Written by Julia Prince
This past Saturday, October 1st, the Pollinator Boulevard opened its wings a little wider as we finished mulching the second median on Dolores Street. With the first median at the intersection of Market Street already completed and in full bloom, transforming the second median from dried out turf to a flourishing garden puts us one step closer to our goal; creating a continuous band of pollinator habitat down the medians of historic, Dolores Street.
Why, you ask? For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Dolores Street Pollinator Boulevard, allow me to explain. This is the passion project of BASE and Patricia’s nonprofit, With Honey in the Heart, an organization dedicated to raising awareness about the importance of pollinators and increasing their habitat. The vision of Patricia and the community which has materialized around and embraced the project is multifaceted: to beautify the street that is starved for color and life, to create habitat for the pollinators we need and love, to give nature a place in the city, to educate the public about ecology, to bring the community together over common goals, and to give the neighborhood a sense of identity to be proud of.
We were able to get our hands in the dirt once the Department of Public Works approved the plan for the second median, the local community contributed to the final design, Prado Group payed for the turf removal and Whole Foods Market and Bayview Green Waste offered to donate the necessary materials for the task. To pull together enough people for the job, we drew from the network of volunteers that has surfaced in support of the Pollinator Boulevard. It was great to see some friendly faces, welcome newcomers, and deepen the connections that have been born from this project. We are proud to establish common ground for local stakeholders invested in the health, beauty, and ecology of the neighborhood to meet, share ideas, and impact their community.
After tearing out the existing turf, sheet mulching is the second step in installing the newest garden. It is also a necessary step in establishing a fruitful, organic, landscape. Often times, when gardeners are transforming an unproductive, weedy, area into a new design, they will apply chemicals to eradicate weeds and additional chemicals to build nutrients in the soil. Sheet mulching is a permaculture technique that both builds rich soil and eliminates weeds without the need for chemicals that have harmful effects on the environment. Layers of nitrogen and carbon rich materials are spread over the ground, breaking down naturally over time, proliferating organic matter in the soil, and suppressing weeds. Making sure weeds are at bay before installing a new garden is vital at a site like this where the existing turf has been laying its seed in the soil for decades.
To make this step of the installation process possible, Whole Foods Market provided recycled cardboard and refreshments for the workday while Bayview Green Waste donated two truck-loads of mulch. At 10 am on Saturday, once our people and materials were all in one place, the first item on the agenda was to lay down cardboard. It helps to think of sheet mulch like a layer cake.
The cardboard is the substance and it is necessary both in choking out weeds and feeding carbon to the soil through decomposition. Once every inch of the median was covered in cardboard so no weeds stood a chance, the next task was to pick up our shovels, rakes, wheel barrels, and especially our stamina in order to evenly spread out the two heaping piles of nitrogen-rich mulch. This is the frosting. It took about 4 hours to finish the entire process, with time mixed in for chatting and snacking. Most volunteers came at the beginning and saw the entire task through, but we were happy to have people stop by and help out in whatever capacity they could.
What was really the cherry on top of our sheet mulch cake was the number of people walking or driving by on the street who stopped to commend the work we were doing. One local resident from around the corner stopped to tell us that, “I used to have to pollinate the tomatoes in my garden with a tiny, little paintbrush. Now I have bees!” It is clear that the first median has touched a lot of people whether they enjoy the way it looks or they have noticed the abundance of pollinators now populating their once abandoned gardens. Check out the video below and you will find, the consensus is pretty simple; the Pollinator Boulevard is filling a need in the neighborhood and residents have a defined stake in its success.
After a productive day of expanding pollinator habitat, everyone was exhausted, but we will have plenty of time to recuperate until plants are ready to go in the ground. Sheet mulching requires time for decomposition and the thorough eradication of weeds before new plants can be positioned in the landscape, thus our next work party is scheduled for the Spring. This will be the final step of installation where the garden will truly come to life. We will keep you posted!