Tom Karwin, on gardening | Falling Leaves – Santa Cruz Sentinel



Take care of your garden

Earlier this month, as the leaves began their seasonal behavior, Governor Gavin Newsom signed legislation banning “exhaust fumes and evaporative emissions from new small off-road engines” produced in 2024 or later. This applies to gasoline leaf blowers, lawn mowers, edgers, edgers, chainsaws and other garden equipment. These small all-terrain engines (SORE) are well documented as sources of ozone polluting the air, particles hazardous to health and noise destructive to peace.

This California action to protect our environment is the first of its kind in the United States and is a general shift from fossil fuels to green energy. However, this only applies to SORE produced in 2024 or later. All existing gas-powered devices continue to be in use and could likely be functional for several years beyond 2024.

Several environmental groups supported this bill. While many would also have applauded a phase-out of existing SOREs, the state’s long-term approach is responding to complaints from groups like the California Landscape Contractors Association and the National Association of Landscape Professionals. In fairmess, some landscapers have switched to electrical or manual equipment (including leaf rakes), and none have reported financial constraints related to the local ban on leaf blowers. Some green landscapers have probably attracted new clients.

At least 100 US cities (including Monterey) have already restricted the use of gasoline leaf blowers, which are major polluters and possibly the most annoying SOREs.

The Santa Cruz Safe and Healthy Environment Coalition has advocated for a local ban on gasoline leaf blowers for years and has even raised money to ease the transition to battery-powered blowers.

Here are the steps that individual gardeners could take towards a green gardening environment:

Buy only electric or manual gardening equipment and replace any gasoline-powered appliances you already own with electric ones. (Battery life has improved.)

Only hire landscapers who only use electric or manual gardening equipment. If you have electrical equipment, ask them to only use your equipment in your garden.

Contact elected officials in your local government to ask them to restrict or ban SORE outright. There are several model prescriptions that could be adapted locally.

Improve your gardening knowledge

Here are some resources on SORE:

Visit the California Legislative Information website ( and search for AB 1346, the new California law.

Visit the California Air Resources Board website ( and search for SORE. This site contains a lot of information on the impacts of these devices.

Visit the website of the Santa Cruz Coalition for a Safe and Healthy Environment ( and browse their in-depth and thoughtful information on this topic. And support their work!

Here are the upcoming webinars on gardening topics.

The Cactus and Succulent Society of America will present the “Plant Candy for Halloween: An Examination of Undiggable Mesembs and the Breeders Who Dig Them” webinar on Saturday at 10 am. Mesembryanthemums include very succulent species, for example Lithops, which resemble stones, and are called Mimicry Succulents.

Presenter Steven Hammer is the owner of the Sphaeroid Institute in Vista. Its nursery is “the zero point” for thousands of rare mesembs and many aficionados who travel far and wide to revel in its vast collection of succulents, personal charm and knowledge. Hammer has traveled to South Africa often and is one of the world’s best mesemb experts. He has written several books on succulents and conducted several grant-funded research projects.

For more information and to register for this free webinar, visit

The Berkeley Botanical Garden will present two webinars in early November.

“Taming Fruits: From Fruit Forests and Oases to Orchards,” at 11 am on November 3. Author Bernd Brunner will discuss his new book The History of Fruit Growing, which tells how humans have shaped and bent nature according to wishes for millennia.

“Sustainable Herbs and The Business of Botanicals”, 10 am Nov 7. Author and anthropologist Ann Armbrecht will talk about her work following medicinal plants to their source, documenting the stories of the people and places behind the finished herbal products.

For more information and to register for one of these free events, go to, click on “Calendar”, then search for the title of the event .

The Ruth Bancroft Botanical Garden will present the “Landscaping as a Quarry” webinar at 10 am. practical expertise in fundamental design principles, horticultural knowledge and many other skills are essential to success when creating residential or commercial outdoor spaces. Landscape Architect, Cricket Riley, will discuss the different ways you can be a designer (e.g. landscape contractor, maintenance gardener, garden trainer, consultant, landscape architect, etc.) and related legal parameters. This session could also be useful to potential clients of garden designers, who might know what to require from an arrangement with a designer.

To register for this paid event, visit and scroll to the event title.

The California Garden and Landscape History Society will present two webinars in early November.

In partnership with the California Preservation Foundation, the CGLHS will present “An Introduction to Landscape Photography” on November 10 from noon to 1 pm. Using a camera to capture the beauty of a plant or place is just one aspect of photography. Capturing a historic landscape requires an intentional approach behind the camera, whether the focus is the exhibition or the documentation. Landscape photographers Millicent Harvey and Stephen Schafer will share insight into their distinct professional practices and examples of their work.

In addition, CGLHS will present the webinar “San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park: A Thousand and Seventeen Acres of Stories” at 6 pm on November 17th. In 2020, the city of San Francisco celebrated the 150th anniversary of Golden Gate Park. Rec & Park Historian in Residence Christopher Pollock will discuss the important update to his 2001 book of the same title. Pollock will review the process of building a lush green park on a barren sand dune base and the early efforts to build the Conservatory of Flowers, Sharon Quarters for Children (America’s first public playground!) And Laveaga Dell, headquarters of the National AIDS Memorial. Grove. This event requires a nominal fee for members and non-members.

To register for one of these events, visit

Enrich your gardening days

Next week’s column will be about beautiful but dangerous plants. Quills and thorns and thorns, oh my god!

Enjoy your garden!

Tom Karwin is the past president of the Friends of the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum, the Monterey Bay Area Cactus & Succulent Society, and the Monterey Bay Iris Society, and UC Lifetime Master Gardener (certified 1999- 2009). He is now a board member and garden coach for the Santa Cruz Hostel Society. To view photos of his garden daily, To find an archive of previous gardening columns, visit Contact him with comments or questions at


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