Let's Garden! FEBRUARY 2017 at GFE
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In San Francisco, we are lucky to get an early Spring. NOW is a great time to get gardening - learn how in our hands-on workshops!
Saturday, March 4th 2017 | 10am - 12:00noon

Saturday, April 1st 2017 | 10am - 12:00noon

Gardening is an amazing stress reliever and way to reconnect with nature. Join us for this FREE hands-on class and the opportunity to spend a morning in our beautiful urban garden.
Saturday, February 11th 2017 | 10am - 12:00noon

With Spring around the corner learn what to seed, transplant and grow right now. By tax day, you'll be eating dinner right out of your backyard.

Saturday, February 18th 2017 | 10am - 12:00noon | SFPUC class

Thankfully, we are getting lots of winter rain this year. But California is a dry state, and we need to start conserving right now to protect our resources for years to come. Graywater is one of the easiest and smartest ways to cut your water use - it really is the future. Use promotional code newsletter to get into this class for free!

Saturday, February 25th 2017 | 10am - 12:00noon 

Pollinators play an vital role in maintaining healthy and productive gardens. In this workshop, you'll learn about many kinds of pollinators and which plants will attract them to your garden. You'll leave knowing what beautiful and flowering plants will thrive in your backyard.

Dig In! Learn to Grow Your Own Food
March 4 - April 8 | 10am - noon | Garden for the Environment


Learn step by step in our teaching garden! Have you always dreamed of growing your own salad, or clipping fresh herbs from your garden? Dig In! is a 6-part workshop series will teach you everything you need to know to built your own backyard vegetable garden.

Anyone, with any amount of space, can grow food. Whether you want to start a small herb garden on your fire escape or build raised beds in your backyard, and we are going to teach you how to get the most food possible our of your space. 

Register for all 6 classes and get a 20% discount! Classes can be take individually as well.

Spring Party @ Garden for the Environment | May 13th 2017

Save the date: the afternoon of May 13th
Our September Garden Party was such a blast we're hosting another one! Last time tickets sold out so save the date. We'll send pre-sale info to our newsletter, giving you early access.

More details to come but we'll have live music, delicious food, garden open house,
and the opportunity to support the great work we do!


Graduates of our Get Up! garden training program are working in gardens all over the City. Chances are, if soil is being tended, Get Up! alumni are involved.
2015 grad Trina completed her post-graduation project with the community garden program inside SF's very own Presidio! Not only is the Presidio historic and beautiful, but there is an active community garden program in the park for local residents. As part of her project, Trina made a vertical garden out of a reclaimed pallet - perfect for growing strawberries!


We're not letting all these winter rains go to waste and neither should you! Here, our hands-on January Rainwater Harvesting class installs a new gutter on our greenhouse, allowing our barrels to collect even more runoff. Want to do your part to conserve water? Come to our February 18th Introductory Graywater class and use promotional code newsletter to get in free!
Spicy Cauliflower Soup

I got home from work this week, opened up the fridge, and blinked blankly a few times. I had a grant to write and we didn't have any toast for dinner, plus I wanted something warming and satisfying. These cold and rainy weeks have felt so wintery!

In my crisper drawer was a tight and bright head of cauliflower, one of my favorite staples to buy from our local produce market. Talking about cauliflower makes me sounds like Forest Gump, "You can roast it, mash it, smother it with capers and vinegar, toss it into pasta, steam it whole and make it into soup!" I feel like this brassica is finally getting it's due - no longer only used on dip platters, with tiny baby carrots and ranch dressing. I love it because it can stand up to bold, deep flavors and can sit in the fridge more than a couple days. When I'm at a loss for dinner I'll slice it, toss it with spices and roast it in the oven to eat with a soft egg or rolled up in a tortilla. This particular winter night, I made another easy staple - cauliflower soup.

Somehow through the magic of soup alchemy, a few veggies, chopped onion and herbs turn into something so deeply delicious. I sautéed onion, carrot and lots of spices, then added a head of cauliflower, water and broth. After just 10 minutes of prep my dinner was simmering on the stove and I was advocating for our programs to a funder. After 40 minutes or so, dinner was ready - warm and satisfying. Cheap and easy. It was the perfect weeknight meal, with lots of leftover for lunches.

This recipe came together withl things I had on hand already - no trips to the store. And one, last tip. This recipe calls for a squeeze of lime (or lemon) at the end, and it is what makes the soup. I learned this tip from a cook at the farm I worked on - always add a dash of acid before you serve your soup. Just a splash of vinegar, or lemon juice at the very end brightens and deepens the flavors immediately. It's my favorite cooking trick and has made all the difference.

Spicy Cauliflower Soup
From the Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters

1/4 c. olive oil
1 onion, peeled and diced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 tsp. coriander seeds, crushed
1 tsp. cumin seeds, crushed
1 tsp. chile powder
1/4 tsp. tumeric
1/4 tsp. dried chile flake
salt + petter
6 cilantro sprigs, roughly chopped
1 large head (~ 6 c.) of cauliflower, trimmed and coarsely chopped
3 c. chicken broth (or veg would work too)
3 c. water
chopped cilantro
squeeze of lime or lemon

Heat the oil in a large, heavy bottomed pot. Add the onions, carrots and all the spices to to the pot and sauté over medium heat, adjusting so nothing browns. Once the onion is really soft but not brown, add the cauliflower and coat with the onions for just a minute. Then add cilantro, broth and water. Bring to a boil then lower the heat to a simmer. Check after 30 minutes - the cauliflower should be very tender. Cook longer if needed. 

Then, the recipe recommends vigorously whisking the soup until the cauliflower breaks up. This gives it a good texture - more broth with smaller bits of veggies. This latest time I used my immersion blender, blending about half of the soup and smashing the remaining chunks with a fork, thickening the broth a bit which was also really good.

Serve with a dollop of yogurt, sprinkling of cilantro and squeeze of lime. What is so great about this soup is sub with what you have, make do, and it will still be delicious. Next time I want to make spicy croutons to go on top!

Radishes are a great crop to grow with children at any time of year (but especially in the cooler months). The seeds are small, but not tiny, and they grow into a full-sized radish in just 3-4 weeks!

Make sure they have healthy soil with lots of compost, get lots of sun, and get regular water (but aren’t sopping wet). Once the seeds sprout, be sure that each sprout has about 2 inches of space to allow the radish to grow. You may have to pull some sprouts out if there are too many, but you can rinse them off and eat them as a snack!.

You'll know when it's time to eat them once their "shoulders" (rounded red tops) poke out of the ground!

Adam is the GFE Education Manager and each month fill feature a fun, kid friendly activity to try in the garden!
Beyond the Border by Hilary Gordon, GFE's Garden Guru

Although the calendar says Winter, the trees and plants in San Francisco gardens are saying Spring. With moist soils, sunny days, and lengthening daylight hours, every self-respecting summer-dry plant is getting into action immediately. In a few months, when the calendar says Summer, dry soils and cold damp fog will make growing green very difficult. Our growing season is short and plants don't waste a single day.
As our plum trees on the streets start to bloom in cascades of pink blossoms, and California Lilacs (Ceanothus) flash blue on the hillsides, the weeds are growing just as enthusiastically.
At the GFE our south orchard is full of Oxalis pes-caprae, otherwise known as sour grass. This horrible weed originated in South Africa in a climate so similar to ours that it has gone crazy in California, invading everywhere. Its bright yellow flower and clover-like leaves can be found on roadsides, in restored or disturbed natural areas, parks and gardens. It is relentless and it never sleeps. Many a gardener has spent hours weeding this pest, only to come back a week later and find it fully re-established. So what can we do?
First, it's important to know your enemy. Oxalis grows back so quickly because it stores energy in bulbs deep in the soil. A determined weeder can dig these out, but it's slow detailed work. In most situations, the oxalis is growing faster than this determined weeder can work. More commonly weeders remove only the above ground part of the plant. This can succeed with repeated weedings in the same year.  Eventually the underground bulbs get exhausted of their stored energy if they have to continually regrow new tops. But more commonly, we gardeners get exhausted first.
So it's also important to know yourself and your garden. At GFE we use different techniques in different parts of the garden to save our energy. In some featured areas, we weed for the bulbs - for example, in our vegetable production areas. These are oxalis-free, and if an oxalis plant started growing here, it would be immediately eradicated, no matter how long it took to find the bulbs.
A second category is less-maintained but still very visible parts of the garden where we weed the tops, moving quickly. We keep oxalis in check, but don't expect to eradicate it, because we aren't removing the bulbs. Over the course of years, these parts of the garden have less and less oxalis (we hope).
And then there's the orchard, where we seldom weed the oxalis. And this year, we're going to experiment with a new approach. Instead of removing the oxalis, which can be tricky on the steep eroding hillside, we are going to try planting groundcovers that can outcompete the oxalis. Here we're looking for a tough perennial groundcover as tall or taller than the oxalis, that will form a thick mat of roots.  This will make it hard for the oxalis to grow next spring. The groundcover will eventually form a sort of living sheet mulch. It will deter weeds, and help to fight erosion.
We also need a plant that won't become invasive itself. If we change our minds, or the groundcover seems to be taking too much water from the orchard trees, we want to be able to take it out again without too much trouble.
It would be great if this plant had other benefits as well, so we're going to try catnip, which will attract pollinators when it blooms, and also attract cats. The cats may eat a mouse or gopher as well when they hang out in the garden. In addition, the school kids can make cat toys to take home from their field trips.
By interplanting our orchard with an understory that can outcompete weeds, attract beneficials, slow erosion, and provide a second harvest, we are using some of the best organic gardening practices. We'll let you know how it goes!

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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