Category Archives: Projects

Planting Justice Dominates Front Yard

Andrew Builds the Best Bamboo Structures

We started with a giant piece of grass and built this puppy in one day.  Go to http://www.plantingjustice.org to get your lawn done up!

Bridgets Front Yard - So Grassy

 

Sheet Mulch - We managed to scavenge 12 windsurfing shipping boxes from the Marina. Thanks Windsurfers!

 

9 Yards of compost Please

 

The Team + Accapulco Rocks

It's Hot in Out Here

 

ONE DAY!

 

Straw Mulch to hold moisture, decompose and provide habitat for spiders!

We came back 90 Days Later to Check up on Things!

 

Scarlet Runner Bean Teepee Forts

 

Big Boys

 

We dominated this lawn

 

More Projects To Come!

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Permaculture, Plants, Projects

Full Transformation

I’ll be uploading some of the gardens I helped design and implement with Planting Justice last Spring.  There are some really inspiring transformations.  This particular project was in Hercules, CA.  We built this annual garden, perennial food forest and grape arbor in three days!   Check it out!

 

Before we started

 

Plants!

 

We put in an asparagus patch, strawberry field, bean poles, tomatoes and over 20 fruit trees!

 

Mulching

We started by mulching paths and building a small retaining wall.

Annuals in the front

 

Finished First Section

 

Irrigation system and straw mulch

 

Gavin!

 

Setting Posts with Andrew

 

Kiwi and Grape Arbor

Leave a comment

Filed under Permaculture, Plants, Projects

Spring Parking Lot Garden!

It’s nearly summer.  Spring in the Bay Area has been a turbulent mix of quasi-tropical sun days and torrential down pour.  The rainy spring has been great for the Sierra snow pack, the young bare root trees planted this winter and the general environmental health of California.  The bees have finally started bringing in honey and I’m getting jealous at the size of some of my neighbors tomato plants.  I’ve been working hard in the courtyard and parking lot of my warehouse, to create a Spring/Summer garden.  Here is a short photo tour of what I’ve been up to!

Courtyard list of characters:  two beehives, tandom bike, scrap wood, bamboo, roses, redwood siding planters, dream catchers, compost bin, trash can…..

Our Courtyard

The left/north side of the courtyard gets the most southern exposure, so I decided to plant some tomatillo’s and Pepino’s.

Sunny Side of Courtyard

Pepino Dulce (Solanum muricatum) are native to South America and produce a delicious sweet melon.  Max at People’s Grocery raised these in the green houses.  Hopefully the courtyard in Oakland will be hot enough!

Pepino Dulce (Solanum muricatum)

The final fruit look delicious!

Pepino Dulce

In the corner of the courtyard we’ve go New Zealand Spinach in large Safeway container, some cucumbers along the fence and a wild strawbery from oregon in an old gaudy planter.  New Zealand Spinach is a perennial green that will spread if you let it.  Ideally I would have planted this in larger bed, but I’m determined to keep leafy greens in soil thats been tested for lead.

New Zealand Spinach

Spinach close up.

New Zealand Spinach (Tetragonia tetragonioides)

hljkhljkh

Recently Planted Brassica (I think it's a Brocoli?? Damn)

The Bee Hives.  One of them swarmed last week and landed across the street on to the same pear tree branch that it swarmed to last year.  Weird bee intuition.

Da Bees

Outside we built a raised bed along the fence from redwood burls and stumps.  This was our main garden last year.

The Parking Lot

Some pretty Brassica Close ups

Lacinato Kale

More Kale (we eat a lot of it)

The Sea Kale below is a portuguese perennial collard that Max grew at People’s Grocery.

Sea Kale (Crambe maritima)

A goji berry in a big pot.  Might need more cool temps.  We will see.  Got this little bad boy along with some other great/rare perennials from Anders and the Merritt Landscape Hort Plant Sale!!

Goji Berry (Lycium Barbarum)

A pine box planter I found on the street.  A polyculture including tomatos, kale, lettuce, beets and carrots.

Pine Box Polyculture

Beauty Lechuga

Beauty Lettuce

Our fence soon to be covered with Scarlet Runner Beans

Nasturtium Barb Wire

Oca ready to be moved into a bigger pot.  This is a root crop from Peru that grows well in the Bay Area.

Oca (Oxalis tuberosa)

Ice Cream Bean Tree (Inga edulis) is a sub-tropics/tropical plant that might work in the Bay.  The large bean tubers have a vanilla flavored cotton candy fiber that you can eat!

Ice Cream Bean Tree (Inga edulis)

Parking Lot Nursery

Parking Lot Nursery

Roof Top Nursery

Roof Top Nursery

Thats all folks.

4 Comments

Filed under Perennial, Permaculture, Plants, Projects

Goldman Environmental Awards!

Hello Everyone.  It’s been quite a while since the last CitySown post, so let me get you updated.  In the past two weeks I’ve: started working for Planting Justice doing permaculture design and implementation, been to New York City and back, watched a fruiting banana plant in the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, picked up some oca and mashua roots, planted a few dozen trees, ordered 12 bee hives, sold 60 pounds of honey…. Spring time is definitely here.  And it’s about to thunderstorm in Oakland.  Crazy.

I was fortunate to attend the Goldman Environmental Awards at the San Fransisco Opera House this evening.  The Goldman Foundation selects six incredible grass roots environmental heroes to honor each year from each of the six habitable continents.  Watching the planet earth style short video segments that introduce the awards ceremony, I found myself in an odd critical state of mind.  Why spend all this money on a ceremony.  Why all the pomp and circumstance.  Why the big show….  Then when the show actually started I was absolutely blown away…  mostly by one individual.

Humberto Ríos Labrada

Humberto Ríos Labrada has worked tirelessly in Cuba to diversify crop usage.  A graduate student while the Soviet Block was disintegrating, he recognized that indigenous farming knowledge could be promulgated and enhanced to counter growing trends in sugar cane monocropping.  After the Soviet Union collapsed, Cuba partitioned small blocks of land to farming collectives.  Labrada pioneered “seed fairs” or seed swaps to encourage farmers to share knowledge and diversify their seed usage.  It’s working.  50,000 farmers are now involved in Labrada’s agricultural biodiversity work.  Check out this video for more information on this inspiring human being.

Labrada gave a passionate speech, with my favorite quote of the night: “Agriculture…. is art.”  I think it’s important to remember that designing productive spaces is a creative art form, not a rigid calculation.  Thanks Labrada.  Congrats.

4 Comments

Filed under Field Trips, Permaculture, Projects, Resources

Planting Justice and CitySown Team Up!

Exciting news!!

Planting Justice and CitySown are teaming up this Spring to grow plants.  This is an exciting collaboration and large shift in CitySown’s purpose:

Tree Tomato or Tamarillo

Imagine a table of tomato starts…  On the wooden table is a small placard describing Planting Justice a local non-profit that grew these particular varieties.  Large placards rate the plants’ edibility, medicinal value and give detailed growing instructions.  There are many varieties of tomatoes that fruit well in the bay area.  On the ground near the legs of the table is a flat of tomato trees for sale.

As a board member of Planting Justice and a full believer in the organization’s mission and business structure, we will be using my roof top nursery to produce starts for Planting Justice.  We will be starting to sell to local nurseries in the Bay Area.  CitySown will still list free available plants for local gardeners, but the site will primarily function as an informational hub for urban permaculturalists.

Two roof-tops are better than one!

Check out Planting Justice’s first rooftop garden

Look out for more information about this partnership soon!

3 Comments

Filed under Permaculture, Projects

Turn your Compost into Mushrooms!

Mushroom cultivation may seem daunting and mysterious, but with time and effort, unused shady spots can become productive mushroom farms.   Urban permaculture can be challenging.  We are constantly presented with “less than ideal” growing conditions: three hours of sun a day and contaminated soil are just a few examples.  The freeway underpass lined with chain-link fence, the old Superfund site where school buses were maintained, a shady weed ridden ally. Hopefully the process described below will inspire you to start utilizing some of these less desirable zones and grow pounds of mushrooms at the same time.

Shaggy Mane

The Story of the Shaggy Mane

For my Dad’s 60th birthday I gave him the idea of a present.  A small note with a few well-intentioned drawings of mushrooms sprouting up around our property.  For the last 2 months Isaac and I have been deep in the laboratory, sterilizing, inoculating and building an army of mycelium.  Isaac has been cultivating oyster, shiitake and reishi mushrooms for years and is incredibly knowledgeable.  He has been a great mentor and leader for my journey into the world of fungus.  We chose three species of mushrooms to cultivate in outdoor patches and oak logs: The Garden Giant (Stropharia rugosoannulata), Shiitake (Lentinula edodes) and the Shaggy Mane (Coprinus comatus).  This first post will focus on our experience cultivating the Shaggy Mane.

Note: Mushrooms are fascinating creatures that are more closely related to humans than plants.  They form giant mycelial webs that function as a “forest internet” transporting information and nutrients to different plants.  Mycelium is the white mold like strands that collect nutrients.  Mushrooms are the actual fruiting body that contain reproductive spores.

Step 1:  Making Agar

We started with a master Shaggy Mane culture that can be purchased at Spore Works or for a far more expensive, but commercially rigorous strain: Fungi Perfecti. Rather than extracting massive amounts of mycelium from the master strain, we started by brewing up some agar solution.  This way, a small portion of the master strain can be grown out before being added to the growing substrate.

To make Agar (mushroom food) we used this recipe: Potato Dextrose Yeast (PDY).  Isaac uses a whiskey bottle with a hole in the cap to pour the piping hot agar into sterilized petri dishes.  Let the Agar cool overnight.

Step 2: Inoculating the Agar

Wait a couple days for the Agar to set.  Before we inoculated the plates we inspected them to see if the agar had cooled and molded evenly.  Keep an I out for the evil Trichoderma, the most common fungi contaminating mold.

We used a home-made sterile glove box to inoculate the agar plates.  Using a scalpel we cut “sunflower seed size” pieces of mycelium from the master colony and placed it onto the agar plates.  Being sterile is really important.  Bring a towel soaked with rubbing alcohol  into the glove box with you to clean the scalpel in-between inoculations.  Once each agar plate has been inoculated, re-wrap the petri dishes in cellophane and put them somewhere dark and warm.

Step 3: Sterilizing the Substrate

Pressure Cooker

So much birdseed!  Wild birdseed is high in nutrients and cheep.  Before introducing the mycelium into the birdseed it must be sterile.  Fill  wide-mouth quart mason jars with birdseed that is soaked to the consistency of a dry sponge. Drill four small holes into the metal top of the mason jar.  You’ll need to get some tyvek from somewhere, packaging envelopes work pretty well.  Cut large squares that can fit completely over the top of the jar.  The order  is Jar, tyvek square, screw top, tinfoil.  Unscrew the jars a quarter turn from tight and  put them in a pressure cooker.  The pressure cooker is probably the most expensive investment in the whole process.  I suggest looking on craigslist.

To start the cooking process, fill the pressure cooker  a fourth of the way full, put it on the stove with the pressure valve open until it gets heated up and then after it hot close the valve.  Lower the stove to medium heat.  Aim to cook the bird seed for at 15 psi for 60 minutes.  Here is a great step by step documentation of sterilizing birdseed (by a blogger growing magic mushrooms).

Step 4: Inoculating the Substrate

Mycelium on an Agar Plate

Back to the glove box!  Scalpel pieces of the agar quickly into the sterilized mason jars and seal them  back up.  The more meticulous and obsessive you are the better.

Step 5: Feeding the Machine!

After three or so weeks the mycelium will run through the birdseed and create something that looks like this:

Healthy Mycelium

Before transferring the Shaggy Mane mycelium make sure you have about 6 shovel full of decomposed horse manure and compost.  Drill holes in the bottom of a plastic tub for drainage.

Plastic Tub

Drilling the holes with a hole saw!

Drill Holes

Smell the substrate.


Gavin Smelling the Compost

Mix it up all nice.

Isaac Mixing the Substrate

Open up the jars and spread the mycelium in layers (lasagna style) throughout the substrate.

Spreading the Mycelium

Put the tub somewhere dark and dry.  In a month, check to see if the mycelium has spread through the compost.  Have a spot picked out on your property where you can mix a big pile of compost and decomposed horse manure.  Layer the inoculated substrate in lasagna style and let it sit.  If built correctly, the patch should produce for years.  Make sure to add more manure and compost each year and you will have shaggy manes for a long time.

I understand this process may seem daunting for the first time mushroom grower:

I’ll let you know how the Shaggy Mane harvest turns out.

Over and Out.

1 Comment

Filed under Fungi, Outdoor Cultivation, Permaculture, Projects

Picking Favorites – East Bay Nurseries

Spring Time!

Not all vegetable sections are created equal.  Some nurseries concentrate on culinary herbs while others focus on ancient Italian heirlooms.  After staring for several minutes at a laminated placard describing scarlet runner beans that failed to mention nitrogen fixation, ediblity or perennialization, I decided to develop  a “permaculture rubric” to evaluate our local nurseries.  In the next few weeks I will be piling on tweed sports coats, fake mustaches and flower print dresses – doing a little investigative work.  Which nurseries are selling what edibles?  Where do they buy their plants from?  How many perennial edibles do they carry?  What are their top sellers?

I hope that conducting some on the ground research will not only direct readers to nurseries that stock useful plants, but will also illuminate current trends in the retail vegetable market.  How much demand exists for what vegetables?  Is there an opportunity for nurseries to be educational and demonstration sites for unusual, but incredibly useful and important plants?  I would like to know how the retail market is positioning itself to attract the burgeoning wave of well-informed urban gardeners.

To begin this investigation.  I  would like to see what your favorite East Bay nurseries are.  Please vote below.  I understand that certain nurseries maintain specific niche markets.  Perhaps vote on the nursery you most regularly attend. Thanks for your  input.

2 Comments

Filed under Field Trips, Plants, Projects