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Category Archives: Sustainability

Steps to Creek (part 1)

Posted on by Surprise Highway

Between two redwoods is a path to  a tributary of Cerrito creek. Over time the path has eroded and become very steep. Lucas, Nolan, and Kian, Albany High School intern students from the EDSET program (Environmental Design, Science and Engineering Technology) have been hand hewing downed redwood lumber to put in risers for  steps to make it easier to get to the bench site overlooking the creek.



Salamanders

Posted on by Surprise Highway

This has been a good year for Salamanders in the Garden. We are almost back up to our rainfall average and, since we have started hugelkultur and mulching at Blake, we have uncovered many of them -- especially Arboreal Salamanders (Aneides lugubris) and California Slender Salamanders (Batrochoseps attenuatus).



Stone Pine

Posted on by Surprise Highway

During one of the big storms this week, one of the 90+ year  old stone pines (Pinus pinea) came crashing  down blocking the path to the Mediterranean section.  Luckily, it fell away from the house -- but it did do considerable damage to some young trees and shrubs just below. Our great crew has started the cleanup and we have been sorting which pieces can be chipped for mulch and which pieces can be used for bio-terracing and hand hewing to make benches and other structures in the garden. Stone pine is dense and good for building. Last year after a strong storm which knocked off a large branch, we harvested enough wood to make 5+ hand-hewn benches . For more on hand hewing see: Hand Hewing at Blake Garden.



The success of compost

Posted on by Surprise Highway
Filed under: Education, Sustainability

As an Environmental Earth Science major, I am exploring the interactions between the biosphere, atmosphere and lithosphere, as well as concepts of reuse and sustainability. Composting embodies these ideas well since it promotes the recycling of material in a given area, whether it is human-produced food scraps or leaf litter and other organic material. The success of compost is further determined by the chemical and physical qualities of the compost heap, such as the ability of atmospheric gases to aerate the compost. The fact that these practices are what provide the foundation for human  society -- enabling us to produce our food source -- is what makes me interested in working on such projects. -- Jesson Go



Wild Composting (Part 2)

Posted on by Surprise Highway
Filed under: Education, Sustainability

Kian, Nolan and Lucas, our EDSET intern students from Albany High School, continue their work on the wetland regrading project. We buried invasive old Acacia baileyiana branches  with mud from the newly created wetland and gravel from infill of the creek. This method accomplishes several things; regrading  a path area with materials originating on site; reducing the waste stream by reusing the branches as fill; the branches will break down and act as organic matter for conditioning the soil; the clay mud is removed from the wetland providing breeding grounds for the Pacific Chorus Frog; and the gravel is cleared from the channel that is clogging the flow of the creek .



3 Sequoias

Posted on by Surprise Highway

It's Big. Planting a Giant Sequoia completes our full flush of redwoods: the Sequoiadendron giganteum is the most massive tree in the world and can live to be 3000 years old. Danny, one of our work-study students, and Dawn, one of our gardeners, planted the the big tree sequoia in the lower part of the Coast Redwood grove. The Coast Redwood, Sequoia sempervirens, is the tallest tree in the world. Our grove was planted by the Blakes in the early 1920s. Some of the Coast Redwoods came from their former residence in the area that is now the site of the stadium on the U.C. Campus. Below the new big tree redwoods are three Dawn Redwoods, the  Metasequoia gliptrostroboides. The Dawn Redwood is native to China and was thought to be extinct for millions of years; they are deciduous and were planted sometime between 1922 and 1959. This new Giant Sequoia was graciously donated to the garden by a neighbor.



Wild Composting

Posted on by Surprise Highway

Students from the Albany High School's  EDSET program (Education in Design, Science, And Environmental Technologies) are back this semester and are regrading a slope with materials from the garden. They are using an ancient process called hugelkulur which is new to us and was developed in Austria. By burying clean lumber scraps, prunings, aged firewood, soil and sawdust we are accomplishing two objectives: building the soil with organic materials and preventing waste from entering the waste stream. You can top this pile with 6" to 12" of withs material such as leaves, grass-clippings, a layer of  finished compost, and 1" of soil and then plant into the pile.  The hugelkultur description also includes alfalfa pellets as a source of nitrogen, but since our pile's prime function is for regrading and not for vegetable plantings we are not including the pellets.



EDSET continues

Posted on by Surprise Highway

Eight Student interns from Albany High School from the Advanced Placement Program entitled Education in Design, Science, and Environmental technology (EDSET) continue their studies in the garden. This week the students worked on eradicating invasive species of plants such as Algerian Ivy, Himalayan blackberry and European grasses from the creek restoration area. This will help aid in the the surveying process that is being conducted by graduate students from the UC Berkeley Rivers & Streams class. By zip-line we sent yards of mulch, donated by a local tree company, over to the other side of the creek. The mulch will help to slow the return of the invasive species. 



Water Journey

Posted on by Surprise Highway
Last year's beloved work-study student from Landscape Architecture Dept., Deedee Min told us she was inspired by our concern about water use and efforts to limit it's use. We included her video made in Prof. Chip Sullivan's drawing class LAEP Studio 103. [media id=14 width=320 height=240] Deedee's statement: Water is very important in our lives but it is often overlooked. For example, double checking if the faucet is completely tightened and turning off the water while you brush your teeth or soaping the dishes will lessen the unnecessary water consumption. Just by being more aware of the water and its journey--as portrayed in the video, which shows awareness of how rain water can be reused for irrigation--the amount of water we save as a community will increase dramatically.

EPS Internships

Posted on by Surprise Highway
Filed under: Education, Sustainability
Soo Bin, an undergraduate student from U.C. Berkeley, and I are using some of the fine compost harvested yesterday by interns from Albany High School. We are experimenting making soil and will pot up a variety of native California grasses that we will be soon planting out in the garden. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="400" caption="Lauri Twitchell & EPS Student Soo Bin making soil (adding clay)"]Lauri Twitchell & EPS Stident Soo Bin making soil (adding clay)[/caption] Soo Bin is one of three interns from Earth & Planetary Science Dept. that are working with us and learning about sustainable practices that we use at Blake garden. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="400" caption="Mixing it up!"][/caption]