’t buffed floors since I was in college, but it’s fun,” he said, adding that his participation as a volunteer is part of a culture at Keysight of giving back to the community.

Firescaping

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CAL Fire

With all of the fires currently burning around the State of California and intensified by the drought, it is essential to look at how you can protect your home from fire hazard. “Firescaping” is a term that you will hear more frequently, which refers to landscape design strategies that reduce house and property vulnerability to wildfire. (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service). It is so easy to get behind on yardwork, but it is important to regularly look at the space around your house and see how you can improve fire safety. This is especially critical for homes on hillside slopes or within Wildlife Urban Interfaces or WUIs. To find out if your residence falls within a WUI, check with your local fire district.

“Defensible Space” is the minimum required space (at least 100 feet wide in State Responsibility Areas in California) around your home where plants need to be maintained to decrease the risk of fire hazard. The Defensible Space area is made up of multiple zones per jurisdiction: The ten (10) foot zone around your residence is a Critical Zone for fire safety. Trees and other woody pyrophitic plants should not be planted in this zone. Please refer to FireSafe Marin for a list of fire prone plants. Plant lists for more fire resistant plants are also available at FireSafe Marin. Additional fuel zones include: The 11-30’ Defensible Space Zone, and the 31-100’ Defensible Space Zone.

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University of CA Cooperative Extension

The vegetation in this area needs to be well maintained and should include plant varieties that do not ignite easily. Trees and shrubs may be acceptable, as long as they do not provide a continuous path of fuel for a fire to climb and must also be well spaced out. Dried leaves and dead plants add fuel to the potential fires and should be removed, especially in the critical zone.

Critical Zone: 0-10’ Around Home

The zone 0-10’ around the buildings is either hardscape, or irrigated and landscaped with plant material that is low growing and nonflammable, as well as deer resistant. No trees are proposed in this zone.

  • Remove all flammable material from your rain gutters, roof, and deck & patio areas
  • Use fire-resistant vegetation or landscape rocks
  • Move woodpiles away from your home
  • Inspect your chimney annually, and install a spark arrester with ¼ inch or smaller mesh screen
  • If you have a propane tank, remove flammable materials within 10 feet of it

The 11-30’ Defensible Space Zone

The zone 11-30’ around the buildings needs to be irrigated and planted with a variety of low and medium growing groundcovers and herbaceous shrubs that are fire-resistant, and deer resistant. Individual plants or shrub masses can create “shrub islands” with adequate horizontal spacing. Some clusters of trees may be proposed for screening. All landscaping will be irrigated.

  • Remove all flammable vegetation, weeds, and any dead or dying plants
  • Remove pine needles, dried leaves, and debris from your yard, roof, and gutters
  • Remove all trees/branches around chimney
  • Re-locate all wood piles into zone 2
  • Remove or prune flammable plants and shrubs near windows
  • Create spacing between any objects that could light one another on fire (decks, swingsets, furniture, etc)

The 31-100’ Defensible Space Zone

  • Create spacing between any objects that could light one another on fire (decks, swingsets, furniture, etc)
  • Cut/Mow grass to a maximum height of four (4) inches, two (2) inches is preferred
  • Create horizontal spacing between shrubs and trees
  • Create vertical spacing between grasses, shrubs, and trees by pruning and limbing up
  • Remove fallen leaves, needles, twigs, bark, cones, and small branches

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ReadyForWildfire.Org

Always double check with local laws and ordinances, and don’t ever hesitate to ask questions! Firma Design Group has developed Vegetation Management Plans for many clients in fire prone areas and in Wildlife Urban Interfaces or WUIs. Our landscape plans, plant lists, and irrigation plans meet all local regulations and provide adequate fire defensible space for your property.

Garden Trends in 2015

Blog Ideas – Garden Trends 2015

Firma Design Group is excited to notice a new trend in 2015…gardening! You may have noticed more neighbors starting a new garden, or some that have gotten rid of their lawn and replaced it with a low water-use vegetable garden. Gardens of all sizes, from one pot of brussel sprouts on the front porch, to a row of endless raised beds full of multi-colored vegetables, are popping up all over, and we couldn’t be more excited about it! According to Turf Design Build’s “ 2015 Garden Trends” article in their December 2014 issue, young men of the millennial generation are spending $100 more per year on garden products and plants than the average consumer. Consumers are estimated to spend $7 Billion on outdoor décor and garden accessories in 2015.

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The past several years have brought about a new sort of revolution: one that values community, health, sustainability, and the planet. We have seen consumers come together to try to change laws, and hold companies accountable for their products. Many have begun to take matters into their own hands, growing their own food organically and in a way that they can control. Community gardens have sprouted up in communities all over the state and country, bringing communities closer together.

Many of our clients are interested in starting or maintaining their gardens, and we are happy to help them create vibrant, healthy gardens that will really become an extension of the home. If you are someone who thinks gardening requires a ton of time and effort, have no fear – there are solutions for even those born without a natural green thumb. It’s all about choosing the right vegetable. Working full time on top of trying to maintain a social life can leave you with not enough time to wash your hair, let alone water your vegetables. This however, can be resolved by choosing low water-use plants that require very little maintenance. Many vegetables can survive even if you do forget to water them on occasion.

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So you may be wondering where to begin. Igrowsonoma.org has a calendar that shows exactly what to grow each month in Sonoma County. With recent mandatory water restrictions taking place in California, many potential garden growers are wondering whether or not they can justify the water use that a home garden requires. When done right, gardens don’t have to use an excess of water! Also, you have to factor in the water use that large scale farms use not only to grow the food, but to transport it as well. Eating locally grown produce is great, but growing it yourself can be even better.

Compost is essential, because if soil is sandy and dry, it won’t retain water. It is important to add rich organic material to your soil to promote root growth and retention of water.

Mulch isn’t always an attractive addition to your garden, but it does wonders for keeping soil cool and damp. There are a wide variety of mulch options out there, so choose one that works for you, and add 3-4 inches of it to the top of your garden to water less frequently. When watering by hand, pull back a small section of mulch to allow the water direct access to the plant.

Drip Systems are pretty high tech these days. You can get timers for them that allow you to set up a consistent watering schedule that is right for your plants. You can also get pressure regulators that allow the right amount of water to get to your plants without over or under-watering them.

Grow the right vegetables; don’t grow crops that need consistent soil moisture. Spinach, tomatoes, chard, amaranth, corn, and peppers don’t require an abundance of water. Planting high-yield crops is great too – more bang for your buck! Try tomatoes, squash, peppers, and eggplant if you’re going for abundance. Most brassicas (broccoli, cabbage, Brussel sprouts, etc. require more water and might not get a high enough yield to make it worthwhile.

Eliminate weeds, it might seem obvious, but weeding is a task that many put off until the weeds are overgrown. Weeds are competing with your plants for water, get them out of there as soon as possible!

Be smart with your water; everyone I know waits for the water to warm up before getting into the shower. During that time, gallons and gallons of cold water are wasted down the drain. Use that water for your garden!  It might be annoying to get a big bucket and lug it outside after your shower, but water is precious these days, so use it wisely!

Get Creative There are many ways to be smart with your water-use. While we have listed many, feel free to brainstorm more ideas. At-home gardens aren’t always easy, but they are worth it!

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Keeping a Vegetable Garden During a Drought Year

California is having a dry year, and many of us don’t know how to keep a successful garden while still reducing our water use. Many of us love the idea of being able to grab fresh vegetables from the backyard garden, but struggle with the morality of using the extra water. Fortunately, there are many ways that allow us to have the best of both worlds. There are still plenty of ways to maintain a garden during drought years; it just takes a few easy steps.

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Image via BFQP

  • Water plants in the evening (and water by hand)! During hotter parts of the day, water can evaporate before it is able to be absorbed by the plant. Most plants do not need to be watered every day. Allow soil to dry out a bit before watering again. Hand watering is the most water-efficient method, as you have full control!
  • Compost helps to retain moisture and increases organic content and microbial activity for increased root mass, allowing roots to dig deeper and find water sources deeper down.
  • Mulch moderates soil temperature, conserves moisture, and reduces weeds. Use a 3 inch minimum layer for optimal results.
  • Use shade to protect heat-sensitive plants from the scorching sun. Plant heat-sensitive plants in areas where they will get shade from larger plants, or use a shade cover.

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Consider the following observations on which crops need the most water and when:

  • Some beans and sweet corn need considerable water to produce a good crop. Beans need water most when they are blooming and setting fruit.
  • Corn needs water most during tasseling, silking and ear development. Yield is directly related to quantities of water, nitrogen and spacing.
  • Peas need water most during pod filling.
  • Other vegetables, such as cucumbers and squash, and fruits, such as melons, need water most during flowering and fruiting.
  • Tomatoes, peppers and eggplant need water most during flowering and fruiting. (Note that after tomatoes set, they can do very well with reduced water).

For a list of crop-resistant plants visit:

Drought tolerant Plants

Other Ideas for Water Reduction

  • Remove your lawn! It sounds extreme but did you know that a three-person family in a single detached home uses about 150,000 gallons of water annually: 51% in the yard and mostly for lawn?! Removing your lawn or drastically reducing its size can help reduce water use by a significant amount. Rebates are often available for lawn removal. Visit http://ucanr.edu/sites/scmg/Lawn_Replacement/Water-Wise_Lawn_Alternatives/ for more information
  • Replace your lawn with a vegetable garden! Many people have begun to turn their front lawns into a vegetable garden instead, which can save water while providing food. Check with local laws and Home Owners Associations first though, because many may have restrictions against this.
  • Collect Water-Collecting rainwater is an easy and resourceful way to reduce your water usage. But not only rain water-what happens to the water that’s used while you’re waiting for the water to get hot? Stick a container under the faucet and use the water that collects to water your garden!
  • Turn off water when it’s not necessary such as when brushing your teeth, or shampooing your hair in the shower. If you reduce the length of your shower to 5 minutes, you can save up to 1000 gallons a month.
  • Update your appliances-many modern appliances were built with water-saving and energy savings in mind!

http://wateruseitwisely.com/100-ways-to-conserve/

A Sneak Peek Into Our Backyards

Many of us here at Firma Design Group love gardening (big surprise there!) We can sometimes be found sharing photos of our gardens or discussing the tastiness of a fresh homegrown tomato included in the day’s meal. I thought you might be interested in seeing our gardens to give you some ideas for your own backyard haven.

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Response to Mandatory Water Restrictions in California

For the first time in California state history, our government is enforcing mandatory water restrictions. Record low snowpack and near empty reservoirs and streams are signs that this matter is extremely serious.

“Today we are standing on dry grass where there should be five feet of snow. This historic drought demands unprecedented action”

–Governor Brown

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You may be wondering what these water restrictions mean for your residence, landscaping, and how the cities you live in will be impacted. The first two questions you need to ask yourself are, “How much water am I currently using to water my landscape, and could I be using less?” If you are unsure of how to determine the answers to these questions, we can certainly help.

P1080851If you have a front lawn, you need to decide whether it’s a necessary addition to your home, if it provides any functional use, or whether you’re open to change. Here at Firma Design Group, we have experts to help you with these tough decisions. As a Bay Friendly Educator, Steve Kovanis, our residential Project Manager and Landscape Designer,  has presented “Lose Your Lawn” seminars in Contra Costa, Marin and Sonoma Counties over the past few years that demonstrate the benefits and ease of lawn conversions to low-water use landscapes featuring native plants. The talks provide participants with the knowledge of how to accomplish the conversion and offer detailed information about residential rebate programs available from many municipalities and water districts throughout the Bay Area.

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P1040458We would be thrilled to help you convert your current landscape into a low water-use, low-maintenance, drought-tolerant garden without sacrificing beauty or aesthetics. In fact, your converted landscape will offer much more visual interest and will welcome in birds, butterflies and beneficial insects for a vibrant and alive landscape. Firma Design Group is passionate about our work, and we infuse sustainability in each of our projects to the extent possible

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Governor Brown is also partnering with local governments and requiring that 50 million square feet of lawns throughout the state be replaced with drought tolerant landscaping. From a water conservation standpoint, this is a necessity, and will bring about creative and thoughtful design ideas from landscape architects throughout the state. There is great potential for additional local incentive plans to be developed where cities and municipalities will help subsidize your switch from thirsty lawn to drought-tolerant landscape.


While this drought is serious, we see it as a great opportunity to change how we design and maintain our landscapes. Hopefully, these mandated water restrictions will convince Californians to rethink their water use in every aspect of their daily lives. Whether it be focused on their landscape, or taking shorter showers, every little change helps. Let us work with you to help determine and implement water saving alternatives for your next landscape project or full conversion

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