Planting Deergrass

Saturday, January 2, 2016, was a cold, winter day in San Jose. It was cloudy but dry, the air was still, the temperature outside a chilly 41°F. In spite of that, a record number of volunteers showed up for the native garden workday.

Silicon Valley Volunteers consists of young men and women that volunteer their time for good causes. They have been to the native garden on two previous occasions, and this time they brought 12 volunteers. Together with 5 other volunteers, we made up a large team. Some were coming to the native garden for the first time, some had been here before, a handful were seasoned hands.


Silicon Valley Volunteers and others take a break

How does one get useful work done with a large and diverse group such as this? By planning ahead, dividing tasks into manageable chunks, and training.

We needed to plant 15 deergrass in a new bed that runs alongside Park Road. This is a new part of the garden in which interconnected paths will define new beds. We divided ourselves into 4 teams: diggers, planters, mulchers, and waterers. The diggers dug the holes. The planters then planted the deergrass into each hole, filling it up and tamping the soil in place. The mulchers encircled each plant with a layer of woodchips to protect the plants from their invasive neighbors. Finally, the waterers deep-watered each plant. We thought it would take us all morning to complete this task — we were finished by 10:30am!


Newly planted deergrass are barely visible amidst the mulch; in a couple of years, their dramatic stalks will be a commanding presence along Park Road.

After a short break to rest and hydrate, we mulched the bed across from the picnic area. The volunteers worked very efficiently, and both mulch piles were completely used up. On a tour of the garden, we learned about three common workhorse plants of the garden: coyote bush, blue elderberry, and toyon.

Members of Silicon Valley Volunteers expressed their shared interest in working outdoors and doing something for the environment. They want to adopt this new part of the native garden. We look forward to a long and productive partnership.

Jim Adams of Granada Native Garden in Livermore joined us for the last hour. His blog contains many well-written and researched articles on native plants:

We saw many healthy seedlings of toyon and blue elderberry all along Park Road. Birds have been gorging on fruit in the native garden, perching on the trees along Park Road, and doing their thing (evacuating, say the doctors). The seeds on the ground have germinated and taken root even through the punishing drought of the last five years. They are thriving without any assistance. This is a good sign of a functioning ecosystem.

The warblers and hummingbirds flew overhead. Toyon berries were almost all gone, consumed by robins and finches. All was well in the garden.

About Arvind Kumar

Native plant gardener in San Jose, CA. I have been growing native plants since 2000 in a tract home lot front and back.
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