Everyone in the City is so busy 24/7, right? We can barely “make time” to see friends, much less to, say, totally re-do a medium-sized backyard in a mere day. See where the permaculture adage, “The problem is the solution” might come in handy here? A garden party!
In this case, Elisa’s friends had recently bought a house near Duboce Park. After doing some necessary prep work – mowing and mulching, mainly – the day before, they invited about 20 people over to build and beautify their new outdoor space.
There was a project for everyone, from laying ground cloth and painting outdoor furniture to planting and spreading a lovely layer of shredded bark.
The transformation was quick, fun, and dramatic. Stock a cooler of refreshing beverages, grab some tools, and call your friends.
Using untreated, naturally-worn wood in the garden can offer a sense of warmth and a seamless integration into the surrounding landscape. This is almost a no-brainer, considering wood-as-a-building-material was once wood-the-body-of-a-tree.
At Merritt College’s permaculture garden in Oakland, an herb spiral is shaped by short, uneven pillars. The wooden outline can also double as seats while the gardeners pick their thyme and oregano!
This is a wild grape vine that Elisa’s parents placed in a blank spot in their home. The twisty nature of this plant in inherently sculptural; it’s not hard to imagine using a dead, woody vine as a trellis for a more delicate plant, such as peas in a veggie garden.
And check out this simple way to create a fun, different-looking path. Simply cutting one- or two-inch pieces of log, then filling in the gaps with sand. Very pretty and woodsy (and easy and cheap!).
In the ever-expanding world of re-used materials, “urbanite” is a cool sounding word that refers, simply, to broken up concrete. Pieces of what was once flat, smooth sidewalk can now, once deconstructed, be stacked like bricks to create a vertical wall or foundation. This example of reuse is pretty significant, considering concrete is an incredibly energy intensive product to make. Plus, I must admit, it’s quite theraputic to smash a sidewalk to pieces with a sledgehammer. Here are a couple examples of urbanite in action:
Paired with redwood, this is a sidewall of veggie boxes Elisa built in a backyard in Laurel Heights. This was reused onsite, having been torn up from an old path in the previously neglected space.
These retaining walls are part of the landscaping at a hotel in Boonville, Mendocino County. Notice how the stacked pieces of urbanite are re-enforced with wire mesh, essentially blending in and preventing any wayward slippage.
Within the past several years a lot folks have decided they want to start growing their own food in urban areas. This is a wonderful resurgence, for both the personal and the planetary. And guess what? Vegetables can thrive even in San Francisco’s odd little spots, and even in a mild, often foggy climate. This brick planter is along a driveway in the notoriously chilly Outer Sunset. It’s packed with kale, chard, collards, bok choy, arugula, favas, turnips, leeks – an amazing variety for a tiny space.
In a backyard in Noe Valley, this was built last summer by Small Spot Gardens, sited under an old pergola that was too small to be really be used as a sitting area. The perfect place, though, for a raised veggie bed. During winter, kale, chard, and salad greens flourish – the quintessential leafy greens for optimal health, year-round harvesting, and good growing in less-than-sunny conditions.
At another Small Spot client’s yard, this veggie plot was made using stone rescued from a neighbor’s debris pile. All living proof that it doesn’t take much to make a happy habitat for some kale and chard.
~ The more we garden in San Francisco the more appreciation we gain for how gardens impact the larger ecosystem they’re a part of. In the posts below we seek to celebrate and explore all the ways a garden is connected to what’s around it, in the hopes of loving and stewarding our gardens and our urban landscape a little more. ~