I have it made in the shade!

Somebody said to me a week or so ago, “You oughtta go work in Montecito, Santa Barbara or even the Valley, (meaning Santa Ynez area) then you’d be making the big bucks! I said, “It’s a long way to drive which eats up alot of time, gas and I also pay my employees for driving there and besides I really don’t need to work anywhere else other than Lompoc. I work in the town I live in. It’s absolutely fabulous! I have it made! Most of my jobs are within 2 to 3 miles of where I live. People in this town like to hire a local business because they know I’ll be nearby to follow up if there is a problem. They also know I’ll be spending money here in Lompoc and that I am interested in keeping a good reputation in this town. Word always gets around about which businesses are honest, reliable and follow up with their customers. I intend to keep working in the town I live in and supporting volunteer efforts to improve the beauty in this lovely little town called Lompoc, California 93436 better known as the city of arts and flowers. 🙂


The Single Most Water-Wasting Error When Programming Hunter Irrigation Controllers

The single most water-wasting error when programming Hunter Irrigation controllers is putting in multiple start times within a program. Each Program; A, B, or C only needs one start time per program. If the controller is programmed for 4 start times under program A, then program A will run through 4 times. This is 4 times more water than you need. I think that people mistakenly think that each station needs a start time which is not the case. If one thinks of the programming like a family tree diagram then it might make it easier to understand. A,B, and C are at the bottom most part of the trunk and each program has the ability to run all 4 stations. When we give Program A one start time it cycles through all the stations that have minutes on them under Program A.

Let’s say I have a 4 station controller. If I want to water established lawn I would put it on Program A and run stations 1 and 2. Then a newly planted area would be on Program B and run stations 3 and 4. This way we can separate the two areas that need to be watered differently. Also, a new planting area can be watered twice per day by adding a second start time under Program B for the summer. Then when it cools down or the plants are a little more established, the second start time can be eliminated.

I like to use a black sharpie to mark the top of each sprinkler valve with numbers 1,2,3, and 4 and make them correspond to the station numbers on the controller. One can see the color of the wire that is attached to each sprinkler valve and match that up at the controller where the wires attach into the bottom of the controller. Use silver sharpie on black valves or a yellow crayon which is also used on wet surfaces. Yellow crayon can be purchased where they sell other items for marking brick pavers or concrete.

I also use an Excel spreadsheet to lay out all the information in an easily understood format and hang it by the controller which is usually in a garage. Its not necessary to put the controller in the garage and that’s usually the most inconvenient location. Outdoor controllers have a box built around them that is waterproof and has a key. Remote control units are very easy to use and cut down on running back and forth from the sprinkler area to the controller.



Peace Community Garden, Lompoc, Ca.

A new community garden has been started in Lompoc. It’s located at 1000 West Ocean Avenue on the Peace Lutheran Church property. It’s surrounded by fencing which helps keep animals out. It has been sponsored by the Beautification & Appearance Commission of Lompoc. Along with many volunteers Becky Barritt has been instrumental in developing the garden. She has utilized her equipment, time, money and employees to get the garden off the ground. Becky first designed the space to accommodate raised planters, tractor tire gardens, open ground areas and common areas. Mainly vegies, herbs and edible flowers will be planted. Ornamental plants like lavender and marigolds have also been welcomed.

“In under a year we have turned an unused space into something practical, beautiful and user friendly. We even have some tractor tires ready to plant.” said Becky.

The three goals of the garden are to:

  1. Grow organically
  2. Create community
  3. Become healthier

We hope to have a handi-capped accessible walkway to the garden from the parking lot.

We also hope to meet at the garden for educational classes.

50 Ways to Kill your Gophers

One of my favorite movies is Caddyshack with Bill Murray. Now I laugh at myself as I begin to undertake the same challenge Bill Murray had in the 80’s popular movie. Gophers and other burrowing rodents are a recurring problem in our area. Lompoc, Ca is surrounded by farm fields so the invasion of gophers, packrats. moles and other rodents is non-stop. There are however, several ways to control them without blowing up the entire golf course or killing the golfers!

There may be 50 ways to attempt to kill rodents but I have narrowed them down to a few effective strategies. Gophers are the #1 enemy since we seem to encounter more damage from these critters than anything else especially in sandy soils. Gophers eat plants, roots, push soil up and create tunnels and dens that become holes which drain away precious water and soil from the base of our plants. If you ever see plants disappearing underground you can be sure its a hungry gopher. They can be prevented somewhat by using gopher wire which is actually a galvanized aviary wire. This wire is laid on top of the ground then secured with sod pins. However, it only prevents them from pushing soil up wards. They can still burrow underneath and eat plants and roots. Gopher repellant in the form of castor oil or granulated castor oil is effective also. Gophers don’t like the smell or taste of it. Castor oil is non-toxic to pets. Poisons delivered underground can be effective also but not 100% safe if a pet is around. I think the most effective treatment is carbon monoxide delivered underground into the new tunnels. Carbon monoxide will kill all rodents that are underground; usually in one treatment. If there are multiple rodents or established colonies then it will most likely take more treatments. Call or text 805-331-3483 or email Becky at beckys.landscape@verizon.net for an estimate.

A review from William Koseluk, a Lompoc resident and customer of Becky’s Creative Landscape & Design

January 2015

This is a first rate, fantastic landscape artist!  If you have heavy lifting, moving, she and her crew will do it.  We had tons of messy things that needed to be done.  No problem.  She moves mountains, takes out thatch, takes out dead trees, trims, prunes… etcetera!!  And when she was waiting around… she neatened up our junk!  Way beyond expectations. She’s creative! She brings a complete knowledge of plant materials – she knows about what works and doesn’t around here.  She’ll advise what to plant and the results are beautiful.

And the best part…  her prices are EXTREMELY reasonable.  I would recommend her for any and all your landscaping needs.

LVBHS Plant Sale Fundraiser Coming Soon!

The Annual Plant Sale Fundraiser is set for April 19th 2015. It will be at the Union Bank on N. H in Lompoc, Ca. again. There will be more details to come.

Why Should We Plant Drought Tolerant Natives?

I believe the most relevant topic concerning horticulture today is the California drought and I have been taking this opportunity to try and change peoples’ perspectives about gardening as I visit each person’s yard. Several times each month I visit people’s homes and get to see their landscaping and make suggestions. What I am seeing is a trend to removing lawns and installing more drought tolerant plant material. However, there is still not enough knowledge about native plants. I think people have to see and know about a plant before they will buy and plant it.

Natives provide food and habitat for native wildlife. Natives are a food source for native insects, provide egg laying foliage, nectar and pollen for native bees as well as honey bees and look great in residential landscapes. Many insects are very specific as to what plants they can eat. A monarch butterfly needs to have milkweed to lay its eggs on and then the milkweed leaves become food for the caterpillars. Natives are plant material that grow in the wild locally and originated in this area. When planning any garden one should know their soil. The south side of Lompoc is mainly a clay adobe soil and the Burton Mesa area is sandy silt. Our local native plants are already growing in these soils unassisted with no irrigation, fertilizer or care from people. Natives are usually also drought tolerant. Buckwheat, Mexican primrose and coyote mint are some lower growing natives with beautiful flowers.

Natives are healthy, dependable and beautiful plants to have in our yards. Plants like California Coffeeberry, Flannel bush, and Elderberry have year-round appeal. Coffeeberry has evergreen leaves and bright red berries in fall; a food source for birds. All three make nice specimens, are fast growing and will make a great screen or hedge without any trimming or special care, require little or no water once established and provide food and shelter for wildlife and insects. Coffeberry has some excellent cultivars. Elderberry is under-planted in residential landscapes, it has evergreen leaves, edible fruit, large white inflorescences.

Some plants need to be planted in our yards just to provide for insects. A pretty tricolor sage was recently attacked in my yard by an insect and I thought, “Yay, I am providing food for the insects!”. Often times a beneficial insect will come into your yard to “police the problem” then eat other insects while it’s there but if I were to use an insecticide then I would miss the opportunity to help the ecosystem in my yard by failing to provide food for the beneficial insects. Sages are a great source for insects. Black, Cleveland and Sonoma sages are fragrant, flowering and attract hummingbirds.

I am not suggesting ripping out things just because they are aliens but replacing them with natives when they have come to the end of their usefulness. I believe the LVBHS club members can educate their friends and neighbors by setting the example in their yards; particularly in the front yard where the native plants can be seen by everyone.

So before planting the next tree, shrub or perennial consider the bigger picture. Our ecosystem is in our yards and our neighborhood. Even if we have a small yard it can provide for wildlife and still look beautiful.

CNPS or Bust!

The California Native Plant Conference only comes once every three years so I thought I would snatch up the opportunity to go, listen and participate even though I had just joined the CNPS San Luis Obispo Chapter a month before learning about the conference. There were so many topics it blew my mind! Before the 3-day conference there were 2 days of workshops and fieldtrips. I went on one fieldtrip and attended two workshops. There was some net-working pre-conference to get people together whom wanted to car pool to the fieldtrips and workshops outside of the hotel. I got lucky and met a few wonderful women to hang out with during the conference and meal times.

My first fieldtrip was to Mount Madonna County Park. We hiked into the hills where we saw the Twin Giants, a legendary, 600 year old redwood and became familiar with a typical redwood forest and related understory plants. The guide explained to us that modern times has changed the forest from being very densely planted with few understory plants to less dense and more understory plants which is a result of heavy logging around the turn of the century. We identified many plants and learned about a computer application (app) known as ‘i naturalist.’ Another app is ‘Calflora observer pro.’ Both are downloaded on my Samsung smart phone. These are databases where one can record sightings of different plants. A rare rhododendron and an uncommon ceonothus were pointed out along the trail. Manzanitas, wild ginger, tanoaks and ferns were abundant. I met a nice older couple from Gilroy who were avid bird watchers and a young college student of botany who was presenting her project poster at the conference on moss growing in Death Valley. Moss in Death Valley? Yes, it’s true!

The next workshop was at Acterra Nursery where we learned about propagating native California plants. Several techniques were shown Deanna Guiliani for cleaning seeds and taking cuttings from manzanitas and other natives. Many areas in California are being restored to their native historical habitats prior to invasive plants becoming commonplace. The plants that are believed to be native in a particular watershed are being collected by seed and cuttings, brought to a nursery like Acterra, propagated, and then planted back into the original watershed in which they came from in order to preserve genes in that region; better known as L.S.I. or Local Source Initiative.

The second workshop I participated in was one in which I was asked my opinion on the details of a new educational program to be launched (within CNPS) which will teach landscape contractors and others professionals how to install native plants.

Then the conference began! I learned more new vocabulary words relating to botany than I care to mention. There was a plethora of mini speeches given by knowledgeable botanists and students of botany. There were some classes that were more relevant to me than others. I learned what bryophytes are and how they are not being studied enough and that hundreds of new ones are being discovered all over California in recent years.

There were presentations on milkweeds and pollinator gardens which I am very interested in. There are fifteen California native milkweeds. There is a new page on the Xerces website called www.xerces.org/milkweed-seed-finder/. The Xerces Society touched on pollinator gardens and asked questions like:  What are pollinators? Why are pollinators in peril? Why do we care? What can we do?

A presentation called, “Putting California on Your Plate” peaked my interest. It gave specific names of plants which are native edibles of California. One plant called a goji berry is something that I have enjoyed for a few years now. It is touted for potent nutrition packed tightly into tart, tasty, red, little, soft seeds. Purslane, a weed I have pulled a lot of is edible, as well as hummingbird sage leaves; Salvia spathacea. The fruit of ribes species are great tasting too, especially Golden Currant. Miner’s lettuce and honey mesquite are two more one would not commonly think of as edible. Honey mesquite is used as a flour. Quail bush, pinion pine nuts, elderberries and huckleberries are not grown and eaten enough in California. Unfortunately, most goji berries and pine nuts are imported from China and other countries.

Riparian, terrestrial biodiversity, vernal pools, ethnobotany and Jepson were common terms thrown around like a hackey sack during lunch break at a public high school. The scientific names of plants were common knowledge to attendees and discussions I overheard during the breaks were about the topics at the conference. It was cerebral to say the least but I enjoyed every minute of soaking up knowledge and the easy camaraderie of like-minded folks.

I learned of several educational plant hikes coming up this year as well as the ‘Sage Festival’ on March 28th and the ‘Native Food Festival’ on Nov. 14-15 which are both in Santa Ana this year.

I met Ellen Mackey, a certified senior ecologist for the Council of Watershed Health whose leadership was tangible throughout the conference. It’s evident that she wears many hats and is a very nice person whom took the time to talk to me even though she was losing her voice. Hei ock Kim is organizing the CNPS certification for landscape professionals and she personally thanked me for my comments during the workshop. There is a new ‘Rapid Response Program’ in California State Parks run by Ramona Robison. This program makes it easy for any keen observer to report the location of a non-native plant so it can be dealt with prudently.

One thing I observed during this conference was the enthusiastic participation of women listening to the talks and involving themselves in leadership. I didn’t count but I think the women outnumbered the men. 🙂