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Ted: Soil Science; The surprising plant-fungi relationship

How can you protect crops against global warming? One answer: find the secrets of plants that already thrive in the most punishing climates, says microbiologist Rusty Rodriguez.

It is encouraging to see a mainstream platform such as Ted, it wasn’t at one time, capture the importance of the fugi / soil relationships and the importance of the soil to feeding the world.


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Soil: Microbes: A Big (small) Bug Deal that’s Really Good for Urban Gardens


I’ll say that if Monsanto is involved I’m both scared and comfortable that if they see a benefit, read $$$, then it is a BIG DEAL and we need only to create a natural alternative. In previous school studies we had to create natural microbes and they do great work in the urban garden soil. Soil science is sorely lacking in urban gardening. I’m not speaking about cultivating a yard of “garden blend” soil into the garden bed, although that can be of some benefit. There is a lot of core soil science you need to understand before a remedy is applied to a small or large soil bed. We at Landscapia understand that managing the core components; soil, water and plant location (sun) are the keys to a naturally healthy landscape.


Bugs in the system

Bacteria and fungi can help crops and soil

MICROBES, though they have a bad press as agents of disease, also play a beneficial role in agriculture. For example, they fix nitrogen from the air into soluble nitrates that act as natural fertilizer. Understanding and exploiting such organisms for farming is a rapidly developing part of agricultural biotechnology.
At the moment, the lead is being taken by a collaboration between Monsanto and Novozymes, a Danish firm.
This consortium, called BioAg, began in 2013 and has a dozen microbe-based products on the market. These include fungicides, insecticides and bugs that liberate nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium compounds from the soil, making them soluble and thus easier for crops to take up. Last year, researchers at the two firms tested a further 2,000 microbes, looking for species that would increase maize and soyabean yields. The top-performing strains delivered a boost of about 3% for both crops.
In November 2015 Syngenta and DSM, a Dutch company, formed a similar partnership. And earlier that year, in April, DuPont bought Taxon Biosciences, a Californian microbes firm. And hopeful start-ups abound. One such is Indigo, in Boston. Its researchers are conducting field tests of some of its library of 40,000 microbes to see if they can alleviate the stress on cotton, maize, soyabeans and wheat induced by drought and salinity. Another is Adaptive Symbiotic Technologies, of Seattle. The scientists who formed this firm study fungi that live symbiotically within plants. They believe they have found one, whose natural partner is panic grass, a coastal species, which confers salinity-resistance when transferred to crops such as rice.
The big prize, however, would be to persuade the roots of crops such as wheat to form partnerships with nitrogen-fixing soil bacteria. These would be similar to the natural partnerships formed with nitrogen-fixing bacteria by legumes such as soyabeans. In legumes, the plants’ roots grow special nodules that become homes for the bacteria in question. If wheat rhizomes could be persuaded, by genomic breeding or genome editing, to behave likewise, everyone except fertilizer companies would reap enormous benefits.

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Ok……do you know all 260,000 species………so do ya…Punk?

My Clint Eastwood Dirty Harry line may be a strange bridge into the world of plants. I would not believe anyone, even experts, could id all plants known on Earth. I have been in the company of some VERY knowledgeable plant people and heard them let out a “Well….Hum……I’m really not sure” when trying to id a species they had not seen before…or forgotten, on more than one occasion. Bottom line is we need to be learning about new plants and be understanding that no one, even experts, know them all. Below is a great article on the general plant classification system.

Plant Kingdom

(or Plantae )

Virtually all other living creatures depend on plants to survive. Through photosynthesis, plants convert energy from sunlight into food stored as carbohydrates. Because animals cannot get energy directly from the sun, they must eat plants (or other animals that have had a vegetarian meal) to survive. Plants also provide the oxygen humans and animals breathe, because plants use carbon dioxide for photosynthesis and release oxygen into the atmosphere.

Plants are found on land, in oceans, and in fresh water. They have been on Earth for millions of years. Plants were on Earth before animals and currently number about 260,000 species. Three features distinguish plants from animals:

  • Plants have chlorophyll, a green pigment necessary for photosynthesis;
  • Their cell walls are made sturdy by a material called cellulose; and
  • They are fixed in one place (they don’t move).

Plant Classification

In order to study the billions of different organisms living on earth, biologists have sorted and classified them based on their similarities and differences. This system of classification is also called a taxonomy and usually features both English and Latin names for the different divisions.

All plants are included in one so-called kingdom (Kingdom Plantae), which is then broken down into smaller and smaller divisions based on several characteristics, including:

  • Whether they can circulate fluids (like rainwater) through their bodies or need to absorb them from the moisture that surrounds them;
  • How they reproduce (e.g., by spores or different kinds of seeds); and
  • Their size or stature.

The majority of the 260,000 plant species are flowering herbs. To describe all plant species, the following divisions (or phyla) are most commonly used to sort them. The first grouping is made up of plants that are non-vascular; they cannot circulate rainwater through their stems and leaves but must absorb it from the environment that surrounds them. The remaining plant species are all vascular (they have a system for circulating fluids). This larger group is then split into two groups: one that reproduces from spores rather than seeds, and the other that reproduces from seeds.


Plant Kingdom Divisions

Non-Vascular Plants

Mosses and “allies,” or related species (Bryophytaand allies)

Mosses orbryophyta are non-vascular. They are an important foundation plant for the forest ecosystem and they help prevent erosion by carpeting the forest floor. All bryophyte species reproduce by spores not seeds, never have flowers, and are found growing on the ground, on rocks, and on other plants.

Originally grouped as a single division or phylum, the 24,000 bryophyte species are now grouped in three divisions: Mosses (Bryophyta), Liverworts (Hepatophyta), and Hornworts(Anthocerotophyta). Also included among the non-vascular plants is Chlorophyta , a kind of fresh-water algae.

Vascular Plants with Spores

Ferns and allies (Pteridophyta and allies)

Unlike mosses, ferns and related species have a vascular system, but like mosses, they reproduce from spores rather than seeds. The ferns are the most plentiful plant division in this group, with 12,000 species. Other divisions (the fern allies) include Club mosses or Lycopods (Lycopodiophyta) with 1,000 species, Horsetails (Equisetophyta) with 40 species, and Whisk ferns (Psilophyta) with 3 species.

Vascular Plants with Seeds

Conifers and allies (Coniferophyta and allies)

Conifers and allies (Coniferophyta and allies) Conifers reproduce from seeds, but unlike plants like blueberry bushes or flowers where the fruit or flower surrounds the seed, conifer seeds (usually cones) are “naked.” In addition to having cones, conifers are trees or shrubs that never have flowers and that have needle-like leaves. Included among conifers are about 600 species including pines, firs, spruces, cedars, junipers, and yew. The conifer allies include three small divisions with fewer than 200 species all together: Ginko (Ginkophyta) made up of a single species, the maidenhair tree; the palm-like Cycads (Cycadophyta), and herb-like plants that bear cones (Gnetophyta) such as Mormon tea.

Flowering Plants (Magnoliophyta)

The vast majority of plants (around 230,000) belong to this category, including most trees, shrubs, vines, flowers, fruits, vegetables, and legumes. Plants in this category are also called angiosperms. They differ from conifers because they grow their seeds inside an ovary, which is embedded in a flower or fruit.

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Reading: Feb 2016

Plant Relationships.

Getting the balance right: nature + reality. We don’t live as it was we live as it is.


“As practical as it is poetic…an optimistic call to action.”—The Chicago Tribune

This powerful guide presents a powerful alternative to traditional horticulture—designed plantings that function like naturally occurring plant communities. Thomas Rainer and Claudia West, two leading voices in ecological landscape design, reveal how plants fit together in nature and how to use this knowledge to create landscapes that are resilient, beautiful, and diverse. As practical as it is inspiring,Planting in a Post-Wild World is an optimistic manifesto pointing the way to the future of planting design.


planting in a post wild world

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Soil + Co2 Capture: Critical to our Survival

The climate nexus book

Take a look at the article below. I understand by way of the organic garden courses I have completed the role soil has in capturing Co2. I just didn’t understand the magnitude or the looming dangers.

Best we all protect the soil we have and ADD to the soil base.


  1. Act with the mindset that soil is an extremely important earth property
  2. Plan all landscape projects with lessening soil erosion in mind
  3. Compost at every opportunity
  4. Be careful when moving soil around the landscape

Let’s never talk of soil as if it’s Dirt! Earth is better fitting, don’t you think.

(use your browser viewer enlargement tool if you need to increase article text size)

Soil and Co2

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Lights – Camera – Action

Have you ever been to VanDusen festival of lights? This was my first year. I have been to the gardens for some years now but finally was able to get to the Christmas lights. What a spectacle. Wow. Blew me away and was much more then I had expected. How many times do you say that now days – not many I bet. The scale, the raw number of lights, the interesting ways the lights are used. The ways they get he whole family involved. Just a wonderful show and hats off – or in the case of the night we went – we will keep our hats on – to the whole team at VanDusen on their fine work.


vandusen lights 1

vandusen lights 2

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It’s got to go somewhere – is this the best we can do?

This is the Vancouver City green waste transfer station. Been there or the Delta landfill green waste facility recently? We dump green waste there about four to five times a week once the landscape season starts up. Back in the day (before approximately 2005?) you could legally dump green waste in dumpsters or anywhere else for that matter. The new law was to stop tons of compost green waste from piling onto the city garbage. Good idea, well past due and credit to the cities for implementing this law.

So, here we are 2016 and as you can see in the pictures below (we took these pics late fall 2015) tons of green waste is trucked in from all over the lower mainland every day, minced up with gigantic fuel burning composter machines and the massive piles turned with large front end loaders so someone (not me as I can’t take weed infected compost to clients) will pick up this composted soil and take it back by truck to some garden bed. Am I missing something here or is it kind of dumb (yup we are as guilty as other landscape businesses) to be trucking this green waste around town only to see it make its way back to the garden beds?

What to do? We are finally going to start in 2016 with true onsite composters for commercial clients. We have residential clients with onsite composters and at a home landscape scale the operation is not all that overwhelming. We will provide updates to how its going as the year unfolds.

green waste landfill 2










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Water: Plain old Water

Got the Water Blues?

Your obviously not alone. Forget about remedies for this year. Now we go about and repair damage to the landscape due to lack of water; prune off burned and dying limbs and stalks in hope the root system is still alive, rake up lots of leaves from trees due to heat stress.

dryed out vegetation

What to do for next year?

What about Water Management? What? I hear you ask. I think its fair to say that these dry….increasingly dry and hot Lower Mainland summers may be here to stay, no one knows for sure but we are seeing a pattern. Do we not get enough water during other months of the year!

Call us and let us examine your needs and how Landscapia Water Management may help.