Monday, March 24, 2008

T.C. Garden Design & Restoration Report 2008

One Year Later

This garden design & restoration was created for a client who wanted to provide lizard habitat and increase plant diversity in his family's garden where visitors can learn about the plants while viewing insects & animals that thrive in the garden. We created a series of lizard 'beaches' made from loads of sand and existing recycled concrete and stones that were collected from around the property. Here, we've incorporated many types of Salvia, Lavender, Achillea, Buckwheat and other Mediterranean plants to create a low water, natural escape for man, animal & insect alike. A pump-free water feature that runs with the irrigation was made from on-site recycled concrete to provide a water source for the wildlife. This garden has become a haven for local neighborhood garden watchers.


Creating lizard habitat was an interesting learning experience. The general formula involves sand & shelter, with a readily available water supply. In less than one year we've seen a remarkable increase in the lizard population, so much so that the owner remarks he often finds them inside the house and neighborhood kids & cats chasing after them. Because lizards eat primarily insects & spiders, we knew that active soil life would be a priority which sets the stage for effective food chain dynamics. In every garden, insect life functions as a living kind of barometer, providing ample indication of soil & ecological health. In this garden, there is no lack of insect or animal activity.


Another priority was incorporating plants which attract & feed hummingbirds. We have found that the Salvias and Penstemons are the most frequently visited.

Mediterranean Plants & CA-Natives

Of course this is a low water garden highlighting a virtual encyclopedic variety of Mediterranean & California native plants which are readily adapted to our local weather patterns & micro climates. These plants are tough, beautiful, take well in poor soils and require a minimum of care. As an added bonus, many of these same selections provide the food, brush & cover that birds, bees & insects rely on for regular functioning.


To provide a subtle focal point and to highlight the usage of recycled materials, we created a custom water feature using only recycled concrete collected on site, left over from previous construction. This water feature utilizes the drip irrigation for water delivery and requires no pump or power source. This small feature also functions ecologically in providing an on site water source for animal and insect life.


Due to a recent and rather major transplanting of 16 roses, the side strip naturalized with Alyssum, which can become invasive if not monitored. As it continues to grow and fill in as an aggressive and successful ground cover we keep careful watch and remove it from the main garden areas at first sight.

All in all the garden's first year has shown an incredibly productive period of growth & development. We feel that we have achieved the desired goals of creating a fun, beautiful setting for birds, insects, lizards & humans.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Hip Methods: Old Biointensive & New Vegan Wisdom

Early in 2008 we were introduced to a hip, classy vegan couple living here in the Bay Area. Little did we know that in networking with these clients we would be setting foot upon the path to high-yield vegetable gardening methods. The chance to work in a vegan garden environment - a plus! - adds a surprising, exciting and enlightening element to our daily gardening practices. Often, our clients turn out to be centers of knowledge & inspiration and this is certainly true in this case.

Vegetable gardening links to our collective past as a species. Not relegated to commercial food or restaurant consumption, growing & cultivation are age old art forms which span the visible horizon of food-chain dynamics. It's often said that if each person with available land used it to produce their own fruits & vegetables that we as a nation would find ourselves liberated from the chain of dependency which stretches from market to stove-top. In lessening or eliminating the need to drive to the local supermarket for fruits & veggies, and eliminating the usage of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, store bought compost, mulch and amendments, we are in a way taking control of our lives at a basic level so important and overarching in our culture as to seem a new phenomenon - but it's nothing new.

Many agrarian cultures in Asia, Mezzo-America and even Europe have shed light on the concept of high-yield gardening for calories. The simple truth is, it works. Add to this wisdom the high art of vegan environments and we can at once address cultural, environmental and personal issues of health & well being which transcends traditional gardening practices. We are lucky in that we choose to live and operate in the San Jose/San Francisco Bay Area where the information culture was born & raised. This explains why so many friends, teachers & clients are so well informed.

As we engage in the process of high-yield, vegan gardening & garden maintenance services we learn more than a few things about cultivation, bed preparation and overall resource availability using only on-site resources which are abundant and self-replenishing. Using the an evolved offshoot of the French Intensive method, first widely hailed here in the U.S. by one Alan Chadwick in Santa Cruz in 1971, now called 'Biointensive' by John Jeavons (a local Bay Area & international gardening hero) we are hoping to help create and sustain a food rich culture of best practices, highly influenced by the values put forth by our friends & clients. Staying true to these values has absolutely no drawbacks, cuts down on the resource chain so embedded in our petroleum-rich culture of years past and ensures that the land, culture and people can better provide for themselves while helping mother earth rest just a little easier.

Be well,
Topaze & Patrick McCaffery

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Rose Pruning & Transplanting

Taproot Garden Design & Fine Gardening Report:
Pruning and Transplanting Roses in the San Jose, California Bay Area.

Important Seasonal Note: Always prune & transplant roses during their winter dormancy period, December through February, to avoid transplant shock.

Step By Step

Remove all dead and unhealthy wood (usually brown in color)

2) Cut at a 45 degree angle above an outward facing bud

Cut out all branches that cross or those that are growing inward, to open up the middle of the plant and provide air circulation

Shorten to 1/3 its current size

Clean pruning shears every few cuts by dipping shears in at least 70% alcohol solution to prevent spreading disease between plants

Dig a hole that is at least the width of the rootball, or about 2' wide and at least 1' deep

Add amendments to the soil. We used Gardner & Bloome Organic Rose & Flower Planting Mix, which includes alfalfa meal and worm castings

Build a mound in the middle of the hole, with a mix of the original soil and organic compost or planting mix

Dig up and remove the rose from its old planting hole and clean all weeds, leaf litter, and soil from the base and rootball area

Cut off any damaged roots

Plant the rose immediately so that the roots don't dry out

Spread the roots over the mound, making sure the crown is at ground level (add a banana peel directly on top of the mound for extra potassium)

Backfill with a mix of 50% original soil and 50% organic compost or planting mix

Add a handful of Alfalfa Meal around the base of the Rose. Work lightly into top 3 inches of soil

Tamp down with hands, being careful not to compact the soil around the crown

Soak with water thoroughly; allow to drain, then soak again

The end result
; finished transplanting:

Suggested reading
Jackson & Perkins Rose Pruning Site

Jackson & Perkins Rose Planting Site