Adopt a Mediterranean Plant: What we’re already learning

A deer grass (Muhlenbergia rigens) growing in one of the test sites as part of the Adopt-a-Mediterranean-Plant Project
A deer grass (Muhlenbergia rigens) growing in one of the test sites as part of the Adopt-a-Mediterranean-Plant Project

What’s been interesting to observe already with the Adopt-a-Mediterranean Plant Project is how the water needs of the grasses are really mirroring what we learned with the grasses in the first irrigation-free landscape we ever did. Namely, the grasses seem to always need two waterings spaced about a week apart, and then perhaps a third a couple weeks later, and then they reach a point where they can comfortably be on their own. As their adaptation to drought lies primarily in their roots, and thus these waterings are helping the plants send the roots deep into the soil, we shouldn’t be surprised, but, well, this work is always surprising, as you see first-hand just how little water so many of these plants actually need, even in drier mediterranean climates.

Stay tuned for more updates.

John Kamp

Adopt-a-Mediterranean-Plant Project

First participants in Prairieform's Adopt-A-Mediterranean-Plant Project
First participants in Prairieform’s Adopt-A-Mediterranean-Plant Project

When we say we do irrigation-free landscapes, the response we so often get is that that is impossible. Well, however cliched and trite, the adage “seeing is believing” never fails to ring true. We know irrigation-free is possible because we have done it, and we also see plants growing irrigation-free all around us every day. So that you too can see this reality in action, we’ve launched a new citizen-science-based project in which we give you a plant from a mediterranean climate region of the world and then you monitor its water needs over the course of the year. At the end of the year, we will have a gathering to share what we have learned. Additionally, and more importantly, participants will ultimately become their own irrigation-free experts, and we will be able to create a set of meaningful data on the water needs of plants from summer-dry climates. These data can then be applied to the creation of new irrigation-free landscapes across California and the country at large. To learn more, click HERE.

From the Rethinking the Front Yard event

Participants marking their chosen locations from an outdoor sensory/site-exploration exercise on a map of the block
Participants marking their chosen locations from an outdoor sensory/site-exploration exercise

This past Saturday, we held an interactive workshop on rethinking the American front yard at the machinaloci space in South Berkeley. Weaving in elements of model-building, site exploration, storytelling, and memory, the workshop took a hands-on – as opposed to a simply talking-based – approach to rethinking what is a ubiquitous part of the American urban and suburban landscape but one that needs a rethink, given the growing and pressing realities of climate change, water, housing shortages, and an increasing turn towards our smart phones and away from face-to-face interaction. We had a fantastic turnout and heard and saw many amazing stories and ideas. Stay tuned for part 2, in which we will be working in teams to redesign a space that includes not simply the front yard, but also the sidewalk, parkway, and street. What could be a new interplay of all of these elements?

John Kamp

Rethinking the American front yard: a workshop

Photo of Levittown, with front yards
It is high time we rethought the front yard space

If you are interested in both the history and evolution of the American front yard and rethinking how we design and use this historically purely aesthetic space, please join us for an interactive and collaborative workshop on April 20 @ 1:00 p.m. at the machinaloci space in South Berkeley. Co-led by James Rojas of Place It!, Trena Noval and Ann Wettrich of Fieldworks Collaborative, and Carol Mancke of machinaloci.

To RSVP, click here.

Our western waterways

The Arroyo Seco in South Pasadena
The Arroyo Seco in South Pasadena in early April 2019

As you move further west in the country, water becomes all the more scarce, and thus its sources become all the more precious. Yet the relationship between water’s preciousness and how it has been treated through our infrastructure is really an inverse one – especially in California. While water is gold here, its sources, and the rivers and streams that carry it, have been treated like nothing more than garbage – the above photo a case in point, which we snapped while taking a hike through Nature Park in South Pasadena. While there are indeed many efforts to improve our stormwater retention, daylight channelized rivers, and expand rainwater harvesting efforts, we cannot stop there. It behooves us as a state to treat water as the precious giver of life that it ultimately is, on all levels and in all ways.

John Kamp