Ocean Friendly Gardens, HOW
September 20 2013

Partnership Creates Garden That Beautifies Community Arts/Literary Center

by Paul Herzog and Tom Rau

The Beyond Baroque Ocean Friendly Garden Demonstration Project is a collaboration between Surfrider Foundation-West LA/Malibu Chapter Ocean Friendly Gardens (OFG) Sub-committee and Beyond Baroque Literary / Arts Center, a community non-profit cultural organization that occupies the former Venice City Hall building owned by the City of Los Angeles.

The 800 square foot OFG replaces a portion of the expansive but mostly dead turf in front of the highly visible and historic building. The Project was awarded a $5,000 grant from the City of Los Angeles through the City's "Keep Los Angeles Beautiful Grant." The grant helped fund a portion of the costs.

OFG Co-chairs Steve Williams and Tom Rau organized and conducted a series of three Hands-on Workshops (HOW) from April to June 2013. In the HOWs, community volunteers learned how to:

  • Grade a site for rainwater capture and sheet mulch;
  • Select and plant native plants, install drip irrigation; and
  • Perform maintenance using OFG conservation principles.

Each workshop provided a hands-on learning experience in OFG creation, which empowered participants to create their own home OFGs, how to communicate with a professional they might hire, and influence their community. The garden was designed by Tom Rau, who is a licensed Landscape Architect (www.tomrau-rla.com).

Rain water from two roof downspouts is piped underground to the garden, then emerge through “pop-up” devices into two mulched and planted retention basins (pictured above left and at right), with capacity to absorb and infiltrate the first 1” flush of rain water (the dirtiest part of a rain storm after a dry spell). The entire garden is surrounded by berms that also help prevent runoff from reaching the ocean.

Volunteers installed California native plants that will require little if any supplemental irrigation once established. A drip irrigation system was installed to aid establishment during the first few growing seasons, and a thick layer of bark mulch applied to feed the soil and conserve moisture.

Plants receive quarterly compost tea applications to boost the health of the soil and ensure the plants develop healthy roots and foliage without the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Community volunteers meet monthly for a few hours to weed and maintain the garden.

The total project cost was $14,000. Subtracting for the $5,000 grant, the remaining costs were covered by volunteer labor, and donated materials and services. Volunteers purchased materials with their own funds and submitted paid receipts for reimbursement from the grant which required completing paperwork and allowing time for City review and approvals. The project has been generally acknowledged a big success by the local community, primarily because Surfrider and Beyond Baroque worked well together in engaging and bringing together their respective community networks of volunteers and activists, getting them involved in building and maintaining the OFG.

The Center has an indoor performance space, which the Chapter will inquire about using to hold OFG classes. It would be great to have a class that is part indoors, then go outside to use the OFG as a learning tool.