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Home > Feature Articles > Landscaping > Plants and Habitat Strategies for Sustainable Landscaping

Southern California Public Garden Uses Sustainable Land Management Techniques

Sustainable land management practices can succeed both on the small scale in your own backyard, and on a larger, estate scale.

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Today I bent the truth
to be kind,
and I have no regret,
for I am far surer
of what is kind
than I am
of what is true.

Robert Brault, software developer, writer (1938- )
Sustainable land management practices can succeed both on the small scale in your own backyard, and on a larger, estate scale. When permaculture, or xeriscape, or organic strategies are used at public gardens and public parks, the benefits not only impact the greater environment with air, water and soil protection-- but the immediate health and wellbeing of visitors to these heavily used open spaces.

Lotusland is a public garden near Santa Barbara that practices ongoing permaculture improvement. All materials used today in the garden are certified organically-based and the least harmful alternatives available.

Ecotourism in the US is not as organized as the international focus on ecotourism to view nature. In the US, we can consider natural parks, as well as public gardens, agricultural retreats and such spaces for daytrips and vacations part of our local "ecotourism".

One such excursion could be Lotusland, and when you know the story behind their grounds management, you'll understand how it is an ecotourism destination, and a way to learn about sustainable land management practices.

Lotusland is a unique 37-acre estate and botanic garden situated in the foothills of Montecito, east of Santa Barbara, California. The gardens now covering the estate were created by Madame Ganna Walska, who owned the property from 1941 until her death in 1984. Before her death, Madame Walska established the nonprofit Ganna Walska Lotusland Foundation, which now preserves this unrivaled botanical treasure.

Lotusland's successful sustainable gardening program is built by incorporating various practices and ideas relevant to the specific site that encourage as much compatibility among diverse organisms as possible.

The following sustainable land management strategies are practiced at Lotusland:

  • Green garden waste is managed onsite in compost piles and returned to the garden as mature compost
  • Difficult to compost green waste such as fibrous leaves and palm fronds are transported to the county's green waste recycling program.
  • Use large quantities of organic materials from the county green waste recycling program, as well as wood chips from tree companies
  • Promote the use of mulches to raise awareness of their value
  • The need for supplemental fertilizers has been reduced or eliminated in most areas -- where supplemental nutrients are required, organic fertilizers are used
  • Insectary areas throughout the garden increase biodiversity and attract beneficial insects to reduce insect damage
  • Recycling attachments on lawn mowers return finely chopped grass clippings to the lawn to decompose and return nutrients to the soil.
  • Crabgrass and other annual weed control is provided by corn gluten, which acts as a pre-emergent herbicide and provides nitroget to the soil.
  • Clover is welcomed to provide biodiversity, attract beneficial organisms, and fix nitroget from the air.
  • No toxic substances are used on the lawn so that families who use the space during public functions are not exposed to toxins
  • Supplemental release of beneficial insects are occasionally made as needed. They are moved from one area of the garden to another.
  • Antagonistic fungi to combat pathogens and beneficial fungi to strengthen host plants are used.
  • Soil organic matter is continually increased to promote healthy soil and plant growth (Compost and organic mulch).
  • Earthworms are encouraged by eliminating chemical pesticides and fertilizers, as well as providing much to provide food and shelter for them, and compost tea, calcium and other materials as needed. Earthworms aid the soil microorganism and plant communities by cycling decomposed organic matter and aerating the soil.
  • Compost tea provides a film of living beneficial organisms that prevent fungal disease spores and bacteria from infecting platns.
  • Supplemental drainage is used to reduce root rot
  • Cover crops are used in future garden areas to improve the soil and attract beneficial insects to the area.
  • Weed management uses mechanical means and extensive mulching
  • Snails are controlled with a nontoxic materials that breaks down into an iron product that plants can use
  • Gophers are trapped and natural predators such as owls and raptors have been encouraged

Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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