Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Bayview plants and critters update

Sherry Scott, a resident on Revere near the Bridgeview Garden, is pictured harvesting sweet peas to share with neighbors.

The gardens and gathering spaces in the neighborhood's heart are blooming, and the critters are roaming. Here are some highlights:

The Bridgeview Community Teaching and Learning Garden is bursting with food production as corn stalks stretch over 5 feet tall, vines yield the sweetest peas you can imagine, young eggplants enter adulthood, and fruit in the orchard turn harvest colors. One red tomato is keeping company with countless green siblings. Joel, Mary, Serenity, Rika, Sherry, John and everyone pitching in with the garden are loving it!

The Quesada Garden Vegetable Patch has been dormant for months as garden educators have been demonstrating how covering the ground with cardboard and then mulch can benefit the soil. The cardboard turns to mulch after baking the soil free of unwanted plants, roots and seeds. Volunteers recently turned the soil, and discovered that the areas covered with cardboard were much easier to work than the area benefiting from mulch alone. Tony, Jacob, Chris, Victor, and Hean have worked the patch recently, after contributions from University of San Francisco students and youth from the Bayview branch of the Salivation Army.

The Canary Island Date Palm trees, landmark trees on the 1700 block of Quesada, are loaded with dates. Some boughs are low enough that visitors can pick and eat the dates when they are ripe. While smaller and less meaty than the more tropical ones found in stores, these dates taste just as good.

Bayview's plentiful plum trees are now producing. The most common type of plum tree in the neighborhood is the Mediterranean variety, (that's Punus domestica for the serious tree lover). Many of the older trees were planted decades ago by European immigrants who made their homes in the then rural Bayview. The Mediterranean or European variety remains a good choice for our temperate climate. (Check out this great recipe for plum sauce!)

The Latona Community Garden is showing its pride after feasting on mulch and welcoming vegetable starts in its double-height raised planting beds. Rita has led the way with help from Latonians Jim, Brigit, and Marcus.

The now-established Krispy Korner Garden is pumping out fruits and vegetables for the tables of nearby residents once again. Rahsaan, Cody and Cyrus are leading the way. Cody is working with other Quesada Gardens Initiative residents to create a mobile container orchard as an off-shoot of the Krispy Korner project.

The Cornerstone Missionary Baptist Church garden is in its first planting season. The beautifully designed food production space next to the church is planted and will produce food for the congregation.

The Old Skool Cafe Kitchen Garden on Key Avenue has been mulched and weeded as this great community partner focuses on building out its new cafe space at Mendell Plaza.

The Baybloom Bayview Backyard Gardens network now includes 16 food producing gardens, after one was taken out when the home changed hands. Two more garden installations are planned for this month, which will bring the network's total up to 18. The gardens incorporate raised beds, fruiting trees and mini-gathering spaces for families, friends and neighbors.

All of the gardens and other landscaping residents have undertaken are blooming beautifully, with multiple varieties of dahlias and loads of the edible, spicy nasturtiums especially evident.

Several reports from Quesada and Latona residents suggest the O'possum population in Bayview is booming. Families of them have made homes in bureau drawers and basement corners under the watch of curious residents.

Those white butterfly's that look so lovely are flitting about all the gardens, irritating experienced gardeners who know that they are leaving leaf-eating larvae on plants. The snails, so ubiquitous in San Francisco, seem to be giving the gardens a break with a little encouragement from organic snail bait some gardeners are using.

The feral cats that some neighbors have worked with in hopes of controlling the population seem less skittish as they find a balance between their wild instincts and their curiosity of neighbors. Most of the cats are from the same lineage, and are dark gray or black. They are spotted every day on Quesada, stalking rodents and ignoring gardeners.

One of the two black squirrels many residents have been watching for years died recently from unknown causes, while the surviving squirrel, however mournful, seems to be holding up pretty well.

The birds and other animals that love the Canary Island Date Palm trees on Quesada couldn't be happier. The Conure parrots that have made their home at the gardens, crows that frequently perch for a conversation with their favorite residents, and hawks that make their egg-laying sisters of another species very nervous all appear fit.

Bees and hummingbirds, important pollinators, can be seen everywhere. The population of pollinators bounced back at the gardens several years ago as the number and density of natural spaces growing the plants they love increased.

Anyone who doubts that neighbors can improve their own physical and social environment, even in the most challenging of places, should visit the network of gardens, gathering spaces and public art projects the Quesada Gardens Initiative as fostered in the heart of San Francisco's Bayview Hunters Point neighborhood. The Initiative is not only inspiring, it is also colorful and thriving!

A recent status report on urban agriculture in Bayview Hunters Point is available online.

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