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

    Thursday, June 4, 2015

    After a Strawberry Moon

    A "Swarm Shelter" plant pot is hung in a tree to attract a swarm. It attracted this swarm which declined to enter and spent the night outside.
    This happened on June 1st. In my experience this has been a slow and late swarm season. Not as many as usual and later in the season (which is normally March to June). Also many swarms have been smaller than usual ... but not the one pictured here, who now occupy a hive in Martinez.

    Ripening Fruit at CACG

    Santa Rosa Plums



    'Lemon Queen' Sunflower with bee

    Crop Swap

    A scene from our Crop Swap on May 27th. There was everything from burlap sacks and framed pictures to lemons and plant starts.
    Our next Crop Swap is on June 24th 2015. Please show up and say "Hello" to the neighborhood even if you don't have anything to swap this time.

    Miss May

    Congratulation to Turiya our Chicken of the Month for May 2015. We don't know the pedigree of most of our hens. We do know that Turiya is a Buff Brahma because she, together with India, were purchased as a day old chicks from Concord Feed She wanted to be a broody hen last month. That was not to be because we don't have a rooster and no new chicks, to become future hens, are required at this time. Here she is taking a dust bath.

    An Urban Farm Tour

    Urban Farm Tours 2015 ~ Walnut Creek & Concord
    Saturday June 6, 2015 9am-3pm
    Tour start 9am Mt Diablo High school 2450 Grant Street Concord
    A foray into the suburban wilderness out Far East Bay tour features sites ranging from a modest suburban retrofit to a sprawling permaculture paradise. All sites feature water wise gardening. and food production. You will see edible landscaping, bees and chickens, pollinator habitat, greywater and rainwater catchment, intergenerational gardening and much more. Your ticket includes a tour or our staging area , 3 farm sites, a 4th special interest site, plus morning hospitality and simple farm fresh lunch prepared and provided by the students of Mt Diablo High School Hospitality & Tourism Academy. To spread visitors out evenly, your itinerary will be set for you in advance and available for you at will call the morning of the event. Once you have your itinerary you will drive yourself to the various sites. For those who wish it, we’ll try to arrange carpooling onsite by group the day of. We recommend getting to the staging area by 9:30 am at the latest, however someone will be at the staging area all day to greet you.

    Event Page
    Featured Sites:

    Tree Chips are Free

    Hopefully a useful service to the community.
    You are welcome to collect tree chips from our pile at CACG. You will find the pile at the top end of the garden close to the White Arch. We try to limit our stock pile to two tree company loads in order to keep the garden as tidy as possible. Help your self and we will call for more when we need them.
    They are a great resource as a mulch. They keep the soil cool around roots, prevent evaporative losses from the soil, smother weeds, hold and store moisture, breakdown to provide nutrients and much more.
    Oh. You will have to load yourself!
    If you need a whole load delivered to your driveway I would suggest calling Bartlett Tree Experts (925) 934 6306
    They have been reliably supplying chips to CACG since we began in June 2010.

    Curb Cut

    I was delighted to see this water harvesting design built into the new landscaping at The Willows in Concord.
    Facing the REI store on I680 side
    Water runoff from the parking lot is allowed to infiltrate back into the water table through this median strip. A great start, and could this strip be growing food one day?

    Check out The Rodgers Ranch in Pleasant Hill for their series of classes.
    Or click here Initives

    More soon. Enjoy your gardens!


    925 286 7225


    Saturday, May 16, 2015

    We Came, We Saw, We Contoured

    Earlier this month a group of volunteers created swales and planted fruit trees as the first step in creating a back yard Food Forest.

    Here is a video created by the generous and public spirited homeowners Nick and Kirsten that, for me, captures the joy of the day.
    The site last December

    Before concrete removal

    This is what we started with on the day

    It was the last in this series of "Seed Plot" creations offered by Benicia Community Gardens.
    A load of tree chips arrive  (even before we have a place to put them)

    Such is the delightful, joyful chaos of community installs

    Surprise! Abandoned electrical and water lines were an unexpected twist to the morning. They were probably serving a spa, or other system, long ago before the current owners.
    This swale was 15 inches deep when complete

    There was a lot of love here
    Nikita (Left) is designated 'Director of Cheerfulness"
    Big Aeigshelski hoping to find snacks in the newly arrived chips

    Aeigshelskis doing the under table clean up at lunch

    Now the gloves go on!

     After lunch we might expect that the pace would ease a little. Not with this group. Lunch over the shade structure was moved allowing the marking out of the final swale. With great zeal the digging crew moved in on the thin line of flour marking the place to dig.

    Digging was actually easier in the areas previously covered in concrete. The concrete acted as a form of mulch to retain moisture.
    Planting Blueberries and Gogi berries

    Filling the swales with tree chips

    Long shadows creep over the site as we end the day. Swales dug. Seven fruit trees planted.
    Were they available on the day we would have put more tree chips in the swales, which will also act as paths.
    I would like to give credit to the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center with the inspiration for the title of this post. I saw an "I" version of the title on one of their tee shirts. There was also an image of an "A" frame. Great message.
    There is a part two relating to this home in Benicia. Next comes a laundry to landscape greywater system. To find out what that entails please visit our friends at Greywater Action
    I would also like to mention Ron's project to build a local Permaculture website. Check out Contra Costa Permaculture
    And finally:
    DVC Horticulture Summer Blowout Sale
    Friday May 22nd
    We will be blowing out our stock of Annual Edibles on Friday May 22nd from 2-5.
    We have Tomatoes and Peppers aplenty, all ready to be given a good home for the summer.
    Our Pittosporum, Coyote Bush, Bog Sage, Roses, and Plumbagos are also at blowout prices.
    We still have some gift arrangements and rare fruits available at regular prices as well as our wonderful selection in the galleria.
    We have rainbarrels for sale, use the summer to set up next year’s system.
    Get information on our summer and fall classes!
    We are located at DVC parking lot 9, down by the Garden.
    More information can always be found on our facebook page
    Enjoy the ides of May.
    925 286 7225