USF Garden Project

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


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