Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Growing Gardeners

Of all the crops I've planted, the best harvest has been the gardeners I've grown!  I have about three women and two adolescents who are now avid gardeners.  They've learned, worked, and taken the initiative.  Exactly what I had in mind! Now some women in our supportive housing building want in on the garden as well.  Makes it all worthwhile.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Lessons Learned

When one chooses to grow organically it forces more outside-the-box thinking.  Pests can't simply be sprayed away, though there are several sprays that can be used.  For our Fall Garden we chose to try covering the broccoli.  I ordered some "plant fabric" and some half-hoops for our beds. The fabric is more like paper; it's somewhat felted, though thin.  So instead I used half a sheer curtain panel from IKEA!  These are very inexpensive and are something of a mesh.  I am happy to report that even after a hard rain yesterday the fabric has held up just fine. I'm putting this lesson away for the spring!

Also, we did some direct seeding in one of our new, smaller beds.  Tender seedlings often don't survive the kind of pounding our sudden, hard storms produce.  So I suggested we use the perforated weed cloth we line our beds with as a covering for the baby plants.  It worked like a charm.

Our rain barrels are full; our seeds have sprouted; the broccoli is doing fine; and - drum roll, please - we have three tiny baby asparagus!  I didn't expect to see anything until next year yet here they are!
One other note: We were right to use the raised bed system.  Of the plants planted directly into the soil we have lost all our lavender and the rest are struggling, but I believe will survive.  We planted the perennial herbs such as oregano and mint there as well as some berry bushes.  I've been giving them lots of compost but they have to work so hard in our soil to make a living I'm not sure they will every thrive.  We'll see. 

Monday, September 20, 2010

Fall Garden

Acknowledging Women in Philanthropy
It's been a busy few weeks.  First we painted the garden shed then we had to get ready for our first fall garden. Anyone who has been reading these posts knows that I do not profess to any great gardening savvy.  I rely on others, such as those at our local UGA Extension office and my own research. I've never had a fall garden before.  But this year, Hope House will have a lovely garden - all thanks to the Women in Philanthropy. I understand that today they are releasing their grant guidelines for next year. 

Note: the tall plants are okra and the rain barrels are to the right.
Our fall garden will feature collards, Chinese cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, salad greens and we're going to devote a bed to overwinter ginger and garlic.

The idea behind our garden has always been greater than just harvesting an armload of veggies.  "Reaping Hope" is all about using the garden to teach our residents life skills. I'm not just talking about gardening skills, either.  Of course we have all learned plenty about nitrogen, pests, and soil depth, but the lessons go beyond this.  We have learned that not every seed planted will sprout; that not every sprout will grow and that not every plant will thrive.  We have learned that the more one knows about what one grows the more successful one will be.  We have learned that there are immutable seasons that must be respected. These are all transferable to life in general.

Over the course of the spring and summer I have seen a shift in how our garden is viewed.  At first the residents were timid.  They didn't want to "mess anything up" and only went into the garden if I was present. Now, they have formed their own garden club: The Green Team. They each have their own raised bed to tend, though some women work in pairs to share the work (another good lesson).  This may seem like a small thing to some, but it is huge to us.  For we want to foster a community.  This is their garden, not mine.  I love it!

Of course, the children were into it from the start.  That's a no-brainer.  Take a couple of kids, add dirt and water and it all adds up to fun.  The children's garden is now sporting some pretty flowers in one bed.  I'm letting the chamomile sit, knowing it will come back full force in the spring with more cascades of lovely little daisy-like flowers. The long bed we'll plant with pansies for the fall, I think.  I have cupfuls of sunflower seeds from their summer garden.  We'll plant those again in the spring and feed some to the birds this winter.

The water reclamation is up and running with great barrels from the Gardener's Supply website.  It is so great to have these right in the garden.  It makes it easy to fill up the watering cans and water with rain water at any time.  I highly recommend this for every garden. Sustainability is another good life lesson.  If one plans ahead, one can make work easier and avoid problems down the road.

Our organic garden has been a lot of work, provided a number of good lessons and has really blossomed in so many ways.  Our herbs are continuing to grow and I have more in pots that will grow all year long in our greenhouse.  Others are dried and in spice bottles.

Next year I hope we can all apply the lessons we've learned to both our garden and our lives.  We can start early on our spring garden, in our own little greenhouse shed, and the ladies have taken to container gardening in a big way, so I anticipate a lot of independence growing as well.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Hope House Garden in the News!

See the very nice story in Verge here.  It's a few pages in.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Garden Party

A few weeks ago some wonderful folks from Georgia Power showed up early on a Saturday to help with our fall garden. And it poured rain so we couldn't get a thing done.  That was disappointing as these people got up early just to help Hope House and were thwarted.  Nevertheless, the garden work still needed doing.
I declared last Saturday a garden work day but it turned almost into a party! The residents turned out in force to help, with paint brushes, buckets, shovels, and more.  We painted the shed, swapped out the compost, got rid of the old plants that were no longer producing, harvested a bunch of hot peppers (what does one do with so many hot peppers, I wonder?),  and generally tidied up the garden.  We also made one new bed.  One thing we'll be doing differently for our fall garden is that each woman who gave me a detailed plan for a bed will get a bed of her own to grow whatever she likes.  Five women turned in plans.

This is exciting for me because I want the women to own the garden.  I want them to have the responsibility, satisfaction and stimulation that tending a garden provides.  And I see this growing.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Growing Smart I

So, now it's time to pull out the old summer plants and start thinking about a Fall garden.  But before we do that, I'd like to jot down some things we learned this year.
  1. No one knows everything.
  2. Everyone knows something.
  3. Sweet potatoes don't like rich soil.
  4. Too much nitrogen gives you too many leaves and not enough fruit!
  5. Tomatoes are having a hard time lately.
  6. Don't forget the toilet paper tubes for the squash.
  7. There are a number of good organic sprays.
  8. Square foot gardening can be carried too far.
  9. You can't plant too much parsley.
  10. You can plant too much basil.
  11. Sunflowers are very rewarding.
  12. Kids love to garden.