Friday, October 29, 2010

Taking a hill

This week the organic garden took a backseat to a barren hillside on campus.  These photos show the before and after but there's no good way to show the hard work a volunteer group from John Deere put in. This hill is steeper than it looks in the photos.  I, personally, wound up doing a belly-slide down as I attempted to hand a juniper to one volunteer at the top.  Throw in our strange, hard-packed, eroded combination of clay, sand and concrete and it was a good thing these folks had John Deere's products to work with!  Even at that we had to rent a jack-hammer to dig the holes!  I am not exaggerating when I say these folks worked hard

Truly it was a little surreal.  This was one hardy group, cheerful, fearless and willing.  Our director of development, Stephanie Suarez, set up the venture and put in a 12-hour day.  And she's a little thing.  The residents helped, too, happily passing up buckets of composted chicken manure as needed.

I lead an interesting life.

Friday, October 22, 2010

It's curtains for you, bugs!

For those of you who may not get the above reference, "it's curtains!" commonly means something along the lines of "you've had it!" It comes from the theatrical world where once the curtains close, the act is finished. So, why do I use it here? Well.

We have an organic garden here at Hope House.  That means no nasty pesticides, which unfortunately has meant a few nasty bugs.  We've picked, sprayed good stuff, all to no avail.  Something (I suspect grasshoppers) swept in one night and chewed their way through my very healthy fall crop and just ticked me off.  Whatever it was got a piece of everything but the broccoli, which is happily growing under a cloth dome.  I used the cloth there because past experience led me to believe we'd be growing green worms along with the broccoli if we didn't.  So, when I saw the damage I decided to go back and cover the Brussels sprouts the same way.  (I just hope I'm not trapping any bugs in at this point!)

The beautiful thing is what I use to cover the beds: curtains!  IKEA makes these Lil curtains that are more like netting.  I think I mentioned them when I covered the broccoli, but as they work so well I thought I'd give a little more detail.  They are $5 (no typo) for two panels and each panel easily covers my 6' X 4' beds or I can cut them in half and cover two 4'X 4' beds.  That's cheap.  They are not weathering at all in the sun and the rain goes right through them without effort, no puddling so no weight pull-down.  The wind also goes right through them.  The thing is, these are weird for curtains, more like lightweight fabric screens in white.  When I first used it on the broccoli bed I stapled it to my raised bed.  Unnecessary!  When I covered the Brussels sprouts yesterday, I simply arranged it over the hoops (available from Gardeners Supply) and the rough wood of the bed gripped the curtain like Velcro!  Easy-peasy! 

These photos show the Brussels sprouts under their new cover. The close up is not a great photo but will give you a better idea of why these curtains work as described. 

Monday, October 18, 2010

Genetic Gardening

One thing I've learned doing this garden is that those women whose mothers or grandmothers liked to garden are the ones most interested in doing this.  Perhaps it calls up some gentle childhood memory or the feel of the sun on one's back is somehow remembered in one's sinews, but whatever it is, it seems to run in generations.

I, too, recall the garden of my childhood.  Though we lived in the heart of the city both my mother and my grandmother had gardens.  Granma was much more serious about hers.  She grew everything: flowers, vegetables, even wheat.  What hard ground she had to till!  We visited every Sunday and never went home empty-handed.  She grew the wheat, she said, because she never wanted us to forget where bread comes from.  She immigrated here from Ukraine, sometimes known as the breadbasket of Europe.

My mother's garden was more modest.  She planted flowers and some tomatoes and salad greens.  We lived in an apartment house and the backyard was just a lot.  She fenced off a portion of it and worked the ground until it yielded to her design.  She could be stubborn. She would have been 100 this year had she not died on this day exactly three years ago.

Today I chopped the okra down.  It had grown so tall it was tipping over and the production was slowing anyway.  Life grows on. 

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Liquid Seaweed? Really?

I love Organic Gardening and read it regularly but this morning I got all excited when I read the promo for an article promising that I could avoid my garlic getting a fungus if I followed their advice.  I eagerly read their article which said to soak the garlic cloves in a mixture of water, baking soda and liquid seaweed first.  That was a real blinker for me.  Not only does soaking the cloves sound counterproductive to the stated goal (avoid fungus) but where does one buy liquid seaweed and what does one do with the rest of the bottle when one is done?  This seems a bit far-fetched to me so I'm open to hearing what others have to say.  Maybe I'll try to do both, soak some cloves and not others.  If, I can find liquid seaweed anywhere!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Growing Hope

A garden is so appropriate for a place such as Hope House.  Women often come here when they have no place else to turn and sometimes all they have left is hope.  A garden is like that. When the ruins of the recent harvest are cleared away and all that's left is dirt, a few seeds bring the promise of a better harvest, yet to come.

The sudden plunge in temperature is making all our fall crops perky.  The collards and Brussels sprouts are loving it and the broccoli looks so happy.  We waited about as late as we could to plant because summer hung around extra long this year.  So, I hope the plants have enough time to give us a decent crop before a hard frost hits.  Of course, by tomorrow it will be back in the 80s so I don't know why I'm even worrying about this!

Shown here are our soy beans, or, as they are also known, edamame. Many people don't think about just eating soy beans, but they are good alone, in soups and stews and make excellent humus.  This is my first time growing them so I'm curious about how they'll do.

Thanks to the fine (and well-tooled) Citizens of Georgia Power!
The garden has also brought in some new partners for Hope House.  Yesterday, a group called Citizens of Georgia Power came bearing pansies for the children's garden and helped restore our beleagured blueberry bushes with fresh compost.  At the same time they brought trick-or-treat bags of candy for our little ones and one of the women involved brought pots and pans from yet others in her Sunday School class.

Yes, hope grows.