Wednesday, October 21, 2009

"No Dig" Garden Bed

Digging in our Arizona soils can be a difficult task, especially with the caliche we have. Instead of digging in the soil, try this sustainable and fun family project. Make your own "No Dig Garden Bed"! By doing this you will have a garden bed that's ready to plant in the spring, you will begin composting lots of debris from your yard and you will have done something sustainable in your yard. Here are the steps:

1. Decide where you want your garden bed. Remember you need at least six hours of sunshine, preferably the morning sun, on your garden. And remember the length of your garden beds should run East and West.

2. Lay newspaper or cardboard right on top of the grass. One layer of cardboard or five to ten sheets of newspaper will do the job. A good dimension for one bed is 4' wide by 8' long, but they can be any size that fits your needs. Overlap the edges by a few inches to ensure that you have all of the grass well covered.

2. If you want a boarder around your garden bed, then put it in place now. You can use lumber, plastic, synthetic wood, railroad ties, bricks, rocks, or a number of other items, get creative and sustainable and use something you already have.

3. Wet down the paper or cardboard layer. Give it plenty of water.

4. Start a layering of organic matter. Anything will work for this, leaves, grass clippings, finished or nearly-finished compost, and straw, ripped up newspapers, old vegatables from your pantry or refrigerator. You get the idea!

5. Add the organic matter, in three to four inch layers. At least four layers is best. Your finished height should be one foot tall. The organic matter will decompose over the winter, and the pile will shrink by more than half. Introducing earth worms to your organic matter will speed up the process.

6. Water the entire bed once you're done layering.

7. Spend the winter planning what you're going to put in your new bed.

By spring time, most of the organic matter will be broken down, and you can plant your garden.


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Sustainable Gardening: By The Numbers

1500 lbs: the amount of garbage the average person throws out each year, according to Mark Harris, the author of Embracing the Earth (Noble Press, 1990). Expect to haul only 375 pounds of trash to the curb annually if you compost.

400 percent: the percentage of total vegetables consumed, that were produced in ‘victory gardens’ planted in homes, schools, and farms during World War II.

19lbs/person: the amount of tomatoes consumed per person in the US each year - not counting the tomatoes used to whip up sauce and ketchup. In fact, the United States is second only to Italy in its consumption of tomatoes per capita.

One third: of all garden plants sold in the United States are tomatoes, according to the Seed Savers Exchange.

40 million: acres of lawn exist in the United States, and are the single most irrigated crop, according to NASA. Don't forget to weigh in the fact that it takes 238 gallons of fresh, usually drinking-quality water per person, per day, to keep our lawns pert and verdant.

Source: Planet Green -

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Benefits of Pervious Pavement

A pervious concrete mixture contains little or no sand, creating a substantial void content. Using sufficient paste to coat and bind the aggregate particles together creates a system of highly permeable, interconnected voids that drains quickly. Typically, between 15% and 25% voids are achieved in the hardened concrete, and flow rates for water through pervious concrete are typically around 480 in./hr, although they can be much higher. Both the low mortar content and high porosity also reduce strength compared to conventional concrete mixtures, but sufficient strength for many applications is readily achieved.

There are several benefits to using Pervious Cement, here are a few.

Environmental Benefits:
Pervious concrete pavement systems provide a valuable stormwater management tool under the requirements of the EPA Storm Water Phase II Final Rule. Phase II regulations provide programs and practices to help control the amount of contaminants in our waterways. Impervious pavements-- particularly parking lots-- collect oil, anti-freeze, and other automobile fluids that can be washed into streams, lakes, and oceans when it rains. Pervious concrete pavement is a unique and effective way to address important environmental issues and support green, sustainable growth. By capturing stormwater and encouraging it to seep into the ground, porous concrete is helpful in recharging groundwater, reducing stormwater runoff, and meeting U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) stormwater regulations. In fact, the use of pervious concrete is among the Best Management Practices (BMPs) recommended by the EPA-- and by other agencies across the country-- for the management of stormwater runoff. This technology creates more efficient land use by eliminating the need for retention ponds, swales, and other stormwater management devices.

By capturing the first flush of rainfall and allowing it to percolate into the ground, soil chemistry and biology can then “treat” the polluted water naturally. Thus, stormwater retention areas may be reduced or eliminated, allowing increased land use. Furthermore, by collecting rainfall and allowing it to infiltrate, groundwater and aquifer recharge is increased, peak water flow through drainage channels is reduced, and flooding is minimized. In fact, the EPA named pervious pavements as a BMP for stormwater pollution prevention because they allow fluids to percolate into the soil.

The light color of concrete pavements absorbs less heat from solar radiation than darker pavements, and the relatively open pore structure of pervious concrete stores less heat, helping to lower heat island effects in urban areas.

Trees planted in parking lots and city sidewalks offer shade and produce a cooling effect in the area, further reducing heat island effects. Pervious concrete pavement is ideal for protecting trees in a paved environment (many plants have difficulty growing in areas covered by impervious pavements, sidewalks and landscaping, because air and water have difficulty getting to the roots). Pervious concrete pavements or sidewalks allow adjacent trees to receive more air and water and still permit full use of the pavement. Pervious concrete provides a solution for landscapers and architects who wish to use greenery in parking lots and paved urban areas.

Economic Benefits:
Alternative to Costly Stormwater Management Methods-
Parking areas paved with pervious concrete reduce the need for large detention ponds, because the pavement itself acts as a detention area. Parking lot owners that use pervious will spend fewer dollars on the labor, construction, and maintenance of detention ponds, skimmers, pumps, drainage pipes, and other stormwater management systems. Expensive irrigation systems can also be downsized or eliminated. In reducing runoff from paved areas, pervious concrete reduces the need for separate stormwater retention ponds and allows the use of smaller-capacity storm sewers. This allows property owners to develop a larger area of available property at a lower cost.

Stormwater Impact Fees-
Many government agencies are now implementing stormwater impact fees for all impervious areas. As regulations further limit stormwater runoff, it is becoming more expensive for property owners to develop real estate, due to the size and expense of the necessary drainage systems. Pervious concrete can reduce these fees for the property owner by helping to minimize demands upon sewer systems.

Developers are using pervious concrete for parking areas in order to increase utilization of commercial properties. The land ordinarily devoted to costly stormwater management practices or compliance with maximum impervious area ordinances can now be developed or preserved, enhancing the bottom line.

Low Life-Cycle Cost-
Concrete pavements have a significantly lower life-cycle cost than alternatives such as asphalt. Although the initial cost of pervious installation may be slightly higher, concrete saves money in the long run due to its superior durability and strength. It requires fewer repairs than asphalt, and has a longer overall lifespan as well.

Pervious concrete is also economical in that it minimizes the need for runoff retainers, reducing property costs. There is very little overproduction since it is made directly on-site and as-needed, and it can be recycled once it has reached the end of its life-cycle. Thus pervious concrete is widely recognized as the lowest life-cycle cost option available for paving.

Specifics where pervious concrete qualifies for LEED Green Building Rating System credits. :
LEED Credit SS-C6.1 Stormwater Design - Quantity Control
LEED Credit SS-C6.2 Stormwater Design – Quantity Control
LEED Credit SS-C7.1 Heat Island Effect – Non-Roof
LEED Credit WE C1.1 Water Efficient Landscaping
LEED Credits MR-C4.1 AND MR-C4.2 Recycled Content
LEED Credit MR-C5.1 AND MR-C5.2 Regional Materials

LandFX Design Group Portfolio

Thursday, October 15, 2009

7 Organic Weed Killers you can make at Home

1. One quart white vinegar
¼ cup salt
2 tsp vegetable based liquid soap

In a bucket, mix one quart of white vinegar with ¼ cup of salt. Stir till salt dissolves. Slowly add two teaspoons of vegetable based liquid dish soap. Gently mix and pour solution in your garden sprayer.
Spray directly on the offending weeds at the base using the narrow stream setting. Best if used in direct sunlight and when rain is NOT in the forecast. This organic alternative to Roundup Weed Killer works well for those weeds growing in sidewalk cracks.

2. 3 quarts white vinegar
1 quart vegetable based liquid soap

Pour three quarts of white vinegar in a bucket or directly into your garden sprayer. Slowly pour in one quart of vegetable based liquid dish soap, gently swish to mix.
Spray on leaves and the base of the plants, again using a narrow stream. Be sure to spray only the plants you wish to kill as this is not a selective organic weed killer.
Do not water for three days. Reapply if rain falls before the three days are up.

3. 1 quart water
1 tbsp rubbing alcohol

Pour one quart water into your garden sprayer and add one tablespoon rubbing alcohol. Spray the undersides of the weed you want to kill with a thorough light mist. Again, use care not to spray non-target plants. Increase alcohol content for stubborn weeds.

4. Here is another organic alternative to Roundup Weed Killer for weeds that grow in the cracks of your sidewalk only.
Lightly spray sidewalk weeds with water. Sprinkle weeds with a light layer of table salt. Lightly wet the weeds again. Be sure not to use too much water, you don’t want to wash off the salt or cause runoff.

5. Boiling water method:
This is the simplest organic weed killer. Boil water in your tea kettle, pour it directly on the offending weeds. Be sure to pour close to the weed to minimize splatter and use just enough to cover the weed(s).

6. 4 quarts distilled vinegar
1 cup salt
1 tbsp vegetable based liquid soap
Place four quarts of distilled vinegar in a large pan and heat just until it begins to boil. Turn the burner off. Avoid directly inhaling the fumes. Although they are not dangerous, the fumes from heated vinegar can be overpowering.
Add one cup of salt and stir until the salt crystals are completely dissolved.
Add a tablespoon of dish detergent to the solution and mix well. The dish detergent serves to help the solution adhere to leaves and stems long enough for the vinegar and salt to kill the plant.
Allow the solution to cool and pour into a spray bottle. Apply directly to the plants you wish to kill. This solution will kill any vegetation it comes in contact with.

7. 1 gallon white vinegar
1 oz orange oil
1 oz vegetable based liquid soap

Fill a bucket with 1 gallon of white vinegar, Add 1 ounce of orange oil, Add 1 ounce of liquid dish detergent. Pour the mixture into a large spray bottle. Shake before use, as the oil will separate.
Spray the mixture on the weeds you wish to kill. Be careful to spray in very targeted area, as this mixture will kill any foliage it touches.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

How to Make a Mason Bee Block

Untreated wood block (Blocks can be made from wood of any shape. You can use a dead tree limb, a fence post, or a scrap of firewood. A block with a slanted end works well for the roof.)
• Drill
• 5/16" drill bit
• Shingle or light piece of wood larger than the wood block• Finishing nails
• Hammer
• String or wire
• Scissors
• Safety glasses


Caution! Always use safety equipment.

1. Drill a hole in the block, starting at one corner of the block’s face. Either side of the block is okay. Drill until the hole is about one half inch from the back of the block. Avoid drilling through the wood.

2. Continue drilling holes, about one inch (finger-width) apart until the block is covered with holes.
3. Use the finishing nails to attach the shingle (or wood piece) to the top of the block. (If your block is slanted at one end, attach the shingle to that end.) The roof should overhang the holes.
4. Hammer a finishing nail into each side of the block.
5. Cut a piece of string. Tie each end to a nail on either side of the bee house.
6. Attach the bee block to a fence, house, garage — anywhere close to flowers. The bees tend to visit flowers closer to home. Hang it from a nail or loop it around a fence post. Make sure the bee block faces South.

Mason bees are effective pollinators and sustainable

Mason Bee, common name for solitary bees that build part or all of their nests with mud or plant fiber chewed into a paste. Some species construct mud nests on exposed surfaces such as rocks. Others construct mud partitions between a linear series of brood cells (compartments for the larvae) that are produced in soil, hollow plant stems, or preexisting cavities, including empty snail shells and insect tunnels bored in wood.

Most mason bees are smaller than honey bees, but some are about the same size as honey bees or slightly larger. They have stout bodies, and many species are metallic green or bluish in color. Mason bees are common in the western United States, especially in forested regions, but they are also found in many other parts of the northern hemisphere. About 140 species of mason bees are found in North America out of about 200 species worldwide. These bees have a sting but do not attack defensively unless handled.

The orchard mason bee, or blue orchard bee, is a metallic blue-black species about 13 mm (0.5 in) long. This bee, native to North America, specializes in collecting pollen from the flowers of fruit trees. In some parts of the United States, the bees are cultivated to pollinate orchard crops, especially apples. This bee nests in holes in wood and the females prefer to make nests close to each other in aggregations. These traits are used to concentrate enough bees in an area for commercial pollination. Blocks of wood with holes drilled in them attract nesting bees. These nest blocks are hung from trees or are placed in shelters for protection from the weather.

Orchard mason bees mate in the spring. The females then begin to collect pollen and lay eggs. Larval bees feed for several weeks inside their closed cells. They pupate in late summer and spend the autumn and winter as adults inside their pupal cocoons in the nest. They emerge from the cocoons in the spring, coinciding with flowering of many orchard crops. The new generation of bees then begins the cycle over again.

Orchard mason bees are very effective pollinators. Two or three females can pollinate the equivalent of a mature apple tree in one season. They fly in cool or rainy weather and can supplement or replace honey bees as commercial pollinators in some situations.