How TreePeople Catches Every Drop

Jim Hardie, TreePeople 216,000 gallon cistern

Is Los Angeles a desert? Our city gets about 15 inches of rainfall annually, slightly more precipitation than, say, Missoula, Montana (though we have fewer days per year that are considered “wet”). Did you know this is enough to serve a fairly large population and irrigate its urban greenery?

But every time it rains an inch in the city of L.A., 3.8 billion gallons of runoff are sent to sea, sweeping trash, toxins, and bacteria into waterways and polluting our beaches and ocean.… Read more >>

Western Redbud: “A tree with year-round interest!”

Photos: Bob Sussman (left), Stan Shebs (right)

Why is the Western redbud (Cercis occidentalis) the best tree ever? Maybe it’s because at this time of year, redbuds are the focal point of any garden lucky enough to have them. This native Californian is a small tree (15–20’ x 15–20’) and does well in most any kind of soil, as long as it is well-drained.

In the late winter and early spring, when most everything else is still dormant and waiting to bud, the red bud has spectacular magenta flowers that are delicate and yet very resilient to cold, wet days.… Read more >>

Learn How to Get Your Landscape Really Green

CSW_3-frame_cga2-6-2013

You may have noticed that some years in Los Angeles County are wetter—or drier—than others. And in wet years you may also have noticed a lot of unfiltered water rushing off paved surfaces, into storm drains, and out to sea carrying whatever pollutants it washes over. So, not only are we losing water that could be captured for local use or returned to the ground for irrigation, we’re failing to clean it up before it enters our waterways.

But did you know that even in times of drought, what little moisture falls from the sky can be harvested and put to use?… Read more >>

Like it or not, you DO make a difference

“You are never in neutral,” TreePeople founder Andy Lipkis tells environmental leader Huey Johnson, in an interview about how we all affect the environment. “People say [to me], ‘I love what you do because you show that people can make a difference.’” The truth is, people do make a difference, Andy says. And it comes in the form of every step we take, every penny we spend, in all the ways we move through the world.

Growing up in the 1960s in a severely polluted Los Angeles, Andy realized that we have to embrace the notion that even the smallest contribution—whether planting a single tree or shutting off the tap when you brush your teeth—does make a positive difference.… Read more >>

Sheet Mulching 101 (part 2 of 2)

Valerie Fontaine sheet mulching project 12-14-2012

Want to see how an average home in Los Angeles can save almost 100,000 gallons of water per year? Here is TreePeople member and volunteer Valerie Fontaine, converting her yard to a sustainable site. With a simple DIY project, Valerie transformed her garden in a weekend.

Following Part 1 of our tutorial, here are your sheet-mulching FAQs:

Is it really as simple as it sounds? Just put down cardboard or newspaper, dump mulch, keep moist, and wait? Is that it?
Yes.… Read more >>

Sheet Mulching 101 (part 1 of 2)

Valerie Fontaine, Dec 14, 2012

What is sheet mulching? Just the quickest, easiest way to go from a thirsty, outdated green shag carpet of a landscape to a sustainable garden in about the time it takes to mow the lawn.

Follow these easy steps and you can do what fabulous TreePeople member and volunteer Valerie Fontaine recently did at her house. Once you go green, you’ll never go back.

  • Cover the lawn with 1 layer of cardboard or 6 layers of newspaper. Be sure to overlap by at least 6 inches to prevent the grass from growing through.
Read more >>

A Living Memorial and a Model for Community Engagement

MLK Blvd. in South L.A., 1990 and 2008

On January 15, 1990, three thousand people came out to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by planting 400 trees along the entire length of MLK Boulevard in South Los Angeles–seven miles in a single day. At this event, organized by TreePeople, each tree was named in memory of someone, and then adopted by a neighboring resident committed to its ongoing care. The result is the largest living monument to Dr. King in existence.

The idea for this monument came from a TreePeople Citizen Forester named Eudora Russell, who for years had dreamed of turning the barren stretch of King Boulevard into a fitting memorial to its namesake.… Read more >>

Two Native Plants for Your Southern California Garden

Photo courtesy of weedingwildsuburbia.com

Now is a perfect time to grow your garden green. While other parts of the world are snow-covered and frigid, Southern California’s mild, wet winters make this season ideal for planting climate-friendly natives that provide habitat for our native fauna. Here are two beautiful California evergreen shrubs to check out and add to your weekend plans.

Twin Peaks 2 Coyote Brush (Baccharis pilularis; native evergreen shrub; 3’ tall by 8’ wide; full sun)

This shrub makes a great undulating groundcover.… Read more >>

A Native Re-Greening for TreePeople’s Cistern

Photo: Andy Lipkis

Park operations director Jim Hardie calls it the “grasscrete circle”—also known as the TreePeople cistern, a 216,000-gallon underground storage tank, where we save rainwater filtered and collected from rooftops and the Parking Grove. The stored water irrigates TreePeople’s grounds in the warm months. For the past four years, the circle has been planted with wildflowers, which look gorgeous but require regular weeding. Jim is excited about a low-maintenance alternative called purple needlegrass or Stipa pulchra or Nassala pulchra—the official state grass of California!… Read more >>

The Soil Solution

Soil is the key to life in the urban forest

Soil is as vital to environmental health as the plants that grow in it. If you watched the latest Ken Burns documentary, The Dust Bowl, or if your forebears settled in California because they had to flee the ruined soil of the Midwest, then you know what Burns means by “the worst man-made ecological disaster in American history.” It was a swift, government-encouraged depletion of previously fertile cropland, where nature and people had once cooperated fairly well.

Likewise, when we pave every patch of green in our cities, we undo the perfect systems that nature takes so long to create.… Read more >>