Our new and improved site

(with the same content as this one, AND MORE!) is

www.The SharingGardens.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

40,000 People; One grocery store!

Here is an email we just received from someone who saw the Peak Moment TV interview about the Sharing Gardens on YouTube. We wish to extend our sincere thanks to all the many supporters near and far who have nurtured the program up to this point. Here is evidence that our effort reaches out beyond our own small community. We wanted to share our excitement with you all.
Scenic Chester, Pennsylvania!
Hello Chris and Llyn.
First of all, please accept my thanks for being the "break-through" people in trailblazing this idea.  I wish I had the words to describe how my heart leapt when I watched your video on Peak Moment.  I have been reaching out (metaphorically speaking) launching my faith in hopes that what I am supposed to do and be in this world will come to me.  I believe it has.  I love gardening.  I feed my family from our small garden.  And last year, I was able to give a lot of food away.  I have been praying for an opportunity to share that will incorporate my love of gardening.  I believe this is it.
Our city, Chester, PA, is a very poor and declining city.  We have one supermarket in the entire city of 40,000 people.  And although there is a state of the art soccer facility and Harrah's Casino in our town, the people struggle to eat.  The majority of our residents rely on government help to feed their families.  For the first time in the many years I have lived here, I see people begging for food or money. 
There is also an abundance of vacant land in the city.  I believe a sharing garden will serve to feed many hungry people and aid in the revitalization of the city.
You mentioned your willingness to help folks who have a heart for such a revolutionary idea.  That would be me.  If you would consider mentoring me, I would love to share your vision here in our dear city.
A. Costa
Click on image for link to map of Chester, PA
It appears that the "Sharing Gardens" website has been translated into Russian!? (Click Here) Our site is being linked to other sites all over the world.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Happy Birthday! - Sharing Gardens

Dustin digging onions
The "Sharing Gardens" turned "two" on April 15th! Hard to believe it's only been that long...This past few weeks we've been dodging raindrops and spending time transplanting and preparing beds with the trust that sunnier weather is on its way. Our young friend Dustin McClintock showed up to help us dig up the last few onions that wintered over. We always appreciate his willing smile and "can-do" attitude!

Doreen transplanting
Doreen Millar managed to join us a few times already this season. She and her husband Rann were some of our most dedicated volunteers last year. Here she is transplanting out a few lettuce plants. The slugs are getting plump on many of our early transplants. It's a good thing we have many more at "The Ark" - greenhouse - awaiting their turn to be planted out.

4-H Giveaway
We enjoyed our time at the 4-H Giveaway on Saturday, April 16th. Chris and I brought a whole table-full of starts: broccoli, lettuce, kale, spinach, amaranth and sunflowers. It was fun to see the smiles of people taking their free "starts" home for their own gardens. The young people in Christie Warden's 4-H group did a beautiful job of putting on the event. They volunteered their time to set up, be there for the day and clean up the leftovers. It felt good to see all these young people being in service to their community.

Many of our wishes have been granted (we'll write up a thank-you blog soon!). Take a look at our current wish-list to see if there's anything you can help us with:

Our Current Wish List

Christie Warden - 4H leader and Ismael Ramos, one of the young people in her group.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

More on Mulch

Deep-mulching in Alpine Garden - 9.5 weeks after we broke ground in 2009
 This question came to us about the deep-mulching methods we use in the Sharing Gardens:
"I like the idea of the thick hay-bed, but as far as prep work, do you need to pull beds of grass up before laying it down, or will it kill off well established grasses?  For example, could you lay it down and then arrange and build beds the next year, or should you clear and arrange beds and then lay down the hay?"  
The short answer is, if you have the luxury of waiting a year, you can lay the hay or straw down thick enough to choke out the majority of grasses or weeds below without tilling . If you're eager to begin using a garden area that has established grasses, you will have more success in the short-run if you till first. Here's how things have unfolded in our two garden plots:

The Alpine Garden - 2009 - Our friend Steve Rose subsoiled and then tilled the surface lawn to a depth of  8" with a heavy tractor. We mulched heavily 4" to 6" with whole flakes (a solid mat) of hay and straw throughout the growing season and bedded the gardens down with an equally heavy coating of leaves in the fall and early winter.

People warned us that mulching with hay would cause serious weed problems from the hay seeds falling into our garden beds and sprouting but this did not occur. The secret is in how deep the mulch is laid. With very deep mulch, weeds sprouting from the soil-level exhaust themselves before they can reach sunlight. Those that sprout in the mulch itself are very easily pulled out as their roots do not reach the soil below or, if lots of grass is sprouting, slip a pitch fork under the flake and turn it 'roots to the sun'.
Alpine Garden - 2nd year - Minimal tilling, Heavy mulching
In the second year we rototilled a few beds, but not the whole garden. We mulched heavily as in the first year.

We are now in our third spring. We will be doing little or no tilling. We have established a thriving worm population and don't wish to disturb their world. In places where they have eaten through all the mulch from last fall, the surface is noticeably covered with little mounds of their castings. In places you can see the tiny holes where they surfaced at night and returned to their subterranean domains each morning. As we transplant our spring crops, we disturb this eco-system as little as possible. We move the mulch aside enough to accommodate the plantings. In some cases pulling aside a whole swath of mulch, in other cases only exposing a hole big enough for the plant. The worms' tunnels provide easy pathways for roots to find their way, and they are filled with the worms' castings. Water and oxygen can make their way into the soil through these same pathways.

Worm castings on surface of soil.
When we receive this year's hay donations we will begin the cycle again - heavily mulching the paths where we walk and, in many cases mulching in between the plants in the garden beds. If you have leaves to add in the spring, place them on the surface of the soil and cover with the hay or straw mulch. Walking on wet leaves can be very slippery.

Our garden plot in Monroe has a slightly different history. It was not tilled nearly as thoroughly in its first year (2010). We had a cold, wet spring and by the time the ground was dry enough to till, it was time to plant many of the crops that were becoming root-bound in their pots. Whereas Alpine was worked to a depth of maybe 8" to 10", Steve was only able to till down about 4" in Monroe. This resulted in a lot more weeds to deal with! Even though the paths were deeply mulched, we had lots of weeds coming up in the beds themselves. Still, we had a very productive first year.

Monroe garden - 1st year - Heavily mulched.
Last fall we had enough hay to thickly mulch 3/4 of the 1/2 acre garden. These three quarters have only a few big weeds that made it through the winter. The other quarter which was left alone, is now covered in weeds. Our strategy this year is, in the 3/4 of heavily mulched garden, to simply pull the mulch away in a thin row and plant in the exposed soil so as to leave little room for weeds to take hold. Though the worm population is not as extensive as Alpine's, it is much better than last year. In the quarter that has extensive weeds we have dug out the most noxious and massive weeds (thistle and well-rooted grasses). We have also used a string-trimmer (weed-wacker) to cut the weeds/grasses to the ground level. We've decided to grow squash there this year which we will transplant as seedlings. We can prepare a separate mound for each squash, which gives them the advantages of a raised bed - the soil will be warmer in the mound from exposure to sun, and better drained. We will proceed with the heavy hay/straw mulching all around the mounds to give a dry, soft surface for the trailing vines. We feel confident that this will choke out the remaining weed-cover.

Monroe Garden - April 2011 (2nd year). Chris is peeling away a row of mulch and piling in adjacent path for this year's potatoes.
For more about deep mulching methods, see:

The Benefits of Deep Mulching

'Mulch-es' Gracias!

And please read our post about Herbicide Contamination of Compost, Manure and Mulch

Happy Mulching!

Reminder - Community Giveaway in Monroe

Just a reminder! If you wish to make donations to the 4-H Giveaway, please bring your donations on Friday, April 15, noon to 5:00 pm to the Monroe Legion Hall - the brick building kitty-corner from the Post Office, on Main St. in Monroe. Tax-Deductible receipts available.

The Giveaway itself happens this coming Saturday, April 16th from 10:00 to 2:00.
Donations needed:
  • Clothes
  • Food
  • Housewares
  • Toiletries
  • Surplus building materials
  • Extra seedlings for people to plant in their gardens.
Volunteers needed:  Call Christy: (541) 847-6030 if you are available to help or have questions. The main need is on Friday afternoon to help sort and set-up the donations but there may be other ways you can help too.

Left over items will be donated to other local charities.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The "Sharing Gardens" is on Peak Moment TV!

On August 8, 2010 we were visited at the Alpine site by Janaia Donaldson and Robyn Malgren of Peak Moment TV, a traveling video-production team that focuses on issues related to our currently challenging times. You can watch this 28 min. video online at
www.peakmoment.tv, or listen to the audio file here: audio (Peak Moment Conversation 193).

"Sharing Gardens - Giving and Receiving"

More than a community garden, this sharing garden provides fresh produce for all who've contributed to it, with surplus going to the local food bank. Coordinators Chris Burns and Llyn Peabody note that with one large plot rather than separate plots, the Sharing Gardens enable more efficient food production — from watering to optimizing for pollinators. They share tips for getting started, garden planning, communicating with volunteers, garden practices like deep mulch, and especially the joy of giving without expecting a return. [www.alpinegarden.blogspot.com]

pm_tv_120.gifPeak Moment: Locally Reliant Living for Challenging Times is an online television series with people creating resilient lives and communities for a more sustainable, lower-energy future. Peak Moment TV is cross-pollinating the most challenging shift in human history — an energy transition away from fossil fuels to sustainable living. 193 programs are online at www.peakmoment.tv/conversations, where DVDs can be ordered. They are available by download to all community access TV stations nationwide. Peak Moment Television is produced by Robyn Mallgren and Janaia Donaldson, Yuba Gals Independent Media of Nevada City, California.