Interview – Ari Tennenbaum

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  • Interviewer: Maria Vasapollo
  • Interviewee: Ari Tenenbaum of Revolution Landscape LLC, La Jolla, CA;    Comprehensive landscape services including: design, installation, maintenance
  • Date: 9/27/12

Preface:  I learned of Revolution Landscape, when they were featured on Fox 5 News.  The segment was on sustainable gardens.  Today, I was able to speak with Ari about some of the sustainability efforts students of WVC have been making. He graciously shares his insights with us:

Maria:  What was your major, when you were at UC Santa Cruz?

Ari: Plant Science, Ecology, Systems Botany. I gained an understanding of plants from the theoretical perspective.

Marshal House: Edible and Eco-friendly Landscape

Maria: How is that different from Horticulture?

Ari:  Horticulture is focused on the growing and propagation of plants.

Maria:  I’ve seen the big farms at UCSC.  Were they part of your curriculum?

Ari:  Just a little bit. The farms are separate from classes.  They are an internship program.  Interns live at the farm for either 6 or 12 month periods.  Their learning happens by maintaining the gardens.

Maria:  What kind of projects or clients do you have?

Ari:  Mostly residential, and some schools.  Our current project is an urban farm for developmentally disabled individuals. The client is a non-profit.

Maria: If we implement the idea of a sustainable, community garden on our college campus, what advice do you have for us?

Ari:  The most important thing is to have a plan in place for maintenance.  It must include accountability. There’s also a real need for “buy in” from the school, faculty, and students involved. Once you have a committed group, you need to decide why you want a sustainable garden.  Your motivation could be environmental or social. This purpose will guide the design.  For example:  Do you want the garden as a demonstration spot on campus?  Or, is the purpose to grow food, to be served in the cafeteria or given to a local charity?

Maria: I noticed your advertising says edible and eco friendly landscaping.  Are you growing edible herbs?

Ari: Yes, herbs and vegetables, if that’s what the client wants.  We do comprehensive landscaping, so it covers more than a planter box.  Everything we do has a sustainable twist. We give the client what they need, in the most environmentally friendly way.  We did our first lawn, recently.  We found a grass that requires 50% less water than the conventional grass.

Maria:  Do you see an increase in public or client awareness of what sustainability means?

Ari:  They don’t necessarily know the environmental science, but having a natural & chemical free environment is important to them. If their children or pets will be spending time in the garden, they want to keep it pesticide free.

Maria: So how do you handle pests?

Ari: We used insecticidal soaps and other products in lieu of chemicals. We take an integrated approach to pest management. This means striving for balance.  For example: Don’t go buy lady bugs to eat the aphids. The ladybugs may just fly away. Think of it as aphids bringing lady bugs.  A balanced ecosystem involves many creatures.

Maria: How do you approach water efficiency?

Ari:  A good amount of water is simply needed for a garden, especially if you are growing vegetables.  If you want something lower in water consumption, some good choices are grapes, pomegranate, and Mexican guavas.  Also use mulch and select native plant species.  If you’re considering water harvesting, know that it requires a large storage tank and transport to the garden.  It generally provides just a fraction of what is needed. Thus, additional water will still be required to supplement rainfall.

Maria: Do you have clients choose you because you promote yourself as a sustainable landscape designer or do they choose you as a landscaper first and you then persuade them to integrate sustainability to the project.

Ari:  It’s both. But usually clients are just looking for a good landscape designer.  Since I know a design can’t be good, without bringing in the sustainable element, it’s all about educating the clients. Once I provide them with an objective understanding of the benefits, they do make the right decisions.

Maria:  Thank you so much for your time. What can we students do for you?

Raised bed garden ADA accessible

Ari:  Check out photos and info at: www.revolutionlandscape.com or “like” us on Facebook.  If you go forward with sustainable landscape efforts on campus, please consider me for design help.  After all, I do know your area, since I went to college near there.

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