Green Landscape Practices
The Santa Barbara County Community Services Department proactively maintains a varied landscape of 8,000 acres of parks and open spaces. Different park properties demand somewhat different maintenance strategies, but in all cases the County Parks Division employs a holistic approach that emphasizes integrated pest management, careful stewardship of the land and its natural and cultural resources, and protection of public health and safety.
South County Herbicide Limitations
As a pilot effort for the past several years, the Parks Division has severely restricted the use of herbicides and pesticides in the South County region (south of the Santa Ynez Mountains from Rincon Point to Gaviota). Virtually all landscape maintenance in the 680 acres comprising the South County area is done without use of herbicides or pesticides. This fairly comprehensive proscription is occasionally reviewed on a case-by-case basis when a particular project requires very limited use of an herbicide (for example, as part of a native plant restoration project to prevent reemergence of a non-native invasive plant). In the South County park area since July 2007 this exception has been used only once, for a project to remove invasive Arundo donax at Lookout Park in Summerland.
Eliminating regular use of broad spectrum herbicides such as glyphosate-based Roundup does increase the amount of time and cost of weed abatement. Our experience is that the cost for mechanical weed abatement (man-hours and weed abatement equipment) is up to ten times more costly on a persquare-foot basis than for previous controlled use of a glyphosate. In developed open spaces we typically use mulch around some lawn perimeters where there are shrubs or trees, in sidewalk medians, playgrounds and small sloped area and pathways. To maintain these areas staff must monitor closely and consistently follow up with hand weeding, steaming, or re-mulching. A controlled flame with a burn bottle is used to eliminate weeds in parking lots, sidewalk cracks, and in decomposed granite areas.
The Community Services Department is also exploring a range of techniques for weed control and elimination of problem plants, such as trumpet vine. Use of black plastic covering has been effective in killing weeds in limited problem areas in our Goleta area open spaces, for example. The County Parks Division is working with a local vendor, Agri-Turf, on a pilot test of Compost Tea application at a section of Kiwanis Meadows in Tucker’s Grove County Park. Compost Tea is a liquid solution made by steeping compost in water, used both as a fertilizer and as a plant disease preventative. If its use is deemed successful there, the department may look at similar application at other county parks.
Santa Barbara County Courthouse
This highly visible location is ably managed by our lead groundskeeper, Ranger Gil Villasana. In February 2009, we were pleased to welcome our newest ranger, Holly Redmond, to her assignment to work with Ranger Villasana at the Courthouse Grounds. Ranger Redmond most recently worked on the horticulture crew at the award-winning Ganna Walska Lotusland estate in Montecito, where she has hands-on experience with organic methods, including use of Compost Tea for most fertilizing and soil enrichment. We expect some major cross-pollination of best practices from Lotusland to the Courthouse Grounds, as well as to Parks operations generally.
Our Courthouse Grounds crew best practices include hand pruning of many plants on the 4.85-acre property, in place of blunter electric clipping tools. The crew also uses a hula-hoe or weed eater around the perimeters of the lawn and the sandstone walls to eliminate weed growth, and use the burn bottle around the cracks of the sidewalks and walkway areas. Herbicides are not used at the Courthouse.
In March 2008, the County Parks Courthouse Grounds landscape maintenance crew was honored with a park maintenance award by the California Park & Recreation Society’s Region VIII, which represents park professionals in Ventura, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obisbo counties.
In 2009 we plan to install mulch in some of the planter beds where it is appropriate. Mulch is also effective in discouraging snail activity, as well as retaining moisture for plants and inhibiting week growth, as our crew has found in applications at the Santa Barbara County Administration Building on the opposite side of Anapamu Street.