Sunday, June 23, 2019

Genentech Brings It Again!

Astounding team!
Every year Genenetech has a volunteer week where they show up at various nonprofits and help out. For the last few years they have worked with us, and Friday was their big day. We're always excited to have Genentech-ers at PG because they work darn hard!

Mandala
I packed up my trailer with a couple dozen extra tools and three additional wheelbarrows from the SF DPW yard, coolers full of chilled beverages, and of course all our usual hand tools, gloves and so on (and on!) and headed to PG for noon.

As I was unloading, I saw a woman creating a lovely flower mandala for the solstice. We don't encourage flower picking, but this was for a very unselfish reason, and we had a nice chat about it.

New gravel path
At 12.30 I was joined by volunteer coordinators Carrie, Josh, Mikey, Matt and Gina. Around that time, Bayview Greenwaste arrived to deliver 10 yards of wood mulch for the paths.

And then the Genentech volunteers started showing up! We had about 13 this time around, and we quickly split them into teams to do the work required.

Josh took one team who set about removing the last of the gravel from the street and clearing and renovating the pathway to the composters.  Josh also weeded the nearby beds, and the whole area looks fantastic now, and is MUCH more functional.

Weeds - gone!
Meanwhile, the rest of the crew set about weeding the paths in preparation for wood mulch. This was a pretty fast job - we've been keeping up the paths pretty well. However, we still filled 10 leaf bags with green waste for Recology to pick up - no mean feat. A fair bit was cut back Euphorbias and Romneyas from the bottom pathway, too.

Then the huge job of shifting 10 yards of mulch started... and it ALL had to be moved away from the street by 3.30pm, so I was a bit stressed! I'm always a bit stressed about leaving material in the street, obviously, but somehow we usually make it happen...

Mulch pile - gone!
Incredibly, we finished early - by 3pm all the mulch was GONE and the team was giddy with exhaustion and (I think) joy, at finishing early.

Thank you Team Genentech for helping us with one of our biggest tasks of the year, with unrelenting good humor and energy!

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Golden Gate Park turns 150 next year

Well, our gardens have been around a bit over 10 years but glorious Golden Gate Park blows that out of the water: in April 2020 they're celebrating 150 years.

Matt and I went to their 150th birthday planning meeting at the Koret Auditorium at SF Public Library last week, and they're looking for groups to put on events from April onward next year, in the park, to celebrate the event.

If YOUR organizations puts on events there, or is thinking about it, make them extra festive and add the GGP150 logo and so on. Visit the website for the event, which just launched and is basic for now, to find out more.

http://goldengatepark150.com/




Saturday, June 1, 2019

All Hail the Renovated Composter!

Leslie: no friend of weeds!
My word, today was a blast. I sent out an email to our mailing list that I'd be giving a demo on succulent cultivation and a free succulent to folks who came down, and we had 14 volunteers! Bribery is a thing!

By NO means do I imply these volunteers weren't ready to work for their little succulent though - and wow, did they ever work.

Chris, John, Josh: pre-sweat
First order of business was finishing up the composter. I had sent out a pleading email to the core volunteer group asking them to help Matt and I literally push rocks up hill. Yep, I had done the calculations, and figured we needed a bit less than 2.5 yards of gravel to fill the composter steps that Matt and I built last week. The gravel was delivered at 9.30am to the Pennsylvania Ave side, and we needed to wheelbarrow it all up the hill.

Sarah: weeding machine!
Last time we did that was burned on my memory, and I recalled the exhaustion as fresh as if it was last week...

Happy day: Chris, John, Josh and Matt are strong lads and like a challenge. They were soon joined by Aditi's Dad and the next two hours were spent stapling hardware cloth to the bottoms of the steps, pounding rebar into the little retaining wall, and filling up those steps with the seriously heavy gravel. Heck, they even planted a line of yuccas along the bottom edge to hold all the loose dirt in place. Mind = blown.

Laura!
While this feat was occurring, a similarly transformative feat of weeding happened elsewhere.

Leslie, Aditi, Aditi's Mum, Laura, Katsue, Dagmar, Gina and Sarah were weeding, and honestly it was not until everyone left that I realized the scope of their work.

Leslie carefully picked weeds out from the middle back bed and uncovered a lovely group of Cotyledon orbiculata var. oblonga in the diligent way only a real gardener would weed.

Katsue!
Katsue and Laura took on the steps area, and a similarly detail-oriented and careful restoration of the spot ensued.

Dagmar and Sarah went through the Aloe nobilis hedge along the cactus wall, and they also thoroughly weeded the other side of that pathway too, uncovering all the plants so they can now enjoy the sun and the emerging flowers will shine. 

Josh is not afraid of Agaves!
The whole bottom pathway looks wonderful right now, and you can even see downtown SF from there for the first time in decades as the Center Hardware and Brickley Productions buildings are gone. It's quite strange!

As you probably know, a new building full of condos will be replacing what was there, so get down and enjoy the SF skyline now, while you can.

Aditi + Mum!
Gina, Aditi and Aditi's Mum got stuck into the weeds along the sidewalk and the middle front bed. And I cut back the rambunctious cardoon and lopped back a load of Chasmanthe.

The net result of all this activity was that the collection of Recology-bound bags of weeds at the front of the garden doubled in size. 

Despite both Chris and I using the 311 app on them, they're still sitting there...

Aditi's Dad and John
A landfill trash truck stopped to pick them up but no - Chris told him to leave them: we want this stuff to be composted, since we have gone to the effort of making sure these bags are green only. 

Sorry neighbors - hopefully they're picked up soon and go on to create excellent compost to feed the vines of Napa. Can't really argue with good wine, can you?

Epic result

I did a quick demo on succulent cuttings and propagation, and folks left with new plants to enjoy. What a day!








Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Composter getting a little facelift

Step 1 started
Matt and I spent Saturday and Sunday working on the composter at PG. During our last workday the team moved it 90 degrees so it was easier to get to, but so much more needed to be done, because it sits on a slope and gravity is a law, not a suggestion...

We started out with the inevitable trip to the hardware store.That turned into multiple trips to multiple hardware stores because as the universal law states, "it is IMPOSSIBLE to get exactly what you need in one trip to the hardware store. IM. POSSIBLE."

Whacking rebar
We started at Home Despot. We bought concrete piers to hold up the center columns of the composter's front edge. That led to a lot of digging, and using the jack from my truck to lift the (heavy!) composter up to fit the piers in. And bricks - a lot of bricks.

With the composter now supported and level (yes we forgot our level. Then we remembered your iphone has a level app in it: score!) we moved on to measuring for lumber to create not one, but two gravel filled boxes in front of the composter to stand on while working there.

Steps half done!
Back to Home Despot. Buy pressure treated lumber, corner braces, screws, assorted knickknacks. Get lumber cut to size. Back to garden. Build one box, realize don't have enough corner braces or rebar to hold it in place. Also, we need more lumber.

On to Lowes. They don't cut pressure treated lumber, but we buy rebar. Correct corner braces are missing, but we get metal strapping.

Next day: Go to Discount Builders. Buy more lumber. Get it cut to size. Back to garden. More power tool and shoveling action. Realize forgot the corner braces. Lip pursing.

I hate gravity...
Back to garden. Install rebar copiously with 9# hammer and lots of swearing. Drill battery weak. Staple chicken wire to bottom of one box to hold in gravel. Don't have enough chicken wire. Go home and drink.

End of day: stagger to ACE. Corner braces! Also hardware cloth! More spending.

Decide to install hardware cloth at next workday as we forgot to bring tin snips... and yes... we need MOAR REBAR!

Ready!
In other news, Chris and Carrie did a fantastic job putting ALL the green waste from the top of that garden (that stuff we'd normally be composting!) into paper bags for Recology to take away. Look at all the bags!




Tuesday, May 21, 2019

We're hiring!

Do you, or someone you know, have a couple hours a month to help the gardens?

We are looking for a competent Volunteer Coordinator to recruit and manage volunteers. You will be responsible for allocating responsibilities and retaining the best people. This position is ideal for someone who can devote just 2+ hours per month to helping us, or can be expanded to include a bigger role.

You should know how to distinguish talent and do everything possible to motivate and inspire. You must possess excellent organizational skills and ability to communicate with people from diverse backgrounds and experience.


Responsibilities:
  • Source and recruit volunteers through various techniques (e-mail, social media etc.)
  • Collect information on availabilities and skills
  • Assign responsibilities to the right people for special events
  • Coordinate corporate teams of volunteers for large-scale actions
  • Communicate with volunteers to ensure they are satisfied and well-placed
  • Disseminate information for upcoming actions and events
  • ╬Ľnsure the purpose of the organization and its actions is clearly communicated

Skills:
  • Experience in volunteering locally and/or internationally
  • Social media experience is required as we use Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to let volunteers know about our events. Experience with MailChimp and writing blogs a plus.
  • Experience in recruiting through various channels, like Volunteer Match.
  • Working knowledge of databases and MS Office or Google Drive
  • Able to communicate effectively with diverse people
  • Excellent organizational and team coordination abilities
  • A pleasant, outgoing personality

Good to Know:
  • Gardening experience is NOT required, but appreciated.
  • This position can be done remotely - you don't need to be at our monthly volunteer days, or corporate "VTO" days, but it's appreciated if you can.
  • Time commitment can be as low as 2 hours per month.
  • We are entirely volunteer run. This is an unpaid position, but a worthy one!
Reach out to annie@psgsf.org if you're interested :)

Sunday, May 19, 2019

In between the showers...

More rain has been falling, as if you didn't notice, and that means a happy new crop of weeds in about a week. So, Matt and I headed to the garden and did some weeding in various areas. The photo shows half of the aloe hedge got weeded. More to come!

We also did some work on the composter, adding pilings under the front to lift it up a bit.

Next step after this is to build new lids for it, and also build two gravel-filled steps to stand on while working on the compost. That means a couple yards of gravel need to be bought and lugged up the hill to the right spot. Oooh, workout ahead!

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Composter on the move

Before... weedy...
Today's monthly volunteer day was a challenge. I had long wanted to move the composter so it was easier to use. Situated facing the tool chest, the space between them was too narrow to make shoveling in, or out, weeds/compost very easy.

Matt empties
That's led to us not using the composter much - that, and the fact that people tend to put non-compostable stuff in it, which I always had to fish out.  Don't put twigs, branches, wood, trash and other junk in there!

We determined that turning the composter 90 degrees against the fence would be ideal, so I started our crew on removing weeds and trash in the area, and leveling the ground so it sits (somewhat) level. We removed the composter's instructional sign so it can go on the other side and be visible when the composter has been moved.

Team levels
Luckily we had a good number of people, so while it was heavy work we managed it. And we also got a lot of weeds cleaned up too: Amanda and Katsuro weeded the back slope and steps areas all day!

Matt, Chris, Aditi, Leslie, Amanda, Katsue, and Mikey joined me on the task, and we pretty soon had all the weeds removed from the area, as well as a lot of rooted yucca cuttings.

Amanda weeds
We removed a dozen tubtrugs of good compost from the area behind the composter, and piled it at the top of the garden to use later.

In the meantime, Matt and Chris removed all the contents of the composter bins, including a lot of branches and twigs (ugh!) and several wheelbarrow loads of fresh compost from the bins and spread it around the base of some hungry plants.

Result!
After that we started leveling the dirt so the composter would sit straight. A lot of bricks were unearthed, and we used them to shore up various areas by placing a board held with rebar and backfilled with bricks and dirt to prevent everything falling through the fence.

Next we worked on seeing if we could even move the (very heavy wooden) composter at all. It took 6 of us to get it going, pivoting around one corner.

Almost ready!
We finally got it in place, and reattached the composter sign, started attaching a board to reinforce the base, and ran out of time.  We still need to fix the lids, finish shoring up the base, and make a gravel base to stand on there, as well as in front of the tool chest. Quite a lot of work to go, but we will soon be ready to start composting again. Yay hooray!

Great job team :D






Friday, May 3, 2019

GoodData goes rogue on weeds

Today we had a super VTO day at PG with the fine folks at GoodData. They came over and spend 2 jam packed hours pulling weeds from what I initially thought would be a smallish area... and ended up being a lot more than expected.

First of all, we set to work at the very top of the garden. Partly because the weeds there are bad, and partly because the building next door, longtime home of the Brickley Production Services business aka our friends Gary and Annelle, is being torn down. This is very sad for us, although they have a great new building for their business.

And the demo was in full swing... and mildly terrifying. As heavy machinery crunched through the building we stayed away. I was scared to think that the plants along the cactus wall would be destroyed, and while we had loads of warning and moved everything we physically COULD move, it's still sad to think of plants being crushed.

I took some drinks over to the workmen, and asked them please to be careful... and by some miracle, so far only the Opuntia at the front took a hit. Fingers crossed they manage to keep up the track record tomorrow when more demo happens.

Back to GoodData! They cleared the top bed lightning fast, trimmed up a Dasylirion and cut back some Chasmanthe, removed pups from an Agave americana and quickly tidied the area.

We moved on to weeding paths and cutting back more Chasmanthe in the other beds, as well as Narcissus and Amaryllis belladonna leaves that are past their sell by date.

The sun was so warm and it was all rather jolly, so the end of the workday crept up on me. We hauled armfuls of weeds and foliage to the massive pile at the top of the garden and let the team go home to clean up and relax. Hope they come back - they were awesome!

Monday, April 29, 2019

Plant profile: Beschorneria albiflora


Latin name: Beschorneria albiflora ("beh-SHORN-ah-ree-ah ahl-bee-FLOR-ah")
Common name: Mexican Lily, Amole
Originally from: Southern Mexico - Cerro Azul in Oaxaca and Chiapas, also found in Guatemala and Honduras. Found on very steep, rocky slopes in moist, mossy oak forest at high altitude (2000 m / 6600 ft.) 
Blooms: Green to creamy white flowers are held above the foliage in late spring/early summer.
Light: Full sun to part shade
Water: They are said to like a bit of summer water if they are in full sun, but we don't give them any.
Height x width: 2-6' x 3-4'
Zones: 9b-11b
Where to find in P. Garden: One at the very top of PG, a couple dotted around PRG.

Is it a Yucca? Is it an Agave? Is it even a Furcraea? At first glance you might think any one of those.  Yes, it's an Agave relative - it grows dense wide rosettes of 2-3 foot long medium green leaves, but they are softer to the touch and a bit floppy towards the tips.

Then it grows a trunk up to 6' tall and flowers annually with the most crazy, 5' long pink and red branching infloresence with cream to lime green flower bells. And when you see that you say "uh, wait... what?"

(You and the hummingbirds, who are all over this stuff and are the plant's pollinators in the wild.)

There are 10 species in the genus, but this is the only Beschorneria that forms an above-ground stem.  The name Beschorneria was given to the plant in honor of Friedrich Wilhelm Christian Beschorner (1806-1873), a German botanist.

Dr. Dennis Breedlove, Curator Emeritus of the California Academy of Sciences started cultivating the plant and it has been grown in the Berkeley Botanic Garden and Strybing Arboretum for many years. It's pretty rare in cultivation, so come and check out ours.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Weekend weed-whacking

Beschorneria!
Matt and I headed out to the gardens this weekend to kill some weeds. Matt attacked part of the path at PRG with our string trimmer and I pulled weeds from the beds.

Later on we headed up to PG and cleared paths - from the arch into the garden, and up in the back from the top of the steps to the very top area were almost impassable, but not anymore!

Go check out the flowering Beschorneria albiflora at the top of the garden - it's got an insane 10' tall pink and green flower stalk.

Also did you know we have TWO volunteer days this week you can join? Friday from 2-4pm we're weeding with GoodData at PRG, and Saturday 10am-12pm we're at PRG for our regular monthly volunteer day. Join us!

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Recurly's Earth Day Work Day

Yesterday was Earth Day and what better day to have a volunteer event?

We were contacted by the team at Recurly who were looking to make a difference in the neighborhood. We set up the perfect day and time for their team to get out and enjoy the sun.

Did you know? A lot of companies are encouraging volunteering now, and we benefit greatly from that. It's being called VTO - Volunteer Time Off - and a bit like PTO more and more employees are asking if they can help their communities with their employer's blessing in this way. Recurly stepped up to the plate!

John and Josh joined me for the two hour workday and the small but mighty team of 10 met at the north end of PRG and set about clearing weeds from around the rocks on the street side.

Let me  tell you, without any recent rain, the weeds were clinging in there tightly, so the job was pretty tough - and dusty! The sun was also beating down and it felt like mid summer. Staying hydrated was the key.

Despite the challenges, the team was enthusiastic and cheerful to the end! We managed to fill six bags with green waste, and made a huge pile of trash from the now abandoned encampment that's been at the corner for over six months now.

I put in three 311 app requests for pickup: one for green waste, one for loose trash from the encampment, and one for the three bags of trash dumped at the middle of the garden too (seriously people who live at 503 Potrero Ave according to the mail in the trash... along with three bags of used diapers... does your building not have trash cans?)

I also put in a text request for needle pickup to the SFAF Needle Pickup Crew at (415) 810-1337 after finding half a dozen of them at the encampment in the corner. The needle pickup team texted me back a couple of hours later to say they had disposed of the problem already! Love these guys.

Thank you Recurly for all your hard work - I hope you'll enjoy the gardens for years to come, and join us again one day :)

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Yuccathon!

Yucca "Silver Star"
Today's volunteer day was wonderful. The crew planted a dozen new yuccas at PRG and PG, the weather was great, and we welcomed some new faces to the mix.

Matt started off at PRG, planting lovely big specimens. He put in an Agave malpisaga "Lisa" which is one of the biggest Agaves in the world. This beauty will reach 15' wide eventually. He gave it plenty of room to grow.

He also planted 3 more Yucca aloifolias, and moved 3 Yucca  guatemalensis as well, to better spots.

Yucca rigida (Blue Yucca)
At PG, I was joined by John, Aditi, Chris, Josh, Katsura, Leslie, Marie and Katerina. The plan was to plant all the remaining large Yuccas, and weed as much as possible.

Marie, Katerina and Katsura started on the area by the bench, and carefully stripped weeds from the whole area. We added wood chips when that was done, and the result is absolutely lovely now.

Bench cleared, courtesy of these guys!
Meanwhile, John and Josh were busy planting three lovely and quite large Yucca "Silver Star" up in the top bed. The ground there is pretty rocky, but they made it happen - not without expending quite a lot of sweat I have to say. Well done chaps!

Chris and I
Chris worked on planting three stunning Yucca rigida (Blue Yucca) up at the top area too. This is a new Yucca for us, and quite gorgeous. 

A vast quantity of wood chips had to be moved to make it happen though, and Josh was called in for reinforcements after a while. The weather was pretty warm and the work was nonstop!


Leslie
Leslie worked away deep in the brights bed, clearing weeds around our Cussonia, which will really help it thrive, and I moved between projects hauling weeds and wood chips.

Whew - a lot of work done. Well done team!




 
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