Garden 2021

Gardens take consistent care…Yes, we’re having a drought…but tomatoes, once they are established, take a very small amount of water.

There is really no point in putting in plants if you are not going to tend them…tending doesn’t take much effort, assuming you’ve got healthy soil.   This soil has been tended for 25+ years with amendments of all sorts:  rice hulls,  manure,  coffee grounds, eggs shells, kitchen compost, commercial mulch, etc. etc.   Sad to see these plants go to waste.


This soil had been amended, plants fertilized and for a few weeks they flourished…

Tomatoes grown with recycled kitchen/laundry water…And now that they plants are fruiting, we will stop watering altogether.

Bountiful fruits and vegetables take pretty consistent attention.  Without that, there’s really no point…and, one that we look forward to each year.  In November when we are mulching down the tomato beds, it’s done with the anticipation of August’s bounty.

In these difficult times, picking a ripe tomato and some tender, young basil is a simple pleasure…a small reminder of how much is gained by working with nature.

A very special party!

The Duckee Market Building/Creedence Clearwater Album

For 44 years Ruby and Sherman Lee operated  the Duckee Market at the corner of Hollis and Peralta Streets in Oakland. They were “auntie and uncle” to hundreds of neighborhood kids.  They made sandwiches for people who were hungry and cashed checks for people they knew.  Sixth grade graduation pictures filled the wall behind the cash register.  The Duckee  Market was a neighborhood landmark.


And now:Music Studio

In the 70’s John Foggerty used photos of the Duckee Market and adjacent buildings on the Creedence Clearwater Revival album cover.  The Duckee Market soon became an international landmark.  To this day, people show up looking to find the place where those album cover pictures were taken.

In 1989 the building was sold.  The Duckee endured to the late 90’s when Sherman died and Ruby decided to close The Duckee.  The owner converted The Duckee Building to 4 live/work studios.  Today what was once The Duckee Market houses a musician and his family.   Youngsters come to the work studio for music lessons.   Ruby and Sherman would be pleased.

2019 Garden

Summer 2019

General Information

There are three main gardens here at The Ranch:

Garden #1…behind the Duckee Building (yellow)…this is the smallest and the original vegetable garden here. It had the best soil of any of the gardens as it had been cultivated longest.

Garden #2:..this is the big garden between Kathryn’s house and 1430 32nd Street (yellow building)  The soil here is pretty good and there are main raised beds in which the soil is very good.  Most of these beds are on an automatic irrigation system.

Garden #3…at the north end of the parking lot on Hollis St.  This is the newest garden and the one that has been cultivated least.  However, now we’ve installed planter boxes and pathways, the soil in the planters is pretty good as people cultivate and use compost and other soil amendments there.

We have installed an irrigation system in several areas of Gardens #1, 2 and 3.  The irrigation system is works best in Garden #2 .  We are working on installing more automatic irrigation in the other gardens.

The water table (natural occurring underground water reserves) is very shallow here in West Oakland….in some spots 7-8 feet below the surface.  Thus, trees once established do not need watering.

All watering should be done in the evening or late in the day.  This allows the water on the surface of the ground to soak in and be absorbed by the roots of the plants.  If you water in the day, in the sunshine, the water evaporates quickly and does little to help the plants.

Do not “sprinkle”…watering takes a little time, you are trying to get moisture to the roots of plants not spray their leaves!  There are some plants which need spraying but they are rare and there are only very very few here…the staghorn ferns on Kathryn’s fence need to be sprayed.  Spraying elsewhere is mostly a waste of water.

Hand Watering

  1. The front of 3216 Louise St.
  2. The patio and roses along the side of Kathryn’s house.
  3. The front of 3209 Hollis St on the street side of the fence and around 3209 Hollis St…..we call this the “waste land” as it never gets watered. It needs water once a week…When leaves of roses turn yellow it usually means they are struggling and need some water.  We have recently put some more roses in that area, they need to be watered, weekly.  Others may have watered, if so, move on to another area…sometimes a tenant or someone will be inspired to do some watering, but we cannot depend upon that so The Crew….Joe, Kathryn, Patricia/Gael and Arnois need to know what’s up and pay attention.
  4. The area under the Apple tree in the center of the garden…the ground cover there needs to be watered once a week. The trees no so much as they are well established.
  5. The potted plants around the “bar”and elsewhere in the yards need water once a week.
  6. Garden #3: There is no irrigation system there but the pipes are there and irrigation can be set up.  In the meantime, if you plant out there it will have to be hand watered.  Talk to Joe or Kathryn about irrigation equipment and how to set it up.


Garden #1

  1. The cardboard here needs to be pulled up….put what’s left of it in the recycling, feed the slugs to the chickens. The soil needs to be turned over and possibly amended with compost or…? Worm juice?….
  2. I have no idea who’s planting what there….no communication thus far….we’ll see once the cultivation and weeding is done….Amy and Ariel will probably show up sometime to plant something.

Garden #2

  1. We’ve got tomatoes, onions, basil, squash, sweet peppers, eggplants and rotating peas planted…several “cycles” of peas and all kinds of spices.. Pick these as they ripen….Patricia/Gael please pick and use this stuff.  Joe and Kathryn also are picking and using but we’ve planted WAY more than our three kitchens can use….

Garden #3

  1. The trees there are now well established and do not need watering.
  2. Joe will spray the trees as needed….if you notice leaf curl or other pests on the fruit trees, talk to Kathryn or Joe about these.
  3. The planters there are assigned to various people who we hope will grow things and keep the weeds down
  4. The roses and plants along the north fence need to be pruned occasionally.
  5. USE THE COMPOST BINS!….they will take a lot of green trimmings and convert it into useable good soil.


All:  We have an ever-improving, wonderful garden and I am very very grateful for your help and attention to this very complicated, very beautiful garden. Many who live here and many who come here to visit remark on the beauty of this garden.  I always tell whomever asks it is the beautiful gift of many hands, many people and it’s here for us to enjoy and use.


Happy Summer.


Sweet honey in the ‘hood

This is our honey…we currently have three active hives and a bountiful garden upon which the bees feed.  We usually harvest honey twice a year.  If we have extra…residents and friends love it…we sell small amounts…an 8oz. jar is $14.00.  It is all organic, locally grown and harvested.  We are happy to offer it to friends and neighbors….give us a call at 510 655-2319.  It is only sold here, this way, not marketed or sold anywhere else.  We have precious little of it to offer but we are confident that if you enjoy organic honey, you’ll like this.



Hive #1….these bugs have been happily living/working in the middle of our gardens/patios…foraging here in West Oakland.



The Garden Grows 2018

Much has changed as we move into planting season 2018. The larger open planting areas are now either defined areas or raised beds.  We have found that doing our planting this way avoids “over planting”….people planting on top of an already planted area and it helps conserve water.   This remains, nominally, a community garden…it is shared by the tenants here….should they choose to participate.  We also have a squadron of varsity gardeners who come in once a week….Someday I’ll write a book about “community” gardening….

We’ve also installed an irrigation system on parts of our garden with some success.  Many areas still need careful hand watering as the season grows warmer.

It’s March as I write this and we’ve just put in more lettuce…an all year crop here…sorry New Hampshire, it’s California.  The radishes and arugula also freshly planted.  The collard greens and chard have been wonderful all winter and will probably hang on thru early summer.  The big planting here happens in April when we put in the summer vegetables…..all the usual suspects minus corn and melons as we just don’t get enough heat here for those.

The bees endure.  We have one remaining hive which appears to be very healthy.  This hive will get split in early April, giving us a new colony….we hope.  In the meantime, much of our non edible planting is about nourishing the bee colonies here.  In the past we have had up to 5 hives…but ants, mites and dampness have done damage.



Pollen Nation: Inside ‘The Ranch At Dogtown’

Thanks to Hoodline for the encouragement…

Summer Garden 2016

We are awash in cucumbers and squash…the tomatoes are just now beginning to ripen as it’s been a very cool summer.  We’ll probably have abundant ripe tomatoes in October, judging from the very cool mornings here in West Oakland.

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New Construction

The new building is coming along quickly …hopefully finished by the end of this year.  In the meantime, people who live here enjoy the gentle tap tap of neighborhood  nail guns on a routine basis…When finished the new building here will provide solar lighting for the gardens and new storm drainage into the water table.  Also, pathways and patios between the buildings will be upgraded…or redone with used brick and stones…some might not see that as an upgrade but this isn’t suburbia…and we often find ancient bricks and tiles in the gardens…often recycling them into pathways or yard art.


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Summer of 2016 at The Ranch at Dogtown

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Not enough sun, yet.

Finally….we started construction on The New Building,  on or about June 1, 2016…after almost 2 years awaiting permits and crew.  The CREW, the wonderful crew, is moving ahead at lightening speed.  We are up to framing the second floor in less than two months.  It is exciting to see this project finally take shape…go “in the ground” as we say in the building trades.   The construction has altered our garden a bit but we are still producing our magical tomatoes…see pictures…!

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Raised beds for our “salad bar”….

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Thanks to Randy for the tomato pruning…great job, note the lack of mildew!

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June 2016

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July 27, 2016

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July 25, 2016

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Tomatoes on the right….

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La Casita