California has seen many cloudy and wet days this winter. Some weekends the rain came down so hard, we had to cancel the volunteer workday. But not today. Wispy clouds dotted the azure sky, and sunshine moved across the landscape. Songbirds were everywhere, chirping, tweeting, feeding. A day like this was meant for being outdoors, for enjoying fresh air and the beautiful landscape.
In the native garden, volunteers from KIPP High School Interact Club and Lynbrook High CSF Club showed up to help with garden maintenance. The agenda: fine weeding.
Months prior we had mulched the bed in question (bounded by Park Road, the accessible path, and the parking lot). Intentionally, the space immediately below a shrub or tree was lightly mulched; this area was now filled with fast growing invasive annual grasses like slender oats (Avena barbata) and ripgut grass (Bromus diandrus). Left on their own, the oat grasses will grow 4-6′ tall, shade out the native plants, and produce prodigious amount of seed for next year. Here is a picture of a young coast live oak (Quercus agrifolia) smothered by invasive grasses.
Fine weeding means pulling the weeds out by hand, one by one, getting them out by the roots, taking great care not to damage the native plants nearby.
After a brief orientation and training, the volunteers split into teams of two, and received their assignments: to eliminate the weeds around a selected native plant. They soon got down on their knees and haunches, pulling out the annual grasses with their gloved hands one by one, shaking them hard to dislodge any soil, and collecting them in buckets. No high technology, no mechanization here, just good old elbow grease.
It is always good to have a weeding companion to chat with and to learn from. As you work close to the ground, close to plants, you may discover new things, like this towhee nest, a bowl built from grass stalks. This is what habitat means: the bird lives here, eats here, finds shelter and safety here, and reproduces here.
The volunteers were extremely efficient and productive. By the end of the 3-hour session, each native plant appeared in total command of its immediate environs.
The entire garden bed itself looked transformed, nicely mulched, studded with native plants at suitably spaced intervals, not a weed in sight.
At the start of the session, we saw a black-tailed jackrabbit explore the native garden, cross Park Road, and disappear over the boundary berm. During the break, we observed a yellow-rumped warbler feeding on the wing, and majestic turkey vultures soaring high above.
Our thanks to the volunteers for their effort and to park staff for the tools and woodchips. The birds kept a watchful eye on the goings on and returned to the garden as soon as the pesky humans left.