Author Archives: ebenbell81

The weekend works.

This past weekend was a busy one for me. After a week of working on landscape art projects for the Presidio, I was ready to get down to business in the garden. My focus was to begin the spring planting with the long-term goal of diversifying our crops. When I arrived at the garden I was pleased to see that our potato towers have sprouted and are now covered in new growth.

Also, the fava beans were starting to flower and green garlic is plentiful.

After this bit of garden porn it was time to get to work. I started by mapping out the garden and loosely planning our crop rotation. I say loosely because we have some big changes coming in the near future for our first garden, but more on that in later posts. After that I dug into the seed box and realized we desperately need some seed. It was then that I realized that we should start a CSA (community supported agriculture) to provide us with some income at the start of the season. It always seems to be the time of year that farms need the most and are the most broke due to the winter. The good news is that it is early enough in the season to put in seed orders. Also I was able to plant some early and hardy crops such as radish and collard.

I decided that I would try using straw mulch when planting. The mulch will serve to keep the soil slightly warmer and suppress the early weeds. Mulch has the added benefit of breaking down over time and providing the soil with nutrients and humus. As the temperature starts to rise and rain fall lessens a mulch layer also helps to keep moisture in the soil and evenly distributed.

As Sunday came to a close I realized how much there is left to do. I made a lot of progress, but really only scratched the surface as we have two other gardens that are ready to be jump started into spring. I would like to put out a call for volunteers. If anybody would like to get involved and get dirty I will be coordinating work parties primarily on weekends as that is the only time I really have free. Also I would like to put out a request for old windows that can be donated to build a cold frame for vegetable starts. I can be reached at and would love to hear from readers who would like to volunteer their time, money, or materials as well as anyone who just wants to say what’s up. I’ll leave you with a photo of the garden as she stands.



Better now than ever

The article that David posted, Out of Reach, raised some good points and was inspiring to us here at Amyitis. In thinking about this issue and doing some follow-up research I ended up on the San Francisco Permaculture Guild website and saw a posting for volunteers for something called the Free Farm Stand. I immediately got in touch with the folks who organize this remarkable program in our very own city. The stand is “funded” by a community of gardens and gardeners from the mission who bring their harvest together every Sunday. In the spirit of mutual support for our community and fellow gardeners I woke up earlier than normal on my one day off and harvested the greens that have grown, albeit slowly, through a relatively cold bay area winter.

When I arrived at the Farm Stand there was already a veritable bounty of food and a line that stretched out of the park. I introduced myself to Tree, one of the organizers, and was happy to meet a gentle, generous soul happy to have some more to add to an already overflowing table of food. The table was split in half with locally harvested produce on one side and donated food on the other. As I squeezed our greens in I sensed the line of people was eager to get their turn at making their way down the table and getting some of the very free bounty awaiting them. There were baskets of greens, fruit, bread, grains, and volunteers to refill them as they were quickly diminished.

The local side

Eager foodies

The Free Farm Stand happens every Sunday from 1-3pm in Treat Commons Community Garden at Parque NiƱos Unidos at the corner of 23rd St. and Treat Ave. For more information about the stand, volunteering and the latest blog from Tree head over to their site at:

Programs like the Free Farm Stand and the food stamp program at San Francisco farmers markets are a good step in the right direction for helping improve access to healthy food for all. One other thing that I would like to add to the problems of access the article Out of Reach covered is the very corrupt system of farm subsidies. They are one of the most important factors contributing to the problem of the cheapest food being the unhealthy preservative and sugar-loaded packaged food. If the subsidies that our tax dollars contribute to went to healthy food we would have far better access for all and a healthier population that would go a long way in reducing the cost of health care in this country. However, that’s a topic for another time and Michael Pollen has covered it pretty thoroughly in recent speeches. I’d like to assert, though, that if we diverted a fraction of subsidies handed out to big agriculture for this purpose we would have a better idea of what a more sustainable food system might look like and whether it would improve both working conditions for farm workers and access to healthy food for all.