Enhancing Through Illumination

images courtesy of moyer design

images courtesy of moyer design

a landscape structure becomes even more beautiful with the right lighting

a landscape structure becomes even more beautiful with the right lighting

Now that I finally have the “bandwidth” to tackle my outdoor landscape lighting I’m noticing how the right lighting actually makes an outdoor space more attractive.  It’s sort of like when you go to a beautiful restaurant and they have expertly thought of just the right lighting to make each diner look their best.  The lighting is soft, it gently washes over the surfaces and it doesn’t stare you in the eye.  The right lighting brings out your best features and lets the not so great ones stay in the dark.  Landscape lighting is exactly like this!

In the mild climate I live in, most everyone entertains outside.  If your landscape is shrouded in darkness you are missing out on showing off it’s beauty and your investment.  If your landscape is poorly lighted you may be sending glaring light into your guests eyes or asking them to walk through your landscape in uncomfortable darkness.

Take note of your lighting:  Do you see the light sources?  If so, you probably have considerable glare and “hot spots”  Are your pathways and stairs adequately lit?  It doesn’t need to be bright, just a low even lighting in primary traffic areas is great.  Are you sending a lot of light up into the sky or into your neighbors property?  Many cities now have “dark sky” ordinances that cut down on light pollution.  Are you taking advantage of down lighting from structures and trees?  Down lighting can be an excellent, non-intrusive way to light the landscape and create ambiance. Crazyspieler

Are You Washing the Sidewalk?

The Sidewalk Gets a Drink in Sunny Santa Monica

The Sidewalk Gets a Drink in Sunny Santa Monica

I walk A LOT in my neighborhood and sadly I can say this scene here is all too familiar.  Even with our water crisis (and yes, even though it’s been a wet winter, we still need to conserve) people waste soooo much water in their landscape.  In this situation they have a spray head spraying right into a broadleaf tropical plant and bouncing all over, resulting in giant puddles on the sidewalk.   This is an issue of poor irrigation design!  Of course the water is bouncing all over the place.   The real ridiculous thing is the solution is so simple and certainly not something out of reach for this high-end neighborhood.  Drip tubing running along the edges of this border would give these plants exactly the water they need without wasting a drop.  This would also alleviate the problem of spray heads getting tweeked and spraying in errant directions.  Take a walk around your neighborhood and your yard.  You’ll surely see places that don’t need to be soaked, sprayed and inundated the way they are.  All it takes is a few minutes and an awareness to save a lot of water.

Those Pesky Pioneers

the distinctive nodes on a nitrogen fixing plant

the distinctive nodes on a nitrogen fixing plan

I was working in my daughter’s classroom garden yesterday and we noticed a virtual explosion of fava bean seedlings.  We did not plant these this year but I know they had been planted in years past.  Those seedling were by far the happiest and most prolific in the garden and they weren’t even intended to be there!  Hmmmm, I remembered from my permaculture course that the fava bean (along with other legumes) is a nitrogen fixer.  Oh wow, this really got me excited because now I could talk to the kids about this very special plant with very special talents.  We pulled out some of the seedlings and looked at the weird white nodules on their roots that make the nitrogen fixing possible.  I explained to the kids that we have nitrogen in the atmosphere and in the soil and that only a few special plants can actually take nitrogen out of the air and use it.  All other plants have to rely on the nitrogen in the soil.  That got them thinking and one curious gardener asked what happens to the nitrogen after the plant takes it out of the air.  I explained that the plant uses it to grow and once that plant decomposes in the soil (roots, stalk and all) it will release it’s nitrogen to the other plants.  This made even more sense when I said that I was going to take all of those unwanted fava beans as well as the red clover (also a nitrogen fixer) and put them in my compost at home.

One of the most fascinating things I learned in my permaculture design course if the succession of pioneer plants that come in to a disturbed soil.  If a soil is poor in a nutrient such as nitrogen, then a nitrogen fixer can get a good foothold, thrive, decompose and in doing so helps address the deficiency and lays the groundwork for the next plant species.  This link shows how annuals lay the ground work for biennials / perennials, then shrubs and so on until a mature hardwood forest is formed.  Anyone who has started with bare earth and planted a garden knows that the fight with stubborn weeds (the annual pioneers) is the hardest in the beginning and as the soil quality improves the weeds just don’t seem to thrive.  Instead of cursing those dastardly weeds I think we should be thinking them as they are doing the most amazing service – slowly and so effectively.

Invite the Amazing

   "hey there blue eyes"

My husband sent me a copy of this image not because he was trying to freak me out but because he knows that I appreciate insects and I invite them into my garden. I still get a little jumpy when faced with some of the larger bugs like the creepy Orb Spiders I know are harmless. They particularly love to build webs on our front porch so that when the kids are in a rush out the door in the mornings they come face to face with them. They also love to build just beyond my kitchen window so I can admire their architectural web wonders while I do the dishes. Despite the frequent frights I experience from the spiders and other bugs I encounter, I relish them because I know they are a sign of a healthy garden eco-system. And because I’m a really lazy gardener I absolutely count on this diversity to keep all of my insect populations in check. Spraying your garden as a means for insect control will in the short term address the “problem” insects but unfortunately it will also harm the beneficial insects that are out there fighting the good fight for you every day. Isn’t it better to just invite the beneficial insects to your garden? The easiest way to do this is by having a diversity of plants and plenty of California Natives. Also mulching is another way to create environments for beneficial insects. Another thing I’m trying this year is mixing in some of my edibles with my ornamental plants. I’m trying to see if this will lessen the “all you can eat buffet” of my intensive veggie garden where the aphids attack my broccoli and cauliflower and the snails eradicate my seedling of all types. seo website analysis . Another important thing to remember is that happy plants are far less susceptible to attack. When a plant is stressed it actually emits a chemical that says “come and get me.” So if you have a plant that is routinely ravaged by insects you need to figure if that plants is actually in the right place (too much sun or water? or too little?). Perhaps it’s just a very susceptible variety. I have roses that struggle each year with rust and aphids and I have some that are never bothered by either.

The following is a quick list of things to keep in mind when inviting beneficial insects:
* Low growing plants as cover for ground beetles (thyme, rosemary, or mint)
* Shady, protected areas for laying eggs
* Tiny flowers for tiny wasps, like plants from the Umbelliferae family: fennel, angelica, coriander, dill, Queen Anne’s Lace, clovers, yarrow, and rue
* Composite flowers (daisy and chamomile) and mints (spearmint, peppermint, or catnip) to attract predatory wasps, hover flies, and robber flies

The above list was provided by the following article which has lots of good info:

Another great resource is http://www.grinningplanet.com/2005/04-26/beneficial-insect-natural-pest-control-article.htm
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