Kim's and Raj's yard in Los Altos Hills in spring 2016, with 98% native cover, started 16 months earlier with 98% weed-covered two acres.
Why have million-dollar weed patches in your yard, when you could have solid local wildflowers and native grasses?
Los Altos Hills flowers blooming spring 2016, after a 100-year absence.
By Craig Carlton Dremann, The Reveg Edge, P.O. Box 361, Redwood City, CA 94064 650-325-7333 Copyright © 2016, all right reserved including the internet. Inventing Licensed Ecological Restoration technologies for grasslands since 1972.
People can come and
view the best wildflower planting in the Bay Area in Los Altos
Hills near the
corner of Anacapa and Viscaino in Los Altos Hills. Park at that
corner when you drive up from Purissima, then walk down Viscaino
past the first driveway of the left, and that is where the picture
above was taken.
Or you can drive past the driveway and make a u-turn and park on the shoulder in front of the flowers.
My company, the Reveg
Edge put together the plan
to manage the two acres shared by Kim Scott and her neighbor Raj
Reddy, to convert the hillside normally choked each year by the
fire-hazard annual European weed grasses, back to as close to
100% local native and weed-free vegetation.
The main native plant is the California poppy, but we are experimenting with many local kinds of wildflowers and a few of the dozens of perennial natives grasses that used to grow in abundance in Los Altos Hills, before the annual weed grasses took over, in the 1800s. We have 300 perennial native grasses across the whole State of California, and all of them stay green all summer without any irrigation, and most are low-growing.
Kim and her neighbor Raj (the co-chair of the Los Altos Hills Environmental Initiative Committee), as an alternative to endless weed-mowing each year, this project of ecological restoration of the local grassland community is producing an important environmental initiative, to change the ecology of the area back to what existed historically during the Ohlone-Muwekma Indian days.
The project started only 16 months ago, and the most important weed management strategies are:
(1.) Identify the natives that already grow on the property, and conserve and protect and encourage them to spread and cover more area.
(2.) To mow the weeds while they are still green, before the seeds turn brown, that way you eliminate a whole new generation of weeds next year.
(3.) Rake off all
of the cut weed straw, because it contains natural herbicide-like
chemicals called allelochemicals, that if there are still native
plants or native seeds in the soil, suppresses the native from
sprouting or growing.
When you cut the weeds while still green, and rake away the straw, that allows dormant native seeds to sprout, if they are still in the soil. You might see native wildflowers and native grasses sprout up on their own, without sowing a single seed, because the native seeds in California can lay dormant underneath the weeds, sometimes for over 100 years.
Once the weeds were managed last spring and through last summer at Kim's, three kinds of native grasses have sprouted up, plus three kinds of wildflowers came up on their own. All of the poppies so far were planted from commercial seed, but for longer term survival, the local genetic material is best to use, called "local ecotypes".
There is commercial bulk seed of a few of the "Los Altos Hills ecotypes" of native grasses, the Purple needlegrass for the sun and the California brome and the Blue Wild Rye for the shade under oaks, all of these are the "Arastradero Preserve ecotypes".
Each town on the Peninsula should have bulk seeds grown out of their most common wildflowers and native grasses, for example the California poppy "Woodside" ecotype" and the "Atherton" ecotype, and the "Hillsborough" ecotype all should be available in pound quantities for the homeowners of each town to be able to use.
However, until a
contract is made with a commercial seed company to produce, for example, the
"Los Altos Hills ecotype" of wildflowers like poppies
or lupines, there is no bulk seed available currently, and it
costs about $10,000 per flower to get those seeds grown out in
bulk, plus the cost of hand-harvesting the stock seeds
Everyone has seen California native grasses, and maybe did not know it--when they look at the California flag, underneath the Grizzly Bear are 13 bunches of Purple Needlegrass, because when the flag was designed in 1850, that grass was so common and distinctive-looking, that it was put in the design of our flag.
Now that the European annual grasses have taken over, the Native Grassland or bunchgrass habitat is the rarest plant community we have, based on the original extent that occurred Statewide. The basic rule of thumb in April each year, is if you only see green on the hills of California and no wildflowers in that area, you are only looking at European weed grasses, and the native are close to extinct in that spot.
You can drive for
hundreds of miles
across the State each spring, and only see solid European weed
grasses, instead of any of the original California wildflowers.
The other surprise that we found at Kim's and Raj's is that the grazing during the Spanish Ranch Grant days, the cows and sheep walked off with a lot of the soil nutrients and soil organic matter, to the point that today when you sow seeds like California poppies, the soil nutrient levels could be too low for seedling survival. For this project we had to add an enormous amount of organic matter, nitrogen, and phosphorus fertilizers.. Some soil tests by Waypoint Lab off Winchester in San Jose before planting, can give a clue on what missing nutrients must be added in order for the natives to thrive.
The lack of soil organic matter in the top two inches of soil was another huge issue for Kim's and Raj's property, that it was stripped off when the bunchgrasses became spatially extinct, because with the organic matter went the soil fungi that have an association with the native plants, and help provide nutrients to the native plants. The organic matter also acts like a sponge for the nutrients, releasing them over time, and conserving moisture during drought periods.
So if your property has weed patches that are mowed each year in the hills of the Peninsula and when you look at the unirrigated parts of your property and see weeds instead of solid wildflowers, why not convert those weed patch back to the original local native wildflowers and native grasses?
The "Before-Picture" a typical Peninsula property in spring, a solid million-dollar weed patch of Italian thistle instead of local wildflowers?
Why keep mowing a weed patch when you could have solid wildflowers instead?
You can read where this process of weed management and ecological restoration of California grasslands was invented, converting weeds back to solid natives when working on Michael Shaw's 74 acres south of Santa Cruz in the 1990s, and Michael's property went from 1% native cover to 94% native cover with over 100 kinds of natives sprouting up once the weeds were managed, at http://www.ecoseeds.com/shaw.pdf.
Call if you need any more information, and everyone in California mowing their grassland weeds this month, if they can cut them while still green, and rake away all of the cut straw, by next year you might uncover some hidden native treasures that have not bloomed for 100 years or more. Even if you are late and cut the weeds when brown, always rake off the straw and compost it, instead of leaving it on the land to poison another year of wildflowers.
My process to homeowners, is the first time go through the property with the owners and take samples of all of the native plants and all of the weed plants, and tape those examples into file folders, so that the property owners can learn what needs to be managed, and what plants need to be conserved.
All of the properties that I have worked on within a mile east or west of I-280, there has always been a few natives left under the oaks, and discovering what is left gives us an excellent clue on what to bring back in the place of the weeds in the future.
That means Hillsborough, Woodside, Portola Valley, and Los Altos Hills, plus the Stanford hills, and our open space preserves like Japer Ridge, Edgewood Preserve and Russian Ridge, could be brought back to their stunning wildflower glory-days.
February 2016, Brown color is the mulch and the "divots' are where the poppy seeds were planted.
NUMBER OF HOMES and acres on the Peninsula, that have the potential to have solid native grasslands and wildflower fields in the place of million-dollar weed-patches?
ATHERTON - Potential unirrigated areas = 2,505 homes.
EDGEWOOD COUNTY PRESERVE = 400 weed infested acres
HILLSBOROUGH - Potential unirrigated areas = 3,696 homes.
LOS ALTOS HILLS - Potential unirrigated areas = 2,829 homes.
PORTOLA VALLEY -
Potential unirrigated areas = 1,746 homes.
PENINSULA OPEN SPACE TRUST Cloverdale Ranch = 5,600 weed-infested acres
RUSSIAN RIDGE, Mid-peninsula Open Space = 3,000 weed-infested acres.
SAN BRUNO MOUNTAIN County park = 2,000 weed-infested acres.
STANFORD CAMPUS including
1,000 weed-infested acres at Jasper Ridge.
Unirrigated and undeveloped weed-infested land = 4,200 acres.
WOODSIDE - Potential unirrigated areas = 1,977 homes.
TOTAL unirrigated weed-infested areas around homes, that could be future wildflower fields = 12,753 !
SELECTED WEED-INFESTED OPEN SPACES, that could be converted back to wildflower fields = 15,200 acres or about 24 square miles.
"When you look out the window, you should be looking at a masterpiece landscape painted by Claude Monet, because that is what you paid fot that view. But instead your unirrigated landscape is a million-dollar weed patch?
Absent are the original native plants that can give the place charm and beauty, and all that needs to be done, is to prime the canvas and replant the landscape. When you look out the window, do you want to look at a weed patch or a Claude Monet landscape?" -- Craig Carlton Dremann (2016)
For more "All- IN-WITH-NATIVES" discussions>>SEE HERE
Pictures of the WEED GRASSES and NATIVE GRASSES>>SEE HERE
Los Altos Hills TOWN CRIER newspaper
article May 25, 2016
Updated June 1, 2016