Tuesday, December 23, 2008

End of the year garden deadline approaching

With just over a week left before the end of the year, I wanted to remind everyone that gardeners who aren't planning on actively gardening during the winter need to prepare their plots for the season by December 31.

Over the past month or so, a number of people have sheet mulched their plots or planted a cover crop, which will help improve the quality of the soil while keeping weeds in check (Note: Scroll down to the previous blog entry for cover crop instructions). Others have cleared their plots and planted winter crops. Most of the garden is looking ready for the winter -- there are just a few plots that are covered in weeds at the moment.

One of the other reasons we've gotten more strict about enforcing this rule is that the waiting list for getting a plot at the garden has grown tremendously in recent years. We currently have 32 people who are waiting to get a plot at our garden. This is the longest our waiting list has ever been.

It's hard to believe that 2009 is almost here. Please make arrangements to prepare your plot for the winter by December 31 if you aren't planning on actively gardening in the coming months. If you are actively gardening this winter, please be sure to keep your plot weeded and well maintained. Gardeners who don't make arrangements by the end of the year to take care of their plots will have to give up their plots to someone on the waiting list.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Preparing your garden plot for the winter

The winter months are the perfect time to grow greens like chard, kale, and spinach, or crops like broccolli, brussel sprouts, and root vegetables like beets. But for those who plan on taking a break during the rainy winter months, its also a good time to work on building up the quality of your soil.

Last Saturday, Brent led an informative workshop on preparing garden plots for the winter with the aim of keeping weeds under control while enriching soil for spring planting. Brent talked about a few different techniques, including sheet mulching and growing cover crops.

Sheet Mulching Instructions

You'll find instructions for sheet mulching posted on the blog as well as on the tool shed bulletin board. All the supplies you'll need for sheet mulching are in the garden: horse manure (there's a pile up front), straw, and cardboard and newspaper (in the tool shed). Here are the instructions for growing cover crops:

Cover Crop Instructions

Cover crops (also called green manure) suppress weeds, build productive soil, and help control pests and diseases. Plus, cover crops are easy to plant and require only basic care to thrive. Here are the basic steps to follow:

1. Remove all invasive weeds from your plot (oxalis, knot weed, crab grass – see picture of each posted on the top of the compost bin). Discard these invasive weeds in the green city compost trash can.

2. Aerate the soil in your plot by poking it with a fork spade.

3. Spread a ½” (or less) layer of horse manure over the soil in your plot (from the manure pile in the front of the garden).

4. Using the metal rake, gently mix the manure into the soil.

5. Spread the cover crop seed throughout your plot. You'll find seed in a jar in the tool shed. Try using 1 cup per square yard.

6. Using the metal rake, mix the seed into the soil.

7. Cover your plot with a very thin blanket of straw. If too much straw is used it will suppress the cover crop. The straw is used to hide the seed from birds and rodents.

8. Keep your plot watered until the winter rains start.

9. One month before planting towards the end of winter, chop the cover crop with pruners and mix into the soil. Cover with straw and wait for one month. Be sure to keep the plot watered. Remove the straw from plot on planting day. The straw goes into the garden compost bin not the green city compost trash can.

Winter Gardening Deadline

Please keep in mind that if you are not planning on actively gardening this winter, you are required to prepare your plot for the season by sheet mulching or growing a cover crop. Gardeners who fail to do so by the end of the year will have to give up their plots. We currently have over 30 people on our waiting list, so this rule will be strictly enforced. If you need help with sheet mulching or planting cover crops, contact Gabriel (572-5444) or Michael (902-9537).

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Apples are ripe and ready to eat!

Earlier this week, I picked an apple from the smaller apple tree in the front of the garden to see if the fruit had ripened yet. I was happy to find out that the apples are crisp and delicious!

All fruit at Page Street is available to members of the garden. Feel free to use the fruit picker on the long pole by the toolshed to pick an apple. Just position the padded basket of the fruit picker beneath one of the apples. Tap the branch and the apple should land in the basket. I'll also pick a few and leave them on top of the compost bin.

There aren't that many apples in the tree, so please just take one so everyone gets a chance to enjoy them.

Unfortunately, we didn't get a good crop of apples this year on the tree in the very front of the garden. The apple and plum trees tend to produce fruit in cycles, and it looks like this was an off year for the front apple tree.

I'm hoping to get the City to do some additional pruning on the apple and cherry trees again before the end of the year. I'll keep you posted about that effort.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Summer fun at the garden party!

What started out as a foggy morning turned into a beautiful sunny day in the garden for our annual BBQ party on Saturday. Thanks to all who came out and helped make this day so much fun: Gabriel and Lynn for helping to set up and decorate the garden; John K. and Stephanie for taking charge of the barbecue grill up front; Zo for organizing the open mic performance on the patio; and Chancellor and John L. for helping with clean up at the end of the day.

We enjoyed some spoken word and especially great music this year with performances by Kim, Zo & Rick, Delano, and, of course, Aiden. Kenne gave us a glimpse into the future with tarot card readings. And we enjoyed a yummy potluck thanks to Lynn, Gordon, Darrow, Stevyn, and Anna!

Check out the photo page for some pics of the event.

We're already making plans for a Halloween bash in October. Stay tuned for details!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Garden barbecue coming up on September 13

Now that San Francisco's real summer has started, it's time to get ready for our annual garden barbecue coming up on Saturday, September 13.

Join us on the 13th from noon until 4pm for a garden potluck picnic! We'll have the barbecue set up out front and will supply burgers and hot dogs (including veggie versions) for the grill. Please bring a side dish or dessert to share with fellow gardeners. Throughout the afternoon we'll also feature open-mic music performances on the back patio. And we'll have bubbles and chalk drawing and other fun games for kids.

Volunteers are needed to help set up and clean up after this event. If you'd like to help out or if you're interested in participating in the open mic, please contact Michael at 902-9537.

This is a great opportunity to spend some time with your fellow gardeners and to meet others in the neighborhood. I hope to see you on the 13th!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

More plums are ripe at the garden!

I hope everyone has been enjoying the delicious fruit from the middle plum tree by the back patio this past month. There are just a few plums left in the high branches of this tree but now the fruit in the other two plum trees are ripe and ready for picking!

All fruit in the garden is available to members of the garden. Feel free to use the fruit picker on the long pole by the toolshed to pick some plums. Position the padded basket of the fruit picker beneath the plums that are ripe. Tap the branch and the plums should land in the basket. I'll also leave some plums on the top of the compost bin.

If you discover that the plums are still hard and not fully ripe, give them a little extra time to ripen. If you refrigerate them before they are ready, they won't ripen.

We want to make sure that everyone gets a chance to enjoy these plums, so please don't take more than your fair share. Thanks!

Bamboo fence under construction

If you've been by the garden lately, you've probably noticed that construction has begun on the bamboo fence up front. Last weekend, Gabriel and I built the frame for the fence. The next step is to construct the two panels that will fill in the fence within the frame. The fence is based on a traditional Japanese design and is going to look amazing when it has been completed. It's coming along nicely and we hope to complete this project soon.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Victory Gardens return to San Francisco

Did you know that there were once hundreds of vegetable garden plots in Golden Gate Park maintained by local residents? It was all part of the nationwide Victory Gardens program during World War II that encouraged the growing of vegetables on public and private land to help reduce the pressure on the food supply brought on during the war. At its height in the 1940s, these gardens produced over 40 percent of all the produce consumed in the country.

Now there's a big effort to bring back Victory Gardens in San Francisco. Victory Gardens 2008+ is a program of Garden for the Environment and the City of San Francisco's Department for the Environment. This two-year pilot project aims to support the transition of backyard, front yard, window boxes, rooftops and unused land into organic food production areas.

Victory Gardens 2008+ will install at least 15 pilot urban organic food gardens in San Francisco this year. While 1940s-era Victory Gardens were part of a massive government effort to address food shortages during wartime, Victory Gardens 2008+ aims to encourage self reliance and independence from the industrial food system, according to founder Amy Franceschini.

Perhaps the most prominent pilot garden of this effort will be the demonstration garden now underway in front of City Hall (a photo of the garden is shown above). This quarter-acre, edible, ornamental landscape is being organized by Slow Food Nation and will feature a wide variety of heritage organic vegetables suited to the Bay Area microclimate.

The planting for the Civic Center demonstration garden is scheduled for Saturday, July 12 beginning at 9am. To get involved in the planting and to find out other ways you can support this effort this summer, contact info@slowfoodnation.org with "Victory Garden" in the subject line.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Volunteers needed for Open Garden Days

Last weekend, we held our first Open Garden Day to enable more folks in the neighborhood to enjoy our beautiful, little garden. We're hosting Open Garden Days on the second and fourth Saturdays of every month from 10am to 2pm this summer to provide a regularly scheduled opportunity for people who aren't members of the garden to come by and check it out.

Volunteers are needed for 2 hour shifts during these days to welcome visitors to the garden. Last Saturday, Lynn kicked off our first Open Garden Day and was on hand to great a handful of people who stopped by, including one person who signed up on our waiting list. Thanks Lynn!! I took over during the second half and talked to a few more folks. It was all very low key and provided a fun and relaxing way to enjoy the garden for a couple of hours on a nice afternoon.

I'm heading out of town today for a 10-day vacation back east and need to recruit two folks who can be on hand for the July 12th Open Garden Day. If you are interested, please sign up on the volunteer list posted on the tool shed. Volunteers are also needed for upcoming Open Garden days in August.

This is an easy way to help support our efforts to make the garden more accessible to our neighbors and to build greater connections with the community. Please consider volunteering today. Thank you!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Sunny summer work day in the garden!

Our summer work day turned out to be a big success thanks to a great turn out by members of the garden and beautiful sunny weather throughout the afternoon. Everyone pitched in and we got a lot done, including a thorough weeding of the footpaths and common area gardens, spreading new wood chips throughout the garden, repairing the compost bins and some damaged garden plots, and reorganizing the work space by the tool shed. Thanks to all who came out and lent a hand last Saturday!

After a few hours of work, we took a break for a brief meeting and to talk about some ideas for the garden. Here’s a brief rundown of what we discussed:

New Bulletin Board: The city recently installed a new bulletin board at the front of the garden. Bulletin boards are being installed at all community gardens throughout the city and are designed to serve as a spot for posting notices about the garden (left side) and the community (right side) for the neighborhood. We deliberately chose a shady spot in the front of the garden for the bulletin board so that it wouldn’t block too much sun.

Open Garden Days: The city is encouraging community gardens, especially those like ours that are locked, to look for opportunities to provide greater public access. This summer, we’re going to host Open Garden Days on the second and fourth Saturday of every month from 10am to 2pm. Volunteers are needed for 2 hour shifts during these days to welcome visitors to the garden. You’ll find a volunteer sign up sheet posted on the bulletin board on the tool shed.

Bamboo Fence: Gabriel is leading a project to construct a bamboo fence along the west side of the front of the garden to replace the damaged chain link fence in that area. The fence is based on a traditional Japanese design and will be built in the coming weeks. Marina and Darrow volunteered to help him with the construction.

Tool Shed Inventory: We’re going to do an inventory of the tool shed later this month to identify what tools we have on hand, which ones might need to be replaced, and what other supplies are needed. If you have any suggestions, please let me know.

Annual Garden Barbecue: We made plans to organize our annual garden barbecue and party on Saturday, September 13. Volunteers are needed to help plan and organize the event. This event is open to all and inlcudes live music, great food, and other fun in the garden! Please let me know if you are interested in helping out.

Movies in the Garden: Lynn has been exploring the idea of hosting a movie night at the garden. She has a friend who is a film collector and the idea is to show some films (cartoons and other family-friendly movies) on the outside walls of one of the buildings bordering the garden. Stay tuned for more details.

Other ideas for improving the garden: We ended the meeting by having a discussion about other ideas people had for how we can continue to improve the garden and make it a real gathering place and focal point for the neighborhood. Mang talked about a garden art project he is interested in doing at our garden his interest in plantings that attract butterflies. Other art projects like mosaic and stencil work on the walls were discussed. We also talked about hosting potlucks at the garden and organizing workshops on composting, making jam from the garden plums, and other gardening subjects. We're looking into ways to expand the garden beyond our front gate, including the idea of creating sidewalk gardens along our block of Page Street. Finally, we're interested in adding some additional sitting areas along the sides of the patio and reconfiguring the compost bins to make room for a larger upper patio and stage for performances.

Ever since the garden was saved from development a few years ago, we’ve put a lot of effort into making it an even more special place for the neighborhood. It’s undergone a wonderful transformation since then thanks to the creative energy and talent of a growing core of gardeners who have volunteered for special projects like the ones above. I’m excited about all we’ve accomplished these past few years and look forward to building on this success.

If you are interested in helping out with any of these projects or have other ideas, please let me know!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Summer Work Day Coming Up: Saturday, June 14

Mark your calendars for our next garden work day, which will take place on Saturday, June 14 from 10am to 1pm. Summer is approaching and we've got a few projects to tackle to help get the garden ready for the new season. Join us on the 14th to help with weeding, repairing some of the garden plots, spreading another layer of wood chips on the footpaths, and some work on the compost bins.

Everyone is encouraged to come to each work day, but please keep in mind that all gardeners are required to help out on at least one work day every year.

I hope to see you at the garden on the 14th!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Community Hero Honored: Barbara Wenger

A couple of weekends ago I attended a very inspiring event organized by the Chrissy Field Center to recognize Bay Area residents who have worked to improve their local environment. Among the Community Heroes honored this year was Barbara Wenger, a longtime neighborhood activist who founded the Hayes Valley Neighborhood Parks Group and headed up the effort to clean up Koshland Park right down the street from our garden.

In the 1990s, Koshland Park was a magnet for drug dealing and prostitution in the Lower Haight. Barbara volunteered to lead a committee to reclaim the park for the community. She organized a "Take Back Your Park Day" and the response from the neighborhood was tremendous. Hundreds of neighbors turned out and spent the day removing trash and other debris from the park and began working to restore it as a safe place for kids to play.

Today, Koshland Park has a new playground, beautiful landscaping, and a vibrant community garden that serves as an outdoor classroom for children at nearby John Muir Elementary School. Check out the video posted below and you'll be amazed at how this organizing effort transformed a derelict park into neighborhood jewel.

The Hayes Valley Neighborhood Parks Group has restored play structures, replanted three parks, rejuvenated two community gardens, and enriched the neighborhood with art projects, including the Peace Wall that surrounds Koshland Park.

The work of Barbara and all of those who came together to restore Koshland and the other nearby green spaces has made such a difference in our neighborhood. It inspires me to continue working to improve our garden and to look for more opportunities to build community and beautify the neighborhood.

Gabriel and I have been tossing around a few project ideas for extending our gardening efforts beyond the Page Street Garden's front gate. Stay tuned for more details and to find out how you can get involved.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

John Muir School gardening project on Saturday

This Saturday, April 26th, from 9am to 4pm, volunteers will be working to help beautify the area around John Muir Elementary School. The school has received a grant from Rebuilding Together SF to plant new California native plants in the garden along the Webster Street side of the building and to repair some of the planter boxes for the trees that surround the school on Page and Webster Streets. You can help support this effort by lending a hand for a couple of hours on Saturday.

As you may recall from the Spring workday announcements, a group of Page Street gardeners had begun working with the Tse Chen Ling Buddhist Center to raise money to replace the planter boxes for each of the trees surrounding the elementary school. But then I learned recently that a similar project was already in the works with Rebuilding Together SF and scheduled for this Saturday.

This is a great opportunity to help support John Muir Elementary and to improve the garden used by educators to introduce young students to nature and gardening. The volunteer crew will be working most of the day, but if you have a couple of hours to spare, be sure to stop by.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Spring work day update

Chancellor and Lynn plant a protea and some succulents in a new wine barrel planter in front of the garden.

If there's one thing you can count on in San Francisco, it's that the weather forecast will be wrong.

Despite earlier concerns about rain, Saturday turned out to be nice after all and we ended up having a very productive workday. Thanks to Brent, Celeste, Chancellor, June, Kevin, Lynn, Michael L., Stephanie, and Zo for helping to get the garden in good shape. We spent the morning weeding the footpaths and some of the common area garden plots, spreading new woodchips throughout the garden, and planting some new plants in the succulent garden and in another wine barrel planter out front.

After a couple of hours of work, we took a break for lunch and to have a brief meeting. Here are a few garden reminders and updates we discussed:

Regularly weed around your plot: Gardeners are expected to keep the area around the front, back, and sides of their plots free of weeds. Be sure to keep this area weeded throughout the year, including the winter.

Keep invasive weeds out of the compost: You can compost most garden waste in our compost bins, but there are three invasive weeds that should stay put of the bins: oxallys with yellow flowers, knot weed (sometimes called "sticky weed"), and crab grass. You'll find pictures of all three weeds on top of the compost bin. These three weeds should go in the green city compost trash can instead.

Hang front lock on the trellis: To help prevent the front lock from being stolen or lost, please hang it on the trellis when you enter the garden. The lock has been stolen a number of times when it has been left unlocked by the front gate.

Check with Michael about planting in common area gardens: Over the past few years, we've spent a lot of time trying to improve the common area gardens by slecting plants that are appropriate for each location. If you have a plant that you'd like to move out of your plot, please check in with me first to see if it might be approproate for one of the common area gardens.

Respect your neighbor's plot: A few gardeners have reported that produce has been removed from their plots. Some gardeners have taken it upon themselves to weed their neighbor's plot when weeds have gotten overgrown. Please refrain from disturbing anyone else's plot unless you've made arrangements with them to help them maintain it. We'll update the garden plot map tacked on the inside toolshed door with phone numbers in case you need to contact your garden neighbor about any issues that may arise.

Clean tools before putting them away: Please remove any dirt from the tools you use before putting them away in the toolshed.

Help maintain the garden hose: Be sure the yellow valve on the hose is open when you turn off the faucet so all the water can drain out. If the valve is closed and water is left in the hose after the faucet is turned off, then the build-up can create leaks in the hose. Also, be sure you wrap the hose into the coil after using it.

New compost plans: Brent reported on a new compost bin we'd like to get for the garden. The Compost Tumbler2 is a more efficient composting system that will be easier for everyone to use. It costs around $500, so we have approached the manufacturer to see if we can get a donation or significant discount. If that effort fails, we'll consider other fundraising options.

John Muir Tree Box Project: Stephanie was recently contacted by the director of the Tse Chen Ling Buddhist Center about the possibility of collaborating with the garden on creating new planter boxes for the trees that surround John Muir Elementary School on Webster and Page Streets. Gabriel and I have since met with the director to discuss this in more detail. The hope is to raise funds for the new planter boxes from local businesses and foundations and to begin construction sometime this summer. If you are interested in getting involved, please contact me.

Volunteers needed: Finally, we need volunteers to take a more active role in helping to maintain the garden. Volunteers are needed to maintain the herb garden, compost bins, plan work days, and help with the common area gardens. If you'd like to lend your time and skills to any of these projects, please let me know. Thanks!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Reminder: Spring work day this Saturday, 3/29

Spring has finally arrived and that means it's time for our first work day of the year. I hope to see you at the garden work day on Saturday, March 29, from 10am and 2pm.

The current weather forecast calls for a slight chance of rain on Saturday, but we'll just have to wait and see what kind of weather we're dealing with that morning. In the event of rain, I’ll send out an email letting everyone know the work day has been cancelled and we’ll re-schedule.

You can also call me at 902-9537 on Saturday morning in case the weather is looking questionable and you want to find out whether the work day is still on. Hopefully, the weather forecasters will be wrong and we’ll have a nice sunny day to enjoy working in the garden.

We'll spend our time on Saturday weeding the footpaths and the common area gardens, planting another wine barrel planter for out front, replacing some of the rotten garden plot boards, and spreading new woodchips throughout the garden. At around noon or so, we'll take a break to enjoy a potluck lunch and have a group meeting. Please bring a snack or dish to share with your fellow gardeners.

During the meeting, we'll go over some garden reminders and make plans for the year. I'm anxious to talk to everyone about opportunities for getting more involved in the garden and a new project that is just getting underway to create new planter boxes around the trees surrounding John Muir Elementary. And I want to hear your ideas about how we can continue to improve the garden. What's on your garden wish list for this year?

I hope to see you on Saturday!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Love & Lemons at the Page Street Garden

Gardener Heather O'Neill has started a blog on Hayes Valley as part of a new web site that aims to cover every ZIP code in the nation. Heather says she expects the web site will function as a nationwide Yelp, with reviews and comments about different neighborhoods.

One of her first posts was on the Page Street Garden and tells the story of how she was introduced to the garden by her new boyfriend Byron, whose been a gardener for the past few years. It's a great story with some nice photos of the garden. Check it out here.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Spring workday: March 29, 10am to 2pm

Our first workday of the year will take place on Saturday, March 29, from 10am to 2pm. We'll spend that time working on some garden chores, like weeding the footpaths, spreading new woodchips, tending to common area plots, and re-organizing the toolshed and back work area. At around 12:30, we'll take a break for a potluck lunch and to make plans for the year.

Stay tuned for more details on our Spring workday...In the meantime, please save the date.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Volunteers need for compost team

Have you checked out the compost bins lately? The "finished" bin on the left is filled almost to the top with rich compost ready to be used in our garden.

Brent has done an amazing job revitalizing our compost bins over the past couple of years. Thanks to diligent chopping by all of you and Brent's stewardship, we have a really incredible resource that has helped to build and improve the soil in the garden.

Brent is interested in recruiting a team of gardeners to help him maintain the compost bins on a regular basis. This is a great opportunity for those interested in learning more about composting and getting more involved in supporting the garden.

Brent developed his composting expertise by taking an intensive composting educator class through Garden for the Environment. Graduates of that program work with gardeners throughout the city passing on their composting knowledge and skills.

If you are interested in joining the compost team, please contact Brent at brentpatterson415@mac.com

To learn more about composting, be sure to check out the
compost guide that Brent and Hallie created. It's a really informative guide that explains how everyone in the garden has a role in turning garden waste into nutrient rich soil (the guide is posted on the garden bulletin board in addition to here on the blog). And you can learn more about using the worm bin by watching the worm bin video.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

2008 Membership Dues Needed by March 1

A belated "Happy New Year" to everyone!

With the start of 2008, it's time again to collect annual membership dues for the garden. Your dues help pay for needed supplies, ongoing maintenance, and unexpected expenses. 2008 membership dues are needed by March 1.

Over the past year, we used garden dues to cover the expenses of a number of projects, including the purchase of new tools, plants for the common area gardens, supplies for workshops, and food and other items for our garden barbecue in September. I'm looking forward to working with everyone this year to continue making our garden an even more special place for the neighborhood.

Please think about whether you intend to actively garden this year. Gardeners agree to use their plots year-round on a regular basis, at least once a month. And gardeners are expected to participate in at least one of the four annual workdays.

Annual dues for the garden are on a sliding scale as follows (choose whatever contribution level works for you):

$12 – gardener
$25 – butterfly
$50 – sunshine
$100 – golden trowel
or you can choose your own contribution amount

If you are interested in renewing your membership for the garden, please send a check made out to "Page Street Garden" to:

Michael McCauley
881 Hayes Street
San Francisco, CA 94117-2614

I'm anxious to make garden plots available to the folks on our waiting list, so please let me know by March 1 whether you intend to renew your garden membership. If you plan on giving up your garden plot, I would appreciate hearing from you as soon as possible.

Give me a call if you have any questions (902-9537). Thank you!