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Rainwater Catchment & Rain Garden

Updated: Feb 8, 2021

In 2016, Sutro Stewards received a Community Challenge Grant from the City of San Francisco to install a rainwater catchment system and plant a rain garden at the Sutro Native Plant Nursery. The project offers several benefits: reducing and slowing stormwater runoff from Mount Sutro, reducing municipal water use by the nursery, and creating a rain garden that increases habitat and helps to stabilize a formally weedy slope.

The 530 gallon cistern is installed and the rain garden planted with over 300 California native plants! This would not have been possible without the help of our partner organizations - UCSF, San Francisco Parks Alliance, and The Urban Farmer Store. We also could not have completed the project without the help of over 140 volunteers, who contributed over 300 hours of service over the past year to complete this project! Thank you to all the individuals and groups that contributed!

If you live in San Francisco, or anywhere in California, you know this was a wet winter. By early 2017 our entire 530-gallon cistern was filled with rainwater! But before the rain

garden could be planted, we added stabilizing logs to the site where it would be located. These logs prevent soil erosion, stabilize the hillside, and provide terracing and easier access to the garden. Installing the logs was no easy task! Volunteers and staff salvaged a dozen Acacia tree trunks from trees that had been felled by storms during the winter. These trees were chopped into 16’-20’ logs, carried 800 feet by a team of volunteers, and drilled into place in trenches dug in the rain garden.

Over the last couple of months, Sutro Stewards staff and volunteers have worked to plant and mulch the rain garden just down the hill from the Native Plant Nursery. Hundreds of California native plants were installed to improve habitat and stabilize the steep slope previously covered in Cape ivy and Himalayan blackberry. Over 49 species were planted, including pink flowering currant, fringecup, manroot, cow parsnip, seep monkey flower, blue rush, and many others.

The final piece of the project was installing irrigation and creating a spot for our recycled water from pot washing, a gravel filled pit planted with rushes and sedges that allows the water to slowly percolate into the soil.

The complete project allows us to increase water conservation while improving habitat and biodiversity this year and into the future as this system will now continue functioning on its own with a little maintenance help to keep the rainwater catchment system debris-free and the rain garden free of weeds.

Stop by the Nursery any Wednesday morning from 9:30am-12:30pm to volunteer and see this project in action! An interpretive sign is posted by the cistern for all guests to learn about the project. A big thank you to our two spring interns, Kelsey & Dion, for designing this sign.

Thank you again to the City of San Francisco's Community Challenge Grant Program for funding this project!

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