Monday, January 7, 2013

Garden at Northridge has 1st birthday

by Mishwa Lee
The first planting at Northridge.  Credit: Mishwa Lee
We started our garden at the end of 2011 to serve our 300 family housing cooperative.  In April of 2012 we planted our first crops.  Our garden site has no topsoil and the first thing we did was sheet mulch the site, which is about 8,000 sq ft.  With a Community Challenge Grant and a SF Health Improvement Partnership Grant, a volunteer coordinator, a director, four young adult interns and eight youth built the first stages of our garden.  We now have 8 raised beds, seven 4' x 8' planter boxes, a small orchard with about 30 semi dwarf trees and a small berry patch.

Our first crop was snap and snow peas which we distributed first to the eldest members of our community.  We learned that it is important to trellis peas before they start climbing all over each other and the trellis needs to be strong enough to withstand strong afternoon winds we had most afternoons.  Other crops which did well by early summer were lettuce, kale, collards, cabbage, broccoli.

In late spring we planted tomatoes, squash, corn, basil, pumpkins, beans, spinach, cucumbers  We were amazed that by Halloween we had around 20  beautiful pumpkins to gift to our children.  Yesterday we picked a beautiful zucchini squash and may have one more.  Only two plants produced at least 60 pounds of zucchini and we had other productive squash. Tomatoes were prolific and the tiny sungold were so sweet.  Stupice and early girl did well too.  The basil was very productive until late summer when it went to seed.  Lemon cucumbers did very well. The spinach got attacked by a fungus and potatoes and beans did poorly except for black beans.  We planted a hybrid corn, Peaches and Cream and the earliest plantings did the best and were very sweet, but later plantings didn't fully mature.

Fall crops planted that are now producing are sugar and snap peas. The edible pod peas are very tough but the snap peas are sweet and tender.  We now have celery, turnips, small carrots and beets, collards, cabbage, kale, onions, chard, broccoli, huge chinese cabbage (3#'s each).

We haven't weighed the produce but estimate that we have distributed at least 500 pounds of produce free to our residents.  During the next month we will prepare more beds for planting, build a tool shed, terrace our hillside, tie the peas to the trellis, plant the rest of our native plants, prepare for more fruit trees, and talk with our residents about the best way to distribute food.

If you'd like to learn more about this great project, or even help out, email Mishwa, or call her at 415.821.4341.

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