Archive for the ‘Elena Freeman’ Category

by Elena Freeman

Share your Bay-Friendly gardenWe are currently looking for home gardens in Marin to feature on next spring’s Bay-Friendly Garden Tour. This annual event showcases beautiful and inspiring gardens that use practices sensitive to our local environment.

The gardens we want to feature incorporate sustainable elements such as low-water-use or native plants, urban food growing, permaculture, rain and stormwater catchment, composting, lawn conversions, graywater systems and more. Home gardeners and landscape professionals alike are invited to nominate a garden for the 2012 tour.

The Marin tour will be on Saturday, May 19, 2012. To nominate a garden, contact Elena Freeman at (415) 945-1164 or efreeman@marinwater.org.

In previous years, the garden tour in Marin was known as the Eco-Friendly Garden Tour. This will be the first year we are joining forces with the Bay-Friendly Landscaping & Gardening Coalition in its 9th annual tour throughout the Bay Area.

For more information on the Bay-Friendly Garden Tour and to find tour dates in other Bay Area locations, visit bayfriendlycoalition.org/GardenTour.shtml.

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by Elena Freeman

Summer is here and that means the irrigation season is on. You want your garden to be healthy and beautiful, but do you know how well your sprinklers are doing? There’s help to find out.

Master Gardeners are avid gardeners who have received University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) training in horticulture and want to share their knowledge about gardening and sustainable gardening practices. Through a partnership with MMWD, now in its fourth year, Marin Master Gardeners have received special training on water-efficient landscape methods. These volunteers are visiting homes within MMWD’s service area to offer advice on keeping your garden looking great while saving water. They will provide site-specific recommendations, including an irrigation system check and tips on plant selection and good soil management. The free visits take about an hour.

Call 499-4204 to schedule your Garden Walk visit.

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by Elena Freeman


BAEER Fair 2011

MMWD Conservation staff exhibited at the 34th annual Bay Area Environmental Education Resource Fair on January 22. This resource-rich event is designed for teachers, community educators, students and families. MMWD promoted the school education programs of our Watershed and Water Conservation departments.

The exhibit hall at the Marin County Fairgrounds was buzzing all day as attendees visited over 50 local and Bay Area exhibitors, networking and picking up literature, posters, curricula and more. Meanwhile, a series of 16 workshops were presented on topics from “No Child Left Inside” to saving endangered plant species to The Bay Institute’s Students and Teachers Restoring a Watershed (STRAW) Project.

If you missed the fair, see the BAEER website to learn more about the 2011 workshops and exhibitors, and visit MMWD’s website to discover our free water education programs for schools in our service area. And be sure to make plans to be at the BAEER Fair in 2012!

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by Elena Freeman

Congratulations to the Marin Master Gardeners, who won a “Community Outreach” award at the National Extension Master Gardener Coordinators Conference in early October for a presentation by Master Gardener Karen Detwiler and a poster promoting the Garden Walk program. Garden Walk is an innovative partnership between the Marin Master Gardeners and MMWD.

Marin Master Gardeners and MMWD Water Conservation staff at Garden Walk end-of-season recognition event.

The beautiful, award-winning poster—created by Peggy Mathers, Pam Engel, Jill Fugaro, Patti Oji (artist), Steve Swain, Glenn Smith and Karen Detwiler—was on display last week at an end-of-season recognition event for the Master Gardeners who volunteer their time to make the Garden Walk program a success.

Through the Garden Walk program, homeowners in the MMWD service area receive free information and advice to help them conserve water outdoors. During each on-site consultation, the Master Gardeners walk through the garden or yard and advise the home gardener on Bay-Friendly practices such as water-efficient irrigation, healthy soil management and water-wise plant choices. Marin Master Gardeners began offering “Bay-Friendly Garden Walks” in 2008 after receiving special training from MMWD Conservation Specialists. Approximately 100 home garden visits were performed this year.

Although the Garden Walk program has ended for the season, the walks will start up again in Spring/Summer 2011. For more information contact (415) 499-4204.

Event Reminder
Ordinance 414 and You: A Workshop for Professional Landscape Architects, Designers and Contractors
October 27, 1:00 – 4:00 p.m., College of Marin - Indian Valley Campus, Novato
MMWD’s Ordinance 414 sets new standards for the design and installation of landscapes and irrigation systems to conserve our water resources. Join us to learn what Ordinance 414 means for you and how you can help your customers benefit from the very best water-saving technologies and practices.

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by Elena Freeman

Leaking toilets cause more water waste than any other fixture in the home. Even a silent toilet leak can waste from 30 to 500 gallons of water per day! The ones you do hear can waste even more.

As an MMWD Water Conservation Specialist, I regularly perform water-use efficiency surveys for customers through our Conservation Assistance Program. Last month I assisted a customer at a home in San Rafael who was very concerned about some increasingly high water bills. The property included a pool and hot tub, and every inch of the 1/3 acre property was irrigated. Even so, their average water use of 1,260 gallons per day seemed high for two people. The homeowner suspected the irrigation system had leaks. In the past rodents had chewed the irrigation lines.

We made sure all the water-using fixtures in the house and the irrigation system were turned off, and then I checked the water meter. It showed constant movement at a rate of over 450 gallons per day! It turned out there were two silently leaking toilets. The homeowner was relieved to find out there was something that could be fixed to stop the high bills and the waste. 

Many toilets only run at night. That’s because most people are asleep at night and much less water is used during these hours, with a result that the water pressure in the supply system can rise considerably during this time. The rise in pressure can cause “water creep” inside your gravity-fed toilet tank by 1/2 inch or more. That is why toilet manufacturers normally suggest setting the water level at approximately one inch below the top of the overflow tube.

When was the last time you checked your toilets for leaks and water level adjustment?  It’s not hard to do. MMWD has an easy step-by-step guide to help you check your toilets for leaks and check the flow rates of all your indoor plumbing fixtures to make sure your house is water efficient. You can find the Do-It-Yourself Home Water Survey on our website.

The Do-It-Yourself kit is also now available at the MMWD customer service lobby for customers without internet access. Visit us at 220 Nellen Avenue in Corte Madera to pick up your copy. Toilet dye tablets for testing toilets are also available there.

If you would prefer to have one of our water conservation experts perform a survey for you, call us at 945-1523 to schedule a free appointment.

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by Elena Freeman

A few weeks ago, this blog mentioned that now is a great time for planting spring-flowering bulbs. By request, here is some more information on planting and protecting your bulbs.

Bulbs look best planted in clumps or drifts. To create a natural-looking effect, toss handfuls of bulbs into the air, then dig holes and plant wherever they fall. (Here’s a handy website for figuring out quantities and spacing when planting different bulbs.) Add some compost or worm castings to amend the soil, and mix some bone meal into the soil at the bottom of each hole to encourage strong root growth.

To plant in an area that has dried out over summer (especially difficult with our local clay soils), wet the soil slowly and let it percolate so you can get a shovel or tiller in. Don’t try to work clay soil if it’s too wet or you can end up creating lumps that dry into hard clods. Cultivate the soil adding generous amounts of organic matter such as compost, manure, guano or worm castings to improve the soil structure and nutrients.

If you have a problem with gophers or other rodents eating your bulbs, you can try sprinkling some red pepper powder in the planting hole. A more secure method is to plant your bulbs in a cage made of hardware cloth. The roots and stems grow through, but the rodents can’t get to the bulbs. You can create larger cages to accommodate multiple bulbs. Most rodents avoid daffodils and fritillaria.

Now that you have protected the underground portion of the bulbs, you’ll want to protect the leaves and flowers from the other great garden predator: deer. Alliums (ornamental onions) are some of the most deer-resistant flowering bulbs. Other supposedly “deer-resistant” bulbs are Dutch iris, dwarf iris, crocus, daffodils, early stardrift, glory of the snow, and society garlic.

Pacific Coast Iris

Pacific Coast iris. Photo courtesy of Art Poskanzer: http://www.flickr.com/people/posk (license: creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en)

One of my favorite bulbs is the native Pacific Coast iris and the fabulous hybrids that come in myriad colors. For more information, check out the Society for Pacific Coast Native Iris at pacificcoastiris.org.

Planting something now that doesn’t bloom for half a year is definitely delayed gratification, but when those bulbs you almost forgot you planted are in full bloom in the spring, it’s a big beautiful payoff.

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by Elena Freeman

Master Gardeners Garden Walk

Summer has arrived, and that means “Garden Walk” season is also here! One of MMWD’s most popular water conservation programs, this is a partnership with Marin Master Gardeners, a program of the University of California Cooperative Extension. “Bay-Friendly Garden Walk” offers homeowners and renters a free, one-hour site visit by two UC-certified Master Gardeners who assess the landscape plants and irrigation components for water efficiency. A Garden Walk can help you find a leak, understand your irrigation controller and scheduling, improve soil health and water retention, and learn about water-wise plants. The Master Gardeners will give you ideas on how to incorporate Bay-Friendly principles in your garden, including saving water and energy, building healthy soil, reducing waste in the garden, creating wildlife habitat, protecting local watersheds and contributing to a healthy community.

Call (415) 499-4204 to schedule your free Garden Walk visit.

Bay-Friendly Gardening Workshop Series

Join us this summer for these free, fun-filled workshops!

Saturday, July 17: Bay-Friendly Basics
9:00 a.m. to noon at Earthsite, 85 Bolinas Road, Fairfax
This class provides an overview of the Bay-Friendly philosophy, approach and integrated practices that make for a sustainable garden. The interactive workshop is a mix of lecture and hands-on activities, including:

  • Breakouts on soil, managing pests, and plant selection, where you’ll be introduced to the primary Bay-Friendly maintenance practices.
  • Small group design activity to instill fundamentals and help with getting started on your own garden.

In just three hours you will have multiple opportunities to practice techniques on-site and bring home resources to begin implementing lessons learned. To register for this free class, visit www.bayfriendlycoalition.org/Calendar.shtml#Marin.

For more in-depth information on Bay-Friendly practices, we recommend these upcoming classes:

Saturday, July 31: Gardening from the Ground Up – a workshop on building healthy soil. Learn about soil components and amendments, composting, and sheet-mulching.

Saturday, September 11: Go Native: Planting for Pollinators - an introduction to native plant selection.

Stay tuned for details.

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by Elena Freeman

This week marks the fourth annual “National Pollinator Week” dedicated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to bring awareness and solutions to the urgent issue of declining pollinator populations, including bees, hummingbirds, butterflies, bats, beetles, syrphid flies, and more. These pollinators provide vital links in natural ecosystems, in landscapes and gardens, and in agricultural food production.

Bees pollinate about 30 percent of all food crops, including peaches, plums, apricots, avocados, squash, melons, onion, celery, beets, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, almonds, strawberries, kiwis, walnuts, blackberries, grapes, eggplants, and pears.

Researchers have been trying for years to find the cause of the mysterious insect plague known as colony collapse disorder that is wiping out honeybees around the globe. In the United States, bees are currently disappearing at a rate of 30 percent per year. In China’s pear and apple growing regions, bees have disappeared completely, requiring workers to manually pollinate the fruit trees by swabbing every blossom.

Loss of habitat and pesticide exposure are believed to have weakened the bees’ immune system, making them vulnerable to diseases. Bees need a steady stream of pollen and nectar from a wide variety of flowering plants that bloom at different times. Native wildflowers are especially good habitat providers, because they have co-evolved with local pollinators. In the past, undeveloped areas of wildflowers, trees, and grasses provided food sources and shelter for bees, and farms with multiple, rotating crops provided diversified food sources. However, today in industrialized countries, mono-crop agriculture is on the rise and undeveloped wildlands are shrinking.

What can you do to help save the bees? Set aside a small portion of your garden to plant flowering pollinator-friendly plants, which has the added benefit of attracting other beneficial insects that are natural predators to unwanted bugs. Provide bee nesting spots by leaving some areas of bare, undisturbed soil for ground-nesting bees, leaving some grassy meadow areas unmowed, retaining dead trees and branches, and installing a bee nursery. You can buy or make a wooden bee nursery for native bees, like the one shown on this webpage: http://www.ars.usda.gov/Main/docs.htm?docid=10743 or make one from re-used items as shown here: http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/pr/2009/090320.htm

This blog was inspired by Sara Schmidt’s “Beauty and the Bees” in World Ark, the magazine of Heifer International, Summer 2010.

Other good resources on bees and other pollinators include:

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by Elena Freeman

Do-It-Yourself Home Water SurveyLooking for ways to reduce your water use and your water bill? A new tool is now available on the MMWD website for anyone who wants to make sure their home is “water-wise”: the Do-It-Yourself Home Water Survey. The illustrated step-by-step guide leads you through a series of activities to check your home for indoor and outdoor water leaks, measure flow rates of indoor plumbing fixtures, and check irrigation systems for common problems. If you are an MMWD customer, when you complete and mail in the survey form you can receive free water conservation items.

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by Elena Freeman

Earth Day is coming up on April 22. See below for a listing of local events scheduled to observe the 40th anniversary of this global day that has been set aside to inspire awareness and appreciation for the Earth’s environment. It is a time to celebrate the Earth and to reflect on the future of our environment. What can you do, or change, in your daily life to make our planet healthier? Here’s some food (or drink?) for thought on water and the environment:

It takes about 6 gallons of water to grow a single serving of lettuce. More than 2,600 gallons is required to produce a single serving of steak. (Source: Occidental Arts and Ecology Center (OAEC) website)

U.S. consumption of bottled water in 1978 was 415 million gallons. By 2001 it was 5.4 billion gallons. That’s an increase of 1,300 percent, equaling about 43 billion 16-ounce plastic bottles! (Source: Water Follies: Groundwater Pumping and the Fate of America’s Fresh Waters by Robert Glennon, 2002)

Earth Day Events

Saturday, April 17, 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.: Celebrate Earth Day by volunteering on the beautiful Mt. Tam Watershed! Help MMWD remove invasive periwinkle from the shoreline of Phoenix Lake. Meet at the log cabin by the lake. For more information visit www.marinwater.org or contact our Volunteer Coordinator at 945-1128.

Saturday, April 17: Friends of Corte Madera Creek will host its annual Earth Day cleanup at the Kentfield restoration project. The cleanup begins at 9:30 a.m. For information, call 457-1147.

Thursday, April 22, 7:00 to 9:00 p.m.: “Our Local Foodshed: The Hidden Bounty of Marin.” Learn about “foodsheds.” View the award-winning, 30-minute video documentary, Hidden Bounty of Marin. Have a dialogue with local farmers, educators and locavores. Meet collaborators and find resources. This is a fundraiser for the Novato Community Garden Project. Click here for more information.

Saturday, April 24, 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.: A community celebration with many fun, family-oriented, free activities is planned at College of Marin. There will be music, speakers, local food, art, a puppet show and more. Visit www.earthdaymarin.org.

Saturday, April 24, 9:00 a.m. to noon: The City of San Rafael is calling on volunteers to help clean up the community in honor of Earth Day. Call 458-3407 or visit www.sanrafaelvolunteers.org

Finally, remember to mark your calendars and reserve your spots for our final Bay-Friendly workshop of the season, “Go Natives: Planting for Pollinators” coming up May 1, and for the fourth annual Eco-Friendly Garden Tour on May 15.

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