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Lawn & Garden Advice
Please note: this page contains reviews and opinions sent in by Berkeley Parents Network subscribers. Your own experience may be different. Please always check references first!
Questions on This Page
Advice about Pets & Pests
Hi ~ Our neighbors cut down a bunch of trees that provided privacy between our houses. I am wanting to plant something on our side of our fence to create privacy and am thinking that bamboo is a great choice. I'd love to the name of someone who could come over and give us some ideas and a bid for putting in bamboo or other privacy screening plants. Thanks. Cat
Does anyone know of a website/book/resource that breaks down how to take care of your yard the way Flylady.net does for your house? I'm depressed and overwhelmed at the state of our yard, and haven't a clue where to begin. Would love some advice about breaking this down into manageable projects. Thanks! brown thumb
Here are some ideas: Create a 'zone map' of your yard. Front yard, back yard, and each side yard. Break those down into smaller zones for areas like patio, deck, shed, porch, driveway, maybe specific flower beds (don't get too picky - keep it simple). Now take a tour, think of it as if you were a potential buyer, and write down anything that would bug them.
Do 15 minutes of trash management, 1 zone at a time. Have your timer, gloves, laceup shoes, a trash container, and a green bin or container for compostables (whether they go in your home compost heap or are picked up curbside depends on your location and proclivities). Do a quick sweep and pick up any trash, toss it. Make a note of things that need pruning, weeding, or to be cut back. Find items like errant tools, empty flowerpots, etc., and put them in their home - whatever that is. Be sure you stick to one zone at a time though; don't take the rake out of the side yard while working that zone, then decide the whole tool shed needs a re-organization, then find your favorite clippers and decide to prune the aspidastra. Use the Kelly's Missions basic format to help you decide what to keep, to toss, or to give away: Is it beautiful? Is it useful? do you love it? If you can't answer any of these questions 'yes', let it go.
If you have something that doesn't work for you but someone else might want, Freecycle or donate it.In many larger cities, just putting a 'Free' sign on an item and setting it curbside on Saturday a.m. will cause it to evaporate into thin air by nightfall.
Take breaks at least every half hour. You don't want to burn out. Easy does it!
For another day, follow your weeding map around the house. If the job's too big or onerous, enlist the family to help, have a round robin 'gardening party' with friends (fun and satisfying) or hire someone to assist with the big, nasty jobs. Weeding and pruning are a lot more fun with company and a nice cold beverage. Make sure that, when you're done with your efforts, you take time to enjoy and appreciate the improvement!
As FL says, 'Rome wasn't built in a day. Take baby steps' ... flying
I'm looking for some native, drought-resistant, low-maintenance flowering plants to plant around some fruit trees that will keep the weeds at bay. Currently there are a only a few sparse poppies and white Alyssum, and the weeds are taking over. The trees are in the front sidewalk and the area gets full sun most of the time. Perennials would be great. Ideally the flowers wouldn't attract a swarm of bees or wasps, as our daughter plays out there. Any gardeners have good recommendations? Trying to garden smart
1) check out EBMUD's ''Plants and Landscapes for Summer Dry Climates''. This is an absolutely gorgeous and inspiring landscaping book with beautiful photos of the plants and lots of summer-dry gardening information. Not all the plants are native, but they're all drought tolerant and the book is very clear about which plants are native.
2) go to Berkeley Hort, browse their natives section, and ask for help.
3) mulch (''gorilla-hair'' mulch is nice because it stays put)
4) don't forget you'll have to water the first summer or wait until the fall rains to plant.
Happy flowering! low-maintenance and beautiful
We're located in the Lamorinda area and are looking for a landscaper or gardener who can artistically thin out and prune back our front yard slope of very old juniper bushes. I don't want a ''hack it back'' job, I would like someone who knows how to reduce the bulk of vegetation and still make it look natural. thanks for reading! Carolyn
It's always best in the long run to have plants whose basic habit and size work for a given space- fighting a plant's nature is just that, a fight- and shrubby Junipers want to be dense and heavy and big. They get much bigger than many people realize when they plant them, and are commonly planted too close together and in spaces where their size is too much to begin with.
Thinning them out is very labor intensive- it's a nasty, prickly job getting into them and it's time consuming to sort out the tangle of branches, to figure out which branch is coming from which plant, and assess what to keep and what to cut.
Even when done with great skill, they will look horrible after they're pruned because the ratty old inside will be exposed by being opened up. Over time, if the plants are still basically healthy and vigorous, the inside wood will sprout and they'll fill back in, but they'll fill back in as thick, dense shrubs, so if you didn't like them in the first place you won't like them any better then! Cecelia
Oxalis, the clover-like weed with yellow flowers, is taking over my garden. Does anyone have a clever way of gettign rid of it? I spent hours pulling it up last weekend, and I barely made a dent. I'll even consider hiring someone to get rid of it. Help! Overrun by Oxalis
It's a winter weed, only shows itself when the weather is wet & cool, so that's the only time of year you can do anything about it.
It grows from clusters of little bulblets, & spreads itself by making new bulbs & by reseeding. Getting all the bulbs out is impossible- too small, too profuse- but you are reducing the population by digging out some of them. Like all bulbs (think of daffodils), the bulbs are fed by the foliage, so even just chopping the tops off as soon as they appear helps to exhaust the roots. Not all the bulbs will sprout at the same time, so this must be a continuous project all season. Don't let it go to flower, attack it ASAP!
Alternatively, you can use Roundup on the foliage, which is carried to the bulblets & kills them. Any herbicide rightly makes some people nervous, but Roundup is generally considered safe by knowledgeable professionals (it has a very low toxicity to people and animals in the first place, breaks down on contact with the soil into non-toxic compounds, & has been around a long time). On general principal, I only use it on a couple of types of weeds, Bermuda Buttercup among them (also Bermuda Grass). You need to continue to spray it on the foliage as new plants appear.
Whatever method you use, you will not get rid of it in one season, & you'll never get entirely rid of it, especially if your neighbors have it too. Roundup does work the best if you really keep after it- it takes longer to exhaust the bulbs significantly by pulling/chopping.
I recommend holding off on any dense plantings like perennials & groundcovers in the infested areas until after you have got it under reasonable control. It is even more of a pain to try & get it when it is mixed in with plantings. Cecelia
Ecological lawn installation?
Our back yard is 80 percent weeds and we are considering having it torn up and replacing it with a sod lawn. Friends who did this recently said their landscaper applied Roundup to kill the weeds before putting in the new sod. We are concerned about the environmental effects of Roundup. How toxic do people think it really is (to soil, groundwater, etc.)? Is it possible to do a successful lawn without using herbicides? Can anyone recommend an environmentally- friendly landscaper/lawn installer? And has anyone had success putting in a new lawn (and even a sprinkler system) themselves, rather than hiring a contractor? Tired of dandelions and oxalis
The only way to elimnate oxalis is to dig it out. One option is to dig out as far down as you are willing to go/pay for (its costly) -- but at least 6 inches -- put in cardboard and fill in with new dirt. This will solve the problem for a while, not forever. Digging deeper helps.
Second, go with a native grass lawn. A great choice is Fescue Rubra - you can purchase seed or plugs from Rana Creek Habitat restoration in Carmel Valley. They are a wonderful resouce for native grasses. With this type of lawn you can mow if you want, wanter minimally and use minimal, organic fertilizers.
Good luck and even though Roundup has a reputation for ''not being so bad'', it is bad for our environment. And it won't do what you need. Good luck
The principal of Integrated Pest Management is use the least toxic approach first & use chemicals sparingly. It takes a few years to eradicate Oxalis by hand. Pull the plants as soon as they appear- over time you'll deplete the population. Trying to remove all the bulbs is hopeless! Laying sod rather than seeding will weaken some of the bulbs. There are a number of choices of native grasses for informal, meadow-like effect- none in sod. Bonsai Tall Fescue is a good (somewhat drought-tolerant) commercial grass. I'm a landscaper & horticulturist so know quite a bit about Round-up. Questions directly to me are welcome; please post disagreements in Digest
Oxalis - demon weed from hell
We have an ongoing oxalis infestation - y'know, those shamrock-like plants with yellow flowers. A landscaper friend recommended Vapam (a soil fumigant) but we don't like that idea because of enviromental concerns and danger to our kids and pets (see http://www.alternatives2toxics.org/vap.htm). I found some info on the spread of this pernicious pest from South Africa (I guess it takes one to know one ;- ) at http://www.cnps-yerbabuena.org/hab_sigg_oxalis.html but need some advice from someone who has successfully eradicated oxalis. So how do I get rid of it? --johnt
If you're thinking of using Roundup, make sure to use it on
a windless portion of the day, when there is no dew
(moisture can dilute it, rendering it useless) and if there
are prize plants adjacent to the oxalis, drip or ''paint'' it
directly on the oxalis (don't use the sprayer).
Christine Schneider, RLA
Native Sage Landscape Design
Regarding Oxalis pes caprae (cernua); Good info from Mr. Sigg, whom I have met at California Exotic Plant Pest Council meetings at UC Botanical Garden, Berkeley. I have almost total control over this thug at my home after 2-3 years. I certainly can not support Monsanto (see Agent Orange, etc) but I must say that I HAD TO resort to ProRoundup to tackle Oxalis. Really, SPRAY and PULL and MULCH again and again if you wish to have anything resembling a landscaped yard that is under control. Organic controls would exclude the Roundup, and most have not had any long-term luck with those methods. You will have to concede with living with a certain level of infestation if you are not willing to use a glyphosate -based herbicide. Best of Luck... Anthony Garza, Supervisor of Horticulture & Grounds UCBG, Berkeley
My daughter and I are starting a garden and we would like to grow some vegetables and fruits such as tomatos, lettuce, strawberries, onions, ect Can anyone name us a good tomato or strawberry that grows well locally (we live in El Sobrante) And where could I get them? The books I am working through have a lot of good suggestions but often it is hard to find the particular kind they recommend in our local stores. So if you have any good suggestions for fruits or vegetables, please share your experience with us. Thank you, Martina and Ebony.
In my garden I have some crab grass, weeds, and in one spot -- blackberries, all of which I want to turn either into flower & vegetable beds, a lawn, or ground cover. Does anyone have any non-toxic ideas for how to eradicate these menaces? Thank you. kiwiroot
We bought a house in the "Piedmont Pines" part of Montclair with a good-sized yard featuring trash, overgrown weeds, trees that need trimming, etc. A friend says landscaping types would clean this up surprisingly cheaply. Sounds good to me. Any recommendations? And is it possible to use Round-up - type chemicals (which are relatively environmentally friendly) when it is this dry? Mary Ann
"The Oregon-based Northwest Coalition for Alternatives
to Pesticides (NCAP) reviewed over 408 scientific studies on the effects
of glyphosate [the active ingredient in Roundup], and of the
polyoxyethylene amines used as a surfactant in Roundup, and concluded that
the herbicide is far less benign than MonsantoFs advertising suggests
tSymptoms of acute poisoning in humans following ingestion of Roundup
include gastrointestinal pain, vomiting, swelling of the lungs, pneumonia,
clouding of consciousness, and destruction of red blood cells...
[see the Ecologist for continuation]
Does anyone know of any plants/bushes/trees that ants don't like, or that at least don't attract ants? I want to replant a small area that is right next to my house because the ants seem to LOVE a lime-type tree that is growing there now. Whatever I plant has to tolerate full sun and lots of clay in the soil. Thanks for any suggestions.
Does anyone have any experience/advice on how to remove bamboo from the yard? I have heard it is pretty difficult, and that you have to dig down about three feet to remove the roots. Also, does anyone have a recommendation for a person or company that does heavy yard work, and could do a good job removing bamboo? Thanks! Wendy
If you are lucky, the bamboo is a "clumping" type rather than a "running" type. If it forms a huge clump of old culms, all you need to do is dig it up and out. The roots do not go deep; the problem is that the fibers are very tough to cut with a shovel. Ideally you can get all around the clump with the shovel, and pull the whole thing out in a mass. You can also try cutting it up with a power saw, particularly if it's in a confined space (next to a fence or patio).
If you are not lucky, the bamboo is running underneath your patio, your fence, and every part of your yard. If you see little sprouts of bamboo elsewhere in the yard (even 50-100 ft away; ours had crossed underneath a parking lot), you probably have a running kind. In this case, any little chunk of bamboo that you leave in the soil will sprout on its own after you have removed the main plant.
This is what encourages people to use chemicals. In my case, moving into a house that had perhaps 10-20 years of overgrown bamboo, but wanting to keep my garden organic, I took the elbow-grease route.
I cut down all the live culms; then cut up (with a power saw) the base clumps, and dug them out. I tried to follow every running root and dig it out. The ones I couldn't get (e.g., under a concrete patio), I watched for. A bamboo sprout can grow several inches in only a day or two. If the baby culm sprout gets to the point where it has unfurled or is 1 ft high, you've lost ground, because it feeds the underground plant. But if you can cut the sprout before then, you have taken another step towards starving out the survivors.
A year and a half of constant vigilance worked to eradicate the bamboo from my yard permanently. That may sound extreme (you're probably ready to buy some Roundup at this point), but it was worth it to me not to pour poison all over my yard. good luck! Virginia
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