Updated Bay Delta Plan and what it means for SF gardens

By Lauren Lewis In December 2018 the California State Water Resources Control Board voted to update the Bay Delta Plan in an effort to restore habitat for endangered aquatic animals in the delta. The City of San Francisco is now suing the state over the new plan, ostensibly to buy time to work out an alternate plan that is more favorable to water supply…

What a garden can provide for good mental health

By Lauren Lewis Scientists have long recognized the mental and physical health benefits that come from interacting with nature. These various benefits were reviewed comprehensively in a recent article, viewed together as an ecosystem service of nature just like carbon sequestration or water filtration. And as we gain understanding of the negative impacts of pervasive screen time, there’s more and more traction for the…

Protecting mycorrhizae to promote perennials

By Lauren Lewis In California, where pretty much all gardening is done with water requirements front of mind, the wise approach is to aim for a garden that is dominated by perennial plants- those that live and thrive for many years, rather than a single season or year. (A lot of edibles would be the exception to this trend, but we’ll set those aside.)…

A celebration of the color brown

By Lauren Lewis At Small Spot Gardens we are working to eliminate the need for ongoing irrigation in the gardens we design. In California. Where yesterday we had our first little sprinkling of rain in over 6 months. It’s certainly a challenge to create verdant, lush-feeling urban oases when the rainfall is so sparse and sporadic and unpredictable, but it can be done. A…

Using native Californian land management in current California

By Lauren Lewis Last year I wrote a post describing the work of M. Kat Anderson, who has delved deep into the ways that native Californians managed the land for their survival, and I suggested that the land management practices of native Californian tribes should be used to address contemporary problems. So now I want to look at whether that’s actually happening, and how….

Versatility and diversity: succulents for the win

By Lauren Lewis If you’re someone who notices the plants around you (you know it if you are!), you’ve probably noticed that people love their succulents. These fleshy desert plants have become hugely popular for landscaping, indoor plant collections, party favors, etc over the last couple decades. And with good reason because they are hardy plants, drought-tolerant, and visually eclectic and striking. Several interesting…

Trees and carbon intake: the bigger the better

By Lauren Lewis One of the defining characteristics of trees as compared to other plants is their longevity. Their growth patterns at the cellular level evolved not just for reaching up and out but also for “secondary growth”- the layering, repetitive cell growth that thickens the plant, making it highly stable and durable. This and other longevity adaptations mean trees have much to teach…

Native bees offer low effort, high payoff species conservation

By Lauren Lewis You’ve probably seen media about the alarming loss of bees in the last decade or so, and it has most likely been framed as a biodiversity conservation issue. That angle on the issue is misleading because the vast majority of this public attention has been directed, often unknowingly, toward honeybees only. Honeybees are not native to North America and are essentially…

The ecosystem diversity of old SF

By Lauren Lewis and Elisa Baier Before the SF peninsula was settled by Europeans and urbanized, the landscape of many diverse ecosystems — shrubby, grassy, shore, etc — allowed native coastal Californians to thrive. They lived here without developing any farming methods that we associate with traditional agriculture; instead they carefully tended and collected useful plants, foraged shellfish, and created conditions favorable for hunting….

Fungi in your soil: a reason to celebrate

By Lauren Lewis The weeks following our late winter rains, when the soil is as soaked as it’s ever going to be in SF, is when we’re most likely to find mushrooms in our gardens. If you do, it’s a reason to rejoice, because a mushroom is the above-ground evidence of fungi in the soil, and it’s hard to overstate just how important fungi…