Golden Gate Park Community Garden

Growing at 780 Frederick St, San Francisco, since 2013

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Celebrate the New Year with Chocolate Chip Cookies and Some Garden Prep

The first week of 2017 looks set to bring lots of rain to the Bay Area and snow to the Sierra Nevada, topping up the reserves that California will be relying on all year. We’re hoping the skies will clear in time for our next garden workday—drop in any time between 10am and 1pm on Sunday, January 8. We’ll be turning the compost, clearing the paths and generally putting the garden in shape for the new year.

cover_cropWhenever you manage to make it out to the garden, January is a good time to prepare for the year ahead. Some crops will germinate in the cold and wet of January, like leeks, onions and the more hardy greens. But if you’re planning to dedicate some of your 2017 plot space to warm-weather crops, like tomatoes and zucchini, you won’t be planting until April at the earliest. In the meantime, you have plenty of time to plant a cover crop. Cover crops are typically legumes like field peas, beans and clover that will germinate and grow to maturity in 60–90 days and add nitrogen to your soil to boost the growth of your summer crops. With these legumes, much of the benefit comes from the nitrogen-fixing nodules in their roots. Another popular cover crop component is oats, which will grow fast and add more organic material.

The idea is that you plant the cover crop in the fall or winter and cut it shortly before you’re ready to plant your main crop in the spring. After leaving it to dry on the surface for a couple of days, you dig in the dead vegetation as you prepare the soil for your main crop. If you do sow seeds now, consider protecting them for a week of two with some “floating” row cover—basically any sort of translucent, water-permeable fabric that you can stake on top of the soil. This will keep the soil a little warmer encouraging your seedlings to germinate, and also protects them from birds—pigeons love to snack on peas in a newly seeded plot.

Then reward your hard work with these tasty chocolate chip cookies, as baked by Lucy Fisher for the garden’s anniversary party in October.



  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  •  cups oatmeal
  • 2 cups flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 12 ounces chocolate chips
  • 1 4-ounce milk chocolate bar
  •  cups chopped nuts
    1. Heat oven to 375 degrees.
    2. Cream together butter and both sugars. Stir in eggs and vanilla.
    3. Finely grind oatmeal in a blender or food processor. Combine the oatmeal, flour, salt, baking powder and soda in a medium bowl, and slowly add it to the wet ingredients. Beat just until combined. Grate chocolate bar using a microplane grater and add it, along with chocolate chips and nuts to the batter. Mix just to combine.
    4. Drop by heaping tablespoonfuls, 2 inches apart, on a greased cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes



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Anniversary Party and Member Meeting, Sun October 23

Come one, come all to the  Golden Gate Park Community Garden’s 3rd anniversary. We’re going to celebrate the garden and the people who enjoy it with a party on Sunday, October 23.

  • Compost harvesting/give-away 10am – 12pm
  • Potluck lunch & family fun activities 12pm – 1pm
  • Membership meeting 1pm – 2pm

We’ll start with harvesting and distributing the compost that we’ve been making in the garden and then have a potluck lunch with activities for kids. Finally, we want to have some time set aside for members to raise questions or comments about the garden as we plan for 2017. Highlights of changes we anticipate in 2017 are listed below:

  • Dues – Dues of $10/year from each member will be collected for 2017. We welcome donations above this amount from any gardener who would like to contribute more. Payment details to follow.
  • Monthly Work Days – There will be a garden work day held on the second Sunday of every month from 10am to 1pm. From March to October, there will be another work day on the Monday following the second Sunday. If a work day falls on a holiday, we’ll post changes in the garden.
  • Membership Agreement 2017 – The governance group is proposing some clarifications and minor changes to the Membership Agreement.

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Sat Sep 24, Open Gardens Day + Sun Oct 23, Anniversary Party

Moving into the warmer days of fall, we have two big events happening at the garden both of which give you a great opportunity to come out and meet your fellow gardeners.

gardenSaturday September 24 is the San Francisco Open Gardens Day. Our garden is one of 16 community gardens that will be open to the public from 9am to 2pm. There’s a map here (PDF) of all the participating gardens.

Please come out and participate by working on your plot, attending the Composting Workshop at 10am, participating in the garden workday, or giving garden tours. Two lucky gardeners will walk away with “Backyard Composting” books that we will raffle off after the workshop.

Our garden will be in the spotlight at this year’s Open Gardens Day and there is a chance you will be interviewed by the media. The event schedule is listed below:

9am Event kickoff

All day activities

Garden tours, led by Julie, Toni and Rupert. Meet at info table.

New Traditions School Garden (volunteers on hand for questions)

Root View Activity (all ages)

Plant A Seedling (K-12)

Informational Kiosk

10am-11am Compost workshop by Toni Moran

10am-1pm  Bee-centric demonstration and Q&A with Planet Bee

11am onwards Bike tour organized by SF Urban Ag Alliance arrives at their final stop, the commUNITY garden

11:30am-12:30pm Preserving the Seasons’ Harvest. Lecture and demonstration by Mei Ling Hui on behalf of the Master Food Preserver Program UC Cooperative Extension

2pm Event close

harvest-cropSunday October 23 will be our 3rd Anniversary Party. We will start the day with compost harvesting and give-away, followed by a potluck lunch, and wrapping up with our annual membership meeting. Members will receive an event evite soon. Please respond by Oct 13.

We are looking for volunteers to help set-up and host children activities during the event. Contact Toni at if you can help. More event details will be posted here and at the site in mid-October.  Happy Gardening.

Here are all the events for your calendars:

Date Hours Activities Work Day Leads
September 24, 2016
9am – 2pm
  • Open Gardens Day
Toni (9–1)

Julie, Rupert (11–1)

October 2, 2016
10am – 12pm
  • Composting
  • General Site Management
October 23, 2016SAVE THE DATE
11am – 2pm
  • Garden Anniversary
  • Compost Harvest/Give-Away
  • Potluck Lunch
  • General Meeting
  • Workday – 11am – 12pm
Toni, Dorrie, Julie, Phil, Rupert, Betty

Contact Toni at  if have questions about any of the work dates.

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Butterflies, moths and caterpillars at the garden

One of the fun things about regularly tending the same garden plot throughout the year is seeing the cycles of insect life that thrive on our vegetables and other plants. Of course, not all of these creatures are welcome, as anyone whose fava plants have been smothered with black bean aphids can attest. But most of us see the beauty in our native butterflies and are curious about the occasional strange moth we encounter.

We seem to get quite a range of butterflies and moths visiting the garden, many of which lay their eggs here, resulting in the caterpillars we find munching on our plants. Possibly, the garden’s location between the park and Mt Sutro makes it easy for insects to stumble upon it in their travels. And certainly the broad range of San Francisco native plants that Greg Gaar has planted in the sidewalk beds and nearby at Kezar Triangle make the area attractive for native insects.butterfly_small_white_-_pieris_rapae_05

The most common butterfly in our garden, as in many others, is the non-native cabbage white (Pieris rapae), which is a global pest of brassicas (mustard family plants like cabbage, kale, collards and broccoli). It spread rapidly across North America in the 19th century, apparently after being introduced to Québec around 1860. [Note: The
two photos here are from Wikipedia, as for some reason cabbage whites haven’t inspired me to pull out a camera or smartphone.]

pieris-rapae-caterpillarIf you’ve found your kale plants shredded and little bluish-green caterpillars hiding on the undersides of the leaves (or the much chubbier later instars), then this is the work of cabbage whites.

But the cabbage white is the exception. The vast majority of butterflies and moths in San Francisco are native species that are not especially interested in eating our vegetables. In fact, many species have a very limited range of “host plants” on which they will lay their eggs and which will be consumed by their larvae (i.e. caterpillars).

A great resource to identify these other species is Butterflies of San Francisco, a $5 fold-out guide produced by Liam O’Brien for Nature in the City, and available from their web store. Liam’s guide details the 36 species that have been found in SF, along with their host plants, the months they are active and, most importantly, Liam’s life-size illustrations of each one.


So what else might you see around our garden? Well, Swallowtail butterflies are the largest and probably most dramatic visitors, cruising the plots in mid-summer. The western tiger swallowtail (Papilio rutulus) above was feeding on a Dahlia in the garden in July 2015. The related anise swallowtail (Papilio zeliacon) is common on hilltops, such as Twin Peaks, but also appears in the garden from time to time. Here’s one from Kezar Gardens (precursor to the current garden) in August 2012.imag0519-copy

Both species have fearsome-looking caterpillars. Here are a couple of color variations of anise swallowtail caterpillars on leaves at Kezar Gardens in October 2012.

While the anise and tiger swallowtails have largely yellow wings, their cousin the pipevine swallowtail (Battus philenor) has iridescent blue-black wings. This rare species feeds only on the uncommon Dutchman’s pipe vine (Aristolochia californica). The best place to see pipevine swallowtails locally is at the park’s botanical garden.

20150927_120551_monarchOther showy butterflies appear to like dahlias, as evidenced by this monarch (Danaus plexippus) in September 2015. Monarchs are one of a few butterfly species that spend the winter in San Francisco—many others just come here to feed and breed in the spring and summer. The monarchs that spend the winter in California come from across the western states and as far away as British Columbia in Canada. One monarch tagged and released in Corvallis, Oregon, on August 30 this year turned up two-and-a-half weeks later at a rooftop garden in North Beach.

14518958778_86f95a233b_o-copySan Francisco’s smaller butterflies also stop by the garden at times. This is a gray hairstreak (Strymon melinus) seen on a sunflower at the garden in July 2014. The gray hairstreak is relatively common, unlike its cousin the green hairstreak (Callophrys dumetorum) which is restricted to coastal hills and dunes. The butterfly was thought to have been extirpated from San Francisco until it was rediscovered by Liam O’Brien in April 2006. In the 10 years since then, the Green Hairstreak Project has been working to secure and restore habitat for this butterfly in the Golden Gate Heights area, from Grandview Park south to Hawk Hill. Green hairstreak caterpillars feed only on coast buckwheat (Eriogonum latifolium) and common deerweed (Acmispon glaber).

Getting close enough to a stationary butterfly or moth to identify it or even take a photo can be a real challenge. That’s not the case with caterpillars. They’re slow enough to allow careful focusing, which allows you to try to identify them later with the benefit of all the resources that the web provides.

20160905_132222_vanessa_virginiensis-cropHere, for example, is a caterpillar of the American painted lady butterfly (Vanessa virginiensis) which turned up on the compost bins earlier in September 2016. Its host plant is reportedly western pearly everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea), which I don’t think I’ve seen around our garden.

Caterpillars, like many other insect larvae, can be very tasty snacks for local birds to feed their growing fledglings. In general, evolution has pushed butterfly and moth species down two routes to ensure the survival of enough caterpillars to form the next generation of adults. One path is to evolve defenses, such as poisonous compounds and irritating hairs, and then advertise these dangers through outlandish color schemes, such as the painted lady caterpillar above.

The alternative is to use camouflage techniques to appear as inconspicuous as possible. That’s clearly the tactic employed by the cabbage white, and it’s also used by quite a few other caterpillars that are indistinguishable from leaves and twigs without close inspection. Here, for example, is an unknown moth caterpillar from the family Geometridae (inch worms) that appeared on a plant of farewell to spring (Clarkia rubicunda) in August 2015.

In case you don’t see a caterpillar in the photos, it’s the reddish green “stick” running from bottom-left to top-right of each frame. The plant had about half a dozen of these caterpillars, which looked almost identical to the maturing flower buds. I was intrigued enough to leave them on the plant for a week, by which time they had stripped most of the foliage. Ironically, with the plant much less leafy, the caterpillars’ camouflage was less effective and they were swiftly picked off by the birds.

Identifying caterpillars, butterflies and moths (or any organism) can be quite a challenge. Here’s a couple that turned up recently for which I need to find IDs.

In addition to Liam O’Brien’s butterfly guide and the many excellent Internet sites, another approach is to upload your findings to iNaturalist, via their smartphone apps or website. iNaturalist can be used by anyone interested in wildlife, from those just starting out to knowledgable amateurs and professionals. It automatically captures the location of your wildlife photo and guides you through providing as much identifying detail as you have. Then other members can volunteer their identifications and help you discover exactly what type of bug, beast or plant you encountered.

You can choose to add your observations to one or more projects, such as San Francisco Community Gardens. iNaturalist also helps validate your hunches as well. You can search just for certain organisms within a particular geographic area, like butterflies and moths in San Francisco, to see whether what you found is something others also reported.

The team that developed the app is now based in the park at the California Academy of Sciences, so there’s a very good chance that someone will help ID your observations from the garden.

If you’ve discovered other butterflies, moths or their caterpillars in the garden, please respond in the comments. And if you have pictures, we’d love to feature them in a follow-up post.

Rupert Clayton

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Upcoming work days, Open Gardens and party

As we roll through a pretty typical foggy August towards the sun and warmth of September, there are plenty of opportunities to come out to the garden and meet your fellow plot holders.
We have added new work days in August, September and October when you welcome to come and help out as long as you like (no need to commit for the full time) or just swing by to say hello to some fellow gardeners.
We also want to draw your attention to two special events this fall: Saturday September 24 is the San Francisco Open Gardens Day – we’ll be participating and sharing our space with the community. Stay tuned for more information about workshops and ways that you can help with this event. On Sunday October 23, we’re going to be hosting a Garden Anniversary Party and annual membership meeting – more details coming soon on that as well.
Here are all the events for your calendars:
Date Hours Activities Work Day Leads
August 21, 2016
9:00 AM –
11:00 AM
Composting, General Site Mgmt. Toni, Michelle, Dorrie
August 29, 2016
9:00 AM –
11:00 AM
Composting, General Site Mgmt. Michelle, Toni
September 19, 2016
9:00 AM –
11:00 AM
Composting, General Site Mgmt. Toni, Dorrie, Julie R.
September 24, 2016


9:00 AM –
1:00 PM
Citywide “Open Garden Day”  

Composting Workshop and Garden Tours

Toni (9–11)

Julie and Rupert 11–1

October 2, 2016
10:00 AM –
12:00 PM
Composting, General Site Mgmt. Toni, Phil
October 23, 2016


10:00 AM –
12:00 PM
Party to follow
Garden Anniversary Party and Meeting


Toni, Dorrie, Julie, Phil, Rupert, Betty

And, if you have particular skill with sharpening/repairing our garden tools, or repairing our damaged hoses, we’d love to hear from you. Contact Toni at if you can help put with any of those repair jobs, or if you have questions about any of the work dates.

Happy harvesting!