San Francisco, CA

San Francisco, CA: uniting plants and people in CommUNITY Gardens for thriving growth and relationships

Karen Madej

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During the last year, community gardens served as an escape for many folks. A haven of activity or reflection. For children, parents, individual adults seeking a hobby, conversation, and the sheer pleasure of creating something.

San Francisco encourages people to go back to the soil to grow food, either in a community garden or their own backyard.

The city also offers the tools to make these community and home gardens happen. We'll look at some of the elements involved in a garden like, planning, composting, and weather conditions.

Golden Gate Park CommUNITY Garden, San Francisco opened in October 2013.

Planners think about the design of the garden

They consider which sections for specific plants. Which plants you choose for shaded areas depends on how much sunlight the space gets.

Fully shaded or deep shade with very little sunlight would make it impossible for anything to thrive. However, an open shade would suit parsley or arugula.

If a section of garden has four or more hours of sunlight, you can grow carrots or lettuce.

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For tomatoes you’ll need six or more hours to make sure they ripen.

The location of the garden could mean the difference between plants growing slowly on a sunny but cool coastal day and them shutting down on a boiling hot day inland. Thus the advice from Pam Pierce who wrote Best edibles to grow in shade in Bay Area.

"grow in full sun at the coast, partial shade inland."

Community Gardens also provide space for ornamental plants. Keen flower growers appreciate a section of the lot for their favourite blooms. Wild flowers and grasses grow freely and encourage pollinators to visit.

Composting

An Online Urban Composting Workshop by Garden for the Environment (GFTE) scheduled for June 5 could be your first step to recycling suitable food waste. You’ll also learn about worm composting.

Charlotte Canner, a graduate of the Garden for the Environment's Gardening and Composting Educator Program (Get Up!) continued to learn and work for the GFTE.

She’s an Integrated Pest Management Advocate and Educator with Our Water Our World program and works as a maintenance gardener in San Francisco.

“As an environmental activist, Charlotte loves sharing her knowledge and passion for soil health, regenerative gardening practices, and building healthy, diverse ecosystems.”

The city even provides a compost pail and gives you advice on how to use it. You can compost meat, greasy fast food cardboard, hair and tissues among others.

To save your pail getting grubby you could use a rinsed out used take away box or a compostable bag from a grocery or drug store.

The best composting tip?

If you have space in your freezer, freeze your compostable items. Freezing prevents those unsavoury smells you’d get from the fermenting food.

Your homemade environmentally friendly compost fertilizes the soil in your garden. You can grow many crops, including grapes for wine!

Golden Gate Park CommUNITY Garden, San Francisco offers free or low cost compost for your garden if you aren’t into the whole yuckiness of making your own!

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If you are a novice or a keen gardener and would love to have your own plot for you and the family, you can join the waiting list to get one. Or for the new Maria Manetti Shrem Community Garden register to be included in a lottery for a plot. San Francisco Recreation & Parks Department (SFRPD) expects the garden to open in 2021.

Got your own garden?

Should you have your own garden, you might be interested in San Francisco Rec and Park’s Urban Agriculture Program, they have a Zoom workshop on Saturday, May 8, to help you Grow Your Own Food in May. An excellent investment of $25 to $30 for a place. It starts at 6:00 PM and finishes at 8:00 PM BST

A few final thoughts

Starting with a good soil, nurturing your garden with homemade compost or manure from a local community garden.

Planting seeds and walking all over the ground to make sure they are firmly in the ground. Animals often do this job in the wild. You might prefer to feel the richness of the soil in your hands.

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Watering your garden frequently with rainwater collected in barrels or provided by the city.

Checking for bugs, seeking the members of the community who know how to deal with these critters.

Spending time with people from your community, growing thriving relationships as well as healthy food.

Harvesting and enjoying the fruits of your labour.

San Francisco has 42 community gardens plus the new Maria Manetti Shrem Community Garden opening this year.

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Passionate about climate change and living a debt-free, sustainable life. Determined to learn how to and build an adobe house or Earthship. The goal is to live off-grid and off the land. Energy for heat and to power electrical devices and appliances will use solar, wind, and hydro-powered electricity. No trees will die to make my home.

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