Albany High School EDSET interns Jamie, Xian and Sareena finished their Fall semester at Blake Garden last week. They helped to hook up the cistern in the Australian Hollow to the seep via a bamboo aqueduct. The water from the seep will be used to water the new grassland planting. Water flow rates into the cistern were measured at 12 minutes for 1 gallon. The capacity of the cistern is 1400 gallons. At the current flow rate this means that the cistern will fill to capacity in 11.5 days.
Last Friday our Albany High School EDSET interns Jamie, Xian and Sareena worked beside the new wetland putting in a new field of native grass, Elymus glaucus. They planted on top of a hugelkultur (or "wild compost") bed that is made of rotting wood cut from the area several years ago, composted weeds and grasses and soil and silt from the wetland.
Kinders from Growing Light School came to the garden to make seedballs to take back to school and home. Seedballs are a mixture of red clay, compost and in our case, native California flower seeds and a little water. They are rolled between the palms of hands and then let dry for a few days (or shorter in the hot sun). After dry, they can be tossed in a landscape; the rain will break down the clay; the seeds will germinate and the compost will give a little nutrition until the seeds can drop their roots into the ground. It is an excellent way to seed a vacant lot.
We have a new group of EDSET (Environmental Design, Science, Engineering and Technology) intern students from Albany High School. These students come to the garden each week to work on projects. This particular week we worked on harvesting worm compost and eradicating invasive weeds from an area that we are preparing for a new native grassland.
The parking structure built in the 1970's for additional parking and as a turn around was taken down today. It was slowly collapsing over the past few months. We relocated our bees that had been housed on the site to a new site on the east side of the creek near the greenhouse. Removing the structure opens up new views into the hollow below and also opens many possibilities, and we look forward to exploring new ideas for the space.
After several weeks of processing a log from a stone pine tree that had come down in the garden, students, Rebecca Ewing, Katherine Jensen, Jenika Johnson, Robin Kim, and Lauren Knight from U.C. Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning Dept. Detail and Materials in Landscape Construction class, installed their beautiful bench in the formal section of the garden.
The Japanese have a saying that goes something like: "three minds make a genius". The compost sifting structure was originally conceptualized by one our last years EDSET interns, Miguel, from Albany high School. This spring, Danny (one of our workstudy students) and Kochi, both undergraduate students from the Landscape Architecture Construction Materials and Build class developed the idea and built the structure from hand hewn redwood branches from the garden. Later 9th graders Biology students from El Cerrito High School tested it out by producing wheel barrows of compost for the garden. The structure works great and we are producing coarsely and finely sifted compost. By having such a direct hands on experience with the material students and volunteers are seeing how and what breaks down in the composting process.
U.C. undergraduate students from William Berry's 2010 ES 125 class, Bay Area Landscapes, returned to the garden a year later to check on the planting they had done in the wetland as a hands on experiential learning project. It's a success, with most all of the plants surviving, the invasive species reduced and tadpoles swimming amongst the bulrushes and cattails planted in the pool.
We are restoring one of the planting beds in front of the house. Over time perennial plants & shrubs have died out and other plants from the garden (self-starters) with the help of birds,etc had moved in. It is time for an update and a chance to recharge the soil with nutrients. Dawn Kooyumjian, one of our staff gardeners led the group with a new design and newly purchased plants from the nursery. But first we removed all the plants to loosen the soil and remove old roots, etc. Then we mixed our own compost that we make on site from garden debris with a manure charged amendment, and added this mixture to the reworked beds. Next, the plants were laid out according to the planting design sketch. The plants were then planted by our crew of workstudy students & volunteers and watered in.
Wednesday is the day that EDSET (Environmental Design, Science , engineering and Technology) Students from Albany highschool come to the garden to work on various projects. Today they are installing steps in one of our steep slopes that lead to the creek. The steps are made from our garden's downed redwood and pine trees and they have hand hewn with broad axes.