Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Community Garden Workday for June (2019)

With sunny skies overhead on Saturday,
we had a productive workday at the Community Garden 
in Denver, North Carolina.
Our group gets together on the 3rd Saturday each month
to tend to the garden and enjoy fellowship.

The garden is bursting with color, texture and variety!
A handful of volunteers worked on a few specific tasks.
My first goal at these events, is to take pictures of what's growing.
Here's a look at the mid-June garden offerings.

The green beans look vibrant and healthy!
The crop is overtaking most of this bed.

This curly kale is spectacular!
It was so tempting to take a sampling,
but this bed is privately leased.
Folks from the community who may not have room to grow veg at home,
are able to rent beds in the community garden,
so that they can still enjoy freshly grown produce.

We were relieved to see how well the new irrigation system
is working.
It's taken some time,
but it seems that everything is getting watered evenly.

Flowers in a veggie garden are a good sign of things to come,

and this eggplant was ready for harvesting.
As a volunteer, I was able to take a few home
from one of the community beds.
It was grilled to perfection and every bite savored.

The okra along the perimeter fence
is starting to get some size to it.
No doubt these will be prolific producers,
providing those in need with ample food for their table.
Most of the crops in the community beds
are donated to the local food pantry.

It was wonderful to see the lavender doing so well.

Several types of squash are growing here,
including yellow summer and zucchini squash.

Oooops, this one got away.

The loofah is being grown in this corner bed
and will be used as part of a fundraiser for The Garden.
We have some growing at home that we will be able to donate as well.
It has recently taken off with the onset of summer-like heat.

Countless tomatoes could be found,
in all stages of ripeness.

Someone will be able to enjoy them right off the vine,
or collect them for freezing or canning.
Hoping I don't jinx anyone,
the fruit and foliage all look free from bug damage.

With a couple of us on weed duty,
we were able to tidy up almost all of the community boxes.
There will always be weeds,
we just stay at it each and every month.

Another group was laying out landscape fabric
in front of the tool shed.
This is an area where picnic tables occupy space for summer campers,
who participate in a number of activities.
Mulch was added on top of the fabric,
and we hope this will deter weeds in this area.
I'll get a picture of the finished project next month.

A gorgeous and gratifying morning's work.
It is so rewarding to spend time doing something for the greater good.
I really can't think of a better way to spend the day.

The East Lincoln Community Garden
is located at 1601 Forney Creek Pkwy
Denver, NC  28037

Friday, June 14, 2019

Garden Friday-Butterfly Bed Revisited


This was our newly planted pollinator bed last June.


 It's filled out a bit.
Amazing what the right conditions can do, eh?

With the exception of the sunflowers you see towering over everything in the bed,
all of these plants overwintered and came back.
The pollinators are very appreciative.
And so are we!

 The dwarf bee balm has spread quite a bit.

Bees and wasps are drawn to it like a magnet.
The vibrant color really makes it stand out amongst all the green.

 One flower I enjoy in any color or size is the zinnia.

They are prolific and make me smile in every stage of growth.

Coneflowers are loved by bees and butterflies alike.
Count me in there too,
it is one of my all-time favorites.

 The catnip has gone bonkers thanks to the ideal spot.
I'm not sure if any of the neighborhood cats partake of it,
but it is such an easy-care plant,
that it has earned a place in the butterfly bed.

 One of the best flowers for arrangements is the Rudbeckia.
The more blooms you snip to bring indoors,
the more full it becomes.
It just screams summer!

Lantana surprisingly overwintered just fine.
It surprised me, as there were no changes until the last two weeks.
It came back gangbusters thanks to our recent gifts of rain.
You'll see this plant constantly covered with pollinators.

The other flower beds are filling up with gorgeous blooms 
and providing a lot of nectar for critters.
The bonus is that we get to enjoy the beauty of every magnificent blossom.
I'm glad I took the time to work on the flower beds this spring.
We are all reaping the benefits.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Planting Sweet Potatoes

sweet potato vines

Growing sweet potatoes is pretty standard around these parts.
They've been a staple in my garden for a few years now,
and this year is no different.
It was sensational to learn that not only is the sweet potato the state veg of North Carolina,
but we are also the number one producer of these sweet spuds.
It somehow feels as if I was preparing for this journey back in Florida,
having fairly good success with growing them as a beginning gardener.

Sweet potatoes are grown from slips,
which are vine-like plants grown directly from the spud itself.
They can be purchased,
but this year we decided to venture out and grow our own.
It started right here,
with organic sweet potatoes bought at the grocery store.

The three perfect specimens I picked out of the bin
were brought home and the bottom half was submerged in water.
Empty cans were used here, 
but you could also use plastic or paper cups, or glass jars.
After a few days, the roots will begin to sprout from the bottom
(as shown in the previous picture),
and shoots will start to grow out of the top.
Once I placed the cans on the windowsill of our makeshift greenhouse,
they really started taking off, enjoying the morning sunshine.

When the shoots get about 6 inches long,
they can be transferred to another container filled with water.
They will keep like that for as long as you need,
continuing to drink up the water
until you are ready to plant them.

The planting box was readied.
Big K and I decided to make this growing bin specifically for the sweet potatoes,
and the vines will have the arches to climb.
Here's how we easily constructed this container out of pallets.

There were enough healthy slips to use,

and looking at the root system,
they were more than ready to be transferred and given a lot more room to grow.

Into the box went a layer of straw
(mostly to contain the soil),
then some good potting soil to which I added perlite
to ensure good drainage.

Another addition was some worm castings from our worm bin,
along with a few new residents.
I've been introducing worms and castings to most everything planted recently.
I figure it can't hurt.

Look at those healthy roots!

The slips were planted and nestled in the box.
Sweet potatoes are one of the easiest crops to grow,
requiring very little from the gardener.
With regular watering and maybe some fertilizer or compost added
once in a while,
they will begin their ascent up the trellis.

Not only is the gardener gifted with a wonderful taste treat,
but the climbing vines will produce a morning-glory type purple flower
for enjoying until harvest time.
Incidentally, the leaves of this crop are edible.

When I was digging in the soil pile,
I ran across these little spongy things.
These are skink eggs.
I was sure to replace them so that they can join their siblings.

There is always something new to learn in nature.

Friday, June 7, 2019

Garden Friday

zinnia bud

 Welcome back to Garden Friday!
This first week in June has us enjoying spring-like weather.
Here's what's happening in the garden.

The hugelkultur bed is in a state of transition.
With a lot of the lettuce and kale bolting,
and the snap peas gone,
we are savoring the bits and pieces we can get out of the garden.
The tall bolting lettuce is green oakleaf,
and I am hoping to save seeds from this plant for next season.
It's very interesting to me to see how poorly the leek in this bed have done,
compared to the others that were planted in a tall storage bin elsewhere.
These are about 10 times smaller. 
Lack of sun?  Not enough room?

 Look at the color on this Red Salad Bowl.
This was my favorite until I sampled the green oakleaf.
Having a mixture of different types of greens is a real treat.

 Although we've had some hot temps in the last couple of weeks,
and there is obvious critter damage on the leaves of this cabbage,
it seems to be growing and doing just fine.
This is the first time I've ever grown cabbage,
so I hope that I get to make some slaw with it.

 There is absolutely nothing to complain about with this Swiss chard.
It grows without problems from heat, cold, sun, shade or pests.
It's one of the new things I've added to my diet recently.

 The green oakleaf is my favorite lettuce at the moment,
but this Freckles variety is close behind.
It is so tender and juicy, and seems to be tolerating
the changing weather conditions.

A couple of lettuce varieties and some Lacinato (dinosaur) kale 
have been sown in the shadier part of the hugelkultur bed.
With squirrels constantly digging in the soil,
I've taken to adding panels of wire over newly-sown seeds.
So far, so good.

 The nasturtiums add a pop of color in the beds,
as well as helping with pest control.
The flowers and leaves are both edible.
What more could you ask?

With the garlic and shallots harvested,
the beets have more room to grow,
and they are.
They will stay right where they are
until I see signs that they are ready to stop growing.

Good news on the bean front!
The October beans are grabbing onto the arch
and forming flowers.
I'll be sure to give them a dose of turkey poop to encourage them on their way.

The newly-planted sweet potatoes are nestled in their crate.
We've been promised rain for two days now,
with nothing to show for it.
Hopefully, over the weekend, we will be gifted with a downpour.

 The Yukon Gold potatoes are growing out of their towers.
They too, will soon be ready for fertilizing.
This is such a fun way of growing potatoes,
and the harvest couldn't be easier.
No digging required!

The basil surprised me by coming up in just a few days.
I guess the temperature was just right. 
Notice the wire is on these cell packs too.

 Even the eggplant,
which has given me a hard time germinating,
seems ready for summer to get growing.

The tumeric I planted a few weeks ago
suddenly popped up out of its containers.
What a rush!
This will be a new experience for me,
as I've never even seen a full-grown plant before.

 The loofah has decided it is ready to grow as well.
Each plant knows its time and season.
Sometimes we are just too impatient.

There is still not much going on with the straw bales,
and I'm thinking I will most likely transplant
some cucumbers and eggplant into them.
It's been a bit disappointing, but it's the best way to learn.

The oregano that was here when we bought the house is blooming.
What a pretty, delicate flower it has.
It reminds me that I need to be better at harvesting and drying my herbs.

Elsewhere, the butterfly bush is almost ready to burst into color.
It was trimmed back fairly severely earlier in the spring,
and it has bounced back quite nicely.

The Vitex in the front yard will soon be covered in purple blooms.
This is another plant that was severely pruned,
after most likely, years of neglect.
These stems will be used in flower arrangements.

Across the yard, the butterfly garden that was installed last year,
has filled out nicely.
Everything seems quite content,
although I do plan to add just a few more things.

 Can you ever have enough echinacea?

 I think not.

I'm not sure if you can see the bee in the center of this shot,
but I could have sworn it was tagged.
I saw a small, yellow circle on its body as it flitted from flower to flower.
So exciting! 
It's obviously enjoying the lavender.

 Another favorite, black-eyed Susan is filling in under the crape myrtle tree.
The pollinators love it,
and with its abundant blooms,
there is plenty to go around!
It's been such a blessing to be able to create flower arrangements for the house 
with the selection in the butterfly bed.

 This is the first year that we have had spot-free apples.
As I choose not to spray, I had pretty much given up 
ever getting any fruit from it.
Although I'm thrilled at the prospect,
they are a bit tart for me,
so I will leave them to the squirrels and deer.

 The front porch bed is filling in better now.
The alyssum makes me so happy with its delicate blossoms and sweet smell.

It was marvelous to see these milkweed plants come up.
Many seeds have been sown,
so that we can attract the monarch butterflies.
We are a certified Monarch Way Station,
and so, support them by furnishing their host plant.
I'm hoping that the number of butterflies we see this year increases.

 The pollinators are enjoying our garden.
This sunflower,
which has over a dozen blooms at a time,
is loaded every day with bees, wasps, and other frequent fliers.

It's a busy time in the garden.
And that's just the way I like it.
Enjoy your weekend!