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Multi-City Departments Collaborate With Chapter at Santa Barbara OFG Workday

November 13 2012 | Ocean Friendly Gardens, GAP,
by Paul Herzog

The cold but dry workday started off with a review of how Ocean Friendly Garden principles, CPR: Conservation, Permeability and Retention). The prep work had been done: sheet mulching had been at a prior workday, while the Santa Barbara City Parks and Recreation Department had created a beautfiul dry streambed and re-directed the adjacent building's downspout into it (shout out to Parks Manager, Santos Escobar).

So we were ready to get to planting. Mediterranean plant adaptations had been discussed in the Watershed Basics Class. G3/The Green Gardens Group's, Pamela Berstler, quized participants about the four adaptations of plant's leaves to hold onto water: leathery, small, silvery/light green, track with the sun. Alison Jordan, City of Santa Barbara's Water Conservation Supervisor (above, in white jacket), arranged for the City to cover the cost of plants, compost tea and rocks.

The "C" in Conservation also includes proper plant spacing to reduce unneccessary pruning and the resulting green waste that gets trucked away. An easy way to space plants for mature growth is to read the description on the plant's container or tag, then spread one's arms out to that same distance. For a plant that grows 6-7 feet wide, the expanse of a tall person's reach (pictured at left) gives you a good sense of that.

You might not think that proper planting needs explaining, but the main reason plants die after planting is too little water. Pamela led us through G3's planting technique (covered in this prior blog post):

  • Watering the hole twice
  • Dunking the potted plant in water (preferably, compost tea) till the bubbles stop and the plant is saturated
  • Sprinkling on micorrhizal spores to jump-start the growth of soil biology
  • Gently cradling the plant between the bottom of the pot and the trunk when removing it from its pot (pictured at right)
  • Plant it a little above the soil level to account for settling, then water again.

Next we moved to installing drip irrigation, curving the tubing to pass by each plant. Drip emitters were installed next to each plant (we prefer to use 1 gallon-per-hour emitters). Park and Rec staffer, Ramiro (at left, in the middle with hand on drip tubing) showed the group how to branch off a main line as well as an easy way to slip the tubing into a "T" connector (use a little saliva). Next to Rodrigo is Randy Turner with Santa Barbara County Water Agency, who learned some hands-on skills to go with his policy expertise. (A big thanks to Bob Kingston at All Around Irrigation for donating all the irrigation supplies!)

We finished off the day by applying fresh tree trimmings, provided by Vista Tree Service. The leaves in the trimmings can help spread good soil biology into the garden.

Even with small plants, the garden transformation looked beautiful (at right). The last steps for this project include: (a) scheduling a Lawn Patrol (neighborhood walk) that starts at this new OFG (stay tuned); (b) returning to the site once-a-month for the next year to do maintenance-level weeding.

After finishing off the wonderful food provided by Liz Smith with the City Creeks Division and cleaning up, a group gathered to discuss scheduling the neighborhood walk (before March 2013), working together on more workdays, and more. The group plans to meet in the new year, and contact Santa Barbara OFG volunteer/SB Botanic Garden Plant Propogator, Heather.

The workday was part of an OFG Series, with funding for the teaching and training components from a Whale Tail License Plate Grant through the California Coastal Commission.

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