Thursday, May 30, 2013

Let's get some comments!

At the Potrero Boosters meeting recently, Carlin mentioned that making comments on the blog is tricky - up until now we have required people to have an account to post, plus there's the text you have to insert to prove you're not a robot... all in all it seems to have slowed commenting down.

So, I'm going to change the settings so that anyone can comment more easily for a trial period! We'd really love to get your feedback. I'll get notified whenever someone posts a comment so the blog doesn't just fill up with spam, but hopefully it won't and people will reply to our posts with glee!

Have at it folks :)

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Boosted again

All sorts of amazing
Last night Matt and I went to the Potrero Boosters annual dinner at the California Culinary Academy. After a few drinks and nibbles and a lot of socializing with our neighborhood pals we sat down to watch the newly elected president and board be sworn in. Next came the awards.

Imagine our surprise when we were both called up (along with Emily who wasn't able to be there) to receive an award - actually, two awards! The Invasive Flora Award was presented to us by PB in recognition of our efforts on PRG, and a Certificate of Recognition signed by Senator Mark Leno was also included.

Hopefully the former is no reference to the (sterile) Cortaderia and Nasella tenuissima planted there - haha - but more about our relentless drive in improving scummy patches of land.

All aglow with this excitement we were even more delighted when we won two bottles of wine in the raffle. Score!
(Lower photo by Andrea Laudate and M. Joseph Schaller)

Monday, May 27, 2013

Heavy marine layer

Aloe striatula flowering
That is what Matt calls the rain we had today - just "spitting" where I come from, but he calls it a "heavy marine layer" - hah!

Anyway, he was at work today (boooo!) so I went up to the garden and did some work. I cut back a patch of Chasmanthe and spread the leaves around the base as mulch. Then I thought it looked ugly, so I spread 2 bags of compost on top. Much better!

Next I folded up all the plastic bags we have lying around and put them away, as well as organizing a few other things in the shed.

I took a quick pic of the Cotinus coggygria (Purple Smokebush) that I coppiced (cut to the ground) on Jan 1st of this year - it already has 5' tall new canes sprouting up. Looks great - coppicing was the right thing to do after all. Also took a pic of the aphids on the cardoon - being hoovered up by ladybugs as usual and the Aloe striatula flowers - used to be such a tiny plant back in 2009!

Got aphids? Get ladybugs.
After that I got deeeep into the middle back bed and weeded more, then spread some compost there too. Three tubtrugs of weeds to the composter. We are making some lovely compost.

Lastly I took a trash bag and picked up trash, and prepared to walk down along MCG and PRG and pick up all the trash there. Just as I was leaving, I saw a little beastie in the bushes and stopped to video it. It was a little mouse eating the flowers on a Salvia leucantha! Very cute.

Cotinus recovery
I took pics and videoed a while, then someone with a dog came along and scared the mouse away. You see a lot more wildlife when there are no dogs around - I often see bobcats, deer, skunks, raccoons and so on at the barn where we keep our horses, but when people bring dogs it's deserted.

Sunday, May 26, 2013


Composter - fixed!
Yesterday Matt and I weeded for an hour while the trees at PRG were watering, and went and bought lumber to fix the steps and the composter lids for hopefully the last time!

Today Matt, armed with a brand new drill, fixed the heck out of the steps and the composter.

We turned compost bin 1 over into bin 3, which was recently lined in hardware cloth by Jim. Bin 1 is now ready for hardware cloth - no more rats in there please!

Steps - fixed!
I weeded in the middle back bed, removing huge tubtrugs of weeds. I also cut back all the dying Chasmanthe leaves in one clump in the brights bed and weeded and spread compost in the left bed.

More tubtrugs full went to the compost bins - the cycle continues. With the recent turning of the compost bins, and added water, the compost is breaking down much more quickly - I only hope any weed seeds are being killed at the same time.

Cordyline skirt cleanup
I gave a few plants some water, deadheaded irises and Kniphofias, and removed the dried up "skirt" of a Cordyline in the middle back bed, arranging the leaves at the base to smother future weeds.

A solid 4 hours out there in the breezy sun x 2 people = 1 full day of work!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Weeds for Every Season

Be careful on the stairs for now
I love Summer; I enjoy all the seasons in their own way, but there is a magical combination of puffy clouds, extra hours of sunlight with warm days and slightly cooler breezy nights that summer... OK I am recalling the summers of San Jose where I grew up but you get the idea. Today it felt like Summer to me, as I was able to get home early and get myself and my dog Bentley to the garden before dark.

Unfortunately for Pennsylvania Garden weedy things like blackberries, ivy, and fennel also love summer and have started to gain a foothold in certain areas of the garden. I spent a bit of time
Linaria, Yarrow, Digitalis and Lychnis
creating some nice May color
getting rid of some bindweed among the various succulents in the middle bed (it loves to hide in there!) and some neighbors stopped by with their very sweet dog Grady. Meanwhile my woofy ill-behaved dog Bentley was barking at me from the bench area, so I changed tasks and took him on walk through the garden to survey how things are going.

Please note that at the bottom of the steps two steps need to be fixed - and we're on it! I talked with Gary who helped install the steps, and he may be able to coordinate with Ryan soon to get them fixed. I also bet Annie and Matt will be there to help as well, so rest assured, it will get done, by someone, soon. So just be careful when using the steps for now.

Better to dig out weeds now
Another thing I noticed that I could deal with today was some canes of blackberry branching out from above the cacti at the bottom of the stairs. Partners in weedy crime were nearby fennel and ivy, so I grabbed a shovel and dug out the blackberry and fennel roots, and pulled quite a bit of ivy. This  area is still a work in progress, as by this time my dog was getting woofy again so it was time to take him home.

Plant profile: Alstroemeria (Peruvian Lily)

Dusty Rose - meh
Latin name: Alstroemeria ("al-stro-eh-MEER-ia")
Common name: Peruvian lily, Lily of the Incas, Ulster Mary
Originally from: south America - mostly central Chile, and eastern Brazil.
Blooms: From early spring through summer.
Light: Full sun to light shade
Water: Rain is plenty. No summer water needed.
Drainage: Excellent
Height x width: A clump will grow to 3'-4' tall and wide, spreading by rhizomes. Plant them about 1' apart.
USDA Zones: 6-10
Where to find in P. Garden: We had a few come in by accident and they seem to have spread - mostly in the front border, brights bed and left bed.

This is another one of those plants I didn't appreciate at first, but which has come to be quite useful! Initially, the ones that showed up by mistake at the garden where just the type of dusty pink color I dislike - that, coupled with their flower's golden throat (bad combo!) and floppy habit made me recoil. I asked Matt to remove them from the front bed but they just laughed at him and multiplied rapidly.

Third Harmonic - fab!
Noting their toughness, I picked up some of the cultivar "Third Harmonic" which is orange and gold (better combo), and they are coming along nicely.

Now, tough can = invasive, and since they spread on rhizomes you may want to watch where you plant them.

They have weird looking roots - sausage-like water storing structures suspended from the rhizome by large roots. The above-ground shoots that pop up may be very short in some alpine Andean species (a few inches tall) or up to about 5 feet tall in other species. Each year (more often in some hybrids) up to 80 new shoots are produced from the rootstock and each ends in a group of 3-10 flowers. So - lots of flowers for your buck!

A funny thing about Alstroemeria is that the leaves are resupinate - they twist from the base so that what appears to be the upper leaf surface is in fact the lower leaf surface. This very unusual botanical feature is easily observed in the leaves on cut flowers from the florist.

Alstroemeria is named after the Swedish botanist Klas von Alstroemer (1736-1796), who was a pupil of the great botanical classifier Linnaeus. Since then, many hybrids and about 190 cultivars have been developed, with different markings and colors, ranging from white, golden yellow, and orange, to apricot, pink, red, purple, and lavender. None of them have much of a scent, but they're very popular in the cut flower industry thanks to the fact they look good in a vase for about 2 weeks.

The most popular and showy hybrids grown today result from crosses between species from Chile (winter-growing) with species from Brazil (summer-growing).  This has resulted in plants that are just about evergreen and flower for most of the year, thanks to  trials that began in the US in the 1980s.

Grow this plant in among other plants that will hold it up - we have ours in with Agapanthus, and they stop the Alstroemerias flopping. Deadheading? Don't bother - just pull the entire stem out with your hand when the flowers fade. More stems will be on their way!

Saturday, May 18, 2013


This iris is pretty frilly.
Today Matt and I went out to water the trees at PRG, then did some odd jobs at PG. I put 3 tubtrugs of weeds in the compost bin while Matt repaired one of the bin lids. Only 2 more to go! Then we repaired to holes in the PRG drip lines and voila: 2 hours well spent.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Green Benefits District Meeting & Survey

If you haven't heard about it yet, there is a strong movement in the neighborhood led by many great many wonderful thinkers/organizer/gardeners, to create a Green Benefits District for Dogpatch and Potrero Hill. PSG and PRG would be part of this district, so I'm reposting the invitation from Janet that was recently put up on the DNA website to make sure those that are most interested don't miss it.

They are also collecting feedback in the form of a survey, so please take 5 minutes and fill out their survey if you are at all interested in the green development plan for our neighborhoods!

Join the Dogpatch-Potrero Green Benefit District info session at Homes on Esprit, 850 Minnesota St. Tues. May 21, 6-7:30 pm. Ask questions or fill out the survey there, or fill out online.

Green Benefit District (GBD) for Dogpatch and Potrero Survey and Info sessionTime: May 16, 2013 at 11am to May 22, 2013 at 11pm
Location: online and/or come by info session at Homes at Esprit, 850 Minnesota St.6-7:30pm. Ask questions/fill out the survey
Organized By: Janet Carpinelli/Callista Shepard Smith

Event Description:
We need your opinion! Please take 10-15 minutes to fill out this online survey and help us know what you, the neighbors, would like to see in more and better green spaces in our neighborhood!
This is the first and very important step!
Following survey results, if positive, we will send out a petition to property owners and have them vote on a self assessment for theGreen Benefit District (GBD).Green%20Benefit%20District%20for%20Dogpatch-Potrero.pdf
See more about the GBD and process here:
and you can drop by an info. session at Homes at Esprit community room on May 21, Tuesday, 6-7:30 pm, 850 Minnesota St. Call 415-205-5584 at door.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Self-mulch in place

Aloe maculata and
Festuca glauca
Today I went up to PG intending to weed the back half of the middle front bed, and ended up doing so much more in the course of 4 hours.

First I wanted to empty our compost pail so opened the two left bins, overstuffed with weeds last week. They'd both melted down a bit, so I decided to turn some of bin 2 over into bin 1, and water it. As I was pitchforking the contents over I noticed puffs of white - steam! I felt around and the pile was indeed very hot and composting away with abandon. Bacteria and worms FTW.

We've had slow results on the compost because we usually only turn it once a month, and in the past haven't had the correct ratio of green to brown contents. Recently I bought a bale of rice straw to add, and last volunteer day we turned the bins, added straw and watered them. Result!

Cordyline mulch
Then I got to work in the middle back bed - our dampest spot, and place where weeds have great fun. Noticed the Salvia "Limelight" I'd transplanted there recently was looking better than expected, the Leonotis worse than ever (it hates damp and wants to move) and the tallest Cordyline about to drop it's skirt-full of lower leaves.

As I weeded away an idea struck me. I'd recently been too lazy to move cut off cardoon leaves to the compost bins and instead arranged them at the base of the plant as mulch. No weeds there! Since Cordyline leaves are too fibrous to compost well, it hit me they might make great mulch too. So I yanked off all the lower leaves from the Cordyline and put them over the freshly weeded dirt. It doesn't look as nice as wood chips, but it should work, and will be covered by the plants there soon.

Cardoon mulch
Matt showed up and got to work cutting back the Salvia leucantha in the left bed, and weeded away too. I pulled weeds from the front of the middle back bed, and opened up the path on both sides.

After 4 tubtrugs hit the second compost bin, we decided to excavate the remains of the third bin. Great compost in there! We took two tubtrugs out and spread them on the garden - black and crumbly and lovely - and put the rest on the top of the now-full bin 2. We threw some water on top of bins 1 and 2, locked up and called it a day.

Walking down to PRG we picked trash as we went. Everything's looking lovely.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Live Oak Changemaker Lesson with Fieldtrip

Lecture in progress
School was different when I was in the 2nd grade. We didn't have an Alemany Farm to visit for one thing, and we certainly didn't have our own School Learning Garden and afterschool program that involved cooking and sharing food we grew at school. Clearly the teachers, parents, and as I learned, the students at Live Oak, are motivated and capable! The end result is what seems to be a great learning environment full of happy people. I had a great time meeting Carla, Nick and Booka (thanks for sending the photos!) and all of their 2nd graders for a classroom 'Change Maker' lecture followed by a field trip to PSG and PRG.

Free exploration time
First up was the lecture. All those years getting a PhD have finally paid off,  I now feel slightly capable of putting together a power point presentation for 2nd graders! Ok I'm kidding around, but really, I think that it is a big honor for Annie and I to be asked to give a teaching lecture for kids, and I was really glad that I could take time off work to go. Following the 'Change Maker' lesson guidelines from the teachers, I basically framed our organization along these lines:

Hmm, that's not an example of Dadaism
What do you want to do?
Why do you want to do this, and how does it affect others?
How do you make it so you get to do what you want?

The kids seemed pretty engaged during the lecture and I was surprised at how excited they all were when they saw the photo of my dog Bentley on one of the slides (note to self: include photo of Bentley in next presentation at work...)

After the lecture we went to the gardens, and started off with some free exploration of the garden, followed by a Q&A, and then a walk through of both gardens. Unfortunately someone had dumped a TV set at PRG, but it did make for a good teaching moment as we talked about what it means and takes to create a safe and beautiful place. It was a great afternoon, and it was a privilege to be able to share the garden.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Summery May workday

Today's volunteer day had a great turnout from One Brick, a volunteer group that gets people in the area out to enjoy social volunteering efforts.

Thank you for coming out guys - what a difference you made!

The One Brick folks - about 15 of them including Grace, Ying, Carnley, Scott, Rebecca, Aakash, Dean, Lindsey, Amanda, Elena, Julia and Thomas - and some local regulars (Carlin, Nate, Karl and Matt)  worked on a few projects in the toasty sunshine and got a lot done.

First up the dog area got a thorough weeding (begone convulvulus!) and a big strip of carpet installed under a solid 6" of mulch to prevent weeds coming up again. Nate remade the twig border along the bed at the top there too, which had recently been torn apart by persons unknown.

Carlin performed delicate weed extraction duty in the middle back bed, which I took a team to the outside borders and we weeded them completely, and added compost.

Karl took a team to the triangle garden and pulled dying California poppies out from around the yarrows (Achillea) planted there to give them more space.

Many, many tubtrugs of weeds were carted to the compost bins, where Matt and his crew were hard at work. First the emptied one bin completely so that neighbor Jim can line it with hardware cloth to prevent rats.

In doing that, they disturbed a family of rats. I'm pretty soft-hearted so that gave me some pangs of remorse but we left the babies in a nest of straw covered over and hope the parents will remove them. Yes, they're just rats but the other option was what? Leave them to die in the open? No.

Next Matt and team wheelbarrowed lots of compost from our black plastic bags (left to heat in the sun and kill weed seeds, we hope, for the last month) to various spots in the garden and spread it.

Then they refilled the bags with half-done compost for more cooking, and filled the remaining two bins with weeds and straw and watered them well.

All in all another lovely sunny volunteer day with lots of fun stuff going on!
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