September 2016 – Garden Report

Clean Minimalism: the New Central Kitchen Garden

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You may have noticed something new on the corner of 20th at Florida. Among the changes at Central Kitchen, the garden has been simplified. since the original planting in October 2012, we have had 3 years of severe drought that negatively impacted even the native plants that were installed. The plants that survived became weedy and unkempt. When the restaurant closed this summer for an internal redesign, chef Thomas McNaughton took the opportunity to revamp the garden as well.

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“The raised beds are easier to keep clean. Fallen leaves and debris can be vacuumed up from the stones, and the minimalist native plantings help us save water,” said McNaughton of the design. He built the beds himself using redwood lumber and with help from restaurant employees, added some topsoil and refreshed the existing stone mulch (“Lynn Creek” pebbles, available at Broadmoor Landscape Supply in South San Francisco.)

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Prior to installation, I was asked to provide some guidance about the existing street trees. Trees don’t do well when their trunks are buried in topsoil and I was concerned that the new design would bury the flare at the base of the trunk otherwise known as the root crown. Buried root crowns can lead to a decline in tree heath and Thomas modified his design to keep the root crowns at existing soil grade.

The same raised beds were installed around the street trees at flour+water, which should cut down on foot traffic in the tree wells.

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The native shrubs that went in include two species of Manzanita (Arctostaphylos): the prostrate ‘Carmel Sur’ and the upright ‘Howard McMinn’ which can get up to 5 – 6 feet tall. The larger leafed shrub is Evergreen Currant (Ribes viburnifolium). The plants are being established via hand watering along with underground DriWater gelpacs. DriWater binds water into a gel with starch and other food-grade ingredients so that it dissolves slowly, mimicking the slow release of water provided by rain or drip irrigation. DriWater can be used to establish native plants in habitat restoration areas where no water facilities exist. In this case it is being used to supplement the hand watering, because the hose tends to release water faster than it can infiltrate the soil, causing water loss from runoff and evaporation.

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Inside the entrance courtyard, there was an opportunity to play with colors, textures and shapes as container plants were added to camouflage the utility meters and pipes. Most of these plants are native to Australia and include:

  • Albany Woolly Bush (Adenanthos sericeus)
  • Variegated Australian Fuschia (Correa ‘Wyn’s Wonder’)
  • Purple hopseed bush (Dodonaea viscosa ‘Purpurea’)
  • Burgundy cordyline (Cordyline australis)
  • Bare flowering grevillea (Grevillea nudiflora ‘Medusa’)

Because containers dry out fast, these are being watered by drip irrigation on an automatic timer to keep plants healthy and free from drought stress.

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We look forward to the continuing growth of the new plants and the evolution of the garden!
Ellyn Shea is an arborist, gardener and consultant in San Francisco.


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