By Lukas Martinelli
For the last several years I’ve had the pleasure of tending to a formerly vacant lot in the Marina next door to Cesar Chavez Park. While volunteering at the Berkeley Marina community garden, the opportunity to further intervene in a park landscape got the best of my curiosity. I dug a ten-foot by ten-foot pit into the compacted earth and dreamt of bringing this vital habitat corridor back to life.
After plentiful additions of compost, wood chips, and mycelium, the root like structure of mushrooms, I’m proud to share that the ground now has the consistency of the forest floor. Healthy, spongy soil is retaining six times its weight in water while storing carbon in plant roots and microbes underfoot. Twelve feet below is clay-capped landfill, above that, bacteria and fungi are congregating, worms are emerging, birds are foraging, as a rich diversity of life is proliferating from the ground up. Overhead, a barn owl occasionally perches on the mature trees above. Last week I witnessed a gray fox feeding on the dung beetles in the horse manure for a late night snack.
We’re grateful to be gardening on parkland, actively diverting waste from local businesses, and spreading these enriched ingredients to define a new layer of growth. Ongoing scientific monitoring is taking place to measure how much carbon is being stored annually and extended looks at the foundational food webs are being admired under the microscope and through daily visits to the garden. Periodic field reports will be shared as this reciprocal relationship of recomposing life via decomposition continues to mature.
Special thanks to Jacob Several of Berkeley Parks Recreation and Waterfront Department for continued support and collaboration, CoRo Coffee for the burlap sacks and chaff, Far West Fungi for the mushroom materials, Ocean View Brew Works in Albany for their spent grain, Bear Bottom Farms in Richmond for their soil donation, DeVito Equestrian Center for the horse manure, and Jim Mason and All Power Labs for their biochar donation. All Power Labs established a Local Carbon Network to move carbon from sky to soil on landscapes throughout the East Bay and well beyond.