Thursday, February 16, 2017
|Chris gives a lesson in seed-planting - 2015.|
"Anyone who thinks gardening begins in the spring and ends in the fall is missing the best part of the whole year; for gardening begins in January with the dream." - Josephine Nuese
|Adri fills pots with soil.|
Soil-prep: (Growing food using "organic" methods is a very dynamic and ever-evolving process. What follows are the techniques we are currently using but we won't necessarily know if we are successful until crops come to harvest. Also, a method that works one year under certain climate conditions may not be successful in years to come).
|Chris adds and mixes in compost.|
Because we're slowly weaning ourselves from using the rototiller to loosen soil (outside) and creating permanent beds (in the greenhouses) much of winter "gardening" involves preparing beds for spring planting.
Greenhouse Prep: In the Fall we pulled old plant material from the beds and gave them a light sprinkling of wood-ashes and a thicker coating of coffee grounds. The ashes provide many needed minerals. The coffee-grounds also boost the nutrient-content of the soil but the main reason we like to use them is that they are a favorite food for worms. With this food source, they reproduce rapidly and add their worm-poo (castings) to the soil which is an almost perfectly balanced fertilizer! In the Fall we also covered the beds (and paths) with a thick mulch (leaves, straw and fresh grass-clippings).
|Llyn adds more coffee grounds.|
Once the beds were cleared, we added more coffee and compost, and gently dug it in a few inches. We've been absolutely amazed with how much worm activity we're finding in our greenhouse beds!
It's good to have several weeks with the bare soil exposed as the sun's heat will warm it and activate many micro-organisms. The added coffee also encourages worm-reproduction which adds more nutrients and worm-tunnels to the soil. LINK: Preparing Garden Beds - One Low-tech Way
|We put the first batches of seeds on electric heat-mats with plastic covers to keep in heat and moisture. This gives a head-start to seed germination. For later batches of seeds, when there is more sun to heat up the soil, we won't use the mats.|
|This is what the greenhouse will look like in a short time!|
|Peas back-lit by the sun.|
|Cindy with carrots - 2016.|
As an experiment, we've started a small patch of carrots and beets in a greenhouse (they prefer cooler soil to germinate). Ideally, they'll be done producing by mid to late-spring leaving room in the beds for summer-crops such as tomatoes and peppers that love the heat! LINK: Tips for Planting Carrots
|Burgundy Globe onions-an Heirloom variety from which you can save seed.|
|Lettuce! Can't you just taste that tender goodness?|
|Red Winter Kale - one of the most nutritious land-vegetables!|
|Llyn with Broccoli-2009|
|We use milk-cartons or large soy-milk containers as collars.|
The collars - pictured above - provide pest-protection, cause the celery to grow up-right and "blanch" the stalks so they are more tender.
|These potatoes, with their short, stout sprouts, are ready for planting.|
|Re-potting a tomato seedling.|
Saving Seeds: We save and re-plant over 85% of our own seeds. Developing this skill is fun and very rewarding. The seeds you save yourself will be adapted to your own micro-climate and soil conditions. One of the advantages of having a community-garden organized like the Sharing Gardens (with all of us growing food together; no separate plots rented by individuals and families) is that you can coordinate seed-saving and isolate varieties that might 'cross' and give you impure seed. LINK to saving your own seeds
|Chervena Chuska peppers. If peppers are pulled up in the Fall before the first frost, and hung indoors, they will continue to ripen on the plant.|
|Chris has been painting a new sign for the Food Pantry.|
Winter's not over yet! Though the days are growing longer and signs of spring are all around, there's still plenty of time for creative projects, baking and other activities that must retreat to the background in the height of the garden-season.
|...and Llyn's been having fun in the kitchen baking pies and bread and muffins!|
The Sharing Gardens is located in the southern Willamette Valley of Oregon and is considered Zone 7b by the USDA. Click here to find your gardening zone. To find a planting guide for your area, do a search on-line. Most agricultural universities offer guides specific to their regions.
Tuesday, January 10, 2017
|OSU students preparing garden beds - Sharing Gardens -2016|
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Monday, January 9, 2017
|Our newest greenhouse - the Sunship - Sept. 2016|
In the beginning, we didn't even have pictures to use on our website so borrowed photos Chris had taken in previous gardens. LINK to first Post - A Seed is Planted Our readership has steadily grown over the years and is currently experiencing a surge in readership that peaked with over 17,000 site-visits in December 2016 alone! It has tapered off slightly since this peak but we are still averaging 300 visits per day. These visits come from all over the planet both for practical gardening knowledge and for inspiration about the power and joys of generosity.
So, just what DO we do to prepare for the coming Spring?
Because we practice a style of gardening that requires deep mulch, even in our greenhouses, the winter is time for preparing beds. Preparing Garden Beds - One Low-Tech Way-LINK
|Our largest greenhouse with tomato plants on left, peppers and fig-trees on right. October 2016.|
The next step is to cover the paths with the straw raked off prior to cutting up the plants. Clear any remaining straw, or plant matter off the greenhouse beds. The garden-beds - where we'll be planting in the spring - are generously sprinkled with coffee-grounds, and a dusting of wood-ashes.
|Greenhouse beds covered in 1/2' coffee-grounds and a light dusting of wood-ashes.|
|Worms love coffee grounds!|
Wood Ashes provide all necessary nutrients except nitrogen and sulfur. We use ashes from our wood-stove (that heats our house). We use only newspaper to start the fires and burn pure wood. We don't burn anything with paint; no ply-wood or other man-made products so the chemicals in them don't get into our food-chain. We sift the ashes to remove any big chunks, nails or screws. Be very careful not to use too much! We put just the lightest dusting in our beds. Do not use wood-ash to make a potting soil. It is caustic to worms and will alkalize your soil so use only a little and wait before planting seeds or seedlings. Do not use around acid-loving plants (like blueberries, or in potato-beds). Article from our local University Extension Service: Wood Ashes Can Benefit Lawn and Garden
|Chris adds leaves to the greenhouse-beds - about 6" is ideal.|
Next we add a thick layer of leaves, a layer of straw and, if we have it, green-grass clippings and more coffee grounds. Ideally we cover each garden bed with a layer of carpet, or cardboard - to keep in moisture and hasten decomposition, but sometimes we just leave the rows open to the air. All this organic matter is slowly eaten from below by worms and fungi and bacteria. In the spring, these beds will be ready to plant our new crops.
|December 2016. Note trellises for winter-peas, a re-purposing project from an old chicken-coop (from left, to center). Light-green carpet covers row in lower-right corner.|
Winter is also a time for pruning our fruit trees and blackberry bushes. Pruning helps fruit trees stay healthy and productive. Almost all our fruit trees were mangled by deer in their first year and a half so we still haven't had much fruit from them yet. Most of them have lots of fruit-spurs this winter so we're hoping that 2017 brings more fruit. In a few years' time, our 3-dozen apples, pears and plums should yield enough surplus that we can share the bounty with local food-charities.
|August 2016. Here is our first harvest from an Asian pear we planted in 2014. Not much, but they sure were delicious!|
|We've been enjoying herbal tea made from rosehips and fennel-seeds we grew and dried. Here are rosehips from rosa rugosa a hedge-rose that grows well in our climate that we started from seed three years ago.|
|January/February is the time to plant biennial, root-crops for seed.|
|Tomatoes, peppers and squash make a bright compost pile!|
We continue to process food for long-term storage. Llyn likes to make pumpkin-pie filling for freezing. In early January she noticed some of our Provence squash was showing signs of rotting so she had a marathon session and froze ingredients to make 22 pies. Yum! Making Pumpkin Pie from Scratch - Recipe - LINK
|Baking Provence squash, a favorite for pie! Yes, it really is that orange, and so sweet!|
|Here's a wood stove that Chris made from a kit.|
|Cleaning and lubricating hose-fittings, valves and timers so they'll be ready to use in the spring.|
Last week we delivered the last of our winter-squash and hot-peppers that we had saved to share with the Food Pantry. Because we plant our peppers and tomatoes in greenhouses, we can harvest them after everything outside is drooping and dying from heavy Autumn rains. We do have to harvest them before the first hard-freeze or they'll rot on the plant, even in the greenhouses. Our last harvest this year was December 6th!
|The last of summer-harvest! Dec. 2016.|
|August 2016. Can't wait for next year's tomatoes!|
The Sharing Gardens project is a unique model of community garden that is 100% non-commercial, uses local materials for soil-fertility, provides thousands of pounds of free produce to local food-charities and encourages gardening as a way to increase wildlife habitat.
Thursday, January 5, 2017
Planting peas in a greenhouse for early-harvests.
|Pea-seedlings - a promise of delicious, sweet nibbles to come!|
- Seeds (link to article on saving your own pea-seeds)
- 4" pots (6" deep) - the deeper pots give more time before plants become root-bound.
Poke two seeds, in opposite corners, about the depth of one knuckle (3/4" or so). That's two seeds per pot. This gives each plant enough soil to germinate and grow to several inches in height before you transplant. Cover the seeds with soil so they're not exposed to sun. Water them gently. Do not over-water. Seedlings can rot if soil is too damp.
|Note: Since having written this article, we have now shifted to planting two seeds per pot but do not have photos to reflect this.|
When they are at least 6", and no longer than 12", you can put them in your garden, or greenhouse beds. Best to wait until their root-systems are quite dense in the pots -- almost "root-bound". They will be easier to transplant without damaging the plants. On the other-hand, if you wait until the stems are too long, you risk breaking stems during transplanting so it's a matter of finding the right balance.
|Pea-seedlings in pots.|
The plants will go through a little stress from transplanting but once they acclimatize to their new environment they'll be well along the way to yielding a bounteous and long-term harvest!
|Good idea to have trellis in place before you transplant peas (so you're less likely to damage roots).|
|John and Llyn transplanting pea-seedlings outside, in early to mid-spring.|
|Sara picking peas in the greenhouse in April.|
|Growing food together, grows community too!|