Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Reclaimed Water: Municipal Projects, CalTrans Landscaping & Pompous Grass Resorts

I'd almost be willing to except Tamarisks as an alternative - Okay, well maybe not
Desert Willow Golf Resort
So let's first start with what I call the Pompous Grass Resorts which are nothing more than ecosystem habitats for the rich and famous down in the desert. And you thought I misspelled the name for a species of fountain grass! Nope, I did however type the term Pompous Grass with an intended purpose. Most of you will recognize the scenery above as somewhere in the Coachella Valley. I'm not exactly a fan of such environments for the wealthy, especially in an environment which is costly to maintain and taxing on precious rare resources where they simply don't exist. I an also not fan of Golf, though I consider it none of my business if others do. I also found it difficult working for many of the local eccentric elites which made up the bulk of my customer base when I engaged in another line of employment in another life so to speak. Some time back, I believe perhaps in February 2014, there was an article in Time Magazine which  reported on the visit by the US President who arrived in the Coachella Valley. Of course as usual, many were critical of his stay at the Walter Annenberg or Sunnylands Estate and the Porcupine Creek Estate where he supposedly played golf amid the drought crisis. Both these courses are closed to the public and reserved for people of special privilege, irrespective of what privileged background they may come from. To be fair, every single Politician around the globe from every ideological background has visited and stayed here over the decades. This shouldn't be a surprise to anyone since people of high public office ALL live a privileged lifestyle, even if their ideological core values condemn such things as an  obscene lifestyle of material possession. It goes with the job and will never change no matter the philosophical label some attach to themselves. The article however, did make some good points about Golf Courses down in Coachella Valley. 
"The 124 golf courses in the Coachella Valley consume roughly 17 percent of all water there, and one quarter of the water pumped out of the region’s at-risk groundwater aquifer, according to the Coachella Valley Water District. Statewide, roughly one percent of water goes to keep golf courses green. Each of the 124 Coachella Valley courses, on average, uses nearly 1 million gallons a day due to the hot and dry climate, 3-4 times more water per day than the average American golf course."
(source)
Wow, each 124 courses use 1 millions gallons of water a day, which is not surprising given the extreme hot and dry climatic environment they are location. Of course to justify the existence of this industry in the desert, they claim to ONLY use reclaimed water. In fact I will often hear people defend the existence of such businesses who insist, "They only use reclaimed water". Still, that's a lot of water which considering the presence climate shift crisis, one would assume  could be put to better uses. Even so, the Sunnyland Estate has made an official Public Relations Statement on the subject.
"The Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands has taken significant  measures to reduce water usage. In consideration of the  conditions that led Governor Brown to make a drought  declaration, reducing water consumption is a more important  priority than ever." 
(source - Sunnylands.org)

Commendable, but is it enough, especially since 1 million gallons a day goes to entertain a handful of an elite minority at these places ? Obviously Golf Courses like the Annenberg Estate are easy targets for no other reason than they are so huge and cannot be dismissed or ignored so easily. The term I used to describe the main plant used at such desert Golf Courses is, "Pompous Grass", which are nothing more than non-native exotic grasses from an entirely foreign environment. Short rooted and always thirsty for water and equally hungry for those chemical fertilizers which keep them green. They are indeed a unnatural water resource waster no matter what label you attach to the water's origin. And mind you, these are water resources that were originally taken from far away from somewhere else and transported here. But besides the exotic water loving grasses, there are examples which are in need dire change and not mentioned in any of the articles which deserve equal criticism. I've written about this before. Tamarisk wind and privacy breaks. Take another look at an older photograph of the Annenberg Estate. I chose this one because it beautifully highlights and contrasts this Wealthy Compound with the surrounding desert environment. Today the raw land in the background for the most part is presently occupied. It's surrounded by a dense wall of Tamarisk which are topped every so often for maintenance. In the distance you can also see the windbreak barrier lining the right-of-way for Southern Pacific Railroad & Interstate 10. 


 aerial photograph taken by Lawrence Levy in 1983
I actually wrote about my feeling towards Tamarisk or Salt Cedar being used as windbreaks and a better solution of replicating the natural structure of Mesquite Dunes as a replacement. Many things done in the past were out of ignorance as well as quick fixes for profit. We do however live in a time of greater understanding of nature and practical experience. Anyway, I wrote my account of Salt Cedar and desert infrastructure solutions utilizing & replicating things found and observed in Nature was here:

Mesquite Dunes: Practical Solution to Tamarisk Removal & Replacement



There was a miniseries film back in 1993 called "The Fire Next Time" which starred Craig T. Nelson. Here's an overview of what the film was about by Brian Dillard: "This ecological drama, set in 2017, presents a world where pollution has generated ever more unpredictable weather and rendered large chunks of the planet into disaster zones. After a hurricane destroys everything they've built for themselves, Louisiana shrimp fisherman Drew Morgan (Craig T. Nelson) and his family, including wife Suzanne (Bonnie Bedelia), flee through a series of refugee camps to upstate New York, where Drew's estranged former business partner Larry Richter (Jurgen Prochnow) -- who has designs on Suzanne -- lives in comfort and affluence. Along the way, Drew loses his daughter, Linnie (Ashley Jones), to an agrarian doomsday cult; watches his elderly father (Richard Farnsworth) suffer a stroke; and almost drives away his confused oldest son, Paul (Justin Whalin). When Larry offers to shelter Drew's family if Drew himself will leave, Suzanne and the kids rally behind him. Things go awry, however, when an attempt to smuggle themselves across the border ends with Craig washed up on Canadian shores and the rest of the family stranded and penniless back in America. Originally presented as a two-part miniseries, "The Fire Next Time" premiered on CBS on April 18 and 20, 1993."  What is it about the year 2017 and global warming ? This is the same 2017 date in which things started going wrong in another iconic Sci-Fi film called "Soylent Green" which starred Charlton Heston in yet another futuristic Global Warming disaster scenario. In the film "The Fire Next Time", Craig T. Nelson's character, Drew Morgan has problems with his Son, Paul [played by Justin Whalin] who hates the life the family must endure and runs away to live with his rich uncle Buddy Eckhard [played by Charles Haid] who profits off the misfortunes of the common people who are suffering through the climate change. Uncle Buddy lives in Palm Springs, has a posh air-conditioned home, has employee servants who was his expensive cars out in the open, has a plush green lawn all of which are extremely expensive and against the law of that time to possess. But he explains to his nephew that he's rich and can pay for it and it's all about who you know. Of course the kid is impressionable. But the attitude of Uncle Buddy Eckhard isn't that far fetched. My former Ag Instructor from CalPoly San Luis Obispo who was pressured by an industrial giant who threatened the college to fire him for his sustainable farming course and comments he made about water being wasted in the San Joaquin's western side, recently wrote me this about the coming castastrophic ecological events headed towards California, "Never in the history of civilization have people been able to sustain themselves irrigating a desert. We are seeing that play out on a large stage. There will be a lot of pain and suffering. Of course, the 1% won't be affected....but the other 99% are in for some big shocks over the next century." I think things are coming to a head sooner than later. It's about "The Fire This Time"
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Photo Mine

Hwy 52 and 67 Interchange, Santee California

Photo Mine
This all brings me to another  example which is closer to home, or well my old growing up stomping grounds between El Cajon and Santee California. There is a Freeway interchange where attempts at landscaping with California natives is certainly commendable and welcome, but falls short because of poor design and short sighted maintenance planning from it's beginning. A sign on the site proclaims how recycled water is being incorporated into the natural beautification project. Again, commendable, but it lacks foresight and actual knowledge of what and how the healthy ecosystem actually needs for it's continual healthy function. Mostly it's the inadequate irrigation design they used for establishing the native plant Xeriscape. Again, very very commendable, but poorly planned and managed. As I've stated before, native plants want deep subsoil moisture during the hotter months which allows them to shift into maintenance mode away from the new seasons growth mode. Deep Pipe irrigation actually works in conjunction with the vegetation's own self-regulating hydraulic lift and redistribution which is further enhanced by a healthy mycorrhizal network working within the distribution system. They don't want their soil surface sprayed with token amounts of water through Rainbird sprinkler heads. This not only creates weeds, but encourages tender succulent growth on the plants which are subject to sucking pests such as aphids and the transmitting of several blight pathogens like powdery mildew and others. At that point control is nothing more than a chemical answer and no one should want anything to do with that. Not only is it unnecessary and preventable, but saves maintenance budget costs for cities and states. Not to mention worker's hourly wages which could be spent elsewhere.

Image Mine

You can pick out a fair number of native California plants here, but also notice the almost chocking presence of weeds everywhere in between. Commendable that they are using reclaimed water, also commendable in their choice of some native plants, but it's clearly being wasted by the irresponsible watering technology and techniques which in my opinion are out of date and antiquated. Take a look below at why. Among the many native plants which definitely have aesthetic value, that were planted are California Holly, Laurel Sumac, Matilija Poppy, Coast Live Oak, etc. However on closer inspection they also used other native plants which in my opinion are not necessarily of the ornamental value kind, especially when it comes to the urban Landscape where people are driving slower and concentrated such as at an interchange with numerous on and off ramps and other exists. For example I saw California sagebrush (Artemisia californica), Black sage (Salvia mellifera), White sage (Salvia apiana), California buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum), Coast brittle-bush (Encelia californica, etc, etc, etc. All kool plants in my opinion and of great wildlife value for local critters, but they dry out and tend to be rangy looking. Now, on down the road in areas of the roadway where they have blasted through the mountain which creates large roadway bank easements, that's great, those plants work perfect there and will adapt and perfectly take care of themselves over time.  But the importance of such State or city funded & sponsored roadway beautification projects is that they should also want to encourage the public to do likewise. Many native plants,  while they all have value and importance to ecosystem function, are often just not equal in their aesthetic value in appearance, some being rangy, which is folk's impression when you suggest going Native. Many of the plants I spoke of earlier along the Palo Colorado Canyon Road in Central California are if anything beautiful deep evergreen which is what you want for public eye appeal. 


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What could be wrong with this you wonder ? It wastes water and I don't care if it is only reclaimed water which is considered not good enough for drinking. It's valuable water none the less and they are throwing away a valuable resource that is especially now almost worth it's weight in gold. We're not even talking evapotranspiration here from the vegetation leaves. We're talking surface evaporation off a dry surface which probably doesn't soak in all that well, We're also talking about the majority of the mist of which blows off into the wind rather than on the proposed target. This also facilitates the production of non-mycorrhizal ruderals otherwise known as weeds which compete for water and nutrients and whose sole offensive purpose in life is to mass reproduce themselves by means of seed production which in turn spreads more of themselves across the landscape. That creates tougher maintenance costs in chemicals beside man hours which would be better spent elsewhere. Notice now another important issue below. Non-Native invasive shrubs and trees like that of the Tamarisk or Salt Cedar. Incredibly, like Cottonwood and Willow, they have a cottony seed that only has a short window of viability and opportunity to germinate. Oddly enough I've even seen Cottonwood and Willow volunteer germinate under such wet landscape conditions. That in itself should be an indicate of water overuse, since the presence of such trees represents a riparian ecosystem. But the wet surface conditions of the wasted reclaimed water used have allowed this environment to be favourable to Tamarix establishment. There are literally 100s of small Tamarix seedlings and saplings at this very interchange landscape. Take a look below here.


image Mine

Salt Cedar (Tamarix)



image Mine Salt Cedar (Tamarix) 
Seriously, who wants this in their landscape ? Now I've tried to have an open mind about Tamarisk and I am certain they play major important ecosystem roles where they originate from in North Africa, Middle east & China, but just not here. The last thing anyone needs is a Tamarix Tree in the landscape which suck far more water than a Native plant.


image Mine

Matilija Poppy (Romneya coulteri)



image Mine

Laurel Sumac (Malosma laurina)


So simple, even a child gets this
I've previously written about far superior types of irrigation before. In California and the rest of the Southwest, the Rainbird technology for most landscapes whether used by private property owners or commercial activities is wasteful and should be replaced with far better intelligent technology, especially considering the times we live in. Having been a landscape Supervisor, I can tell you that most irrigation has to be inspected on almost a daily basis for debris and other forms of malfunction. Every morning on the properties I managed, I inspected all irrigation heads for possible failure to deliver properly. Especially in lawns where in a matter of days, dry patches and brown discoloration are a sign water is not hitting it's target. This isn't surprising since most of the irrigation heads are of a pop-up and hidden in ground design. When the irrigation timing is finished and the spray heads fall back into their tubes in the soil, they take with them loose debris which along with the reverse suction created by the vacuum within the pipes when water shuts down, the debris is then pulled into the emitters. Although most of these heads have a plastic strainer to collect debris down inside, it's still a maintenance time waster for me, and I feel the same about most drip system emitter attachments as well. Mostly the problem with them is the hard water mineral deposits and build up which clogs the spray openings. I'm sure the reclaimed water is even worse. In any event, deep pipe irrigation should be used more. It also doesn't have to be an expensive undertaking, especially if a homeowner, landscape company or the landscape division of a governmental agency has capable problem solving employees who understand the basic fundamentals for the architectural designing skills necessary to even build or develop such a simple system from scratch. It would also be help if such institutions had an educational program on a regular basis of just how most all plant communities actually work or function in the wild and how practical application in replication can be made. Not only would this instill deeper appreciation for the plant world & their employment, but it also could be tailored to the exact plant community they have chosen to install as the theme for their landscape. 



Image: Hunter Industires

Deep Irrigation Methods for Training Deeper Rooting networks

I've written previously as I've stated about this before in the link above. Picture the above illustration as a typical California native tree, especially an Oak Tree. This underground location in the animated illustration is where they actually want and need water in the summer time. Irrespective of the soil type, this is where most all plant's in dry locations need their moisture during the hotter months of the year and this is where many and most of the giant majestic trees like Oaks and Sycamores obtain their water anyway. This is obvious when you drive past almost any bajada or alluvial floodplain in Southern California. Take a drive by any of the east/west Freeway road corridors from Los Angeles to San Bernardino, and you will find great examples of large mature trees whose sole source of surface water is the rainy season, but whose prime source of hydration comes from deep down under. You won't have to venture off far from the freeways at all since most all of them cross over these giant geological structures throughout their corridor routes. My favourite example is driving north on I-215 from San Bernardino to Cajon Pass via Devore. Notice on your right hand side especially the major lone Sycamores here and there, even though some are stunted, still you have to ask yourself why does such a water loving tree exist on such a dry rocky sandy site where even perennial or even annual spring stream runoff is nonexistent ? It's because something is going on deep under ground. This is where light bulbs should be turning on under your thinking caps right now. Ask yourself, How can I replicate that natural system and save water in my landscape, and in some instances almost eliminating it altogether ? You should also consider that this same basic need of natives are also the same exacting requirements with many similar outsider exotic plants used in landscaping today. The exception to that rule would be tropical plant communities and plants from Boreal climates like where I live now. Take a quick look at this simple quote from a great article where Science is finally recognizing the important roles properly constructed plant communities play in Earth's Climate. It's far more than simply looking pretty for us. 
"Scientists have assumed a simple model of plants sucking water out of the soil and spewing water vapor into the atmosphere."
"The new study in the Amazonian forest shows that trees use water in a much more complex way: The tap roots transfer rainwater from the surface to reservoirs deep underground and redistribute water upwards after the rains to keep the top layers moist, thereby accentuating both carbon uptake and localized atmospheric cooling during dry periods."
"Trees have long been known to lift water from the soil to great heights using a principle called hydraulic lift, with energy supplied by evaporation of water from leaf openings called stomata. Twenty years ago, however, some small plants were found to do more than lift water from the soil to the leaves - they also lifted deep water with their tap root and deposited it in shallow soil for use at a later time, and reversed the process during the rainy season to push water into storage deep underground. Dawson discovered in 1990 that trees do this, too, and to date, so-called hydraulic redistribution has been found in some 60 separate deeply rooted plant species." 
Deep-rooted plants have much greater impact on climate than experts thought
Failure and/or refusal to acknowledge the great sophistication which is our plant world is put together and works in harmony with each other along with the major mechanism roles their infrastructure plays in weather creation and cloud formation just doesn't cut it anymore. BTW, the quote above and below in yellow are from Todd Dawsonprofessor of integrative biology at UC Berkeley,
 and his team published back in 2006 and here we are 8 years later dealing with the same ignorance and a climate in far worse shape than it was then. Again, no excuse not to know how to replicate a natural system within any human construct. This is especially true where designing urban landscapes or engineering a habitat restoration using the old outdated antiquated methods is an irresponsible deliberate act siding comfortably with ignorance. At one time people [especially those in position of responsible oversight] could claim ignorance. Repeat, there is too much info out there now for designers, engineers and architects to claim ignorance for their improperly designed installations.
"The process is a passive one, he noted, driven by chemical potential gradients, with tree roots acting like pipes to allow water to shift around much faster than it could otherwise percolate through the soil. In many plants that exhibit hydraulic redistribution, the tap roots are like the part of an iceberg below water. In some cases these roots can reach down more than 100 times the height of the plant above ground. Such deep roots make sense if their purpose is to redistribute water during the dry season for use by the plant's shallow roots, though Dawson suspects that the real reason for keeping the surface soil moist is to make it easier for the plant to take in nutrients." 
Saying we just never knew this before isn't any longer a viable excuse. It's as bad as those who condemned the Ascension Island success story with the cloud forests which now presently create their own unique weather & climate. People have got to start reassessing their support in these organizations which insist they are all about a biodiverse environment when in reality what they are really interested in is ideological indoctrination around the global in another  fatally flawed political worldview and the corrupting power that comes with it. Their actions clearly speak louder than their words. I get politicians being uninformed, but the people on the ground and those advising them should have known better.


Image: Colleen Sasser, Asuza California

Santa Fe Dam Recreation Area, Nature Center
Another beautiful example of majestic large trees in alluvial floodplains is the region of Irwindale California which is a massive floodplain re-routed, channeled with concrete and manipulated so much by mankind's need for raw building materials, housing and road right-of-way corridors. Still we have remnants of trees of which whose seed was deposited decades ago in the past during a very heavy rainy event like an El Nino pattern over a few years time. No doubt many more 1000s of such trees here were germinated at the same time, competition became stiff and heavy, with only the toughest trees fortunate enough to put down roots deep into the earth and tap into the underground aquifer. Many urban landscape trees like these examples above would be so easy to pattern after with the right encouragement by landscape architects and developers over a period of a few years. Root training would be easy given all plant's ability at sniffing out the direction of water. A couple weeks ago I wrote about a plant's uncanny ability at sensing out water and sending roots in that direction to tap into that life sustaining resource. Now it isn't necessary to understand the science behind just how a plant is able to do this, but simply knowing about this ability they possess arms one with the knowledge of how to proceed when training plant roots for deeper underground root infrastructure which will benefit for life. 
Water provides a Hydropatterning Blueprint for Rooting Architecture & "Infrastructure" 
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So what about Golf Courses in Deserts ?


Mycorrhizal Application Inc did a test plot of three lawns section in Washington DC as the 2010 photo they posted revealed. Those Washington D.C. Capital Lawns where only the front three areas were treated with MycoApply while the rest had not yet been treated! In fact I remember MycoApply highlighting the experience they had on making application on the White House lawn when Obama became President which was posted on their Facebook page. It proves that commercial applications can be a success, but there also needs to be follow through on maintenance and proper fertilization. Mycorrhizae hate the chemicals conventional landscapers use. Therefore almost a deprogramming and re-education work needs to be done in order for the newer program to remain viable. There is no guarantee that those commercial Golf Courses down in the deserts will ever change. Getting people to think outside the box is tough to do, even if Nature has been doing things a certain way successfully for countless 1000s of years. I'm still no fan of Pompous Grass resorts, but that's just me. If everyone else has to change, then so should they, irrespective of how much money and power they may think they have. Reclaimed Water is as equally valuable as the clean fresh water which comes out of the tap. The present Climate Change reality has finally forced a redefinition that term's true meaning.
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Further Turf Resources for everyone
http://mycorrhizae.com/info-by-industry/turf/
http://mycorrhizae.com/info-by-industry/turf/turf-image-gallery/
Update August 3, 2014: Man-made wetlands turn wastewater into tap water
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Image: Mycorrhizal Applications Inc

One month since sowing, the difference between inoculating one species Glomus intraradices (left) and a 7 endomycorrhizal species inoculation (right) is quite striking. The only difference between the soil/treatments was the biodiversity of the mycorrhizal inoculum.


7 comments:

  1. Oh, and I just got a warning citation from the city of palm desert concerning my "dead grass". I called the head of code enforcement who informed me to go out and water it for 3 minutes twice a day! I tried to explain to him that we are in the middle of a drought, but he wouldn't listen. I'll get another citation if I don't water OR completely replace my side lawn with rock, which I cannot afford to do at this time. It's a real catch-22 for homeowners. Code enforcement officers are on the prowl for dry, dead lawns, but as of August 1, the water waster rules go into effect...Maybe I can use recycled gray water for the lawn?

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    1. I was reading an LA Times article and News video clip where neighbours are turning in neighbours over water wasting scenes which they photograph and send in to officials. I can see this creating more News in the future of conflicts in neighbourhoods.

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  2. By the way, our daughter's high school science project was to use 7 different filters on her brother's shower water and see which one worked best on her bean plants. I simple white coffee filter did the best job. Maybe it is time to recycle water again? Oh, and she got 2nd place in her district. :-) That was the LAST drought...early 1990's.

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    1. That's great. Funny how logical ideas from young folks get more attention

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  3. We have our follow=up visit from the city code enforcement officer tomorrow. I'm betting he STILL isn't going to like the look of our yard...Oh, well...this time, I'll let HUBBY handle him! That should be a real earful! He, he!

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  4. You make so many good points in this. I'm currently designing a large hospital landscape - large areas, low budget, but reclaimed water for irrigation. Many plant limitations due to salts, but opportunities to educate and change design details while increasing asthetics.

    Another point I see is allowing things to go dormant as they do in hot inland areas, like they do in the desert, except in the high desert we get winter dormancy, too. Someone I visted in hot, inland Calabasas last spring, told me how she only likes her area before summer dries out the grasses. And she's a lifelong resident of So Cal. I have no idea what type of celebrity and in what field it will take to turn such illogical, disconected thought to embrace her place. And my guess is that is the majority of thought in the 15+ million people between Santa Barbara, Barstow and Chula Vista.

    She just didn't see the beauty in those beautiful oak savannas around her town, up and down every steep hill and valley, unless all the grass was green. Nor did she see the contrast of that to the oasis in the many commercial landscapes in Calabasas itself, HQ of Valley Crest and obviously influenced by them.

    Some or many people it seems cannot be helped.

    The pop-up irrigation addiction of CalTrans and So Cal in general is something. While lower maintenance than most drip systems, especially poorly-installed/maintained ones, they do create their own problems. I need to see more deep-pipe examples like you show.

    But like quality installs of good drip irrigation and planting areas innoculated with mycorrhizae, that is a tough time-money-skill sell to project owners obsessed with the clock, tight wallets, and who don't embrace the big picture. Add to that most contractors, who don't care, don't know, both, or who are under the gun no matter how well they might be trained.

    I wish we could talk on just this post over a day or more and come up with ideas how to further it all. Something has to radically change.

    Including the comments from Palm Desert - what a crazily false choice from her community and public servant code "officers" - water-sucking lawn in the desert, or pay more to make it even hotter and harsher with rock! How about restoring a desert arroyo into abstractions of ironwoods, palo verdes or smoketrees...creosotes, agaves, penstemons, etc?

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    1. Most of those desert Arroyos are concrete lined channels for diverting floodwaters around valuable real estate tax revenue motherloads

      Designing any landscape with plants requires a considerable knowledge of the various plant communities and their requirements. It also is important for the Landscape Architect to understand the plant's potential in growth. Height, width etc. What will make perfect background plants and which ones for the foreground, especially with eye appeal from every human conceived pathway, driveway, window view, curd appeal etc. They need the ability to see in their mind's eye just exactly what a landscape will look like decades from now. for me, I also consider maintenance. If it's for me, I want the easiest maintenance scenario possible. But if it's for someone else and entirely different crews who will maintain, the major problem is, will that crew have the proper knowledge in maintaining that specific ecosystem ? Who knows. I've seen excellent landscapes butchered by expects supposedly in the know. Asplund and Davey Tree come to mind. Tree care and trimming is an art and those companies are hack jobbers. Most of their chop shop work orders are for utilities anyway, which brings me to landscape planning, layout of plants and selecting the right plants. Does anyone ever consider overhead utilities when selecting a tree ? Most of the time I've rarely seen this.

      As for Cal-Trans projects in and around San Diego, I have seen the same problem issues around the interchange of Hwy 52 & Interstate 15. Great idea planting Torrey Pines and Oaks, but I can tell by their condition that no mycorrhizal inoculum was ever used, plus it has the same failed identical irrigation head issues. The other issue is the soil up there on the Mesa. Of course the freeway overpasses are recreated with fill and that should be no problem for deep rooting if trained properly. But most of that flat Mesa has a hardpan layer, like your Texas which is impermeable to water percolation. It's more solid than concrete. You actually need to punch holes four foot down to allow percolation and better drainage. But the sad shape of the Oaks and Torreys up there is unacceptable. Also they used California Sycamores, which while tough and at times surprisingly successful, most have struggled or died around that interchange.

      Another problem with the Santee 52/67 interchange is they used Canary Island Pines. I love Canary Island Pines, but one should understand in the southwest that they are one of the heaviest producers of pine straw. They are uniquely different than other pines in this respect. So they have fire hazard issues and will smother other plants. Torrey Pines would be a better choice as they are leggy when young, but allow a lot of greenery to grow under them without blocking out all the light. Also their needle bundles are some of the heaviest and tend to fall through shrubs to the ground. Their bark is also more resistant to fire in the sense that it is generally smoother and less pitch oozing out of orifices running down trunks. Canary Island Pine on the other hand always have continual needle production everywhere and one of the few conifers which re-sprout fro trucks and large branches after fire.

      In any event, the deep pipe irrigation can and should be installed at time of landscape installation. Those plant roots will indeed sniff out the direction water is available. Even if you need a temporary drip system or hand maintained deep pipe right next to each tree the first year or two at the most. If the system does take hold, then deep pipe will be all you need with no surface moisture to encourage weeds of any sort.

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