Winter is the best time to plan and plant your landscaping. Plants are nearly dormant, their water needs are reduced and they are more likely to survive transplanting.
Sustainable landscapes combine intelligent plant choices, smart irrigation methods, and biologically active soil maintenance. Check Santa Clara Valley Water District’s rebates before you start , numerous rebates are available to make water-saving landscape decisions more enticing.
Did you miss GreenTown’s October Community meeting? Check out these informative presentations.
Intelligent Plant Choices
Beyond using less water, native plants have another advantage: they provide essential habitat for our native insects, birds, reptiles and mammals.
As the human population grows, native habitats decrease. Create islands of hope in your yard for butterflies and birds by selecting plants native to your watershed. Contact Acterra’s nursery or visit other local nurseries for the best choices.
Favorite plants in a full sun yard are fragrant Salvias, gorgeous Buckwheats and stunning Manzanitas. Leave room for Milkweed, the only food source for Monarch Butterflies.
Need a grassy area? Several low water native grasses, such as bentgrass and red fescue are available in plugs and sod. Alternately choose a soft, walk-able ground cover like Yarrow or Wood Strawberry. See link below for more information.
Even native plants need some irrigation, especially the first few years as they dive their roots deep into the soil.
There are three main types of irrigation: spray, drip and subsurface. Traditional fine spray irrigation is the most inefficient, losing over 60% of water volume to evaporation. MP Rotators create larger droplets and are more efficient than spray. Subsurface irrigation is most efficient and is best used for flat lawns or areas with ground cover. Use drip irrigation for scrubs; wider tubes with 2 gallon per minute emitters will require the least maintenance. A landscape professional can help you minimize your water usage.
Here is the free website tool to get on point with your irrigation scheduling:
Smart Irrigation Controllers
Thanks to the agriculture industry, irrigation controllers now use smart technology to deliver water only when your plants need it. Smart controllers connect to California Irrigation Management Information System (CIMIS) to determine your plants rate of Evapo-Transpiration (ET) that helps determine optimal water needs. See link below for more information.
Healthy Soil Maintenance
Drop your store bought fertilizers at a hazardous waste dump day. Your soil and your local creek will thank you. Your soil needs biologically active compost and a thick layer of mulch to thrive. Refresh your yard twice a year with a healthy layer of each. I really like the options at Lyngso. Got a trouble area in your yard? It may just need a generous cup of compost tea.
Santa Clara Valley Water District Rebates
Want to replace your thirsty, monoculture lawn? Don’t let your lawn die until you research rebates. Your water district will pay you up to $2000 to replace your lawn but they’ll need proof before you start. Rebates also reward you for irrigation and controller upgrades. Coming soon are rebates for greywater systems. Mark your calendar for GreenTown’s Greywater Seminar June 4, 7pm at Los Altos Library.
Here is more information on Santa Clara Valley Water District Landscape Rebates:
By Gary Hedden
GreenTown is always interested in energy efficient homes. A recently completed retrofit in Sunnyvale was featured for International Passive House Days (Nov. 8-10, 2013). The 1957 home was built with typical single pane windows and minimal insulation and was in need of an upgrade.
The new owners wanted more than a new look, they wanted good looks and energy efficiency. They hired One Sky Homes’ designer and builder Allen Gilliland, and he delivered. It was a “chain saw retrofit,” says Gilliland. By that he meant it wasn’t a tear down, but a lot of lumber was removed. The home got the standard upgrades with new windows, doors and lots of insulation – top, bottom and sides. The flat roof stayed flat, but now with three layers of rigid foam and wrap-around sealing at the edges. With meticulous attention to the sealing of all gaps, the home is snug with no more drafts, no more heat loss and better air quality because it is all filtered air. Take a deep breath, it’s perfect if you suffer from allergies. The 1650 sf home is heated (or cooled in the summer) with a 300-watt heat pump fitted with a heat recovery ventilator. Yes, 300 watts! That’s all this house needs and it keeps it at a steady 72 degrees.
With that level of efficiency this “appliance” uses less energy than any of the top six energy-consuming Energy Star appliances in the home. The number one energy hog is the refrigerator at $8 a month – twice the energy cost of the heat pump. The owners have lived in this newly remodeled home for over six months and they love the sleek European styling, the energy efficiency and the comfort. Allen says all of these kinds of efficiency upgrades will add 5-10% to the cost, but the pay back will be fast. Something to consider the next time you remodel.
Want more information? Here’s the link: http://www.oneskyhomes.com/valley-forge-passive-house-retrofit
Packard Foundation: Net Zero is Net Positive For Us All
At the Packard Foundation’s open house in June 2012, hopes were high for attaining net zero in terms of energy created versus what was used, by the Platinum Certified building. Now, one year later the verdict is in: they have the largest LEED Platinum certified net zero energy building in the world. Impressive by any standards.
The building has achieved LEED Platinum certification (the highest form of LEED) and this does require that the building meet water stewardship, waste, materials and energy criteria, among other things. The Net Zero Energy Building Certification is awarded by the International Living Future Institute (ILFI). The building is the largest certified NZE building in the world. This is remarkable because designing NZE buildings is one thing, but actually getting them to operate at NZE is quite another. Credit for creating a design that delivered such results go to EHDD’s team of Scott Shell and John Christiansen.
We got that information from Susan Orr, Chair of the Packard Foundation, at the Foundation’s Oct. 17 celebration. She reported that the foundation has been in the business of supporting families and communities for almost 50 years and they wanted a sustainable and beautiful building as they continue their work.
“We want to be kicked out of our spot” noted Susan Orr, “we want to lose this one in the HP competitive way”
We also heard from Carol Larson, President of the Foundation. She gave us some of the details that allow a building to be LEED net zero: More than 900 solar panels, 40% less water use than with a comparably sized building, 100% rain water capture, 90% native plants, 95% recycling of the material from the site deconstruction, and much more. She made the point that they did not use any ground breaking new technologies, so it is within the reach of any new project. She also made the point that it is so important – climate change puts all of their good work at risk.
GreenTown could not agree more. Well done and congratulations, Packard Foundation!
By Jim Thurber
It seems we have created a land – almost literally- littered, with automobiles. They’re everywhere. Parking lots are filled, often overflowing. Junkyards of discarded automobiles and assorted parts abound.
In a short time, our world has become defined by, and almost addicted to, the automobile. An “addiction” many of us, including me, are reconsidering because a look at cars from another vantage point can yield different realizations. In my case that awareness had me altering my “wheeling” life; literally moving from auto wheels to bike wheels.
A few years ago I read Wendell Berry’s poem, “Horses”about days when our lives ebbed and flowed, our work limited by the amount of time we could use an animal before we had to let it rest [Note: Quotes from the poem are in italics]
That limit was displaced by tractors (trucks or cars) which ran as long as fuel was in the tank and . . . ”The songs of the world died in our ears as we went within the uproar of the long syllable of the motors. …..But that work, empowered by burning the world’s body (oil) showed us finally the world’s limits and our own.
Berry’s phrase, burning the world’s body, perhaps influenced me more than anything.
Oil is the world’s body – created over millions and millions of years. We hunted for it, frantically searched for it, even on the bottom of the sea, and burned it.
But we were sloppy. And the resulting problems were huge: blowouts, fires, death, destruction, spoiled oceans, destroyed environments, smog, asthma, tuberculosis, cancers…
We had created a machine that enabled us to move quickly from one place to another, yet its use wrecked havoc on people, habitats and our environment.
So I purchased a bicycle and vowed to use the automobile only when absolutely necessary.
Racks and panniers enable me to carry necessities. A good rain jacket and gloves ensure I arrive at my destination warm and mostly dry.
Initially riding even a few miles exhausted me but I kept up. Now I can ride many miles and my health has improved measurably. Parking is never a problem and the amount of money I spend on gasoline: practically nothing.
I still own a car but this past summer, loaned it to a fellow teacher and now it’s gone to a new home in Oregon (my nephew). I doubt I will ever purchase another automobile.
I fully intend to continue to pedal into my 70s and 80s, enjoying the strength and health it has given me, and relishing the smell of the flowers and song of the birds as I ride silently past.
We live in a beautiful world. Let’s keep it that way. There are alternatives to cars that use oil, and I’ve found mine.
News from the Santa Clara Valley Water District
Did you know that it takes over 713 gallons of water to produce one cotton T-shirt? That’s equivalent to about 14 bathtubs full of water.
The record-breaking dry year we have had is a great reminder that we live in a semi-arid climate, and conservation is essential to meeting our current and future water needs not only during summer months, but also in the fall.
Landscaping normally needs only half of the water it does during the summer. This means if you water 48 minutes per week in summer, the same plants only need 24 minutes of watering time in the fall. In December, you may be able to turn off your irrigation system completely until mid-March.
In this month’s issue, join us for upcoming board workshops on the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, take a virtual tour of the Silicon Valley Advanced Water Purification Center, learn about the county’s Green Business Program, read about the $30 million grant from the Department of Water Resources, and read more about the recently signed Santa Clara Valley Habitat Plan.
Finally, if you are out and about in downtown San Jose tomorrow, please join us in launching the “Water 2 Go” program. This important collaborative between the water district, county, and FIRST 5 will make safe, clean and healthful tap water more accessible.
As always, we look forward to continuing to provide you with timely information and invite your feedback about water-related issues of importance to you and our county.
Deputy Administrative Officer