Plantings

Increasing the number of plants on site will help to reduce greenhouse gases, reduce surface run-off, increase evapo-transpiration, increase connectivity, and increase wildlife habitat.

Preserve existing plants.
In a forest, 10% of storm water hits the ground and runs off the surface, 50% infiltrates into the ground and 40% is evapo-transpirated. In a built environment, almost the reverse is true with 55% of the storm water running off, 15% infiltrates into the ground and 30% is evapo-transpirated. To maintain the natural balance, leave as many existing plants on site as possible.

Move plants.
Rather than simply cutting down existing plant material to accommodate construction, move the plants to other places on-site.

Harvest plants.
Invite plant rescue groups to harvest plants prior to site clearing.

Donate browse.
In the Berkeley and Oakland area, one can donate plants to the Oakland Zoo to be used to feed the animals. Trees that are on the "menu" include acacia, plum, elm, and liquid amber. The zoo uses all tree parts: leaves, limbs, and logs. Note: non-edibles include eucalyptus, pine, juniper, and pyracantha. Another benefit is that these donations are tax deductible.

Call the Oakland Zoo's Animal Management group at 510-632-9525 x165. They will let you know what trees are on the menu and give you delivery directions. They may even be able to send someone out to pick the browse up.

Protect tree grades.
Protect the original grade of established trees with (adjustable) tree grates.

Native Plant
Societies
Native Plant Society - Santa Clara Valley Chapter: The Blazing Star

Native Plant Society - Yerba Buena Chapter

Use native plants instead of ornamentals.
Using native plants is one of the best things you can do. Native plants are those defined by the Native Plant Society as having grown here prior to European contact. They have evolved here over a long period and are the plants that the first Californians knew and depended on for their livelihood. Our native plants have co-evolved with animals, fungi and microbes, to form a complex network of relationships. These plants are the foundation of our native ecosystems, or natural communities.

The importance of native plants is that they are best suited to perform tasks such as manufacturing oxygen and filtering impurities from our water. Once established, native plants require less water because they are adapted to this climate. They need few, if any, pesticides since they are better resistant to our local insects. Natives do the best job of providing food and shelter for native wild animals.

The problems associated with using non-native plant species is that they can out-compete and/or smother native plants. This happens because the natural pests, diseases or weather conditions, which kept the plants in check in their homeland, are missing here. Consequently, these weeds deprive our wild animals of food and shelter, since native animals cannot make much use of them. Weeds do damage in waterways by clogging water flow and choking out aquatic plants essential to wildlife.

There are many native plant nurseries in the area including Yerba Buena Nursery in Half Moon Bay.

Every spring there is a Going Native Garden Tour that includes gardens in San Mateo County. The Tour website also has information on public native gardens and native plants.

Right plant for the right place.
Select the right plant for the existing cultural and size conditions. This means not placing a plant that will grow to be 20 feet tall in an area that calls for a 10-foot shrub. This will help to minimize the use of diesel and gasoline-driven power equipment needed to continually trim the plant. This helps to reduce the associated emissions. In addition, plant appropriate plants for the existing cultural requirements, such as sun and moisture levels.

Group plants
Group plants with similar water needs. If plants that need water at the same frequency and for the same length of time are all in one place, you can dedicate a separate irrigation line or valve to them, delivering exactly the amount of water the plants need and no more.

Xeriscaping.
Use water-wise plants, or xeriscaping, to minimize the amount of water used for irrigation. Plants such as coreopsis, yarrow, verbena, ceanothus, buddleia, lavender, rosemary, and russian sage, once established, need little supplemental water to survive. More information on xeriscaping in California.

Climate control.
Site deciduous and evergreen trees for maximum climate control. The shade that trees provide has a powerful cooling effect. According to Permaculturist Bill Mollison, a piece of bare ground can cool down 20% after the arrival of a shadow. This can translate into a financial benefit by a reduction of up to 10% on utility bills.

Passive solar experts recommend that evergreens be placed on the north side and deciduous trees on the south side of a building to maximize the use of the sun's energy in winter and minimize the effects of heating in the summer while gaining a winter windbreak.

In addition, a dense hedge or tree planted on the west side of a house can provide shade and deflect westerly winds in the winter. In contrast, a loose-foliage tree planted on the east side of the house allows some protection from the sun in summer but lets in winter sun.

Fruit and vegetables.
Alternatives to decorative, or ornamental plants are fruit trees and vegetables. These provide human and wildlife sustenance and can be especially important on affordable housing sites. In addition, vegetable gardens are an important educational element for young children.

Nitrogen-fixing plants.
Nitrogen-fixing plants make nitrogen in the soil available to plants and thereby reduce the need for fertilizer. Include such native nitrogen-fixing plants as redbud, snowberry, ceanothus, and lupines in your landscape.

Layer plants.
Layer and mass your plants striving to replicate the natural plant configuration: canopy, understory, shrub and groundcover layers. The benefits of vertical layering are that the layers of foliage slow the fall of rain onto the earth's surface, thereby reducing erosion and preventing sediments from finding their way into waterways. In addition, plant roots will help to hold the soil in place and increase the rate of infiltration.

Mulch, mulch, mulch.
Cover soil with a 3 to 5-inch layer of mulch to help conserve water by reducing evaporation. Mulch also shields sensitive roots from the heat of the sun, blocks weeds from popping up, hides drip tubing, keeps the dust down in the summer, provides a safe walking surface and looks nicer than bare ground.

Use leaf litter from trees in your yard as mulch, rather than importing mulch from elsewhere. Other indigenous site materials include wood chips, seaweed, newspaper and straw.

Retain yard waste on-site.
The capacity of our landfill is finite and the economic, social and environmental costs of maintaining a local landfill are growing. Greenwaste accounts for more than 10% of California's waste stream. It is comprised of items such as yard trimmings, leaves, grass, and kitchen scraps. Rather than simply sending it to the landfill, put greenwaste to beneficial uses, such as compost and mulch.

Compost.
Composting on-site saves transportation costs to the landfills, gives our landfills a longer useful life, reduces pollution, provides a more convenient way to handle yard waste, and produces a free soil amendment that will increase the quality, productivity and beauty of our landscape.

Using composted greenwaste increases soil fertility and improves soil structure. Compost added to soils increases resistance to erosion, and increases water holding capacity, thus allowing California to conserve water. Using composted greenwaste on plants helps destroy plant diseases and weed seeds, thereby reducing the need for costly and toxic pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides.

Compost adds microorganisms, earthworms, and insects, which help to build soil. It also helps to neutralize toxins and metals, such as cadmium and lead, by bonding to them so plants can't take them up.

Most landscape companies will not automatically add compost to the topsoil that they will bring to your building site. Therefore, it is important to include the use of compost in your planting specs.

Compost bins can easily be constructed as illustrated in "Let it Rot, The Gardener's Guide to Composting" by Stu Campbell. Don't forget to use salvaged wood when constructing your bin.

More information on composting.

Make compost tea.
Compost tea is made from compost that is soaked in water for a short period. The resulting organic fertilizer "tea" can be used as a foliar spray or applied to plant roots. More information on brewing compost tea.

Use vermiculture.
Vermiculture is the process of using worms, specifically red wigglers, to compost kitchen waste. It is an easy process and ideal for those who do not have space for a compost bin. More information on worm composting.

Use organic fertilizers.
Mitigate the negative impact of remaining lawn areas by specifying that only organic fertilizers and compost be used to feed it.