From Chaparral and Back Again

A Quick History of Magrathea


From Chaparral and Back Again

In 1989 David and Katherine Barto made a bid on a piece of land in Poway. The land is a five acre lot with a coastal sage scrub and chaparral mix of plant communities. California gnat catchers and horned lizards live here, both seldom seen because of habitat destruction. After ten years of saving and waiting for the right time, they started construction. This included the grading and paving of the shared driveway. Luckily, other families shared that cost.

The lot already had a simple drive and scraped pad on it. There was no power, no electricity, no water and no sewer. In the two months of grading, a rather large area had to be cleared to create a septic system and leach field. Both David and Katherine felt bad that to build the house that they designed, so much damage to the surrounding brush was needed. In fact, the house followed the original pad shape by forming a ‘U’.

In order to learn more about the plants that were already on the property, they often went hiking from their nearby home with books to help them identify the existing plants.

David and Katherine learned that the water from the city would have to be pumped up the hill 300 feet and about half a mile. With conservation in mind, and needing more information about the native plants, Katherine joined the Lake Hodges Native Plant Club. The timing was good because the club opened their Nativescapes Botanical Garden to the public on Earth Day 1991, and the Barto’s attended the ceremony.

Katherine has been an active member since then and David has attended activities whenever he could. Through the LHNPC, Katherine met Greg Rubin, a landscaper who works almost entirely with California native plants. She told him that he would be their landscaper years before construction started. The city of Poway required that all slopes be planted and erosion control be in place before the Bartos could move into their new home.

Greg started by planting native plants on all the slopes. His company also took care to put in water systems that are appropriate to each section of plants. The closest areas to the house receive more water than the areas farther away. No hay bales were used in the erosion control because they contain too many weed seeds. The property was generally weed free because it had been open space before, and traversed only by hikers and people riding horses in the area.

Native plants require less water after they are established, and no fertilizer or amendments when planting, just a hole in the ground. The cleared areas, and where the septic system went in, are now sporting beautiful sage blooms and many of the natives have reclaimed the area.