Its that time of year when Spring is in the air. Flowers are beginning to bud and its 70 degrees in February in San Francisco.
Over at the Hansen Homestead I have grand plans for my backyard. Like many aspiring gardeners and urban farmers I have unique limitations to pursue my dream garden - but I have creativity ( which will more than compensate for any constraints I may come up against). Since I am busy running Laughing Chickens and the Urban Garden Workshop over in Marin, I thought it would be wise for me to start implementing some of the designs I have built for the mass market and using them in my own backyard. Its been a weird feeling making composters and tool sheds for other people, but not myself. I hope to remedy this.
Today I discuss some issues that I am finding unique to San Francisco and this endeavor:
Space - There is never enough, but I hit the jackpot with my backyard! It is approximately 60 feet in Length and 24 1/2 feet in Width = That is 1,470 Square Feet. In the backyard there are plum, fig, and lemon trees which I am navigating (if I could chop them down I would, since their fruit is sub-par and muddles up my space - but I am a renter and I can’t ration the cost or time it would require). Currently I have to work within these 60ft by 25ft parameters and the issue of sunlight while I design the backyard. Which brings me to what plants do I want EXACTLY. What plants do I want to grow versus what would I actually use ( like carrots or onions vs pretty flowers). What is built where? Where should I put the composter? How big should I build the composter? Where do the raised beds go? Should I utilize cedar or redwood in my construction materials?… the list goes on.
Sunlight - In Sonoma when I was doing Kristian Pickles there was more sun than I knew what to do with. I was inundated with an avalanche of golden rays of light all day every day. In San Francisco I have two lighting issues. One is that the weather is touch and go. 70 degrees today, but 55 tomorrow and overcast. Additionally there is a tall 5 story building against my backyard. After 1pm I lose direct sunlight in the backyard. And even at the best of times ( around 8-10am) only 30% of the yard receives light. This is making me re-prioritize which plants I want and where they will be going. It is also forcing me to consider which plants grow better in shady conditions.
Heat and Micro-Climates - The Bay Area has a spectacular number of micro-climates which are unique to the area - although it is most closely attributed to a Mediterranean Climate. In San Francisco I can think of 5 very different climates within 7 miles. There is the ocean ( Richmond and Sunset Districts) where you get most of the fog in the city and its rather cold, The Mission/Potrero Hill area gets lots of sun and is 5-10 degrees warmer most of the year - and its 4 miles away from the beach, and right now I live in the Western Addition/ Lower Pacific Heights area. My zone is moderately warm, gets a good amount of sun, but is somewhere in-between the Mission’s warmth and the Ocean’s fury!
Diplomacy - Turning a decrepit, unused urban space into a beautiful sanctuary and productive space takes time, energy, some money and SWEAT. But it also makes your think about your neighbors, flatmates, the Landlord, local restaurants and friends/family. I am already psyched to have friends and BBQs galore. There might even be a chicken coop in my backyard soon… But who is responsible for all of this? Do the upstairs neighbors get access? Do they get to take some of my vegetables? Who is allowed to hang in the Yard? Do I give a small space to the guy upstairs because he is a landscaper? How do I divide the workload? Right now I am figuring this all out and its fun.
Here are some pictures of the yard from the beginning to where it is now… There is a TON of work to do, but I plan on writing about the progress and adding pictures as I get my hands dirty and get plants germinating. Of course if ANY of the Hansen Report readers want to throw in a helping hand please reach out to me. I will provide food, beer/wine/whisky, gloves, tools and shelter. Not to mention you will receive a portion of fresh vegetables and fruit for your labor once the Post Street Farm is up and running.
What should I call this place?