Dec 24, 2015

Merry Christmas!

The park was full of red today: the red flowers of candelabra aloe, the stems of dogwood, and the lobster-like mushrooms sprouting from the bases of trees. Inside the rain garden, a ruby-crowned kinglet was taking cover in the rushes.

One uncommon aspect of this aloe is there are few other large succulent plants in the Panhandle. Aloe is a plant that has long been cultivated for its healing properties, with most species originating in Africa and Asia. The aloe is located next to a small cluster of olive trees. Olive trees have been cultivated for human purposes since the copper age; the earliest evidence of which is an archaeological site in Jordan.

Merry Christmas!

Dec 16, 2015

Workday report - big December planting at the park

Dozens of plants were in place and ready for planting when we arrived at the Panhandle Park on Saturday, December 12 for the monthly community workday. Sticky monkey flower, Coyote Brush, native strawberry, and others were provided by Rec and Park for planting.  

This spot in the park, just between the restroom and the multi-use path, was rehabbed during the 2012 capital project, but some combination of drought, irrigation, and soil quality conspired to turn the mound dry and bare. To address the problem, Guillermo Vasquez, longtime Rec and Park gardener for the Panhandle, proposed a planting of drought-tolerant native plants to save on water, beautify the area, and keep the community engaged in planting and upkeep. Months ago, the department sheet-mulched the area to establish a fresh, healthier planting medium, and with planting season upon us, the time was right for the first plants to go in. 

Our repeat volunteers turned out and were joined by some first-time volunteers to get the planting accomplished. It was helpful that - unlike some spots in the park - the soil was not that difficult to turn over. There were, however, spots where we found dry conditions just underground - reflecting that we had had less than 3 inches seasonal rainfall to date in San Francisco. Happily, the next day we had 3/4 inch rain! 

Additional waves of planting by volunteers and by RPD staff will follow to make this area attractive and welcoming.  

Dec 7, 2015

December workday is on for 12/12

Our December workday is definitely on! Come join us at the Panhandle Park on Saturday, Dec. 12. And we're expecting to dig into a new zone - the mound next to the rain garden and restroom that was sheet-mulched in the late summer, and is now ready for planting.

You don't need to show up right on time - in fact, we can accomodate people throughout the morning who arrive for a shorter shift of work.

Panhandle Community Workday
Saturday, December 12
9 am - 12 noon
Meet by the bulletin board (near Oak @ Ashbury)
Gloves and tools are provided 

Heavy, persistent rain cancels. 

Nov 15, 2015

November workday report

 At the community workday this Saturday, volunteers helped the Panhandle by teaming up with our Rec and Park staff on two projects: tending to the grounds near the playground with new plantings, and spreading compost fines to nourish the redwoods growing near Cole Street.

Afterward, we celebrated our morning of work with some chicken and veggie tacos prepared by Guillermo. Thanks everyone!
"Brown is the new green": Spreading woodchips beneath the elms
Planting drought-tolerant perennials next to the gardener's shed

Reorganizing plants in the rain garden to fortify the edges

Spreading a layer of soil below redwoods and one of the 2 California Buckeyes in the Panhandle (at right)

In the shade of the Panhandle's redwood grove

Oct 12, 2015

October Workday Report

During yesterday's community workday at the Panhandle, neighbors split into two separate groups to take on projects at the east end and at the center of the park.

Panorama of the redwoods at the east end
In the eastern end near Baker Street, we spread a large mound of woodchips as mulch around the redwood trees, to protect the shallow roots, prevent soil compaction and conserve water. This beautiful grove of trees is ours to enjoy, so if you want to beat today's heat, take a walk beneath the canopy of the redwoods around the McKinley Monument.

Jogging under the redwoods
The other group tackled end-of-summer maintenance of the flowers and perennials that grow around the playground and in our rain garden, near Ashbury. The spent blooms were removed to make room for fresh starts that will come with the rains this fall and winter.

After promoting the Panhandle Park workdays for nearly six years, I feel very happy to have increasing support from the neighbors who take part in our community workdays - one time, dozens of times, or somewhere in between. Having sufficient numbers to split into two groups and take on a variety of projects in cooperation with the Rec and Park staff is also a huge mark of success.

As the drought continues,  portions of the park are growing increasingly bare of grass. However, big portions of our meadows remain green and welcoming. Meanwhile, the elms have sprouted abundant new leaves in the last month, despite my worries that the changing climate was having severe effects on them. The timing is a little odd, since we are also beginning to see fall color foliage on other trees.


Early fall color

Barer and barer

Sep 19, 2015

September workday report

Our monthly community workday took place last weekend, and thanks to a strong turnout from the families of the San Francisco Day School, we accomplished a ton of work to keep the park beautiful and accessible.

The SFDS families were mostly involved in a project at the east end, where a grove of redwood trees is located behind the McKinley Memorial. With wheelbarrows, rakes and pitchforks, they spread a thick topping of compost fines beneath the trees to nourish them and protect their roots.

Photos by Guillermo
Back near the playground, our regular/repeat volunteers took care of the areas next to the playground and in the rain garden, removing eucalyptus leaf and bark litter and pulling weeds, like dandelion, English plantain, and Bermuda grass. 

Doug and his friend took care of watering a few thirsty plants

Aug 5, 2015

How to request repairs in the Panhandle

Have you noticed any maintenance needs at the Panhandle? Potholed pathways, faded paint, broken sinks or toilets? The best way to request repair is through SF311. Today, stencils on the pedestrian path near Shrader were repainted, perhaps the result of a resident's request. 

I find it really easy to contact SF311 through Twitter. Everyone can see my 311 requests pertaining to the park by searching "@4thepanhandle @sf311" on Twitter. 

Aug 2, 2015

Community Workday in the Panhandle coming up Saturday, August 8

We have a workday coming up soon! 

Panhandle Community Workday
Saturday, August 8
9 am - 12 noon
Meet at the bulletin board (near Oak @ Ashbury). Tools and gloves are provided. 

Our workdays involve raking leaves, trimming shrubs, spreading mulch, removing debris from pathways, and otherwise helping the Rec and Park gardening staff continue to take care of the park.

What's the matter with the Panhandle's elm trees?

Many of the Panhandle's elm trees have very little foliage, despite having reached the middle of the summer season. For park users, this is a loss, both for the lack of shade beneath the trees, and also because we will miss out on the seasonal leaf change of the elms, our park's main source of autumn colours. 
Elm trees on Saturday, August 1, with few leaves

Some of the elm trees in the park have a good amount of leaves, such as the one pictured below located near the intersection of Fell @ Lyon, but the greater number of them are quite bare. 

What accounts for this unusual phenomenon? One might suspect the prolonged drought, but the Panhandle is irrigated. Also, a local tree expert explained a more compelling theory: the warm local weather of the last year, in particular, the few nights this winter with cold temperatures, caused the tree's reaction. Their physiology is confused and they don't know whether or when to foliate. The elm trees in the Panhandle were brought from colder climates more typical of the eastern United States. 
image from The California Weather Blog
It's unclear why a few elm trees have normal leaf growth while the majority are bare, but there could be micro-climates at work, or perhaps it's related to aspects of the tree such as age or gender (and it might be a different species altogether - I am not really certain). A more ominous question is how many seasons like this one can a tree tolerate before it just gives up? More research into phenology and climate change is needed in order to understand what's happening in our parks and wildlands.

Fall color - a thing of the past? Picture from 12/2/2011

Jul 22, 2015

Photos from July workday

At the Second Saturday work day on July 11, some volunteers lent a hand to remove weeds and fallen eucalyptus leaves from the rain garden, while others were busy raking leaves and sweeping sand off the path that travels around the south side of the playground.

Adult bike ed from the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition was also underway on July 11 at the Panhandle. 

Time-lapse video of Oak St house move

Urban School captured an awesome time lapse video of this week's Oak St house move! More info from Urban School in the caption below the video:

North Campus: House Moving July 20, 2015 from Urban School of San Francisco on Vimeo.
A major construction milestone of Urban's new North Campus expansion, moving the house located between the Oak Street parking lots to its new location 80 feet east, took place on Monday, July 20. The house was moved to make way for Urban's new Academic & Athletics Center, scheduled for completion in Fall 2016. The house, which is under the management of Urban as part of the 95-year lease with St. Agnes Parish, will serve as the construction headquarters for Plant Construction during the building process.

Jul 7, 2015

Workday coming up this Saturday, July 11

The next Panhandle workday is coming up Saturday! Join your neighbors and friends at the park to start your weekend with a morning of energizing activities in the cool shade of the tall trees. 

Panhandle Park Community Workday
Saturday, July 11
9 am - 12 noon
Meet at the bulletin Board (near Oak @ Ashbury) 

May 14, 2015

May workday report

At the community workday on May 9, volunteers planted a bunch of new plants provided by Rec and Park for both the rain garden and the plots surrounding the children's playground. Two years after initial planting, our rain garden appears more filled in as the plants mature and we continue to bring new plants in. 

Guillermo organized a special snack for us at breaktime: organic fruit and juice smoothies blended by bicycle. Delicious, and healthy, with second servings for all! 

Rain garden filling in

Anna and Guillermo at work on our snack
Conversations at the park often turn to California's extreme drought, and how to manage parklands to reduce water use. As watering is cutback further, some sections of the park have turned dry. To protect the soil from drying out completely and blowing away, one tool in the toolbox is to amend the soil and spread woodchips. Piles of compost fines and wood chips, sourced from the compost yard in Golden Gate Park, were situated around the Panhandle, and Guillermo explained that he would have help from the sixth graders of San Francisco Day School during the coming week to spread the material around the trees of the Panhandle. The timing is excellent, since a couple hundred thousand of runners, walkers, and partyers will be out in the Panhandle for Bay to Breakers on Sunday, May 17. The park always gets wear and tear from this event, and spreading woodchips will help protect the turf around mature trees, which can be a sensitive spot. 

Many of the park meadows are resilient and are still green, due in part to our late spring rains. The horse-chestnuts (near Shrader) and the cherry trees at the eastern edge (by Baker) are also in bloom. Get out to the park to enjoy them this month.  

Apr 16, 2015

April workday report

Volunteers helped out at Saturday's community workday by planting dozens of new plants: ceanothus, mugwort, bee plant, yarrow, sticky monkey-flower, and white sage, to name a few. Some went into the area next to the playground, and others into the rain garden, helping to finally build up the plantings around the edges of the garden, something we've been hoping for a long time. The plants were provided by SF Rec and Park Department.

As we gathered in the morning, everyone's attention was on the worsening drought in California. San Francisco must cut water consumption by another 10 percent. Guillermo, the gardener from Rec and Park, told us that he will cut back further on watering in the Panhandle, and that fortunately, some new sprinkler heads have been installed that will help him to do that. Many other localities around the state must cut back by more than ten percent. Much attention has been placed on changes to gardens and landscaping, and losing your lawn is catching on.

Apr 8, 2015

Panhandle Workday this Saturday, April 11 - with Irises

There's a Panhandle workday coming up this weekend:

Panhandle community workday
Saturday, April 11
9 am - 12 noon
Meet at the bulletin board (near Oak at Ashbury)
Gloves & tools provided

Come and enjoy the Panhandle with us. There are some Douglas Iris in the rain garden that you've got to see! 
Thanks Michael Helquist for the photo

Mar 14, 2015

March workday pictures from the Panhandle park

Kicking up some dust beneath the big trees
 At our March workday, volunteers made a big effort in the first half to remove eucalyptus leaves and gumnuts, and bring in a thick layer of compost fines, for an area near Fell @ Masonic.  With the healthy soil imported from the compost yard of Golden Gate Park, the grass will have a chance to resprout. Just nearby, right at the pathway, the work by the city is almost completed.

The curbcut at Masonic is complete and some work still remains to be completed by the corner
The group of volunteers was reinforced this month by families from the San Francisco Day School and had the support of Joel, the area gardening supervisor for the eastern end of Golden Gate Park. We also worked on our planted beds around the playground, spreading a thick layer of woodchips. There was also a lot of raking around some of the big eucalypus near Ashbury, and some brand new plants for the rain garden (ceanothus, mugwort, & bee plant). Guillermo wrapped up our morning with some recognition of the younger volunteers to express his appreciation for the support from the community.

At work with the heavy rakes 

 Closing circle