Solstice on the Shoreline

From the ancient Egyptians to the Ohlone living here in the Bay Area, many cultures experience winter as a powerful time of ritual, reflection, and renewal. The season officially begins Thursday, December 21st – with a solstice! The term translates to “sun stands still,” as the sun appears to pause in its incremental journey across the sky.
All smiles for Solstice on the Shoreline!
Our dedicated volunteer group was all smiles for Solstice on the Shoreline!
Save The Bay decided to mark this changing of the seasons by planting seedlings with some of our most dedicated volunteers and donors. Through their labor and their generosity, this diverse community had already given richly to support our programs. But on last Saturday’s Solstice on the Shoreline event, they dug right into soil to help out even more. Former board members joined avid gardeners and corporate partners to put on gloves, pick up trowels, and protect our Bay.


Along the way, Donna Ball and Kenneth Rangel of our Restoration team explained how our staff cleans seeds and sanitizes soil using somewhat simple tools. They made clear these tasks can be both intricate and time-consuming without advanced technology. However, as we build the support necessary to cover this equipment, Save The Bay staffers remain plenty resourceful in their push to create habitat. 
Meanwhile, high winds and incredibly hard ground never phased our passionate participants last weekend. Our restoration staff used an auger – a drill bit that can create holes in the ground – to start each of our planting spots. Then, our lively group got to work (sometimes wielding pickaxes!). In the end, we carved a warm bed to lay the young seedlings.
Building community to share Save The Bay’s story is a key part of my role as Events & Outreach Manager. I’m thrilled that the events I design and host can genuinely boost the health of San Francisco Bay. Witnessing that “A-ha” moment on a volunteer’s face as they begin to understand their own role in protecting our Bay is incredibly rewarding. After all, my own positive experiences as a student and educator are a major source of inspiration as I work to connect – and expand – Save The Bay’s community.
Save The Bay is a resource for learning, scientific exploration, rejuvenation, and above all, making memories.  With the hustle and bustle of the holidays, I encourage you to take a moment to breathe in the Bay air, take a calming walk along its shores and rejuvenate your soul.  We are ready to start building a year’s worth of amazing events and gatherings for 2018. I look forward to seeing you at Blue, our Bay Brunch Cruise on Earth Day (April 22, 2018), and Bay Day, our region-wide celebration for San Francisco Bay, on October 6, 2018.


You and your family can also join one of our public programs for free throughout the year. Save The Bay relies on thousands of volunteers annually to make progress on our many wetland restoration projects. Check our calendar often as spaces fill quickly. We can also create dedicated private restoration events for your group or company. Contact Jack Wolfink at to learn more.


Notes from the Field: People and Plants Braving Cold Temperatures in the Bay

winter planting
Last week was cold! Our plants were dormant, but our volunteers braved the weather.

Brrrrrrrrrrrr. Has anyone out there in the Bay Area been feeling a bit chilly? The temperatures are starting to rise, but last week was cold! While my friends on the East Coast may laugh at the West Coast’s weakness to cold weather, temperatures in the Bay Area have been chillier than they have in years. San Jose broke a record low set 82 years ago when it recently dipped to 30 degrees, while cities such as Oakland, Mountain View, and Napa also reached lower temperatures than they have in almost a decade.

But while we blast our heaters, bundle up, and drink hot chocolate what are our plants doing?

At many of our restoration sites, our plants are going through a dormant phase to resist injury from freezing night time temperatures. When plants are exposed to low temperatures their cells can freeze, limiting water and nutrient exchange. This causes the plant’s leaves and shoots to become limp and blackened. Soils may also freeze, limiting the uptake of water through the roots. When the morning sun begins to defrost plants, the sudden change in temperature causes more damage as the cell walls rupture.

But rest assured volunteers — your efforts planting our native California plants are not lost because our native plants are very hardy and adapted to surviving cold conditions. Some native perennial plants will go dormant in colder temperatures to reduce metabolic activity and therefore save energy.

There are two types of dormancy — predictive and consequential. Predictive dormancy is when the plant prepares for the cold as temperatures drop or water is limited. The plant will shed its leaves and halt active growth to store energy until conditions are more optimal. Consequential dormancy is when the plant reacts to cold temperatures after they have been reached. This is more common with unpredictable weather patterns that can vary at a rapid rate.

Our vegetable gardens at home are at greater risk than the shoreline plants. The first frosts have damaged my hopes of overwintering my bell peppers and eggplants in south Berkeley. Normally California is lucky to have great growing conditions throughout the year, allowing even some summer crops to survive the winter and blossom again the following year. However, unexpected temperatures this year may mean I’ll have to stick to my usual winter leafy greens.

If one is prepared, there are several measures you can take to prevent the cold weather from damaging your plants:

  • In the fall, position plants more susceptible to low temperatures close to walls of you house, under trees, or near large rocks to protect the plant
  • Mulch with a thick layer of straw around the plant to protect and warm the soil
  • Continue to feed plants compost or a balanced organic fertilizer to give plants a boost through the winter months
  • Before frosts, water the soil thoroughly. Wet soils will heat up better than dry soil, which will protect the plants roots and warm air near the soil surface.
  • Use a permeable cloth such as bed sheets or drop cloths to cover the plants at night for insulation. Avoid the cloth being in contact with the plant by propping it up with stakes. Remove the cloths during the day, once the sun has warmed temperatures for some time.
  • Cluster potted plants close together or near a wall for protection and warmth
  • Leave wilted/damaged vegetation until the spring time. Removing leaves or dying stems adds stress to the plant in an already susceptible state. In the spring time cut back the frosted growth to allow new shoots and buds to emerge.
  • Near the end of dormancy is the best time to prune trees and shrubs. The plant already contains stored energy from its dormancy which will reduce shock and help wounds caused by pruning to heal faster as it enters active growth.

Unfortunately us humans can’t afford to go dormant for the winter (though it sounds great to lay in bed nice and warm all day) and the restoration department at Save The Bay isn’t slowing down. Big thanks to all our volunteers for braving the cold and helping to restore the Bay’s shoreline. We’ve successfully installed over 11,000 plants at our sites so far, and have a lot more to go. So bundle up and come plant with us this planting season!

Our full schedule of restoration programs can be found at

Notes from the Field | Waiting for Rain

Nursery MLK
Our native plant nurseries are filled to the brim with native seedlings waiting for planting season to begin.

I spent most of my life in Washington State before moving to the Bay area 7 years ago and I am used to the stormy winter weather of the Pacific Northwest. The people who know me best are aware that I love winter in the Bay area because I miss the rain and gray skies that have been so much a part of my life, and that I look forward to the first really big storm of the year with great anticipation and excitement.

This is also a time of year for great anticipation and excitement at Save The Bay. The Habitat Restoration Team has spent much of the spring, summer, and fall seasons collecting local native plant seeds, propagating plants, and carefully nurturing seedlings in our two native plant nurseries under the guidance of our Nursery Manager Doug Serrill. With the help of thousands of volunteers we currently have over 30,000 plants ready to go in the ground as soon as the first raindrops start falling in earnest. We have carefully watered our plantings throughout the year in our nursery and by installing the plants in tandem with the rains we give them the best opportunity to establish and grow and minimize the stress due to transplanting. With an adequate water supply during transplanting and during the first winter, the plants develop roots that are better able to survive the warm summers that are characteristic of our Bay area Mediterranean climate.

Our restoration staff and dedicated volunteers have diligently prepared our planting sites by removing non-native and invasive plant species, and our Senior Scientist, Laura Wainer has developed a planting strategy for each of our restoration sites to maximize native plant cover and diversity and to create valuable transition zone habitat at the edge of salt marshes around San Francisco Bay.

Planting at SFQ
Don’t miss out on the joys of winter — come plant with us!

In other words – we are ready to go! Planting season at Save The Bay officially begins when the first significant storms of the year start rolling into the Bay area. This is my first planting season as the Habitat Restoration Director at Save The Bay, and I can’t wait to share in the excitement of installing the first plants of the season into the ground. Don’t be left out of the fun and excitement. With rains predicted for the coming weekend our planting season is upon us. We have 30,000 plants to install over the next 3-4 months. Come join us for a planting event and together we can celebrate the start of the rainy season!