Sunday, February 28, 2010

Garden work begins at St. Mark's Lutheran in San Francisco!

Today we had our first garden work day at St. Mark's Lutheran (just a few blocks up from the Free Farm. Our work today was mostly weeding to clear the space so that we would be able to begin our gardening next week.

One stubborn thing we needed to take care of was the removal of a Juniper tree. We removed it by first cutting the limbs off.
Then we dug down to the roots and used a pick to try to cut the roots that we couldn't dig around. Normally we would try to pull the roots out, but the closeness to the fence made it hard to pull them out completely.
Here is what the space looked like after we cleared out the weeds.
This garden will not only be for the members of St. Mark's, but will also be a place for the seniors living in Martin Luther Towers to come and do some gardening. Therefore, when completed our garden will be accessible for wheelchair and walker access. And as we always do, we'll include all the info on how you can replicate our garden project where you live!

If you'd like to come out and help us at the St. Mark' garden we'll be working again next Sunday (March 7th from 1-4 pm. Hope to see you then.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Hooray for awesome volunteers!

We've had the most amazing turn out of dedicated volunteers every workday so far! A handful of folks from the SF gardening community have come out to lend their experienced hands to the project, teaching gardening skills and helping with the design and planning of the space.

What's been especially inspiring is the amount of really local neighbors that have seen the progress in the space and stopped by to talk about the farm and lend a hand to make something positive in their community. There is a natural collaboration that happens at our workdays and we are so grateful to be accepted into the neighborhood, and all the gracious help and support we are receiving from people who come and share their stories about the site, and the neighborhood, and their lives and how we all overlap.

A million thanks to everyone who has come out so far to get their hands dirty and make the Free Farm happen! You are the best!

Please join our future workdays, every Wednesday and Saturday from 10-2 (unless there is heavy rain), there are all sorts of tasks for all levels of skill and physical ability (kids are most definitely welcome!). You are also welcome to stop by just to say hi, check out our progress and enjoy a little respite from the city streets. Hope to see you there!

(cross-posted to

Composting Toilet at the Free Farm!

We've gotten the go ahead to build a composting toilet from St. Paulus Lutheran, who generously donate their land to the Free Farm. We're very excited to have the help of Laura Allen of Greywater Action, who will be hosting a workshop on site to teach folks about composting toilets while we collaboratively build one together for the farm. We are currently in the planning stages and gathering materials to build the structure that will house the toilet, and are looking for lumber and plywood to get us started, so please drop us a line at if you've got supplies you'd like to donate to this project. The rest of the set up is pretty simple and will be made from other recycled materials. Stay tuned for news and the upcoming workshop date!
(cross-posted to

Rows and rows of food planted at weekly Free Farm workday!

After lots of double digging and getting beds ready our group planted rows of greens in the beds. Check out some pictures of how things are shaping up!

We've got lots of broccoli planted.

This bed is filling up with chard. It feels good to put food right into the earth where we can keep an eye on it until its ready for the dinner plate.

The beds are in varying stages of development here. On the right is a bed with a layer of compost, ready to be double dug. In the middle is a bed planted with broccoli that Tree brought, and on the left is a bed in the process of being planted!

Come out and help plant with us this coming Wednesday or Saturday from 10am - 2pm. I would love to see you there!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Lenten Gardening

Ash Wednesday Garden Work Day - Berkeley

Today at Shepherd of the Hills (SOH) Lutheran in Berkeley, we had our first garden workday. SOH will be gardening throughout Lent and created a Sunday School curriculum about gardening.

Here's what we did today. First, we went to a horse stable in Oakland to get some free manure.
Then we dug up the soil that was practically clay and mixed it with manure and compost.

We built the terrace on a sloped hill. These beds will be used to grow a biblical garden. At the end of Lent, SOH will have grown their own bitter herbs to use in their sader service.

This flat section will be a place that we plant some fruit trees. SOH is hoping for a fig tree. If anyone wants to donate one, let us know. Email

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Ash Wednesday Gardening Work Days

Ready to remember that you are dust? Join us as we play in the dirt!

You can join us every Wednesday and Saturday from 10am-2pm at the Free Farm, located at Eddy and Gough in San Francisco.

A special Ash Wednesday workday will be held at our newest community gardening site: Shepard in the Hills in Berkeley. We'll be planting some seeds, learning to make seedling pots from newspaper, clearing some old beds and terracing a space that will become a biblical garden over Lent.

We hope you can join us!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Fruit Trees, Compost, and a Labyrinth!

Maybe it only looks like trash bags covering heaps of who-knows-what and a black bin to you, but it's so much more! This is the beginning of the Free Farm's composting system. There is a place for our food scraps from lunch, the invasive plants found at the site, and thick, woody materials, too. Composting space on a farm. Gotta have it! Below is a picture of our composting committee. Thanks so much, you three!

The picture below shows Tree sharing his knowledge of fruit trees. He taught us how to prune the tree so it will stay low. He also cleared up a problem lots of folks run into during tree planting. Rather than digging a hole and surrounding the tree with all nutrient rich material, the native soil should be mixed with the organic matter.

Also, Pastor Megan has been making serious headway with the meditation labyrinth. Make sure to check out the link to see how fabulously it's coming along!

Ready to Irrigate Means We Need Drip Tape!

Hi Everyone!

In the last post I told you that we have beds ready to plant food in. How exciting! All told our beds will provide us with over 1,000 square feet of planting space. As you may well imagine that much space is difficult to water with just a hose and spray nozzle. This means we need a drip irrigation system using drip tape to properly water our crops.

(Hand watering is ok for seed trays)

(Hand watering is not ok for 7 more of these beds!)

This link has a picture of what I mean by drip tape. It also has a short rundown on how drip irrigation works. It's a good way to irrigate for large scale food production, and soon when we move beyond the two beds we have ready right now, it will be critical to the livelihood of our crops.

As always you can check out our wish list and learn a little bit more about our intern Pete, the person to contact if you can help out!

DIY: Learn to double dig raised beds

This Saturday workday our group got two beds ready for planting! Tree gave us a tutorial on how to prepare them by double digging.

Step 1.) Your beds should have a 4-6" layer of compost on top to start with.

Step 2.)
See Tree there in the photo below with the shovel in as deep as the shovel's head? That's as far down as you want to dig. You also only need a width of one shovel's head.

Step 3.) The soil from the first trench should be placed in a wheel barrow. That soil goes to the far end of the bed where it will be used to fill in the last trench.

Step 4.) Stick a digging fork in the trench you just dug so the tongs are fully submerged. Wiggle the fork around to loosen up the soil. This wiggling aerates the soil allowing roots more space and increasing drainage

Step 5.) Now that the soil in the first trench has been loosened up you can begin digging the second trench right beside the first; same depth, same width. The soil from the second trench (including the 4-6" of compost on top) gets put into the first trench. You're just moving dirt from hole #2 into hole #1. Easy as that.

Just keep following this pattern of digging out a trench, working the fork into the dug-out space and then digging another trench right beside it and putting the second trench's dirt into the first. Do this all the way down the line. Mixing nutrient rich compost in with your soil helps build the soil structure, making the beds a hospitable area for food growing.

After raking the beds even our beds look like this.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

DIY: Build Your Own Labyrinth - Step 3

This step: Layout beds for planting
Because our design is long and thin, some of our garden beds won't be full garden mounds. In these thin rows, we have made one foot width beds from bricks left over from the St. Paulus foundation. The more of these beds we plant, the easier it will be to tell where the labyrinth walking paths are. Below are some photos of our layout and and how we planted them.

At the end of the thin rows, the planting area expands to three feet wide as you can see here. In the 3 foot sections, is where our mounds will be. Mound planting is great for wet spaces. Wet plants go on the bottom of the mound and drier plants go closer to the top. Here we are going to be planting flowers, pretty looking, pretty smelling plants and some produce and herbs.

Below you can see that we planted some peppermint and chamomile.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

DIY: Build Your Own Garden Labyrinth - Step Two

See step one

The next step in the labyrinth is to layout the labyrinth with rocks. Luckily, my feet are a men's size 12 so it was very easy for me to measure the size of the space and line it up to the grid on the labyrinth design.

I'll upload a picture of the design we used just in case you happen to have a lot the exact size as ours.
Here you can see how I marked the distance between each row to map out the space before making my long walking paths.

It took three days to layout.

Go to step 3

Monday, February 8, 2010

Lots of Compost Needed!

Hello friends of Urban Share and the Free Farm!

This time of year in San Francisco is the right season for planting! In order to take advantage of that our farm needs lots and lots of compost to work into the soil. It's probably our number one need right now in order to get food growing to give to those who need it most. If you or anyone you know, be they from work, or from school, your family, your church, or some other organization, has access to a large truck we would Love to use it. As a non-profit we can write a letter so the expense of using the truck is tax-deductible.

The picture you're seeing above shows 4 of our 9 planting beds that total over 1,000 sq. ft. We need the beds covered in 4" of compost, which equals a lot of compost. The issue isn't where to find the compost, it's getting it to our site, which requires a large truck. Can you help us out?

If so, please email me:

Saturday Feb. 6th Recap

This past Saturday workday from 10am - 2pm started with the arrival of roughly three pick-up trucks worth of compost from the city dump. Farming in San Francisco on a large scale requires lots and lots of nutrient rich material to amend the sand-like soil. We'll be using a double-digging method to get our beds ready for planting.

This Saturday also saw some special friends from Tofu Town. They generously provided us with prepared lunches of vegan gyros and backyard gleaned fruit juice. All-in-all around 20 volunteers were fed. It was so good, I can't say enough. Thank you Tofu Town!

In keeping with the community building component of community gardening/farming our group comes together during important parts of the workday. We gather for a group huddle to lay out our plans for the day before we start, we come together again for a lunch break, and then we close by touring the farm and pointing out what's been accomplished during the day. The Free Farm project is about more than just growing food, it also seeks to nurture community amongst its contributors.

I hope you will come be a part of this growing community during our Saturday 10am - 2pm workdays.

A Labyrinth, Finished Steps, and More Food in the Ground!

This Saturday workday saw a lot of action and a lot of progress.  One of the big visions for the garden space is a food growing labyrinth!  Tasty walking contemplation!  It's taken lots of wheelbarrows of compost and roughly one ton of donated cardboard.
The above pictures is what we had co
mpleted on Wednesday.  By Saturday all of our cardboard was covered and ready to build a labyrinth on!

The Free Farm is in a lot sunken below ground level.  Getting down to the planting area sometimes proved tricky.  In order to make the site safe for volunteers we've created a slow ramp and now a new set of stairs!

You'll notice the steps are surrounded by terraced beds.  We've added more than what we had last time to include more strawberries, irises, and artichoke.  Yum!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

DIY: Make your own garden labyrinth - Part 1

Here is step one in how to make your own garden labyrinth. We're putting our garden in an abandoned lot where lots of wild weeds grow, so our first step is to put down a root barrier. Fitting with our theme of recycling and getting our supplies for free, we used cardboard for our root barrier.

Note: This DIY tip is the same for how to make pathways in your garden - we're just doing it on a much larger scale.

Step one: Put your cardboard on the ground, each piece overlapping the one before.
Step two: Water the cardboard.
Step three: cover the cardboard with wood chips. We got ours for free from the local dump. It's from all the Christmas trees they've picked up recently!

It's that easy. Cardboard, water and wood chips. Step one completed.

Go to step 2

Wednesday 2/3/2010 Workday

Today we got a lot of work done at the garden. The day begin with a few loads of free wood chips being delivered to the site by from the dump. Ever wonder what happens to all those Christmas trees after people throw them out? Well, we're using them for walkways, because it makes a very cushy walking surface.
Tree, was able to get the water hooked up, so that we could use a hose at the site. Which is great news for our strawberries!
We finished our ramp, by covering it with wood chips and started making some stairs for folk to walk down to the farm or sit on and rest. We also worked on a root barrier and painted over some more graffiti.

Check out some photos of our great volunteers: