USF Garden Project

Botanical Gardens Write-Up
February 27, 2008, 7:29 pm
Filed under: Activities, organic gardening

Botanical Gardens

Our visit to the San Francisco Botanical Gardens taught me both about the Botanical Gardens itself and much about the intricacies of seed-saving. Even though at times what the curator had to say about seeds seemed a bit more intricate and in-depth than I was prepared for, overall it was a good overview of what we will need to know to collect, store, and plant our own seeds.

Much of what the curator told us about the Botanical Gardens could be directly applied to our own garden. He said how July and August had no sun at all, only fog. The Botanical Garden grows very little food, perhaps because its main purpose is to educate, or perhaps because it is very difficult to grow most food in San Francisco. The curator stressed the importance of sun for many plants. He said that in the case of tomato plants, one-half the sun would yield one-half the amount of tomatoes. He said that here in San Francisco we are in a Mediterranean climate, and this climate is many other places, including Chili. He said that the types of plant that grow here are also seen in places like Chili, where the environmental aspects are similar.

The curator stressed the importance of seed saving, since so many types of plants are disappearing. For example, in Chili, much of the land is being turned into grazing land for McDonald’s cattle and diversity is being gravely threatened. The curator gave a large amount of information about seeds. I became aware as a result of his talk of how each seed needs to be treated differently. I was not aware that each seed requires such unique circumstances. For example, some seeds must remain wet at all times or they will die. Also, some seeds need the nitric oxide in smoke to germinate. I thought it was interesting what the curator said about 90% of the battle with seeds is keeping them sterile. The other 9% is keeping them safe from snails and slugs, 1% keeping them safe from larger creatures. The main piece of information that I retained from this presentation is that we will need to thoroughly research each seed that we want to collect and store if we wish to be successful seed-savers.
-Austin Clark

Visit to “Garden for the Environment”
February 27, 2008, 7:27 pm
Filed under: Activities, organic gardening

September 12, 2007

After a long bus ride along the MUNI route 43, our class arrived at the location of the “Garden for the Environment”. We were welcomed by Blair who soon indulged us in a very informative, picturesque, and fragrant tour of the small quarter of an acre garden. We were told about the history of the garden, the education that took place there, different methods of composting, the benefits of raised beds, the different landmarks in the garden, how to start a beehive, and several more interesting and important things vital to a garden’s success.

“Garden for the Environment” began seventeen years ago, as a non-profit organization, for the purpose of educating the local residents how to garden with less water. Now it has evolved to include organic and compost education. Throughout the tour, Blair mentioned several ways to do composting. He said that 35% of what goes to the landfill can be composted, so composting is a serious component in the goal to have San Francisco as a zero-waste city. One way to compost is to have compost bins which speed up the decomposition process of plants. Using worms, specifically the red wiggler, speeds up the process even more and produces very rich compost full of nutrients.

Another way to compost is to have huge free standing compost piles consisting both of what Blair called ‘greens’, which are high in nitrogen food scraps, manure, coffee grounds, and ‘browns’, which are higher in carbon such as twigs and straw. The free standing compost piles and compost bins are both called ‘hot compost’ which means they get really hot because they decompose so quickly. Other than compost, another thing I found interesting were the raised beds.

Raised beds are beneficial in several ways. For one, they can be filled with soil that you know is good for the plants and the plant roots have enough room to grow (say, 2 feet). Another thing is that because a lot care-taking of plants puts a lot of stress on the worker’s or gardener’s back, so it is nice to have raised beds so they could stand up and work. Blair also told us about what kind of wood to buy. One of the raised beds we saw was covered in straw, which serves as mulch, a heating component, keeps down weeds, and retains the moisture in the soil. Another cool thing we saw was a half-open miniature green house were varieties of tomatoes were growing. The benefit of the open green house was that it didn’t get too hot, enabled the plants to get pollinated and also to allow people to pick the tomatoes. The larger green house we saw was to grow starters in a safer environment.

The “Garden for the Environment” had a few different sections focused for certain things. For instance, there was a whole section devoted to the natural plants of that specific San Francisco area in order to preserve the same plants that were here for hundreds of years. They also don’t need to maintain them because they were fine before us humans. There was also a nice little section with logs seats and benches for classes and talks. On the hill were several apple trees and other plants. Blair told us that we could tell if an apple was ripe by pressing it with our thumb and if we heard a ‘snap’ sound. Most of the apples and other sweet things are harvested and given either to the Product House near the garden or to the teachers and donors of the garden. Yet another fun thing we saw was a Honey bee hive. Basically it was just a box on the hill with trays for the bees to make the honey comb in and tons of bees. Blair said that they produced over 60 pounds of honey in just a few months.

After we were done with the awesome tour of “Garden for the Environment”, Blair invited us to do some weeding. We helped weed blackberries (both Himalayan and local) and a grass that seemed to pop out of every plant. The whole fieldtrip was lots of fun and I definitely learned a lot about maintaining a garden and several hints on how to make it successful.
-Gopika Misri

Alemany Farm Visit
February 27, 2008, 7:20 pm
Filed under: Activities, Food, organic gardening

The Garden Project
Report Due: October 3, 2007
Alemany Farm
“It all starts with the soil…” -Jason

Quick Notes:
• This area used to be an illegal dump, as it is situated right off of the 280.
• The property used to be a natural swamp; and has one of the few above ground creaks in the area.
• It holds the second largest biodiversity in San Francisco for butterflies and moths.
• It is four and a half acres, located in the south of San Francisco.
• All the produce is sold at Bay View Farmers Point, a subsidized organic farmers market. $1.00 for most items, or given to the volunteers.
• The farm has an average of 360 volunteers, 10-15 of which volunteer weekly.

This Friday (September 28th) the garden projectors filed into two vans and took off for Alemany Farm, a 4 ½ acre organic garden in the south end of San Francisco. Jason, the farm manager and an urban farmer himself, met us and shared of the entire goings on around the farm. A great time was had by everyone, sitting in the circle learning, digging in the dirt, and eating freshly picked apples and carrots.

Some things I thought were really great about this garden: the rows, and the stone circle. I’m from central California where you can drive along the highway and see rows beyond rows of food growing, and I have always been drawn to them, as a beautiful scenic picture. I have never seen any one use the row structure in a small garden before, yet I began to think of a few reasons why they might be desirable for our own garden at USF. First, I love the symmetry of them. If we were looking for an aesthetically pleasing garden (to my own taste) I would have straight rows, and lots of them. Yet I do also see a practical side. The space it saves, and the paths (in order to never stand on your sacred growing bed), yet most importantly, the way the eleven of us could work side by side, one row at a time.

The stone circle where we sat when we first arrived, was a great design. After visiting Garden for the Environment and seeing there “educational circle” I have been more intrigued by the idea of creating a place in our garden at USF, where people can sit, relax, and learn. The circle was actually a semi-circle, with raised seats made out of wood, and could probably sit up to twenty persons. It would be great if we could do something like this, but also incorporate grass (like at Garden for the Environment) perhaps in the middle of the circle…

I love visiting these gardens…with every new place I think, “We should totally do that!”
-Stasie Smith