Living La Vida Local


“Any tree-whether in the forest or the city-removes CO2 from the air through photosynthesis. Typically, a tree sequesters a few kilograms of carbon per year in its wood,” states a study by the U.S. Department of Energy. “A tree in Los Angeles can save an additional 3 kilograms of carbon per year by lowering the city's overall need for air conditioning, plus 15 kilograms more if it directly shades a building.”

A study conducted by the U.S. Forest Service estimated that the air pollutant uptake by Santa Monica’s tree canopy cover is 10.7 metric tons or .8 lb per tree. Santa Monica has approximately 33,600 trees, of more than 200 different species -> including 4,300 fan palms, 3,200 ficus. According to Santa Monica community forester Walt Warriner, the “Ficus is actually the dominant tree in terms of canopy size.”

As energy shortages have been known to be a problem, think plants for cooling. "Solar friendly" deciduous trees fill out in the spring to shade your home during summer, then drop leaves to let warming sun pass through in winter. Trees and shrubs placed to control sunlight and block winds and can reduce heating and cooling bills by as much as 30 percent.

Keep your plants happy and it will make you happy as well. To get your lawn looking and feeling fabulous, take a soil sample to one of the local nurseries or, on a government level, to the Cooperative Extension County Office of Los Angeles at 4800 Cesar Chavez Ave, LA 90022, phone: (323) 260-2267.) Learn what fertilizer is best, what kind of grass seed. Find out what grass best suits your home’s soil – options may include Bahiagrass, Bermuda grass, carpetgrass, St. Augustine, Zoysiagrass….

Lawn maintenance secret: Don't mow too low. Cutting grass too short, can lead to root damage -- making your lawn more susceptible to plant diseases, insects and the heat of scorching sun.

“As a rule of thumb, never trim off more than a third,” advise nationally recognized home care experts, James Carey and Morris Carey.

Let’s talk water - more plants die from over-watering and over-fertilization than anything else. Roots left to soak in muddy water eventually will rot and cause your plant to suffocate. Experts advise that an inch of water once a week is enough. Need to check when to water? Use your finger. Stick your finger into the soil near the base of the plant. If the soil is moist about an inch beneath the surface, it doesn't need water.

Now feeding - gardeners advise that you should never fertilize a plant that is dry. Water first, then fertilize. When you bring home a plant from the nursery, be careful not to fertilize it right away. Most companies use slow-release fertilizer that will last for quite a while. Chemical fertilizers can burn so monitor your quantities, and avoid fertilizing during the winter or when a plant is dormant. Fertilizer can build up in the soil and become toxic.

We will conclude with two good bits of advice offered by a lady of 5th St:

1- When the leaf is brown the plant needs water. When the leaf is yellow it needs food.

2- Pouring hot water on the weeds that grow in between the bricks in your garden wall will kill them, and they won’t come back.

The University of California Cooperative Extension in Los Angeles County - - develops and implements community-based educational programs in regards to local agriculture.

Have any home and garden tips you’d like to share? e-mail Jodi Summers at, or call 310-260-8269.