Garden Health

Everyone benefits from a healthy environment! By working together on our shared ecosystem, we can create and sustain a healthy, organic community garden as stewards of our common areas and our individual plots and pathways.

Common Areas: Throughout the Argonne Garden, there are a variety of common areas that include the CA native plant hillside and shade garden, the orchard, the herb garden, the flowering shrub perimeter, the common pathways, the greenhouse, tool shed, compost and mulch piles, green bins, and the 15th and 16th Avenue commons with benches and picnic tables.

Let’s keep the common areas clean and safe: Please remove all glass, plastic and litter debris from the garden. Our garden goal is a safe place underfoot for all ages and sizes; a soft place to land, meander through, and explore without hazard.

Clear and mulched pathways: Easy to walk through and navigate by all ages, a pathway that has had the weeds removed from the roots, then mulched and cleared of all obstacles, provides enjoyable, comfortable passage. (A good, healthy walk, excellent for posture and balanced weight distribution.) The clear pathway also allows for ease of wheelbarrow access. (Please note that mulch placed over crabgrass will stimulate growth!)

Light and air circulation: In planning your garden, and as it grows, it is essential for good garden health to allow for light to reach around the plants and for air to circulate. This may require thinning as seedlings grow, or later on, as leafy plants continue to expand, trimming or plant removal. Packed-in plants will weaken and become hosts for disease, aphid infestation, etc., and some plant diseases are airborne and can spread throughout the garden if left unchecked. Aphid infestations will also spread. (See deterrents below.)

Soil Health: “Feed the soil and let the soil feed the plants”– the motto of organic gardening!

Add Organic Matter (OM) – *the single most important step to improving soil! * What OM will do for you: Holds moisture, saves water, adds fertility, stores nutrients, balances mineral deficiencies and soil pH, boosts soil life (feeds helpful micro-organisms & builds good soil structure

Sources of OM: compost; aged manure; green manure; worm castings; and chopped leaves, straw, or grass clippings (avoid using weeds).
How much? When you are preparing your bed for the first time, consider adding a nice big layer (depending on how much is available and how much you can shovel!) of OM and turning it in. Thereafter, add 1” of fine textured OM (or 4” of bulkier OM, such as chopped leaves) about twice a year since you will be gardening year round.

Avoid Bare Soil: You just spent a lot of time and energy building some nice soil – protect it! Bare soil loses nutrients, can become compacted by rain, and eroded by wind. Keeping the soil covered slows evaporation, keeps your soil alive, and keeps weeds out. Cover it with veggies, plants, a ground cover, a green manure, or mulch.

The Zen of deep weeding: Similar to other problems we may encounter in our lives, weeds that are not carefully removed in their entirety, root and all, will gradually find their way back to invade our space or act as obstacles to more desirable areas of growth.

Getting to the root of the weed (or problem!) and removing it in its entirety can give one a feeling of deep satisfaction as well as clear the way for that what is preferred to grow and thrive, unhindered.

Weed Elimination: Weeds rob the soil of nutrients & harbor infestations of munchers such as aphids, earwigs, snails & slugs. Left to grow, they will act as described, finding their way via underground root systems or seed heads freely riding in the wind to reseed in your plot, pathways, your neighbor's plot & the common areas.

Invasive Weed Removal Strategies:
1) Dig deeply with shovel or trowel until entire root is unearthed, shake to loosen soil, pile weeds in wheelbarrow, pick up stray strands & seed heads, place in Green Bins.
2) Place soil sifting screen on wheelbarrow, shovel soil on top, remove unwanted weeds, oxallis bulbs, etc. & place in Green Bins.

Green Waste:
Place all green waste (i.e. weeds, plants, grass, raw wood) in the Green Bins. When bins appear full, mash down for added space. Please do not leave green waste around the green bins or in any other part of the garden. The recycling pick up day is Tuesday AM. When the green bins are full, wait until the next cycle, or bring your own green waste container or sack. Discarded, piled weeds will ride with the wind to reseed, obstruct pathways, etc.

Toxic and hazardous materials: Be on the lookout for stray asphalt pieces. These contain toxins such as Benzine, which act as carcinogens and can leach into the soil. Especially, remove them from proximity to any planted edibles. Also, remove rough chunks of concrete, which can scrape the skin and leach alkaline into the soil. Place in or near white bucket in shed area until removal can be scheduled.

Tool usage and care: Carefully clean tools after use and return to an organized place in the shed. If tools such as pruning shears or saws are used for insect infected plants or diseased tree limbs, they can spread the disease to other plants. Dirt encrusted shovels are no fun! Scrape or hose shovels, then dry. Leave tools for the next person as you would like to find them.

Shed and Green House: Please note where tools belong and return to appropriate hook or shelf after use. In the greenhouse, please be mindful of others' plantings.

Hose care: Please insure that water is turned off after use and coil the hose in circle or on its holder to preserve water & hose vitality.

Plant Disease & Pest Control: Some plant diseases are airborne. Carefully examine leaves for discoloration or other symptoms of disease. Remove affected leaves, place in Green Bin & close lid. It may be helpful to take photograph of symptoms for identification. If unsure how to proceed, contact your AC , research on Internet or contact the Garden Coordinator. If the entire plant shows signs of disease, remove from the roots & place in Green Bin.

Aphid Control:
Spray full strength with garden hose to remove. As some aphids may return or lay eggs, follow up with spray of mild dish soap, veg oil & water solution (esp on undersides of leaves). Recipe: 1 tsp mild, dish soap, 1 tsp veg oil & 1 cup water in spray bottle. (The oil will help the soapy solution to remain on leaves.) Leave soap/oil solution on for several hours, then spray with water to remove. (Leaving the oil solution on leaves may cause leaves to burn.)

*An alternative approach is to release Ladybugs into the area during early evening. (If they are released during the day, they may fly away.)

Slug & Snail Deterrents:
Spread crushed eggshells around plants, add copper strip on upper side of garden border (clean with vinegar to reactivate when faded), spread diatomaceous earth or Sluggo, place container of dark beer (Argonne snail & slug preference) w/ top at soil level.

Watering Overview: The Argonne Garden is an ecosystem that has its own micro-climate within the Richmond District & SF. It’s location on an incline attracts strong sun & wind on clear days w/ dense fog intermittently & during July & August. A sandy ground foundation in addition to the incline allows for rapid water absorption & run off, even during the rainy season.

*) Watering Frequency: Newly planted seeds: Daily. Small plants: Alternate days or daily on high wind days & over 65 df. Mature plants: 1-2 times week, over 75 d: daily or alternate days. Please note: check for dry soil conditions on windy, foggy days as well.