Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Day of the Triffids

Yesterday I thought I'd go out and do some minor twiddling in the garden as my parents are here on a visit so not much time for serious gardening. First up I met with Ron and his dog Cassius. Ron is terracing the back slope - it's coming along!

I deadheaded the rest of the yarrows by the steps and also the Aloe nobilis hedge. As I went down the hedge I weeded the cactus wall too. The cactus wall always looks good - it's my favorite part of the garden. So xeric, so cool...

I met a woman sitting on the bench called Linda. I idly inquired whether she had a garden and she went on to reveal that not only does she have a garden, it's a San Francisco Street Park. And not only that, but it was partly inspired by Pennsylvania Garden! I was feeling so proud. Then my parents walked up and she eventually let them know that she helped write the book my dad was carrying - The Trees of San Francisco

And not only that but she is on the advisory committee of the Friends of the Urban Forest. I thought "wow - good job I didn't offer her some pearls of gardening wisdom!"

Later on Matt and I went to pick up some phormiums from Leah. She said they were big but that was an understatement. We couldn't fit them all in the back of the car and had to leave some. We slowly drove home with the leaves hanging out the back of the car, and thought "oh dear... now we have to plant them..."

I decided we really had excess and sent out an email to potentially interested parties. Bruce responded with lightning speed and we dropped off a portion of the phormiums with him right away. Phew!

Then Matt and I went to plant the rest. We'd decided on a good spot in the middle back bed only to discover a nest of yellow jackets next to it - don't want to get stung. We picked another spot in the brights bed, dug a good hole and started getting the phormium up there. First in the wheelbarrow. Then it fell out. Couldn't get it back in. Dragged it with ropes. It was too heavy. Cursed. Eventually got Gary to come help and had it in the hole in no time!

Job done. Time for a glass of wine!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Composter fiddling

Amaryllis belladonna
I went out to add a few L-brackets to the composter on Friday... and the cordless drill died on me. I did manage to get one bin finished, and filled it with the compost we'd saved from the plastic composter in the wheelbarrow and three tub trugs. I added a load of dry plant matter from the big heal and that bin is full already.

I charged the drill up thoroughly and went back on Saturday with Matt only to find Ron had been at work in the garden - he's started the terracing!

Matt and I finished screwing in the brackets for the composter. All we need now are another redwood board to complete the fronts, and a plan to make the lid. I designed a sign to attach to the front of the bin, outlining what should go in there. I'll buy some hasps and two locks: only one bin will be open for kitchen scraps at any one time, while the other two will be locked - busy cooking up new compost.

I'm considering emptying the worm bins into the new composter too. I think they'll be happier in a huge composter. The worm bin is a little small for such a big garden, realistically.

Matt and I also spent some time clearing the pathway to the composters and back area in general, so Ron and his workmen can access it easily.

The contents of the box
As we cut back branches from the trees I found a little black tupperware box that felt oddly heavy. I thought it might have drugs in it or something else someone had stashed... turns out it was a "letterboxing" treasure trove! This is a bit like geocaching (or not, if you read the website - you go to the site to get clues about the location of a box, and go out to look for it. When you find it, the box contains a little book that you stamp with your personal rubber stamp, and you sign and date it too. The box also holds a unique rubber stamp of it's own so you can stamp your personal book that you carry with you on letterboxing expeditions.

Clearly a few people have found and signed this trove's book! The most recent was October 2010 though - has it been forgotten and unloved? I hope not! It's nice to think of the garden having a little secret hidden away.

The inside of the box was a bit damp so we left the contents out in the sun to dry a bit, then carefully repacked them and hid them in the same area. I'm not giving away the location! You'll have to find it yourself ;)

Saturday, August 20, 2011

All good things

Last week Pennsylvania Street Gardens was invited by Kathy of the Carmel Valley Village Improvement Committee (CVVIC) to lecture on how to create and maintain a public garden. Not only did I get to see the birth place of the Cal Academy's green roof (more on that later), meet many really nice people, but Kathy let Ryan and I stay in her gorgeous guest cottage for the weekend. You missed out Annie!

So first thing, I gave a lecture to CVVIC. They are really interested in creating more parks, so I tried to relay what we've learned at PSG about how write grants, get volunteers, and manage a public garden. There were a lot of good questions, and it was awesome to talk with people who were so motivated about helping out their community. Maggie, the nursery manager for Rana Creek came, and afterward invited Ryan and I for a tour of the nursery (wow).

Never heard of Rana Creek? I bet you've seen them - they did the green roof for the California Academy of Sciences, and they have done lots of spectacular green roofs and walls around the world. They also focus on habitat restoration and do projects for homeowners too. Their website is an amazing resource, definitely check it out. They are a distributor for Sempergreen sedum mats, which is literally a roll out mat of Sedums for doing green walls/roofs. It is a neat product, and I'd love to work with it in the future.
As for the nursery site, it is nestled in between rolling hills, oak trees, and it is absolutely beautiful. Maggie gave us a grand tour, and she refused to let us leave without taking a few plants for Pennsylvania Garden. How could I resist?

2 Aquilegia formosa -western columbine
2 Galvezia speciosa - bush snapdragon
7 Lavendula a. 'Munstead'
1 Eriogonum parvifolium (or Eriogonum fasciculatum I can't tell the difference)

If you ever get the chance I recommend taking a long weekend, exploring the Carmel Valley and stopping by Rana Creek to get some beautiful native plants!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

If you (say they can) build it, they will come...

Sector clear! Start
your power tools.
Today Matt and I met Jim and Leigh at the garden, both of whom had come with their own power tools (impressive!) to build the composters we bought materials for yesterday (see previous blog post.)

Carrie came over too and weeded the area by the arch very meticulously, while we hauled all the wood we cut yesterday to the garden, and set about preparing the site. Oh dear - what a messy site.

Leigh gets stuck in.
We managed to remove all the debris and old compster and still save the compost in it. We'd got some gravel recently and we used that as a base for the composters - we hadn't planned to, but with nowhere to move it to it seemed like a good idea at the time. And it'll provide good drainage for the bins, so a win-win all around I think.

The site is overflowing with the massive compost heap, which as you can imagine is impossible to move, so we made the composter system so it can be nudged backwards, downhill, over time, when the massive heap diminishes and we put more stuff in our new bins.

Nudging the back
and right side into place.
We started screwing together all the parts for the three bay compost bin system I'd devised, starting with attaching the heavy 12" wide, 9' long lumber back panels to the two 4"x4" back posts. Next we added the two ends, also made of 12" lumber, to a height of 4 feet.

Anyone who was there will tell you my drawings, coded in multiple colors of pen, were models of exactitude! Well, maybe not, but we are building a compost bin, not an MRI machine, so tolerances of up to 1/2" were allowed.

The left side goes on.
We put a 9 foot long long strip of 2"x4" along the bottom front edge to stabilize it all, then started adding the two dividers made of 3/4" thick plywood in the middle to create the bays. These needed to be attached using metal L-brackets but we didn't have the right length screws - something to finish up later.

Later or we were joined by Nate who took over from Leigh in the operation of power tools, level, measuring tape and so on. Yes - it really takes at least three, and preferably four sets of hands on a job like this - doing it with just two people would have been quite tricky and would have taken a lot longer.

Nate is dangerously
close to that drill...
The front of the bin has redwood slats that slide into runners made of 1" x 1" wood - Jim and I cut those into lengths 3'10" long. We got all those screwed to the composter, and also the two 4'x4" posts that support the dividers at the front of the bin were attached firmly too.

Lastly we slotted in the redwood boards for the front of the bins - turns out we miscalculated and need another board to complete that part, as well as ripping a few inches off the top board so they fit flush with the lid. Oh yeah... the lid. We haven't finalized plans for that, so it's a task for another day too, though the composter will function fine without it for now.

After about 3 hours the end result is a really sturdy thing. The basic structure is done, and with just a few quick additions the new composter will be open for business!

Great job guys - thanks for all your hard work!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

It's big! It's heavy! It's Log!

Today I put my foot down: that composter is going to be BUILT if it's the last thing I do! *gnash* I've been planning a three-bay compster for a while now, and as our main heap has reached outrageous proportions it's time to separate the good from the bad. The weeds we pull, pine cones, scrap wood etc can't be used as garden fertilizer, so they will be consigned to the heap.  The household scraps, garden trimmings and so on can be used, so they'll go in the 3 bin system to turn into lovely useful compost.

I dragged Matt out of bed at the crack of 10am and we went lumber shopping at Center Hardware. We got some supplies there, but needed to drop by Discount Builder's Supply for the rest. Shopping local.

We ended up loading a cart with a dozen pieces of heavy lumber, and got a sheet of 3/4" plywood cut to size there. We hauled it all home and Matt started cutting everything to size in our garage. Here are the pieces we ended up with, ready to build our composter which will look like 3 boxes stuck side by side:

6 pieces of lumber for the vertical parts measuring 4" x 4"x 4'
4 pieces of lumber for the back of the bins: 12' x 2" x 9'
8 pieces of lumber for the two ends of the bins: 12' x 2" x 41"
2 pieces of plywood for the dividers inside: 3' x 4' x 3/4"
2 pieces of lumber that brace the front, top and bottom: 2' x 4" x 9'
16 strips to brace the insides: 1" x 1" x 4'
16 metal brackets and a load of screws... I think we'll need more.

Tomorrow we start to screw it all together! Anyone want to come help?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Get this blog by email!

If you check in every few days looking for new posts and are sometimes disappointed because, let's face it, I have a full time job too, there's hope!

Scroll down and in the right column you'll see a new feature: "Get Blog Posts By Email" and if you type in your email and follow the simple instructions, you'll get an email each time I post on the blog. Neato.

Please note that this is different from signing up to be on our Google Groups email list (slightly lower in the right column) since that list only announces the monthly volunteer days or rare other events, and won't send an email each time a new blog post is written.

Monday, August 8, 2011

20 hours of work

Green Santolina flowering
20 hours of work – that’s how much 10 people accomplish on a volunteer day, and it showed.

Alison and her dog Peeka sheared (and at points pruned stems individually) the lavender hedge. I weeded it a bit too, and on the whole it’s looking great. I noticed lots of baby lavender plants that appear to have seeded themselves as well. I forgot to water the hedge but will get out and do that next weekend.

Emily worked on battling the weeds in the brights bed at the top of the garden, and laid down some double-thickness weed barrier there. What with all the water that area gets from the one sprinkler head and hand watering the dahlias though, I think it’ll always be weedy. Oh well!

Bill and his sons Julian and Lucas came to help out, and Bill spent aged weeding in the garden pulling bindweed and other nasties very thoroughly. His kids helped weeding, pulling nasturtiums, cleaning up and trimming Watsonia bulbs too – they were very helpful.

John cut the cardoon (Cynara cardunculus) down – it was done for the year, and the space is now cleared and ready for it to sprout anew. If for some reason it doesn’t come back to life I have 4 babies waiting in the wings to take over. Never fear – we will always have cardoons! John also cut back some old Chasmanthe leaves and Achillea flowers, among other things.

Aeonium arboreum
Angelique who is fresh off the boat from Canada (specifically a place known as Winterpeg in Man-It’s-Cold-Here) came by with her little baby June strapped on to do some watering: she hand watered the beds that don’t get any sprinkler action. I find this display of energy in a young mother astonishing, and her baby was just the perfect papoose – quietly loving every minute, then falling asleep. June wins the award for youngest volunteer – she must be all of just a month or two old? Rock on Angelique and June.

Carlin weeded skillfully behind the wrong way sign (thanks to Matt’s mulching that problem is less and less a problem) and then went down to the Mariposa Center Garden with Emily to cut back the Chasmanthe and remove the old sweet peas from that spot. Some of the lupines there have gone deciduous (as they do in very dry spots) so Emily decided to water them. New volunteer Jeanne helped fill the milk jugs and John wheeled them down the street in the wheelbarrow. We finished up shortly after Jeanne arrived but hopefully we’ll see her again at another volunteer day if it coincides with her time off!

Nate and his sister Beth came by and weeded the last of the corn marigolds out of the back border. Our compost heap has risen to ridiculous proportions and it’s Time To Build The New Compost Bins. Matt, are you reading this? ;)

I ran around as usual like a headless chicken, trying to make sure everyone was supplied with tools and drinks and fun things to do, but I also managed to water the Brugmansia and tree dahlia via the soaker hose. Poor Brugmansia is not enjoying the xeric lifestyle… should I water it monthly in the summer? Will that be enough? Or should I just cut it down and find something more drought tolerant for that full sun, sloping, dry dry dry spot? (And how come Bruggies just 2 blocks away look great year round?) I would certainly miss the lovely scent and flowers of this plant if we cut it down… something to ponder.

Sorry I didn't get any people picture this time - too busy!

Monday, August 1, 2011

It's a deal!

I get the Daily Deals by email, and today's is a good one: $15 for $30 worth of plants from the San Francisco Botanical Garden Society's nursery at 9th Avenue and Lincoln Way, which is now open daily.

Click the link - I got 4 coupons so we're going a-shopping soon. Woot!

It's a deal!

I get the Daily Deals by email, and today's is a good one: $15 for $30 worth of plants from the San Francisco Botanical Garden Society's nursery at 9th Avenue and Lincoln Way, which is now open daily.

Click the link - I got 4 coupons so we're going a-shopping soon. Woot!
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