Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Great Bay Area Garden Tour, part 2 :: Slow Food Nation Victory Garden

After our visit to The Edible Schoolyard in Berkeley, we popped across the Bay Bridge and parked at the Civic Center for our tour of the Slow Food Nation Victory Garden.

Our tour guide was Kelsey, who coincidentally had spent almost ten years working at The Edible Schoolyard! A twofer! He answered all of our questions about both gardens, even after the Pakistani festival next door got so loud he had to shout to be heard.

The garden was part of an event that Slow Food Nation hosted in SF over labor day weekend to raise awareness of local food sources in the Bay Area. I was away during the festival, but so happy to get to see the garden before it was all recycled in September.

The new lettuce and chard transplants below replaced harvested crops that were donated to a food bank a few blocks away. In the middle of the bed are dandelion greens and chicory! How great! Kelsey said that there were several old Italian women who asked if they could harvest some when they visited and they got to take home bunches (to put in delicious soups, no doubt).

The garden was grown with the help of local nurseries, and almost everything was re-purposed for the project. The stage was made of recycled lumber, the burlap-covered berms around each bed were filled with rice straw from local growers, and the soil and compost came from nurseries and farms in the area.

In the photo below you can see that they are letting their Brassicas bolt and flower (the yellow in the middle). I love that. The natural life cycle of crop plants can be beautiful too, there's no need to rip everything out as soon as it's finished producing edible food.

Each bed was a series of concentric circles with little "keyholes" where you could enter and walk around. This was mostly for aesthetics, so the beds could be viewed from all angles. The plants had to be grown in gallon pots in the nurseries before transplanting into the beds because the timeline for the project was so short. Everyone was afraid that the transplants wouldn't take because they were so old, but apparently the "positive energy" surrounding the project really kicked in and the garden was gorgeous!

Again, nice signage in the garden listed each crop in multiple languages. I'm kind of a stickler for signage, and the gardens on this tour really inspired me with their creative signs.

Next up: The Alice Fong Yu Elementary School Garden and a talk with Rachel of the San Francisco Green Schoolyard Alliance!

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