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Sustainable Maintenance Solutions
By Alli Rael, LC/DBM


Among the plants in the garden are perennials and evergreen shrubs including Lamb's ears (1), Ceanothus (2), Clematis and Rudbeckia (3). Bee-friendly plants include Salvia leucantha (4), Gallardia, and crape myrtles. "Bird baths, hummingbird feeders and other water sources and strategically placed throughout the property, as well," said Cristina Prevarin, Gachina's sustainable landscape manager.
Click image to enlarge.


The gardens at the Del Monte Shopping Center in Monterey, Calif., are maintained by Gachina Landscape Management, a landscape company that takes pride in its sustainable practices. Built in 2015, this portion of the grounds was designed to attract wildlife and pollinators.

Gachina Landscape Management is a minority and women-owned business in the San Francisco Bay Area. One of their services offered is sustainable landscaping, both in installation and maintenance.

"Gachina Landscape Management has a commitment to its employees, clients, vendors, the environment and the future generations," said Cristina Prevarin, sustainable landscape manager. "We want to do our part in promoting landscape maintenance practices that deliver less chemicals to the ground, the water, the air."

Though recent rains brought parts of California out of drought, emergency water savings are still in place, so water management is a big issue for sustainable landscapes. One solution involves making and managing water budgets, the accounting of all water that flows in and out of a project area. Advancements in irrigation technology help: rain and moisture sensors, drip irrigation, low flow nozzles and weather-based irrigation controllers ensure that plants are neither over- nor under-watered. Where appropriate, drought tolerant landscapes are designed and installed as a means to control water usage.


The North American Butterfly Association designated the garden as a Certified Monarch Garden. One of Gachina's sustainability goals is to create certified wildlife habitats wherever possible; the plants and water sources in the butterfly garden provide water, food and cover for butterflies and caterpillars. The NRPA launched the Parks for Monarchs program to support creation on Monarch Waystations. More information on establishing monarch habitats and waystations can be found at and


More recently, a succulent garden was installed at the shopping center, emphasizing water savings as a sustainability tool. The shopping center's other gardens have rain and moisture sensors, drip irrigation, low flow nozzles, and weather-based irrigation controllers to limit water runoff and waste.

All of the compost Gachina uses is completely organic. Yard clippings and other green waste are taken to local cow farms. In some cases, the landscape maintenance team uses mulch mowers to return grass clippings back to the soil, or they mulch leaves on site. Planters are mulched with wood chips provided by local tree companies. When turf needs to be removed or an area is overrun by weeds, they sheet mulch the area, eliminating unwanted plant material naturally instead of through the application of herbicides.

In fact, no herbicides or pesticides are used on the landscapes sustainably maintained by Gachina. Pests are eliminated through the broadcasting of beneficial predators and parasites, including ladybugs and lacewings.

Local materials are a priority - whenever possible, plants and other material are purchased locally. To minimize the company's environmental impact, daily tasks are performed with battery-operated equipment, lowering their VOC (volatile organic compound) emissions and reducing pollution.


In addition to smart water management, no pesticides or herbicides are used at the Del Monte Shopping Center. This is beneficial to pollinators and other wildlife (several bird species, including hummingbirds) that make their home in the gardens. Beneficial predators, including ladybugs, are released to control landscape pests. As part of Gachina's sustainable landscape practices, planters are mulched with tree wood chips provided by local tree companies.


"The Shopping Center requires the presence of a crew of three people for five days a week," said Prevarin. "An irrigation technician is on staff as well." The team maintains a landscaped area of about 400,000 square feet. Maintenance in the 576 square foot butterfly garden involves hand pruners and hand shears. Organic compost is used, as well as compost tea as fertilizer. Compost tea is a liquid organic supplement that is made by steeping aged compost in water. Among its benefits are increased plant growth, nutrients, and disease suppression.

Wherever they can, the Gachina team creates certified bee refuges and wildlife habitats. One such sustainably maintained landscape and wildlife habitat is the Del Monte Shopping Center in Monterey, Calif. In part because of the sustainable practices implemented, the shopping center was designated as a certified monarch garden by the North American Butterfly Association.

"Through the installation of the most appropriate plant material, the ban of synthetic pesticides and herbicides, the implementation of more green practices, Gachina Landscape Management is providing not only shelter, water and food but also a safe and healthy environment to the local pollinators and wildlife," Prevarin said.

"All of the above goes hand in hand with delivering a beautiful landscape, in which quality is still the priority," she concluded.


The Gachina Farm, named after founder John Gachina, started out as an abandoned lot where the weeds reached 4 feet in height. "By sheet mulching and applying an 8" layer of organic compost and natural wood chips (from locally removed trees), we have repurposed the area to a vegetable garden," said Prevarin. "One of John's dreams was to create the Farm." The Farm was designated as a Certified Wildlife Habitat in April 2015.


Following John Gachina's passing in December 2015, employees and families painted rocks and stepping-stones in his memory. They were officially installed in the Farm in April 2016 as part of the ceremony dedicating the Farm to John's memory and legacy.

The Gachina Farm Pays Tribute to Founder
In April 2015, the Gachina Farm, a construction yard that was redesigned as a farm and garden, was recognized as a Certified Wildlife Habitat by the National Wildlife Federation. The 5,000 square foot space provides a home for bees, ladybugs, butterflies, wild birds, squirrels, foxes and hummingbirds.

"Everything that gets seeded or planted is organic. The majority of the purchased plant material comes from a local nonprofit organization," Prevarin explained. "The harvest gets shared between our employees and a culinary class of a local nonprofit organization."

John Gachina, founder of Gachina Landscape Management, passed away in December 2015 at the age of 64. One year after the Farm's official designation as a Certified Wildlife Habitat, the Gachina Landscape family celebrated his life and vision by dedicating the farm to his memory and legacy.

Employees and their families painted rocks and stepping-stones "as a tangible token of appreciation to John, for all he has represented and all he has done for each one of us throughout his long and memorable career and life," Prevarin said. They were placed in the farm on Earth Day 2016 in his memory.

As seen in LC/DBM magazine, February 2017.

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January 24, 2019, 1:30 am PST

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