Tuesday, October 13, 2015

October New Moon Swale Building

This beautiful Autumnal day was just perfect to create swales and a huglekultur bed in Oakland.

The scene this morning.

This is a long back yard with a gentle slope. Approx. 140 x 60.
No irrigation.
A wild area with running Bamboo and Fennel at the back.
A useful live oak.
A few fruit trees.

The intention is to create rainwater harvesting swales which also serve as pathways.
Remove a couple of old trees.
Bury the Fennel and Bamboo plus other trimmings in a Huglekultur bed.
Create topographical interest and avoid straight lines.
Create planting areas for vegetables and perennials.
We called 811 for a survey and there were on utilities on this part of the lot.
We love that !

 After stripping out the Bamboo and Fennel we dug a large hole at the back of the lot.
Green material and roots fill the hole in a lasagna like layering with soil.

Excavator marks the site of the Huglekultur bed
Now the swale digging begins about 2 1/2 hours into the project.
Upper swale from the back

Upper swale from the front
Huglekultur on the right side

The whole project took about 6 hours.

The next step will be to fill the swales with tree chips.



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Meet and hear fascinating Matt Powers, nationally known permaculture expert with certification in permaculture design from Geoff Lawton!, certified high school teacher, author of The Permacultue Student, founder of The Permaculture Life School in Sebastopol and The Permaculture Student Online ( Matt will tell us about his experiences being trained and working with worldwide reknown permaculture experts, permaculture farming and gardening, and much more.

Agroecologist Bethallyn Black will teach you how to plant cover crops in your backyard and obtaining greater carbon sequestration in your soil. Cover crops support beneficial insects such as bees.

Rex Dufour a soil expert from NCAT/ATTRA and partner of the UC Berkeley's Growing Roots grant, will lead a presentation for urban farmers on Understanding Urban Farm Soils: Healthy soils, Soil Function and Soil Testing. This workshop is geared towards beginning urban farmers with less than ten years of experience who want to understand common problems and solutions for dealing with urban soils. Rex will discuss how to improve soil function, how to interpret a soil test and the different types of soil testing that are important for urban farm plots.

We will have a bee expert explaining how you can help Save Our Bees!

Global Student Embassy will tell us about their international volunteer projects training new farmers.

Mike McGill, President of Central San Board will talk to us about the value of recycled water for agriculture and other uses.

Andrew Sutherland, Ph.D. BCE, San Francisco Bay Area Urban Integrated Pest Management Advisor University of California Cooperative Extension / University of California Integrated Pest Management Statewide Program will teach us IPM so that we can protect our environment and our bees.

We'll have cover crop mix for first 200 attendees, compost, and you can pick up CCCSD recycled water if you qualify. Recycled water is high in nitrogen and phosphorus and you are eligible to get up to 300 gallons per trip, if you live in the CCCSD district, Concord, or Clayton AND you take short instructions to be certified. Check hours for pickup
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"A cover crop is a crop planted primarily to manage soil erosion, soil fertility, soil quality, water, weeds, pests, diseases, biodiversity and wildlife in an agroecosystem (Lu et al. 2000)" 

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Sunday, August 30, 2015

Garden Guardian

In thinking about the role of Scarecrows in farming and gardening there seems to be a schism in their relevance to Martinez and this urban area. The traditional scarecrow was designed to protect grains, leafy greens and fruit crops from flocks of birds.
I don't think this fellow will traumatize any local birds.
The diversity of permaculture plantings helps to detract from the ease with which a whole flock could descend upon a single crop of their choice.
This figure, while resembling David, is more like a piece of seasonal garden art.

Some History from Dave's Garden

A lot of information here

For a laugh

Is there another more appropriate name for such a creation? I thought of Garden Guardian. Please send me more at

Other humorous names from the old perspective:
     Tyranno-straw-us Rex
  • Frosty the Snow-crow
  • Little Crow Peep
  • A-crow-bat
  • Crow-bot
  • Double-Crow-Seven
  • Homer-Scare-Doh
  • Scarey Potter
  • Scarey Poppins
  • Build Your Own Garden Guardian.

    The next Crop Swap is on September 23rd and we are planning to have a Garden Guardian building playshop alongside the tables of surplus we share.
    Save your old boots and work pants. Bring them along to the Community Garden at 333 Center Ave. and we will construct a few Guardians. Some for the garden, or take one home. We will have some tools with screws, wire, baler twine and straw for stuffing available.
    We will begin at about 6:15pm at the parking lot end.

    Also a lone male Guardian might feel lonely so what about building some lady Guardians.
    Save your dresses and head scarves!
    A Garden Guardian in the making

          At CACG

    The "Thanks" raised bed (Center Ave. end of the bottom row) has been converted to a Netafim drip tubing irrigation system. We have planted winter producing crops of Peas, Fava beans, Kale, Beets Swiss Chard and Radishes.

    We might need to move the tubing closer together. The emitters are every 12 inches and deliver 0.92 gallons per minute.
    A modest beginning to restore the food component of this gardening gift.
    We hope you have enjoyed a wonderful summer and are ready for the rains!
    David and Tess

    Sunday, July 19, 2015

    Freedom To Swale

    Photos of "Designer Swales" in a new Permaculture landscape in El Sobrante.

    These swales were created by a small excavator and finished by hand. Tree chips fill the swales to absorb water; both runoff and the out pouring of 5 down spouts. The swales will also act as paths through the garden. The birms are covered by cardboard, horse manure and imported compost / planting mix.

    Over in Benicia

    A group of seven trainees are developing the skills needed to manage Food Forests for profit.
    Larry demonstrating a laser level

    "A" frame on the ground in the lower right corner
    Here they are comparing ease and accuracy of various methods available to mark an on contour swale in Benicia Community Orchard on 2nd Street. It was really too dry to dig the next swale at the top of the orchard. The plan is to wait until the first rains and then dig the swale by hand when the soil is softer.  We did a 'dry run' using flour as a marking agent across the lot.
    The laser level was seen to give greater accuracy over a distance. Our trusty "A" frame and a Bunyip water level was also discussed.

    Trainees planting the new Food Forest featured in the post 'We Came We Saw We Contoured'.

    Here the trainees are adding Netafim drip tubing to the same Food Forest.

    Designer Chicken Coop built very close to a swale

    At CACG

    We are having our monthly Crop Swap on Wednesday July 22nd. All are invited (as always) wither you have items to trade or not this is about community building.
    At the August Crop Swap on Aug. 26th we are planning a Scarecrow Building Workshop. More details soon!

     I leave you with the muse ....
    Happy Summer!

    925 286 7225

    Tuesday, June 30, 2015

    5 Years After

    Five years have passed sine we began the Center Avenue Community Garden in June of 2010

    June 29th 2010. First load of tree chips arrive
    Here are some photos of the garden today.

    Not too inspiring perhaps at first sight. These Sunflowers and lone Swiss Chard plants are growing in areas that have received no irrigation water this year! These photos, taken yesterday, demonstrate the effectiveness of storing water in mulch, in this case 5 years worth of layered tree chips.

    Ripe Peaches on a tree in the tree circle gathering area. These receive drip irrigation.
    Ripening grapes on the white arch
     Our compost bins are in pause mode. We are saving water ... but they are too dry to decompose.
    The coffee grounds in the bin on the right are a weekly gift from Trader Joes on Concord Ave.
    We are only watering the lower row of raised vegetable beds through the end of next month. Then we might see how the water budget goes and perhaps open up the upper row for some planting of cool season crops in August. That would be Beets, Kale, Lettuce, Peas and Swiss Chard.
    I see CACG continuing into the next five years. It serves the community as a place of education, inspiration and recreation. I am grateful!

    Food Forest Completion in Benicia

    Mulch is our friend

    We began this one back in March. Here is a video from Joshua Thayer "The Plant Guy"
     Above. Planting a berry patch.
    Below. The rock covers a mulch shield, part of the greywater system buried at least 2" below the mulch and serving the Apple tree in the top left hand corner. The brown pipe is a Netafim drip irrigation line. This one delivers 0.9 gph at 12" spacing.

    The Mannions are moving!

    We so appreciate their uplifting spirits and enthusiastic participation in bringing the CACG to where it is now. They have gifted us with hours of inspired work for which we are very grateful.
    They are moving to Folsom CA in mid July.
    We are excited for their new adventure and wish them well.
    There will be a chance to say goodbye in Pleasant Hill Park with a causal BYO-Dinner from 5pm to 8pm, on Thursday, July 16th, in case anyone is available to swing by.
    With love to
    Colin discovers carrots
    A family of 4 in June 2013
    Jim, Karen, Brenna, Colin and Ryan Mannion
    And finally -

    I try to remember that ...
    Happy Fourth !
    925 286 7225