Redwood steps on a trail in the redwood grove made possibly in the 70's have rotted and pose a bit of a hazardous trail. Recently three redwoods in the area died of root rot and had to be taken down. The downed trees are being hand hewn by three volunteers in the garden: Peter, Craig and Kristoffer with a draw knife to scrape the bark off and then hewing square a with Swedish broadaxe. Two of the treads are ready to put in place. They will be drilled and held in place with 1/2" metal re-bar.
In order in to keep our compost piles productive we add oxygen by turning and water by hosing it down to keep the piles as wet as a wrung-out sponge. While turning we can observe what decomposers are present: red worms, sow bugs, roly poly bugs (both are actually crustaceans) ants, centipedes, millipedes. We also look for signs of beneficial bacteria & fungus which are microscopic, but they do leave evidence of white skeletal patches. All these creatures eat or absorb the organic matter we have added to the piles (leaves, branches, garden waste) and turn it into fabulous compost. Why is compost good for the garden? We process a lot of garden waste with this system so it doesnt have to be hauled off to the landfill, compost is organic matter and holds water in the soil, and it adds humus, a kind of glue that holds soil particles together. It also adds beneficial fungus and beneficial bacteria that break down the soil releasing nutrients that are needed by plants and protect the roots of plants from non-benificials. We have sped up the video to illustrate the pattern of turning and watering the piles . The result is three piles: one we add "greens & browns" to on a daily basis, a second pile that is composting (we only need to turn and water it once in awhile) and a third pile that we are currently harvesting through a screening system.
The Landscape Supervisors Forum, a group of Bay Area landscape professionals, were in the garden for their monthly meeting and a tour of Blake Garden. The topic of the tour was "Creative Reuse of Garden Waste". With artist Zach Pine, we toured the "Create with Nature Zone" -- the area in which we provide materials from the garden to build natural sculpture, and we visited all of our compost systems: cold, hot, hugelkultur and worm. Dawn, one of the gardeners, presented a display of colored wool that she dyed with plant materials from the garden.
Our new compost area and system is working well. By turning the compost with the tractor instead of by hand it allows us to turn the piles more frequently providing oxygen for the decomposers to break down the organic matter faster.
We applied for a grant through UC Berkeley’s sponsored TGIF (The Green Initiative Fund) Program and received funding to build a new compost area that would enable us to use the front loader to turn the compost piles rather that physically turning them by hand. The staff members at Blake decided on a site location and design. Student interns and volunteers helped with the construction under the guidance of Mike Frappier, our staff stone work expert. This project has enabled Blake Garden to: dramatically reduce green waste, recycle material on site, increase efficiency of compost production, reduce risk of repetitive stress injury, eliminate $3000 in green dumpster fees, and save more than 250 hours of labor. All of the grant project posters will be displayed on Earth day at the 10th Annual Sustainable Summit hosted by the Chancellors Advisory Committee on Sustainability (CACS) April 22 2:00-3:00 at UC Berkeley Campus in Sutardja Dia Hall with other events ongoing until 5:00. Public is welcome!
We continue to develop the wetland and the hillside above. The hillside was planted with Acacia baileyana to prevent erosion. Because it is invasive if allowed to flower and go to seed, we decided to shrub it and replace it gradually with native grasses and succulents that are also good for erosion control. By cutting it back hard periodically it provided us with some interesting material to replace an aging bamboo and twine fence that we put around the perimeter of the wetland to protect newly planted native wetland species. Volunteers and students stripped the acacia branches, developed some mock ups for the fence design and are installing the the branches around the wetland. The branches are tied together with bark stripped from the branches and then soaked in water to become more pliable. This is another example of regenerative design that we use in the garden.
One of our old trees, Alnus cordata, an Italian alder, just below the redwood grove fell over in the latest storm. Campus arborists came out and helped us remove it from the path. Woodworkers, bowl turners and furniture makers interested in the beautiful orange wood and helped us clean up the area and took some of the wood to create with.
Here is a video short about the importance of composting made by our workstudy student Anastasia Sonkin, a media studies student at UC Berkeley. Part of the video was filmed in the garden.
The demolishing of the deteriorating parking structure, left us with lots of concrete material for use on future projects such as the creek restoration project. We are in the process of designing the creek project project and needed to store the bulky material. This was a creative solution to store the concrete chunks and make it ready for the project.
One of the formal gardens, the square pool garden, is getting renovated with new low-water irrigation netafim drip system, and replanted with some new plants that are more drought tolerant. This is a part of our ongoing effort for the whole garden to be more water wise and reduce the amount of water use in the garden.