Our new and improved site (with the same content as this one, AND MORE! is www.The SharingGardens.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

"Peak Moment TV" coming to film the Gardens!

On Sunday August 8, 2010, Peak Moment TV will be coming to Alpine and Monroe to film a 25 minute program about the "Sharing Gardens". Please come join us for a potluck picnic at Alpine Park to welcome Janaia Donaldson (producer and host) and Robyn Mallgren (videographer and editor).

Peak Moment TV is an online television series featuring people creating resilient communities for a more sustainable, lower-energy future. Programs range from permaculture farms to electric bikes, ecovillages to car-sharing, emergency preparedness to careers for the coming times. As of May 2010, over 170 half-hour programs are available online.

We will send more specific information about the picnic as we get closer to the time. If you would like to meet Janaia and Robyn or have been wanting to come see the "Sharing Gardens", meet the coordinators - Llyn Peabody and Chris Burns, or would like a chance to connect with your "neighbors" in South Benton County, please hold the date free on your calendar.

Sunday, August 8, 2010
Early evening till sun-down
Alpine's "Chapel Park" - across from the old Elementary School

For more info contact the coordinators, Chris and Llyn at:
AlpineCoGarden (at) gmail.com
(541) 847-8797

Thursday, June 24, 2010

"Lettuce" Be Thankful

Summer weather has finally arrived and with it the garden is growing exponentially! We have an abundance of lettuce in Alpine and the earlier plantings are starting to bolt. Please come share in the harvest, keeping in mind that the gardens are feeding many people -- only take what you know you can use. The "Sharing Gardens" are grown "for those who have contributed in some way and for local families in need".

You may harvest any of the lettuce in Alpine, with the exception of the heads we are allowing to "go to seed." The seed lettuce is clearly marked with a small tipi made of bamboo (see picture to right).

If your own garden is beginning to produce surplus that you cannot use, please bring it to the Monroe Food Bank behind the Methodist Church -- 648 Orchard St in Monroe.

Food Bank Hours:
10:00 am to Noon on 1st, 2nd, 4th and 5th Thursdays
5:00 - 7:00 pm on 3rd Thursdays

Thank you!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Hay-bale compost, Wish-List and Gratitudes

Hay-bale, slow-cook compost pile
One of our readers noticed this picture on our website of a hay-bale compost bin and was curious about making one. This kind of compost pile is ideal for the following conditions:
  • You have plenty of room (depending on size of hay bales, its "footprint" can be as big as 5' x 8').
  • You have enough time to leave it alone for several months while it slowly decomposes.
 If your situation meets these criteria, here's how to make one: 

 Make a box of hay-bales.

Important: Before you make a hay-bale compost bin, please read our post about Herbicide Contamination of Compost, Manure and Mulch

You can start this hay-bale compost any time of year but its ideal if you make it in the fall as you're putting your garden to sleep for the winter and will have large quantities of plant-matter. Lay your hay-bales in a rectangle, one layer high. As you pull up your squash, corn, tomatoes etc toss them in the pile. If you're putting in "woody" material or thick stalks (corn, sunflower etc) they will break down faster if you cut them into smaller pieces with a machete or pruners. Mix in some rotting apples or kitchen scraps (vegetable matter only please) to attract red wriggler composting worms. Since the pile will shrink by at least half over the winter, pile it high, stomping it down as you go. Put a tarp over the pile once the winter rains start and by spring you'll have a beautiful pile of organic matter to nourish the new plants you're transplanting into the garden.

Sifted compost to nourish transplants - put a big handful in as you plant them.

Do not put in grasses from your garden that can grow from bits of their roots. For example: Bermuda grass or Quack grass etc. This is a slow-cook pile and its not hot enough to kill these weeds. If you put them in the compost you will then spread them all through your garden when you "harvest" the compost!

Sifter with hinged legs. It can be moved to sift different piles of material in your garden.

One last step... In order to separate out the composted goodies from the materials that didn't break down over the winter, you'll need to make a sifter. Chris built the one above from lumber scraps we had leftover from other projects and some half-inch "hardware cloth" (wire mesh). The legs are attached with hinges so it can be folded up to move and also set at different angles. A simpler sifter can be made to fit over your wheelbarrow or garden cart - half-inch holes are ideal. Using our sifter, we place a tarp below it. You'll find it will work best if you use a spade-fork to break the compost pile into smaller clumps before tossing them onto the sifter.

The hay bales rot and decompose throughout the whole winter and make incredible sheet-mulch to put around your transplants in the spring. You'll notice as you peel off the 2-3 inch "flakes" (they're pretty gooey by spring-time!) that they are full of red worms, their eggs and castings. Your spring garden now will be infused with a new, healthy population of these mini-livestock. 

You will likely have many "volunteers" from the seeds of the plants you threw into your compost pile in the fall. Don't worry!You can easily weed them out if they come up in your garden beds.

Unsung heroes!

Important: Before you make a hay-bale compost bin, please read our post about Herbicide Contamination of Compost, Manure and Mulch

And now for local news:

Our current wish list: Our biggest need now is for a large quantity of spoiled hay and/or grass clippings (for mulch). Ideally we'd appreciate it if you can deliver them to the Monroe site but if you have materials and no transportation, perhaps we can gather a crew to come pick up your donation.  Give us a call if you can help us. Chris and Llyn - (541) 847-8797

Extra plants to give away: There are some tomato starts, SMR 58 Pickling Cukes, two Red Kuri squash (a winter/storage variety) and a few pots of chives that need homes. Look on the picnic table behind the picnic pavilion at Alpine. Please don't take plants off any other tables or out of the garden as these may be donations to the garden we haven't seen yet. We had over 250 onion sets that were left on a different picnic table...if you took them by mistake and haven't planted them in your garden yet, please bring them back or share the harvest with your friends and neighbors (smile).

 Gary Watts mowing Alpine Chapel Park

We have much to be thankful for this month, in spite of spells of rainy weather, volunteers Rann and Doreen have showed up weekly to help us with making tomato cages, transplanting and mulching the gardens. Gary Weems has continued to assist with the construction of the garden shed in Alpine. With just a bit of trim-work and painting, it's done. We've already begun filling it with tools and garden supplies. Steve Rose, Larry Hammon and Greg and Marilyn Palmer have donated a variety of tomato plants to the gardens. We've planted as much as we have room for (close to 200 plants!) and there are still some left over. Jan Fanger donated some interesting blue and red sprouting potatoes which we'll be planting down in Monroe. We've got a whole neighborhood effort bringing us grass clippings in Alpine: Thanks to: Curtis, Aubrey, Phil and his partner Jorie for helping us keep Alpine mulched. Bud Hardin has come on board with a generous $200 donation, fencing material we're using for tomato cages and a huge load of pots and flats for the greenhouse. Gary and Dorothy - of Alpine Pump spent a good portion of their day mowing the Alpine Park with a mower loaned to us from Diamond Woods Golf Course-great job you guys!  Jack Jones showed up that same day and tinkered on our donated lawn-mower to help us get it running better

 Dorothy Brinckerhoff mowing the center-lawn at Alpine's garden
Evelyn Lee donated us a string-trimmer she no longer needed and we've got that running now. Renee Duncan answered the call for a person to oversee the perennial beds in Alpine. We'll be using the volunteers' back-power to help her keep the flowering shrubs and flowers beds looking nice but its great to have someone oversee things. Renee also contributed some squash and pumpkin plants. Chester Crowson had a new pump installed at the Monroe site. We'll have 10-15 gallons a minute down there which will be great once summer finally gets here! Last but not least, Eva Fife has found a Philomath connection for some horse poop which she loaded and delivered to the Monroe site. The squash plants thank you, Eva! As you can see, the gardens are truly becoming a community effort. We do our best to acknowledge everyone personally for their contributions. If we have overlooked you, please send us an email so we can include you in the next post. Every bit helps!

Jack Jones tinkering with mower donated by Ray Kreth and Mylrea Estell

Thursday, June 10, 2010

How to Harvest in a Sharing Garden

One of the benefits of a cool and extended spring season is that the "greens" really thrive. It's time to start harvesting now and this post offers guidelines for harvesting in a "sharing garden".

Lettuce ready for harvest at Alpine site
Some people, when they first hear about "sharing" gardens feel a little anxious about how it all works out. "Will there be enough to go around?", "Will there be the kinds of vegetables I like to eat?" These are the kinds of questions that might be going through your mind. Most of us, raised in this culture, are taught to "look out for #1", to compete for our own "piece of the pie" and to move through life planning and strategizing for future security at the expense of present time enjoyment and trust that we will be provided for. Sharing Gardens are based on the premise that if we all start taking care of each other as if we are one big family, that there will always be enough to go around and all our needs will be met.

We are feeling encouraged in this second year of the gardens to see how many people are taking this spirit of sharing to heart. More and more people, from all walks of life, are showing up at the gardens and contributing at the level that feels good to them. For some that means monetary or material donations, for others its actual work in the gardens or behind the scenes and for others their contribution consists of offering kind words of appreciation or by pulling up a garden chair and keeping us company while we weed or mulch the beds. The principle behind the gardens is that "each gives according to ability and receives according to need."

So, back to the questions..."Will there be enough to go around?" - The answer is "Yes, of course," if those of us eating from the garden harvest "according to need". Only harvest what you know you can use and be mindful of the overall quantity of a crop. Currently we have lettuce galore, and much more to come. It's season is short so, if we don't eat it, it will just go to waste. Peas, on the other hand, are in a more limited supply so, if you're picking, try to leave a handful or two for someone else.

"Will there be the kinds of vegetables I like to eat?" In planning a Sharing Garden there are several factors that must come into balance for the garden's success.
  1. We aim to grow foods that people are familiar with, and enjoy. 
  2. We choose varieties that are suited to our particular climate and growing season.
  3. We find a balance of growing  foods that can be eaten fresh (lettuce, kale, broccoli, cukes, tomatoes) with those that can be canned/dried/processed for storage (tomatoes, cukes and other pickling vegetables) and root-crops for winter storage (potatoes, squash etc).
So, while everyone's specific and particularly favorite varieties may not be grown, our aim is to meet people's basic food needs. In future years we may be able to develop a level of coordination between people who maintain their own home-gardens whereby someone who has extra space can grow a few rows of something more exotic to share with others involved in the gardens.

Corn seeds saved from previous year's crop
Another important function of the Sharing Gardens is to save seed. This adds a layer of local food-security should supply-chains  break down. The advantage of having two sites--Monroe and Alpine--is that, for varieties of plants that cross-pollinate (squash for example) we can grow different species in each garden and keep the seed-strains pure. In future years we may call upon those with home-gardens to grow out a row of a particular strain of squash (for example) so we can have a greater variety while keeping  the seed-strains pure. This gardener would, of course, have access to the other varieties of squash being grown in other gardens. As we begin to trust the mode of sharing we see that our own needs are met as we care for the needs of the whole group.

We have a link on our website that will have updates on the vegetables that are ready for harvest in each garden. You can  click here or go to our website www.AlpineGarden.blogspot.com/ and see the links in upper right-hand corner. Click on "Ripe for Harvest!" for an updated list. When you click on the link, the harvest-list will appear as a blog-post in the upper left-hand corner of the website under the title "Ripe for Harvest!"

 Ripe for Harvest!