Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Community Garden Workday for March (2019)

With temperatures finally breaking 50
and no rain in the forecast,
we had a productive day at the monthly Community Garden workday.
The beds have been sitting mostly untended,
and with the amount of rain over the winter,
there was plenty of weed-pulling to be had.
This Community Garden occupies space at the Y in Denver, NC.
(You can see it off in the distance.)

The garlic we planted in the fall is doing well,
regardless of irrigation issues.
Thankfully, the rainy winter took care of our watering.

A few of the other beds had some yummies growing.
These beds are sponsored by individuals
who pay $50 a season for the chance to grow their own food.
The cost covers soil and water,
they just need to add their veggies of choice!

There are several "community" beds as well,
and the food grown in these beds is used to support
the local food bank here in Denver.

Some folks end up renting a bed here
because they just don't have space
or the right growing conditions where they live.

This hardy lettuce has made it through the winter
and is still going strong.
In my garden at home,
I have watched the lettuce sit dormant for months,
and have just now been able to harvest greens.
It was a strange winter for gardeners.

For the most part,
we were all on weed duty.
The beds are tended by the renters,
so they clean up their own soil.
The walkways and community beds
were our target,
and there was plenty for us to do.

What a beautiful day to work together
making something better.
I feel truly blessed to be a part of this benevolent group.

It seems to be the season for shed cleaning.
One of the projects that several of us worked on last week
was cleaning and reorganizing the tool shed at the Community Garden.
Currently, it is shared by two separate groups,
but it will soon be solely the garden's storage unit.

We took out every single item in the shed,
and swept the shelves and floor thoroughly.

The right side of the shed is where we've been storing the garden supplies.
It's nice to see that we have room to spare on the shelves.

The left side is currently housing materials for a summer camp program.
The Y is making another area available for these supplies,
so the garden will have more space for our equipment.

The space under this shelf was ideal for the wheelbarrows,
and they can be safely tucked underneath and out of the way.
Once the camp materials are rehoused,
we will be able to use the entire shed for our purposes.

One of the most important components when organizing,
is to use as much of your vertical space as possible.
The hanging racks for the tools is the perfect example
of an efficient use of space.

Here are the befores (left) and afters (right).
I'd say it'll be a bit easier to find what we need from now on.

Another good day's work done.
Looking forward to next month's planting time.
It's an exciting time in the garden!

"Giving back creates a virtuous cycle
that makes everyone more successful."
~Ron Conway

Friday, March 15, 2019

Garden Friday

Welcome back to Garden Friday.
This week has ushered in warmer temperatures
and very little rain.
We have quite a few things going on in the garden.

 Last year, I purchased sweet potato slips from our local hardware store,
but this year, I'm trying to grow my own.
I bought some organic sweet potatoes from the grocery,
and have them sitting in water in the jaccuzzi tub we never use.
I will look for better vessels, but this is what I had on hand.

 It was so exciting when the leek I ordered from Sow True came in the mail.
These are the lancelot variety and I decided that since I got 25,
I would try a little experiment.

 Last year, I grew them from seed in one of these taller blue bins.
That worked out pretty well,
but I recently learned about a new way to try.

  I refreshed the soil in this bin with compost to ready it for planting.
Everything was mixed on this tarp
to ensure that nothing got wasted.

 The first batch were planted in the conventional manner,
making sure to keep some room at the top of the container
so that additional soil can be added.
This is called "banking" or "hilling".

 In the large hugelkultur bed,
I scratched in some compost the same way.

 Using an old toothbrush, I measured about 3 inches on the handle
and used it to make my hole.

 With a rocking motion,
I moved the toothbrush back and forth 
until I got my v-shaped furrow.

Then the leeks went in
and no soil was placed into the hole.
They were watered in well and left just like that.
This method requires no banking,
as the end of the seedling is supposed to fill up the hole. 
You can read more about this method here.
 It'll be fun to see if there is much of a difference.

 This week I had the opportunity to volunteer with our local Extension
to distribute plants to folks who had ordered them.
This is a fundraiser and a great time to get good deals on crops.
We had available apple and fig trees, blueberry, raspberry, 
elderberry and blackberry bushes, and kiwi plants.
It was wonderful to spend some time with a fellow Master Gardener
and encourage all of those coming in for their orders.

This year we are adding a few berries to our landscape.
I picked up 3 different varieties of blueberries.
These are known to bear the first year,
so I am looking forward to a freezer full of blueberries!
Of course, that's not counting those eaten fresh!

A hole was dug so that the top of the soil in the pot
was even with the surrounding soil 
(don't ya just love all that clay?).
I added a bit of compost to the hole 
before placing the bush down.
Then the hole was refilled and I used the excess soil
to make a retention area around the entire plant.
This will hopefully ensure that the water does not just run off.

 Two raspberry plants were added to the mix,
although they were planted elsewhere, away from the garden.
The same procedure was followed,
and we are hoping for some homegrown organic berries this summer!

While working on the placement of the bushes,
I discovered what I think is the lid to our septic tank.
There is a HUGE loropetalum planted right next to it.
(And a few monster azaleas that refuse to be dug up.)
Not sure what folks are thinking sometimes,
when these things get planted.
Until I hear otherwise,
it's gonna stay right where it is.

These feed sacks had done their job killing grass in another part of the yard,
so they will be added underneath the arches to do the same job.

 I'm hoping to do some direct sowing this weekend,
so that I can add to the dismal display of leftover lettuce 
and chard in the hugelkultur bed.
It will be fun to use the companion planting method
and see how everyone gets along!

Wouldya just look at this cute pup?
His names' Roscoe and he followed me home one day when I was out for my morning walk.
He was so sweet and gentle, and so well behaved!
His owner came to collect him a few hours later,
but it sure was nice having him come to visit for a while.

Spring is next week,
is your garden ready?

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Let's Make a Plan

 This week's forecast calls for highs in the 60's here,
I can finally get some garden chores completed
without the threat of rain or frigid temperatures.
One thing I've been working on is my spring garden plan.

2018 cucumbers

 One of the tools I've used in the past 
has been the free online planner offered by
Gardener's Supply Company.
You can find the tool here.
It's a great way to get started,
especially if you've never planned a garden.
I find it so helpful to be able to place the crops in the boxes,
and then tweak it as necessary.

Here's a preliminary plan for our hugelkultur bed.
You can vary the size of the beds easily
and there is a large list of popular plants from which to choose.

 This season, my focus will be on companion planting.
There is so much information on this topic,
and I thought it would be worth a try.
Recently, I've been reading books that covered the subject.
The best by far was Carrots Love Tomatoes by Louise Riotte.
She offers simple explanations why certain veggies just love sharing space.

She also features a list of which plants don't really get along.
Instead of haphazardly planting what you have space for,
the idea is that by paying attention to which crops are neighbors,
the result will be better crop production and food quality.
It's worth a shot! 

2018 Yukon Gold potatoes

This year when I get my Yukon Gold potatoes started,
I will be adding bush bean, cabbage or nasturtiums to the outside of the wire hoops.
This will allow for the companion plant on the outside
to shade the potato foliage as it grows out of the hoops,
thus saving me from having to buy straw 
or bank the potato plants with additional soil. 
You can see how we created the potato cages here.

For folks who grow in rows, 
there is even a set of diagrams that suggest
how to place your companion plants.
It really doesn't get much easier than that!
For those of us who grow in raised beds or raised rows,
the principal is still easy to follow.

 Here's a rough sketch of the garden as it presently stands.
The structural parts are laid out,
and I can fill in what will go where as the season heats up.
For instance, I already know that I want runner beans to grow on the arches,
followed by melons later on in the season.
And presently in the two 4 X 4 raised beds, 
I have garlic and shallots growing,
which will have to remain there for a while longer.
There is still room in those smaller beds to add some companion plants around the perimeter,
like beets, carrots, kale, or spinach.
Not only is it beneficial for the established crop,
it will make the bed look so interesting with all of the varied colors, shapes, and textures.
The bonus is that it may confuse the bugs.

A master list of planting times for different veggies
(I only listed the ones I plan to grow),
makes the planning so much easier.
In March here in the Piedmont,
we can sow beets, carrots, kale, lettuce, and spinach.
So I will simply fill in any bare spots in those 4 X 4 beds
with one of these things I was planning on growing anyway.
Then I can fill in some of the other growing areas
with more of the same goodies.
It seems to be a more efficient use of space
and I'm hoping it will help with insect control.

It sure feels like spring,
but I know that Mother Nature is in charge.
Let's hope she's not feeling mischievous!