Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Plants are on the way!

Back in 2013!
A big order of new plants is on the way, and should arrive next week. Over 200 plants!

Along with all the plants we have propagated this year, we will have quite a number of plants to go in the ground this winter, allowing the winter rains to water them in. Planting is always my favorite part of gardening, so the next couple of workdays will be great fun.

Why do we need so many plants, you ask?

Well, we planted about 800 plants total at PRG when we started that garden in 2013. In the past 5 years, many of them have done splendidly, growing to fill their allotted spaces well. Others didn't fare so well for many reasons:
  1. They were damaged by homeless encampments, theft or other damage. Sad.
  2. They are short-lived "filler" plants that do need to be replaced every so often, so they don't look pristine anymore and no amount of pruning will improve them (Artemisias, I'm looking at you...)
  3. They are still alive, but they're not as drought tolerant in that particular spot as we had hoped (Kniphofias, for example) so we will remove them and replace with something else.
  4. They died for no known reason - we will move the remaining ones into groups and give them another shot.
That's pretty normal on the whole, and I'm pretty pleased with our plant selections overall. So we will replace the ones we expected to replace, remove the ones that don't really want to live at PRG, and bring in new plants to replace them. And as mentioned I've got lots of "free" plants we made from cuttings to add to the mix, so that will help.

A lot of the new plants will be types of Agaves we haven't grown before - small to medium sized ones which should be very happy at PRG, and super tough plants overall.

I also ordered a few new plants to put at PG too, while I was shopping. It's going to be an exciting winter!

Monday, December 3, 2018

Cupcakes consumed!

Our monthly Volunteer Day dawned this past weekend with overcast skies, but the weather soon turned to glorious sunshine! Quickly followed by a blast of cold rain. Then more sunshine!

Despite all this variability, we had a great team out to help out at the volunteer day. The plan was to finalize much of the weeding as possible, to prepare for planting the large plant order I've made which will be coming in in the next couple weeks.

These new plants will fill gaps where previous ones died or otherwise disappeared. So we set to work!

Matt moved some cacti, and Chris removed a dead tree. Sarah, Hilary, Carrie, Josh, Leslie and I weeded like mad, and made a vast pile of weeds which I put into a 311 request to pick up.

Then we all had a break for cupcakes, which were delicious :)

Thursday, November 29, 2018

BIRTHDAY time!



It's Matt's birthday on Saturday, and it's Pennsylvania Garden's 10th birthday too! What does that mean? It means we will be having cake at the volunteer workday on Saturday from 10am-2pm.

We're going to do a real push to weed Pennsylvania Railroad Garden this week as well, as I have placed a large plant order and the beds need to be prepared before the plants go in.

So please join us - we'll be at PRG rain or shine. :)

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Weed is legal in Canada!

Well, that got your attention ;) But the reality is, weed(s) are also legal in California, and we have too many of them. So at today's volunteer workday we pulled a lot out - along with some tired looking plants that need to be replaced.

I totally failed to get great pictures of all the seven volunteers who worked so hard in the surprisingly hot sun, but here is a screen grab of the 6 311 tickets I opened as we have SO MUCh stuff to get rid of!

A desk and two trash cans had been dumped, there was an encampment on the pathway, and we made four vast piles of green waste.

Add to that, Carrie and Chris had a phenomenal workday on Wednesday too, and had cleaned out a vast pile of weeds themselves. We still have a way to go, but this is a great start on PRG to prepare for our big winter replanting effort.

When Matt and I got home, we propagated a ton of plants from cuttings for that effort, and we're looking forward to getting them in the ground really soon.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Come to our volunteer day!

Hey everyone - it's time to deep weed PRG! We have a lot of plants on order to go in there, and we need to utterly clear the beds of weeds and  tired-looking plants before we can do that.

Meet us at PRG by the new benches at the corner of 17th x Pennsylvania on Saturday November 3rd at 10am and we will go from there with tools and drinks for all!

Thursday, October 25, 2018

New trash can at PRG! New benches!

Behold! Such beauty!
During last week's meeting, Aditi asked Sophia Kittler, Senior Legislative Aide to Malia Cohen about a SF Public Works trash can for DPW-owned Pennsylvania Railroad Garden.

She got a positive response, and Sophia worked with Larry Stringer, Deputy Director for Operations at SF Public Works and others at Public Works to make it happen.

Much to our surprise, a can was installed this week! It'll be emptied by DPW daily so feel free to go right ahead and throw trash INTO it, vs on the ground - your volunteer gardeners appreciate your help with that.

Can of Joy Delivery Truck
It's a thing of beauty. We've never been so excited about such a mundane thing, but TBH the reason we had trouble with trash cans before was, well, where do we empty them? And who will do it? Thus far, Aditi and Chris are emptying the poop cans, and that's a Not Fun Task.

Are there any dog walkers who would like to help out every week or two with this task?

One bench of two
In other news, two new benches went in at PRG as well. They've already been seen in use by neighbors, and that brings us joy too. Will they become graffiti-ed and used as the foundation for homeless shelters? TBD. Enjoy them while they are there!

Our next volunteer workday (Nov 3) will be all about weeding PRG, so join us - we need your help as we have new plants coming in that can't be planted until weeding is complete.*

*Just kidding. Weeding is never complete.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Rapid response!

Today at the garden I saw a needle. I texted SF AIDS Foundation Needle Pick-up Crew: 415-810-1337 - they prefer text and pictures but calls are welcome 7am to 7pm, 7 days a week.

Within moments they replied: they’re on it!

Try this next time you see a needle.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Great meeting: Save these numbers

Me, giving my speech!
Deepest thanks to all who attended the meeting on Friday at PG! We had a fabulous turnout of passionate and informed agency partners, and a lot of great questions from neighbors and volunteers.

Thank you to Randy Quezada of the San Francisco Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing, Larry Stringer of SF Public Works, Chris Balingit of Caltrans, SFPD Sgt Davin ColeWhit Bastian of the SF AIDS Foundation Needle Pick-up Crew, Claude Imbault of the San Francisco Parks Alliance, and Sophia Kittler, Senior Legislative Aide to District Supervisor Malia Cohen for all stepping up to speak about what their agencies are doing about these issues.

The team is going to discuss the best takeaways from the meeting so we can look into other ways to prevent damage to the gardens from homelessness.  Stay tuned.

In the meantime, below is the text of the handout I made, which Hilary passed out to everyone on the day. The key takeaway is don't be afraid to CALL 911 if you see illegal activities, before things get worse,  call 311 to get trash picked up and text the SF AIDS Foundation Needle Pick-up Crew if you see needles.

Help Us Keep This Garden Safe: Do Your Part
Damage to the gardens costs us many thousands of dollars each year, and encampments create an unsafe volunteering environment, as well as an unpleasant garden experience. We are volunteer run and cannot continue to bear this cost.


Please do your part to prevent the gardens being damaged: report illegal activities at Pennsylvania Garden and Pennsylvania Railroad Garden. Here’s how:


Illegal activities include:
  • Damage to, of theft of, trees or plants
  • Dumping, littering, graffiti
  • Public urination/defecation. Dog feces
  • Fires. Theft. Verbal or physical threats. Aggressive animals

Pennsylvania Garden:
Property is owned by Caltrans
  • Report illegal activities/emergencies: Call CHP at 911
  • Trash pickup: https://csr.dot.ca.gov/ or
  • Caltrans Maintenance Dispatch: 650-358-4127

Pennsylvania Railroad Garden:
Property is owned by SF Public Works
  • Report illegal activities: Call SFPD at 911
  • Trash pick up etc.: Call 311 or use the 311 app.

Other useful numbers:
SFPD non-emergency: 415-553-0123
CHP non-emergency: 707-641-8300
SF Homeless Outreach Team: 415-355-7401
DPH/Crisis services - for acute mental health emergencies: 415-970-4000
SF Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing: 415-252-3232
SF AIDS Foundation Needle Pick-up Crew: 415-810-1337 - prefer text and pictures but calls welcome. 7am to 7pm, 7 days a week

Monday, October 15, 2018

This is important: Please join us

Hi Everyone,

You're invited to Pennsylvania Garden this Friday, October 19th at 6pm for a public meeting - BYO beverage!

Homeless issues have affected the gardens badly in the last 2 years, and our volunteer days are spend cleaning encampments vs gardening. We need to make a change.

Representatives of DPW, SFPA, Caltrans and SFPD will be in attendance and we're going to discuss what is the best thing to do when encampments how up, what NOT to do, and how to prevent the gardens being damaged.

I hope you'll join us - the future of the garden is in question, and we cannot continue without your support. Please email me at annie@psgsf.org if you have questions. A flyer is attached.

Annie

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Volunteer Day: Clean & Green

Clean & Green Team!
Today I'd requested the help of SP DPW's Clean & Green Team to get rid of some debris at the garden. I didn't actually think it was that much stuff but it ended up being a LOT. Chris, Carrie, Aditi, Josh, Gina and Hilary joined me too, and we started at 9am - by the time everyone left at 1.30pm, a huge list of things was accomplished.

First up, the encampments. This has been a brutal week for encampments at PG and the entire back area was overrun, with almost all the plants there being trashed, or burned, and the tool box being broken into and ransacked.

Officer Foltz and Gina
On Friday, Chris witnessed the carnage, and told the thieves what he thought of it all in no uncertain terms. Shortly after, the police arrived and later on, Carrie filed a police report for us.

Meanwhile down at PRG, Gina and Aditi have been reporting the encampments there. It takes a team of committed neighbors to keep this place decent, and calling the police is the first step.

The Hasps of Doom
So, at PG we set about picking up all the trash and the dozens of needles. We cleaned out the tool box, and Chris put on new, very strong hasps, and a heavy strip of wood to hold them in, as well as fixing the somewhat loose back. We don't leave the expensive tools there, but it feels very safe now. And very tidy.

I called my contact at Caltrans to get the hole in the bottom fence fixed (yet again) and moaned to Charlie from SFPA, who was on site with the Clean & Green guys, about our situation. He was very sympathetic, and told me about a new program for cleaning up encampments that's being initiated now. Can't wait to hear more.

About 25 needles picked up...
While the Clean & Green Team removed the entire debris pile at the top of the garden, which looked like about 10 yards of stuff, as well as loads of trash, and loaded it into dump trucks, Carrie, Aditi, Hilary and Josh cut back the Brugmansia, Leonotis and Salvia canariensis. A ton of weeds got pulled too, especially from the garden edges by the off-ramp.

Inviting pathway
Next up the team spread wood chips on the lower path, which I have to say is looking really nice now.

Gina was at PRG picking up trash and let me know about the THREE encampments there. I called the police right away and a nice officer tried to roust them but no luck: SFPD's homeless team were called and they should visit today to sort this out... what with those encampments having been there for going on 2 months now though, and many 311 and police calls being made, I will be shocked if they move soon...

Friday, September 7, 2018

Wildlife profile: Red-Masked Parakeet

Are they wild, or just feral? I don't know, but two things are for sure: we never know when we'll see them, but we're always delighted when it happens.

Official description:

  • Common name: Cherry-headed conure, or red-masked parakeet
  • Latin name: Psittacara erythrogenys - "sit-ah-KA-ra eh-RITH-ro-jen-is
  • Family: Psittacidae
  • Length: about 33 cm (13 in) long, of which half is the tail.
  • Description: All green, except for a red cap to the head and a bit of red on the upper wing edges.
  • Geographical Distribution: southwestern Ecuador and northwestern Peru
  • Nest: Nests are usually made in tree cavities.
  • Eggs: three to four eggs - incubation is over within 23 or 24 days
The parrots can often be heard flying over the garden, and recently they have been visiting in small groups to feed on the 30' tall Agave americana flower at the front arch, as it is dripping with nectar. I wish I could get a better photo, but it's cool to see them! Check out the video below.

 

The red-masked parakeet is a medium-sized parrot from Ecuador and Peru. It is popular as a pet, and is the tenth most common Neotropical parrot imported into the US with over 26,000 parakeets checked in from 1981 to 1985.

That's led to it being reclassified by the IUCN from a species of least concern to a species that is near threatened in 1994. Importation to the US was restricted in 1993, but the local pet trade and habitat loss continue to put pressure on this species.

Considered the best talkers of all the conures, which admittedly aren't great talkers but ARE great squawkers, this is a noisy type of birds that is active and quite demanding of social interaction as a pet. It is ideal for house-bound and slightly deaf people, as a result. Or people who want to become that way.

At some point in San Francisco's history someone let loose a couple of conures - or they escaped - and the result is a flock of about 300 that now no longer resides only in Telegraph Hill, but can be seen all over the city, and as far away as Brisbane.

In 2003 a great documentary film called The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill was released, all about our parrot population, and a book of the same name was published too. Mark Bittner, who was feeding the parrots at the time, starred, and his now-wife Judy Irving directed. You should watch the documentary if you haven't already, and Mark's page is an interesting read too.

Anyway, we're always happy to see these rascally little birds in our neighborhood, and especially at the gardens!

Monday, September 3, 2018

Laboring away: the full weekend of backbreaking work

Chris surveying the carnage
Chris, Matt and I decided to work on a special project on Saturday: fixing up the Aloe nobilis hedge on the lower path.

We set about removing all the Aloes there, sadly reduced in number due to the forces of gravity pulling them into the drainage ditch.  We also removed all the weeds, including wayward Chasmanthe and Romneya coulteri (Matilija Poppy) that have seeded or crept in.

It took about 2 hours to do that, and also cut back all the succulents and other plants leaning into the drainage ditch. Lots of cuttings made. Lots of mess in the drainage ditch.

Rebar pounding...
As we worked we were treated to the sights and sounds of wildlife on the huge floral buffet, also known as the Agave americana flower, at the entry way. This 30' tall attraction is quite a sight. Bees! Hummingbirds! And even two Cherry Headed Conures - the famous wild parrots of Telegraph Hill - flew in and busied themselves with the nectar dripping off the flower. Pretty cool: If anyone gets a good photo of them send it to me, please!

On Sunday, Matt and I returned. We pulled wood chips away from the boards on the edge, and dug into the dirt to make space for new boards we will add on the lower side. We pounded in about 40 two foot long pieces of rebar to hold the old boards in place, adding a few new ones and straightening the whole line.

Dusty shoveling...
Let's just say that was exhausting... and took about 4 hours.

We also cleaned up the steps so as to be ready for new plantings, put 3 trash bags of trash on the street for 311 to remove, moved several Agave "Green Giant" and planned new plantings in areas where plants just look too darn tired to be worth keeping.

After that, we had to go to Flora Grubb to treat ourselves by buying plants.

DONE!
On Sunday we finished the job, installing about 50 board feet of pressure treated lumber to the lower edge of the path, pounding in about 40 three foot long lengths of rebar, replacing ALL the extremely dusty dirt and ALL the Aloes, then watering the whole thing in thanks to the use of Gary's hose  Another 4 hours, and we are just shattered.

I would say there is another 15' of length remaining, where a huge Agave made it too hard to complete, but we will finish that another time.
 
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