Center for Regenerative Agriculture and Resilient Systems

UCCE Master Gardeners San Mateo/San Francisco

On June 24, 2019, four San Mateo/San Francisco County Master Gardeners and one volunteer from Pacifica Community Gardens, carpooled their way to Chico to attend the 2019 Cover Crops for Soil Health Intensive course. They say they were so inspired by Dr. David Johnson’s presentation that they made their own Johnson-Su Bioreactor at their Garden Education Center in San Mateo, California, on July 20th.

They report that they used 25% dried chipped hedge clippings, 25% goat bedding and 50% oak leaves in their bioreactor. The materials were combined and hydrated in a compost extract. They were keeping the bioreactor hydrated with a Techline, 12mm Netafim drip system run at 1 minute per day. Temperatures reached 135 degrees for four days before cooling. At the time of their Bioreactor Registry submission they were planning to introduce one pound of red worms.

Norine Cepernich provided us with this description of who they are and why they got involved:

"We are a dedicated group of gardeners, striving to improve our soil health, which will provide us with nutritious food and help to save our planet.

One of our many Master Gardening projects was to develop a 5,000 square foot plot at the San Mateo County Event Center.  By spring of 2018 our Garden Education Center (GEC) was ready to go with a beautiful cover of bark to cover the previous lawn.  By mid summer, a dense network of Bermuda grass had invaded the ground, stopping us in our tracks.  

After much research, we decided to improve our soil.  We had no choice but to remove 50 yards of contaminated mulch and till the soil to remove Bermuda grass roots, a one time only event.

In fall, a diverse cover crop was planted, inoculated with compost extract and mulched with compost. In spring, a second diverse cover crop with the same techniques was applied. One full year later, we are winning the Bermuda grass battle. Soon, a third fall cover crop will be seeded.  

Meanwhile, the Johnson-Su Bioreactor is cooking up a delightful batch of fungi on site at the GEC. We will inoculate our field with the finished Johnson-Su compost next summer and are excited to see our soil improve in leaps and bounds as the years progress.

We hope to share in this journey with our community and the Chico Registry."