Tag Archives: mission district

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 eben.bell81@gmail.com 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.



Jack Frost.

Around the gardens here in The Mission, we’re packin’ up for winter.  As I write this, record low temps are due for the entire Bay Area tonight that dip below 30*.  This frost is most certainly a game-changer for our greens.  While there are many ways to prevent frost damage, luckily Amyitis doesn’t have all that much to protect at the moment.  Most of our space is now occupied by frost-hearty cover crop or planted deep with garlic and potatoes.  Some of these root crops have sprouted and I am curious to see how the frost affects them, the garlic shoots in particular.

In Vermont, November garlic plantings very quickly faced low temperatures and light.  This didn’t allow them time to sprout before the snows of winter; they lay protected under the ground until spring.  Here however, all of the garlic planted in November has seen the light of day due to our easy climate…. and now BAM!  An edge event like this frost can be quite destructive for a region unprepared for such weather.  I guess I’ll see tomorrow morning.

Frost occurs when a (deposition) surface temperature falls below that of the dew point of the surrounding air.  Plants not protected by a thermal mass or with exposed foliage quickly fall below dew point temperatures on these extremely cold nights and begin to collect ice crystals.  These ice crystals can destroy cell walls of many vegetable plants turning them black and rendering them “compost” within an hour.

Above and below are a couple of pics from a potato planting day.  The cut halves of the seed potatoes are dipped in ash ( highly alkaline) to prevent seed rot.  Tomorrow I will be experimenting with potato towers to examine the difference between methods.

Until next time,

Happy gardening.


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San Francisco + food movement + tomorrow

Hoping to spend tomorrow discussing sustainable & safe food systems? Well, you have *two* intriguing events to choose from December 1st 2009.

The first promises some controversy. Our friends at Slow Food SF are organizing a panel discussion featuring panelists from both sides of the food movement aisle.

The Slow Food SF Eat In, September 2009

Starting at 6:45pm at the S.F. Public Library’s Koret Auditorium (100 Larkin & Grove) the panel will feature Douglas Gayeton (author of the book Slow: Life in a Tuscan Town),  Sarah Rich, Sam Mogannam from Bi-Rite, farmer Casey Havre, chef Michelle Fuerst, and Slow Food SF’s very own  Dava Guthmiller. After this spirited debate Slow Food will be hosting a book signing/exception/reception at 18 Reasons in the Mission. (Via Mary Ladd & SFoodie)

Looking to learn more about Permaculture in the Mission tomorrow? Look no further! December 1st 7-9pm Movie Night @ The Red Poppy Art House (2698 Folsom Street @ 23rd Street) will be showing the Geoff Lawton  film, Introduction to Permaculture Design (What I’m sure will be)  a spirited Q & A will follow the screening with Kevin Bayuk and David Cody answering your questions.  Given David Stockhausen’s recent and very positive experience with Permaculture this event is too tempting for us to pass up. Hope to see you there!

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My lunch was so delicious and aesthetically interesting today I just had to share.
Kale from my backyard, chicken (not from my backyard), olive oil, cumin, turmeric, coriander, cayenne, cinnamon, and lemon. It’s redundant to mention salt as an ingredient right?


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Food for Thought comes to the Mission!


The first ever Food for Thought is coming to the Mission next Wednesday, November 11th. Participating Mission restaurants will donate 25-100% of their profits to Mission Graduates, a community group dedicated to empowering local youths by preparing them for college.

Food for Thought is the bright idea of Art Avitia, the new Development Director at Mission Graduates, who was nice enough to discuss this event with me on the phone today. Because the organization primarily works with Mission youths, they decided to reach out specifically to Mission restaurants.  “We are lucky to be supported by some great restaurants here in the Mission,” he commented. Art came onboard at Mission Graduates after successfully organizing Dining out For Life San Francisco. Having always valued education, Art was drawn to their ideals.  Mission Graduates works with students from Kindergarten through High School to support their education and provide them with the necessary tools to attend college.

Art is very enthused about this inaugural event, and believes it will be the first of many. He also feels that the local focus of this event will be a big contributor to its success.

Food, the Mission District AND empowering the community? Sign us up! Team Amyitis will be out in full force. And with the stellar line up of restaurants, how could this event really go wrong?

Participating Restaurants:

  • Andalu
  • Bar Bambino
  • Bissap Baobab
  • Coda
  • Conduit
  • Destino
  • Dolores Park Cafe
  • Farina
  • Foreign Cinema
  • Front Porch
  • La Provence
  • Little Baobab
  • Little Star Pizza Valencia
  • Maverick
  • Mission Beach Cafe
  • Panchitas #2
  • Pisco
  • Ramblas Tapas
  • Range
  • Regalito Rosticeria
  • Slow Club
  • Specchio
  • Spork
  • Sun Rise Restaurant
  • Usulutan Restaurant

Picking a restaurant is going to be a difficult decision. Good thing we have all week.

Best of luck deciding!


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IMG_0663Though the San Francisco summer fog has slowed down plant production at Amyitis, we not letting it slow us down!  It is true; we’ve noticed a marked stunt in growth and production across the board since the 2nd week in July.  The fog brings 50* temperatures with it each day when it arrives at around 4:30pm.  Like an old friend who’s overstayed his welcome, I was happy with the fog at first but then things turned sour.  What once provided cool relief from the intense heat of a California summer has become a nearly icy relationship.  Generally speaking, if the fog decides to burn off at all, most days it won’t do that until at least 10:30am.  That leaves very little time for our plants to take full advantage of the sun’s offerings.  Even though we are relatively shielded here in the Mission, this July the fog has been pervasive.  We’ve taken advantage of the time off from harvesting and weeding to get to some projects.  

IMG_0664At Amyitis’ central location we’ve lacked the time and resources to deal with our compost situation appropriately.  Until now we’ve had an open-air compost pile.  Frankly, it is a heap.  And while some of our organic waste IS composting, most of it is not.  After some thought around the matter and a little research, Eben and I decided that Vermaculture (composting with live worms) was what we really wanted to do.  Vermaculture, or worm composting, is a fast, clean, efficient and relatively orderless way to produce compost from food and yard scraps.  The worms can consume about half of their body weight per day.  What they leave behind is called “worm castings” and is literally some of the best fertilizer money can buy.  Click on the link above to learn a but more about how to do it at home.  

My good friend Matt Wickland came to lend us a hand in building the beds.  While there are many designs for worm bins, we took what we knew about worm behavior and took a stab at our own design.  We built two bins 12″ deep by about 2.5′ square that are made to rest on top of one another.  As the worms eat the vegetable matter, one can rotate the bins to keep the worms eating and take full advantage of their castings at the same time.  For so many reasons, vermaculture composting seems like the perfect compost system for the urban garden.  We’re hoping that our experiment will prove us right.  IMG_0661I guess that I kind of goofed.  Sometime last month I realized that our lettuce crop (which had been providing for us nicely since early April) was quite literally at the bitter end.  We plant the seeds very close together and cut them often.  This gives us a baby variety of many types of lettuce.  Since the plant is never allowed to fully mature it continues to sprout, giving us ample harvests.  Our lettuce had been going strong for a while.  In a panic a few weeks ago, I planted more lettuce in spaces I had availablele; they didn’t germinate properly.  It wasn’t until my third attempt at seeding new lettuce that the seedlings finally took.  We finally pulled up the remaining lettuce beds that had sustained us for so long and started anew.  In order to really have  super-productive gardens, it appears as though managing planting schedules is more important than I had ever realized.  I waited too long relying too heavily on a single planting.  As hard as it is to turn over a bed that is still productive, sometimes you have to in order to keep things healthy. Lesson learned.  More lettuce in late August.  

happy gardening, 



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