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Sub-Region: Southern California Coastal, Inland

Bill Homyak

State: California
Business: Professor - Southwestern College
Website:  www.swccd.edu

I attended California State University, Fresno and earned my Bachelor's and Master's Degrees in Ornamental Horticulture. I have been a licensed landscape contractor and have taught at Southwestern College since 1980.

Biographical Information

Please tell us briefly about your favorite cause/business/product in which you are involved that you would like to share with the general public and why.
Being a professor of horticulture, I want to get some of our gardeners involved in taking horticulture classes. It is amazing how people who have been gardeners for years will take a class and say "I always knew that I had to add organic matter to the soil, but I never knew why." Education is never a bad thing!

Where can members get more of your advice?
Take some classes of my classes at Southwestern College! We have a great program and love to have people of all garden interests attend and contribute to our classes.

Background Information

Briefly describe the climate where you garden now (climate zone, state, area) and any other areas where you have gardened in the past.
I currently reside in Chula Vista, near Southwestern College. I have also gardened in the heat of Fresno county, and the cool, damp weather of the Monterrey Peninsula.

How long have you been gardening?
Since I was about 12 years old.

What triggered your interest?
My father was often away (Navy pilot) so I was delegated the lawn mowing and some gardening chores.

What is your specialty, expertise or claim to fame?
Having a golfing background as a child, I had an immediate interest in turfgrass management as a college student. My Ornamental Horticulture bachelor's degree and my Plant Science master's degree both specialized in turfgrass care and research. I enjoy diagnosing and improving turfgrass areas.

What formal education do you have?
I have a Bachelor's degree in Ornamental Horticulture and a Master's degree in Plant Science from California State University, Fresno.

Bill's Book Recommendations

Sunset Western Garden Book
I am a plant nut and am always curious to look up the information about new plants.

Landscape Plants for Western Region: An Illustrated Guide to Plants for Water Conservation

Fantastic Trees

Bill's Favorite Websites

It still amazes me how quickly we can access information on a plant that a few years ago took hours of diving into different plant books to find.

What formal horticultural training do you have?
I have been trained in irrigation design by the Toro Company, and have attended numerous seminars in computer-aided design for landscaping. I have also spent a good deal of time in the pesticide licensing and certification area and have organized and given over 100 pesticide continuing education seminars. I was also recently certified in the area of interlocking paver design and installation.

What is your favorite garden or plant-related topic? Tell us a little about them.
It is probably the current tendency to discount the value of lawns. A healthy lawn can do so much for our urban environment. I have seen way too many "lawn-less" landscapes that end up being bare soil or gravel. With the abundance of concrete, roofing material, asphalt and the trend of larger and larger hardscaped areas, we really need a buffer of green around our homes to clean the air, modify the air temperatures, and soften our cityscapes. I am in favor of smarter lawns; that is, lawns that are properly shaped to lessen water waste and grown with the turfgrass appropriate for the site.

What is your biggest gardening pet peeve? Tell us about it.
I hate gardeners that trim beautiful trees and shrubs into circles, cubes, and other odd shapes. Plants are their most beautiful when left to grow into their natural shape, or when pruned to bring out their best features.

How much time per week do you spend gardening?
Not enough. My job is often so time consuming that once I get home, I just want to enjoy the couch!

How much time per week do you spend working at the business of gardening, such as consulting, reading, writing or talking about your gardening subject?
Since I teach courses in Landscape and Nursery Technology, I am constantly in touch with reading, writing, and talking about garden topics. My job demands that I keep up-to-date by attending various seminars and trade shows.

What gardening or horticultural clubs, societies, or organizations (or any other interest) do you belong to?
I have been or currently am a member of the CLCA, the San Diego CAN, and the San Diego Golf Course Superintendents Association.

What other biographical information would you like to share?
I am a Mission Bay High School graduate, married to my best friend who is also a plant lover, and have two grown up kids. Our vacations always include the local botanic gardens.

Gardening Questions

What do you like most about gardening?
The way in which it takes me away from the thoughts and stresses of our daily routines. I also enjoy seeing the final results of my efforts.

What do you dislike most about gardening?
My back just can't tolerate all the bending over!

What individual has influenced your gardening interest the most? How?
My major professor in college, Dr. Gary Koch, allowed me to go "free-rein" in growing a putting green and turf plots at Fresno State. That got my hands dirty and helped to develop my interests in other phases of horticulture.

What is your favorite place or activity in the garden?
I enjoy areas of the garden that are natural, slighlty overgrown, and quiet.

What is your favorite time in the garden?
The best time in the garden is after all the maintenance has been done and the sun is just starting to set.

What is your favorite public or private garden in the world? Why?
In Southern California, it would be Huntington. In the world, of those that I have visited, it would be the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew near London or Keukenhof in the Netherlands.

What is your favorite color in the garden?
The deep greens of lush foliage, especially after an afternoon rain.

If you could grow only one plant, what would it be?
I know I will take some abuse for this, but growing a perfect bentgrass putting green in my backyard would be my desire.

What plant have you tried to grow that has given you the most trouble? Or, what plant would you like to grow and can't, and why?
I would love to live in an area with an acid soil and some winter chill so I could grow those great Rhododendrons, Azaleas, and a variety of winter-chill bulbs.

What is your favorite gardening outfit or costume?
Shorts and bare feet.

Do you have a gardening philosophy you would like to share with other gardeners? What is it?
Don't overplant your gardens. Give the trees and shrubs room to grow into their normal forms. Put away the hedge shears!

Who is your own favorite gardening personality on TV, radio or in print? Why?
Paul James.

What is the one question about gardening you would really like people to ask you?
What is the best type of grass I should plant for my lawn?

And what's the answer?
We have so many different climates in San Diego that many people plant the wrong type of grass. We are one of the few areas in the country that can grow both warm and cool season grasses. However, we often put ryegrasses and fescues in the heat of El Cajon and bermudagrasses in Del Mar. And, the most common lawn maintenance mistake is improper mowing heights!

What is a garden myth you hear frequently which you know is untrue?
It has to do with sprinkler design. It goes like this: "If I use a smaller pipe, can I increase my water pressure?"

And, what is the reality?
The reality is that you only have so much pressure at your house and once water gets flowing, it loses more and more pressure the further it has to travel. The only way to "conserve" the pressure you have is to use larger pipes for your irrigation system. That keeps the water flowing slowly and that helps to conserve your water pressure.

What group or kind of person do you think would benefit most from the advice you can give on gardening?
The group would be our local landscape maintenance companies. I know they must perform miracles in taking care of our large commercial and residential landscapes with very little profit margin, but wouldn't it be great if they had time to prune rather than shear! Yeah, I know, that is a dream.

Would you like to participate, or can you recommend someone who you think should? We're always looking for more expert gardeners to tell about their philosophies and give their plant recommendations contact us and we'll get started (it's easy and a great way to promote yourself).

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