Ocean Friendly Gardens, GAP
April 18 2013

Surfrider OFG Teams Up With Habitat For Humanity

by Paul Herzog

Over 30 people turned out for a foggy morning Garden Assistance Party (GAP), co-hosted by the Surfrider's Ventura County Chapter and Habitat For Humanity of Ventura County (California). Habitat chose the site because it was in violation of several building codes and the homeowner was not physically or financially able to do the repairs herself. Funding to rehab this and other homes on the Westside of town came from a Community Development Block Grant received by the Westside Community Development Corporation. The Grant supports neighborhood revitalization, economic development and energy conservation, which expands Habitat's scope beyond their "Preserve A Home" program.

A quick overview of the jobs to be done during the day was provided by GAP leaders Laura Bauer, a landscape designer (Bauer Fine Gardening Service), and Tyrone LaFay, a landscape architecture grad student and Regional Rep with G3/The Green Gardens Group (both pictured at left). Because of Habitat's paid construction worker (named Tito) and volunteers, and it being a small-sized property, the project took on the front- and backyard. Laura lead the frontyard retrofit and Tyrone captained the backyard. Before getting to work, volunteers were treated to coffee and morning goodies purchased by the Council at a local cafe called Django's.

Backyard: The turf grass and weeds had been removed several weeks prior by students at St. Bonaventure High School, getting it done in just 4 hours (Habitat's blogged about the School crew). The one raingutter downspout comes off the rear part of the roof and it was not feasible to bring it up to the frontyard. A week before the GAP, Tyrone worked with Tito to direct the downspout into a French drain (a perforated pipe laid in the ground, under the veggie boxes, pictured at right). Tatiana (pictured at left) from Sacred Cow Compost delivered donated biodynamic compst and lead the veggie planting. Veggie seedlings were donated by Ventura Organic Garden Design. At the owner's request, a small area was seeded with a low-water using turf grass mix for her young grandson to play on.

Frontyard: Though the turf grass was removed weeks before with a sod cutter and hand removal of remaining roots, another round of root removal was done. Also, another pass at loosening the soil was done.Then we got to sheet mulching:

  • Soil was mounded to create some visual relief to the site and to prevent runoff.
  • Laura brought compost tea, and it was applied via sprayers. Jason Burke, a Water Quality Planner with Ventura County Watershed Protection District, went to work spraying (pictured at right).
  • Then compost, paper and mulch was layered on.

Laura lead the team through installing native and climate-appropriate plants (pictured at left). We followed the G3 protocol to insure plants were fully hydrated and went into a wet hole.

Felipe Flores, Community Impact Coordinator for Habitat in Ventura Count, gathered everyone together for the official returning of the home to Rosa, the homeowner, and her family (pictured at right). 

Two students at Brooke's Institute audi- and videotaped parts of the GAP and we look forward to seeing their results. A regional newspaper called the Ventura County Star covered the project from start to finish. Felipe's quote hit it out of the park: “It’s amazing, the impact. As we’re finishing up the home on Prospect, the neighbors are coming up to us and asking, ‘What can we do to help?’ ” he said. “We want to make it contagious, so we eventually work our way down the street and to other blocks and make the community a better place" (read the rest of the article here). Wow, a great two-fer: partnering and scaling up. Now we just need to figure out how to be able to fairly compensate the professional involved, drawing from all agencies: water quality, water supply, flood protection, green waste reduction, etc.

Completed: pictured at left.

Check out Ventura County Surfrider OFG's Facebook page to see past work, and click here to volunteer. Special thanks: while a few of the hand tools were brought by Surfrider, the bulk of the hand tools were brought by the Ciity. Also, Habitat brought power tools in their cool trailer and some of the supplies came from Habitat's ReStore, a warehouse of reusable/repurposed materials.