City Hall–Gone to Seed? UPDATE!

In my earlier post on the new City Hall landscape (See City Hall–Gone to Seed?) I said: “It was not clear to me who was going to oversee the (ongoing) maintenance of the new landscape.  At the time I thought it might be a volunteer group, but I later learned that maintenance was to be the responsibility of the City of Petaluma.”

As an elaboration on this point, I received an e-mail from Jane Hamilton of Rebuilding Together Petaluma (RTP) which adds further detail. It is included here with Jane’s permission…

“Rebuilding Together Petaluma was to supply the volunteers and event management, Daily Acts was to supply the expertise, training and design input, and Petaluma Bounty was to provide expertise, design input and ongoing oversight and maintenance of the vegetable planter boxes and community garden portion,  while maintenance and completion of the grounds surrounding City Hall was to be the sole responsibility of the City of Petaluma, as is the maintenance of all of their properties. The non-profits involved did their part beautifully. Now that its spring, I am sure the City must have imminent plans to fulfill their part.”

With respect to the last sentence in Jane’s e-mail, I hope that is the case.

Mulch Madness…Turf Insanity?

Many residents in Petaluma have taken up the call to mulch their turf areas and to convert their landscapes to low water plantings. Mulch Madness has even reached many of our public areas and parks…including City Hall…

However, as fate would have it (Doesn’t it always?), a city in Southern California takes a dim view of turf removal and seeks to fine a homeowner. 

A case of insane bureaucrats out of touch with water reality? For details, see this report in CaliforniaCityNews…

A Green Orange is not so Green: Water Wars over Couple’s Lawn

That Pesky Bermuda Grass!

It has been an excellent rainy season for lawn conversions and sheet mulching. Susan Garbert (Petaluma’s Duchess of Mulch) recently alerted me to another residential project on the East Side she had just completed…

Sheet mulching is an effective and economical way to transform a turf landscape. I have written about this technique to a veritable fare thee well.  (See Journal Of A Lawn Junkie)

However, there is one situation where it is a somewhat problematic solution–lawns with a significant amount of Bermuda grass are not amenable to traditional sheet mulching. And so it was for the one remaining patch of turf in our back yard–the secret turf stash held back by this Lawn Junkie –half of which was Bermuda!

Nonetheless, there are some ways of dealing with the Bermuda problem and we took on the challenge last December.

The approach recommended by Susan was to remove as much of the Bermuda as possible before sheet mulching. 

In anticipation of the project, I made the traditional last cut…

Then, I placed the last remaining piece of lawn equipment in the driveway with the usual Petaluma Disposal Sign…

Within the hour, the neighborhood mail carrier claimed the lawn mower.

A few weeks later, Susan Garbert showed up with her crew to begin digging out the ubiquitous, persistent Bermuda grass… 

In short order, the ground was ready for cardboard and mulch… 

A few months later…February 2010 to be precise…a new landscape ready for Spring…

So far, there are no signs of any new Bermuda grass. However, we will keep an eye out for attempts by the Bermuda interloper to return.*

The next few months will be spent “planning & planting” the new landscape.

*NOTE: From time to time a question comes up about sheet mulching over sod lawns. Lawn sod has plastic netting in its base and a few people have asked me whether it has to be removed before sheet mulching. According to Susan Garbert: “You still just sheet mulch it. The plastic from the sod is there, and you have to tear through it when you plant. As the soil texture improves, it is not that much of an issue at all. Remember that all perennial plants are put in. It’s not like you need to have it clear for roto-tilling and planting rows of corn.”
For additional information on sheet mulching over Bermuda lawns…

Petaluma’s Remarkable Water Conservation

All the sturm & drang at the November 2, 2009 Petaluma City Council Meeting precluded press coverage of a remarkable presentation by Mike Ban and David Iribarne of the Department of Water Resources and Conservation. 

As your Resident Mulch Correspondent, I will correct this media oversight!

The Ban/Iribarne Council update regarding the lawn transformation project at City Hall included a striking chart of facts and figures regarding overall water usage and conservation in Petaluma. To say it is dramatic is an understatement…

Water Slide 1

These figures reflect the cumulative effects of people using more efficient fixtures and appliances as well as replacing their lawns with low water landscaping. For example…

  • The report mentioned that one residential household reduced its landscaping water requirement by 42% or 37,000 gallons.
  • Friedman Brothers  Hardware Distribution Center on Lakeville Highway cuts its usage by 30% or 692,000 gallons by replacing 35,000 sq. ft. of turf with low water landscaping.

Clearly, the efforts of individuals, businesses, and the City of Petaluma are bearing fruit.  Going forward, the numbers will improve even further if homeowners and businesses continue their efforts.  In addition to properties already converted, the City is planning to sheet mulch or convert the turf areas at the Police Station, Fire Station 3, the Library, and Wiseman park.

According to David Iribarne, to date the City has already transformed 103,000 sq. ft. of turf on City properties, saving 5 million gallons of water annually.

For a copy of the complete presentation to the City Council, click on Petaluma Water Conservation Report

Valley Vista’s Harvest Fair

The Valley Vista Elementary Harvest Fair is an annual event to raise funds to support the Teaching Garden at the school. This year it had the added flavor of being on Halloween.

But how likely is it for an East Side Blogger to cover a harvest fair on the far West Side? Not very, unless several strong hints come over-the-transom before Halloween. And come they did…

  • First, there was Frances Rivetti’s Blog on the upcoming Halloween Harvest Fair
  • Next, I heard mention of it several times during the lawn transformation project at City Hall on October 24
  • Finally, Susan Garbert sent me a flyer promoting the Valley Vista Harvest Fair– “Aztec Dance, Pancake B-fast, Baker Creek
    Seed & Cricket Landscapes, Gardening demos, Native Plant Sale,
    Pumpkin Pie Sale, Crafts and Costume Parade.”

All of these hints played into my general fondness for Valley Vista Elementary as I had worked there as a poll worker through six elections.

So, I grabbed my Mulch Correspondent gear and set out for Valley Vista last Saturday morning.

…Of course, I shot a few photos…

Crowd Collage 2Croud Collage 1In THe Garden Collage


Harvest Fair Cam 1 010Garbert Collage

Aztec Dancers

Aztec 2Aztec 1Aztec 4


Raffle CollagePrincipal Collage

According to the Valley Vista Web Site: 

“In 2000, we broke ground on one of the first teaching gardens in the county. With a newly hired Garden Coordinator, we set out to educate our students about nutrition, ecology, health, life cycles of plants, cooking, and all the other wonderful lessons a teaching garden offers.”

“Currently, our kids all have 30 minutes of garden instruction  weekly focused on cooking/nutrition, stewardship (planting, garden maintenance, recycling etc.) and science. We have two 10 week programs running in the Fall and Spring.”

The Great Petaluma Squash Mystery

By way of background, we are in our second year of serving as caretaker to our new Habitat Landscape– the former front lawn. While we have remained generally faithful to the dictates of low water native plantings, I have also experimented with various other plants. To put it simply, if I get a seed, I’m inclined to plant it to see what happens.

A certain resident of the West Side, who sometimes writes as Emperor Norton II  gave us some acorn squash seeds. Now at this point I must step out of the narrative line to point out that I do not have a clue about squashes of any kind.  However, my wife said she liked acorn squash (although I don’t remember her ever eating one) so I planted the seeds.

And they grew. Lord, did they grow. Monster plants with monster fruit.

Now I, not knowing anything about what an acorn squash is supposed to look like, kept tending  the plants.  Then my wife suggested that they did not look like acorn squash and pointed one out at the grocery store.  Sure enough, they did not look the same.  But a photo will allow you to be the judge of what was growing in our Habitat…

Name That Squash

I presented the above “evidence” to the seed provider, Norton II and demanded an explanation. He demurred, harvested the evidence and returned home.

Later he submitted a written response–through his lawyer…


We have secured further evidence in the ongoing case of the Squash Caper (no not capers). 

It seems that the seed supplier–who now is hiding behind his lawyer (me) and refusing to talk to the press–was saving both acorn squash seed and spaghetti squash seed, and dried them appropriately.  But without admitting guilt or assuming responsibility (To quote  Simpson, himself a recovering attorney: “We admit nothing! We deny everything!  We demand uncontroverted proof!”), there is a possibility that when the seeds went into an envelope and got labeled, that seed labeled as acorn squash and given to one Frank Simpson, as part of a TARP (Total Acorn Reparation Program) Bailout might have been mislabeled and might have been in fact spaghetti squash seed.  

While we stipulate to the facts of the obvious results that what actually grew in Simpson’s yard did behave and look like a spaghetti squash, and in fact looks increasingly like a spaghetti squash as it gets closer to maturity, and in fact said squashes grown by Simpson are exhibiting a slight yellowing around the stem as they mature, we will not accept any financial or punitive responsibility for the resources expended by Simpson, his worker bees, or his habitat birds in the growing of spaghetti squash advertised as acorn squash, insofar as the seeds in question, once transfered to Simpson’s custody were no longer under constant surveillance and may have been switched by nefarious evildoers, and the planting of said seed was performed without observation by opposing counsel making it in fact impossible to be certain the source of the plants actually placed in the ground that produced the offensive squash. 

Furthermore, as Simpson has destroyed all evidence of the plants themselves by their removal from his habitat it is now claimed by us that the squash in question, presented by Simpson as evidence, cannot be confirmed as the squash that were growing in his habitat in that they were picked without the presence of  Norton II’s counsel to observe, and were in fact picked before they had the opportunity to reach their full potential as living spaghetti squashes.   

Because those raised by nuns were taught not to waste food, Norton II intends to keep the evidence presented by Mr. Simpson and see if they will continue to ripen in his root cellar and attain a more yellow color, at which point Norton II will attempt to consume them with homemade tomato sauce. 

Case closed

Dewey, Cheatum & Howe Esq et. al. etc.


READER NOTE: For an update on the Petaluma Strawberry Scene (Click Here)