On Friday afternoon, we enjoyed great weather for the garden work day. Ann, Andrea, the Coffman family, and Sarah R. spent a few hours digging and planting.
Now is the time to pick lettuce and kale; before too long these overwintered plants will all bolt in the spring heat. The cilantro is flowering, and the cilantro seed (aka coriander) will be ready in a few weeks. Spring-planted radishes and arugula are coming in now: pick a couple of radishes or a few arugula leaves for your salad. Keep picking broccoli shoots, but watch out for the loopers: immerse the broccoli in boiling water for a few minutes and any of these little worms will float to the surface.
The overwintered carrots have been thinned, so now we can wait a few more weeks for bigger roots to form on the remaining plants. As for the onions and garlic... we wait. We wait.
Some overwintered plants needed to be pulled: the Odle and Coffman kids pulled and composted the red romaine lettuce in the lower level, and Ann saved seed stalks from the mizuna before adding the rest to the compost pile.We checked out the compost in the tumbler, and it was quite warm... a few turns each day will turn it into "black gold" very soon.
Andrea and Sara organized the space dedicated for the herb garden: they arranged the perennial herbs, including rosemary, oregano, lemon balm, and thyme. Mint was planted in buried pots, to check its spread - these pots will be lifted out of the ground at the end of the summer. Space was reserved for parsley, echinacea, and hot peppers; we'll plant these in mid-May.
Seed Starting & Potting up:
Ellie and Chloe joined me to prepare flats for watermelon and cucumber seeds. We had a regular assembly line going: punching holes in cups, filling them with the "special dirt" (i.e. the dirt that you're not allowed to use to make mud pies) and planting seeds. Finally, we finished the afternoon with an all-call potting sprint. I think we potted up nearly all of the Orange Bell peppers in less than five minutes! Sarah R. took some more pepper seedlings home to finish the process on her back porch.
The image below illustrates a good idea executed poorly:
The good idea: disinfecting seed-starting materials before planting. Reason: when starting seeds, one should use sterile (i.e. store-bought) potting mix, and sterilize any pots with weak bleach solution. The bad idea: carrying out said good idea in one's newly-remodeled bathroom.
As a result of the mud bath, the bathtub acquired a ring of new and horrifying dimensions. Then, the person who remodeled the bathroom (a.k.a. the other human occupant of the house) was appalled at not only the mess, but the fact that I left the bleach bottle on the new slate floor.
No damage, thank goodness.
Here is Vernon supervising seed trays drying in the sun:
This post is a recap of the fall planting, intended for our record-keeping.
For the fall garden, we sowed some seeds and planted starts from the Chattanooga Food Bank's Fall Planting Workshop on September 8, 2010. The plant list is at the end of this post.
The Food Bank's workshop was great in some ways: for $15, we started 4 whole flats - and they kept in the greenhouse until the were ready to transplant. Given the pace of the fall semester, it was especially nice that we didn't have to baby the seedlings! We picked up the seedlings on October 5th and planted them within a couple of days.
We didn't know exactly what to expect from the weeks ahead...
I thought that we'd get to harvest more before the dark days of winter... boy, were we wrong! Although there we were able to pick cilantro and lettuce, there was just not enough time between early October and the first cold weather for most plants to mature.
For future reference: if we want a fall crop of brassicas (broccoli, kale) we need to start them in August and have them in the ground by mid-September. The Food Bank's workshop will be useful for acquiring cold-hardy starts (broccoli, kale, onions and garlic). But: we will expect these plants to overwinter for a March harvest. At some point, I'll write another post to discuss our first experience of overwintering crops.
Fall/Winter Plant List:
Sown: lettuce (several varieties), kale (lacinato; blue scotch), peas, and carrots.
The school calendar doesn't really follow the agricultural calendar anymore, it seems... we are going back to work, but the garden isn't done. Here is what to expect in the upcoming weeks. I realize that there is a lot in this email. Please read at your leisure and at minimum, please respond to items III and IV. Not to stifle your creativity, of course: feel free to respond with any other thoughts, especially if something below sounds like sheer lunacy. :)
I. Last GROUP harvests and thereafter:
SATURDAY, AUGUST 14 - picking as usual.
MONDAY, AUGUST 16 - LAST GROUP HARVEST. Let someone know if you can't go; we'll save you something. Highlight: digging up the sweet potatoes.
AFTER Monday, gardeners should feel free to pick at any time. If there is something you're saving for, DO EMAIL the group and let everyone know. It is important to communicate what you want to get out of the last 6-8 weeks of the warm-season plants. Don't feel bad for making a request; if you don't speak up, no one will know, and then someone will end up picking things only to keep the plants healthy.
At this point, please do not invite members of the community to go and take what they want anytime. We can reevaluate when we know (a) our group's ability to use the produce and (b) how prolific the remaining plants will be in the upcoming weeks. In 2009, we were overwhelmed with tomatoes in August because we planted two determinate varieties whose fruit all matured at 55-80 days. The heaviest harvest days coincided with the first weeks of school. This year, we have mostly indeterminate plants, which a measured supply of tomatoes until the plants are killed by disease or frost. For planning purposes, I do want to have a general, anecdotal sense of how much the plants are producing through the end of their season, even if we're not weighing harvests or even picking at the same time. This will help determine the number of gardeners in future summers and which plants are a good match for our garden desires. For now, let's share bounty with the community by bringing extras to the office and offering some basil cuttings at the "open house"...
II. Garden "open house":
Wednesday after Faculty Normal (time TBD). If you want to, hang out in the garden, prune basil, and answer questions from interested community members. The idea here is to communicate what labor and benefit is involved in our community garden and to generate a "waiting list" of interested gardeners (space permitting).
III. LET ME KNOW if you're "in" or "out" for fall planting...
In Tennessee, autumn-to-winter is a great time for cool-season crops like lettuce, spinach, and kale. What you're getting into: fall crops may be planted between now and Sept. 15; and will harvested (roughly) between Oct. 15 and Thanksgiving. Final cleanup will take place before Christmas break. If you are "out" for the fall, it does not mean that you lose your summer spot - but to keep your summer spot, you must assist with the cleanup of the summer garden. Speaking of which...
IV. ...End-of-summer Cleanup!
When school begins, it is harder to find time, and no longer are we motivated by the anticipation of the first delicious tomato. But cleanup and soil care are the most important factors for the success of next summer's garden. Because it is unlikely that we'll find a weekend when everyone can devote a day to garden work, please choose what fits your schedule and email the group to "sign up" for you're able to do (or add something I missed).
Now through Labor Day: Ideal for people who will NOT be involved with fall planting.
- Till cucumber area in upper tier - Bag the pile of vegetable waste and completely remove diseased plant material to trash - Cleanup the tool shed area to the Hall's water spigot: trash, fallen branches, weed trees, etc. - Cut back weed trees on upper fence - Weedeating around perimeter
Mid-September through October: Ideal for people involved in the fall, but possible tasks if the beginning of school is all-consuming.
- Remove vines, soil amendment in middle tier - Pull, bag, and trash tomato/eggplant/pepper vines - Soil amendment in lower tier - Planting of cover crops or heavy leaf mulching