Let's Garden! APRIL 2017 at GFE
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Tomorrow Saturday, April 1st 2017 | 10am - 12:00noon

There's a reason we offer this class to you each month, for FREE. Compost is magic and we want to share it with you! Join us and learn how to make your own "black gold" - a gardeners best tool.

DIG IN! PART V: Planting Your Edible Garden
Tomorrow Saturday, April 1st 2017 | 10am - 12:00noon 

It's not to late to learn the best ways to seed and plant your edible backyard garden. When is it best to seed directly in the ground, and when should you use a start? We'll cover all your planting questions and plant out our brand new raised bed and seed new crops for our greenhouse.

Saturday, April 8th 2017 | 10am - 12:00noon | SFPUC class

On our urban city, we all have limited outdoor space - so how can we be sure to maximize every square inch? We'll talk about how to design your garden to be sure that you are able to enjoy it to the fullest. No garden is too small or too shady to be an oasis!

DIG IN! PART VI: Care and Harvest of Your Backyard Garden
Saturday, April 8th 2017 | 10am - 12:00noon

Congratulations! You've planted our your vegetable garden! Now...what?! In this class, we'll walk you through how to care for you baby plants as they grow (making sure they get big and strong and delicious), when you should feed them (and with what) and the best way to harvest your crops so you can get the most out of them. Bring on the bounty!

Saturday, April 15th 2017 | 10am - 12:00 noon

We are thrilled to be hosting Hannah Shulman, garden educator and former floral designer at Farmgirl Flowers, to share her secrets to creating beautiful bouquets. Hannah will demonstrate how to use foliage from your backyard garden to make wild, nature-inspired arrangements that will bring the outdoors indoors. We'll harvest flowers, branches and greenery from the GFE garden, make bouquets together under Hannah's guidance...and you get to take it home!

Saturday, April 15th 2017 | 10am - 12:00noon

We're bringing back our most popular class ever! Imagine free range, fresh eggs daily from your own hens! Urban homesteaders Jamie and Blas are here to tell you what you need to know to keep chickens and ducks in your backyard. They are even bringing some of their flock to the garden so you can hang out with a chicken before you leave.

Saturday, April 22nd 2017 | 10am - 12:00noon | SFPUC class

One of the simplest ways we can help conserve water in our summer-dry state, is to replace our hardscaping materials with something permeable. Driveways, patios and gardens can let the rains in, and landscape contractor Elisa is back to tell you how.

Saturday, April 29th 2017 | 10am - 12:00noon | SFPUC class

We know organic gardening is better for our health and our environment, but what to do we when we get pests in our garden? Organic Pest Management expert Suzanne will teach you the best methods for controlling pest and plant disease, and teach you how your garden can actually help you keep things under control.

Saturday, April 29th 2017 | 10am - 12:00noon

We are thrilled to be hosting GFE Garden Educator and farmer Emilie Winfield, and local chef Ian Marks at GFE on Saturday April 29th for a special, and delicious, workshop. Herbs are one of the best things to grow in a garden of any size, and the perfect way to enhance your cooking routine. In this class, Emile will teach you the best varieties of herbs for our SF environment and how to plant them to ensure success. Then, you will make easy and delicious recipes with Ian using herbs from the garden. Everyone will leave the workshop with herb starts for your own garden and a jar of Ian's signature dressing!

Photo: Rob Brodman                                                                             Photo: Molly DeCoudreaux

Spring Garden Party + Fundraiser | Garden for the Environment
Saturday, May 13th 2017 | 4pm - 7pm

Saturday, April 8th | 12:00noon | Garden for the Environment

To celebrate the end of our Dig In! series, and the new backyard gardeners we are releasing into the wilds of SF, we are having a garden potluck! We'll take a break from learning, teaching, and garden work to relax as a group and eat together. Bring something to share, and we'll gather round to celebrate so much - the beginning of spring, the bounty of the garden, and the deep goodness of our community.

Bean Sprouts Family Days | Starting April 1st | 1pm - 4pm | SF Botanical Garden

Families with children of all ages can enjoy nature crafts, garden care, outdoor games and exploration in the Children's Garden at the SF Botanical Garden! There are a whole variety of activities to do at your own pace with help from garden staff and teen interns. Water thirsty plants, create a crazy critter, dig in our dune sand pit, or share a book in our Living Room. Bring your lunch and enjoy a picnic in the garden. Free to all garden visitors! 1pm-4pm, Saturdays, April - October, FREE with regular admission.
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For this first time this Spring, we are hosting a 6-part backyard gardening workshop series called Dig In! We think anyone with a little bit of space in SF can grow food, and Dig In! is designed to teach you step by step, exactly what you need to know to have a productive vegetable garden. Step 1? Building a raised bed! Here is the beautiful, gopher wire lined redwood bed built by Dig In! We wanted to keep this workshop hands-on and practical: as a new topic is covered each week, participants add elements to the bed, like soil and drip irrigation
Buying What Looks Best

I love to cook from a recipe. I love to see what brilliant culinary minds put together, challenging me to change up my routine and use techniques or combinations I wouldn't think of. Cookbooks made up 95% of our home library, and at night I climb in bed with a big stack.

But, recipes can get you stuck in a different way too. Being married to recipes means walking into markets with a hard and fast list that doesn't take into account other, vital factors. The best cooks will tell you, your food is only as good as your ingredients. Farmers and gardeners are the beginning and most important part of the cooking narrative. Any backyard gardener can tell you, your radishes can go from perfectly piquant, to bitterly spicy quickly! And this can completely change the taste of whatever you are cooking.

A great cook needs flexibility, and this is why menus at farm-to-table restaurants change so quickly. Cooks adapt their dishes based on what beautiful things they see at the market. By rigidly sticking to a recipe, you often overlook the sensory and intuitive aspects of cooking that make it more than just a simple combination of ingredients. 

Earlier this week, I headed to my beloved local market to pick up ingredients for dinner. As I walked through the aisles, my original plans for spice rubbed and roasted cauliflower were derailed when I spotted these tiny and tender turnips. The greens were perfect, and since they were small I knew they would not be woody or too spicy. I sliced them in half, keeping the greens in tact, and roasted these beautiful little guys with some salt and pepper before tossing them in a salad of the best greens I could find (in this case radicchio and little gems). 

It was a small and gentle reminder to myself to remain flexible, and treat my trips to the market as the true inspiration for my cooking. That recipes are great and wonderful, but that the quality of my ingredients is the real brilliance in the kitchen.
THIS MONTH: Mulch Masters

Believe it or not, kids of all ages can be a great help in the garden! We’ve had groups of elementary school students in the garden almost every Tuesday and Thursday of the past month and they’ve done a lot of great hands-on learning that also helps our garden grow. One of their favorite activities has been mulching!

Mulching is where you use a material like wood chips, straw, newspaper, cloth, or plastic to cover the soil surface. We recommend using wood chips from a local arborist for pathways or decorative planting areas and straw for vegetable planting beds. Wood chips are often free, they are a great locally sourced materials, and over time they will decompose and turn into rich soil. Straw is a byproduct of wheat, barley, and rice production and can also be a free or cheap locally sourced material.

Mulching the soil surface helps your garden in many ways. Mulching will help prevent the soil from losing all of the water it has received from our spring rains, provide habitat for soil organisms that help keep garden healthy, prevent weeds from growing, and add nutrient rich organic matter to your soil over time.

Kids love to help out, so recruit them to fill up buckets with mulch left by an arborist and then spread the mulch out in a layer a few inches thick over your pathways or decorative planting areas. For vegetable beds, kids can gently place a bed of straw around your vegetable plants, carefully leaving a few inches of open space around each plant. Come back in a few weeks and look under the mulch - you’ll see moist, healthy soil and lots of small bugs and other organisms!

Beyond the Border by Hilary Gordon, GFE's Garden Guru

Spring is in her prom dress now, and all the birds and bugs are zooming around, finding mates, showing off and building nests. If your garden is planted to attract hummingbirds, you may be puzzled by some unusual behavior. Occasionally you may see a hummingbird ignoring all the beautiful red tubular blossoms you have provided and instead zooming around under an old porch or dead tree. What the heck is it doing?
Hummingbirds build their compact, tiny nests out of spiderwebs! So you may see them now in neglected parts of the garden, harvesting old webs for their building projects. Hummingbirds also rely on small insects and spiders for part of their diet, and to feed their babies. So you can see why a perfectly tidy garden wouldn't hold the same appeal for a hummingbird family as one that was a little disheveled occasionally.
One of my favorite parts of spring is the explosion of bright blue Ceonothus flowers, our native California lilac. Dripping with pollen and fragrance, when the Ceonothus blooms it attracts not just European honeybees, our commercial hive bees, but also several different native bees and bumblebees. Many of the California native bumblebees don't live in hives. They live alone in tunnels in wood or soil. They need old wood, and bare soil free of mulch, in order to pursue their lives and their reproduction. Again, you can easily see why a completely tidy garden would not be able to provide a home for them.
Along with the hum of the foraging bees, you can also see other strange and beneficial insects nectaring in the flowers. Many of these are predatory insects. They prey on destructive aphids, whiteflies and scale insects, which would otherwise run rampant on our ornamentals and veggie plants. These beneficials help keep the balance of insect populations in a healthy garden, and stop infestations before they start. The little striped hover flies, hanging over the Ceonothus like helicopters, the tiny almost invisible predatory wasps, and many others are our allies in the garden, and the flowers and sunshine of spring bring them out in numbers.
In addition to the predatory insects, we rely on flocks of little birds to clean the damaging insects off our plants. The little grey Bushtits move in agile, active flocks, making a constant sharp little peep to each other so that they can stay together. They will hang upside down, acrobatically picking tiny insects off the underside of leaves, hopping back and forth hunting, until they suddenly flock and move to the next shrub or tree. They too build a nest in spring - a long hanging basket of a nest inside a thicket of dead twigs and branches, or tangle of vines, to protect their eggs and babies from big mean birds that would love to eat them. They need cover and nesting material to have a successful new generation.
Along with the birds and predatory insects, gardens also offer a home for spiders and their webs. A fun project (it's even more fun with a child) is to get a spray bottle filled with pure water, and walk around the garden spraying plants and shrubs. Spider webs appear as if by magic!  The glistening drops of water make the webs visible, and you suddenly can see how alive and populated the garden really is. Almost always, there are more spiderwebs to find in the parts of the garden that are 'neglected', a little less manicured, a little less travelled, a little less groomed. These corners are the reservoir of biological diversity, which are a fountain of health and fertility for the rest of the garden.
At the Garden for the Environment, we are privileged to have enough space to leave the steeper parts of our hillside, planted in a riot of native plants, quite wild. This provides cover, food and nesting spots for the beneficial birds and bugs that call the garden home.  We try to trespass rarely, only once or twice a year to remove only truly invasive weeds. Otherwise we try not to bother this little wilderness, so as not to disturb the domestic arrangements of our wildlife big and small.
In our demonstration garden, and in our urban backyards, we can show our commitment to protecting the biological web of diversity. We can leave some parts of the garden a little bit untamed. By leaving a back corner of the garden for fallen branches, dry seed heads, tangles of dead grass, twigs or vines, you too can provide the little bit of wildness which allows nature to balance herself.
Trina Lopez, our Sustainable Landscaping Manager, captured by volunteer Chris Kevranian.

Garden for the Environment teaches youth and adults in San Francisco to garden organically. Founded in 1990, GFE provides hands-on education to 2,000 youth and adults each year at its ½ acre organic teaching garden. 

The Garden for the Environment is a non-profit Park Partner of the San Francisco Parks Alliance. We are supported by donations from gardeners like you, workshop fees, and with support from public and private foundations and the City and County of San Francisco.

Copyright © 2017 Garden for the Environment 

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