Thursday, July 24, 2014

Last Planting Day...Almost

On Tuesday, hoping for some production into autumn at the Barns Garden, I planted some Jade bush beans (est. 53 days), Provider bush beans (50 days), Winner kohlrabi (45 days), Easter Egg radishes (30 days), Red Russian kale (25 days baby, 50 mature), and Tyee spinach (40 days). The only planting remaining to be done there is the garlic, which we'll harvest in perhaps a couple weeks when there's a little more brown on the leaves. We've stopped watering to allow the bulb wrappers to dry partially in the ground. We'll further dry the bulbs in my unheated garage. We'll leave a few inches of stem left on the bulbs, not washing them but only carefully brushing off the majority of the soil. We'll donate about 80% of our harvest to SEEDS or a local food pantry, then plant the remaining 20% sometime in October in anticipation of a similar harvest next year.

Overall plant growth this year is mostly mediocre, not surprising given the poor soil we inherited and our sparse use of even strictly organic soil amendments.  And that's OK: we want to show what can and cannot be done with minimal investments.  We do have some promising successes. Our tomatoes are healthy and have reasonably good fruit set; our beans are strong and full of bloom; and except for deer damage, most of our other crops are on par with the norm for our region though our investments are meager. Our methods work.
On Tuesday morning there was still no water available, so I used four of the jugs Rick had brought from home to water the seeds in. I refilled those and three more of my own, thinking I would need them to do a better job that afternoon, but when I got there, the generator and pump were running and there was good pressure to our hose!  So everything but the garlic got a really welcome drink of water from the on-site well.  Friends from SEEDS are doing their best to keep us informed on when we can expect water to be available.

The water issue, though, remains critical to our success in fulfilling the main objective of our garden: to demonstrate and teach methods of home food production that involve no power equipment, minimal initial investment of both time and money, little ongoing maintenance (e.g., weeding), and inexpensive, strictly organic care of the soil and the plants it supports. Success in that endeavor, unfortunately, in our region with its sandy soils and sporadic rainfall, presumes the availability of a reliable water supply beyond that of direct rainfall. Most homes have at least one such supply readily available: either an external "hose bib" offering full-time well or municipal water on demand; a sloped roof large enough to fill barrels, cisterns, etc., with sufficient rain water; or both.  At our Barns Garden, we have neither. Thus, regardless of other advantages our site may have, it falls short of our goal of offering a gardening environment representative of that available to the typical home gardener. Being truly representative, providing a realistic model of the successes and failures, resources and deficiencies, that home gardeners may anticipate, is the essence of our main mission as volunteers at this site.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Mid-July Updates

Earlier this week (7/14/14), Rick and I divided a few hours between the Leelanau Community Garden and the one at the Historic Barns Park.  At the former, Rick and Lead Volunteer Kathy Lewis mowed for a while to perk the place up a little, and we replanted a sad-looking bed of beets of which no more than a few percent had germinated. The potato plants were being consumed with gusto by a small army of Colorado potato beetles, and the 6 hills of cantaloupe planted July 7 were just beginning to break ground. Adding to our pessimistic thoughts on the future of project is the prospect of needing volunteer financing to pay the electric bill for operating the pump beginning next year: a mere $18.46 per month to provide a maximum flow of only about one gallon per minute. Surely a community that benefits from donation of an annual average of over 800 lb of fresh, organically grown produce could cough up that much. Sad.

At the volunteer-financed Historic Barns MG/SEEDS Garden, our main concern proved to be...what else...water. On that day, the pump failed. Our good friends at SEEDS have been working the problem, though; by today, someone had filled our water jugs and done a good bit of watering. I’m not sure which of our friends to thank, but Thanks! The squash, onions, garlic, beans, tomatoes, and carrots all appeared to be in good shape. No new deer damage to report! Timing being almost everything in gardening, though, we missed our green shell pea harvest season--not a very large one, but still a loss. We’re letting them dry on the vines; hopefully a local food pantry will find a good home for them.

And here at home, my vole problem continues: 
Most of my potatoes look OK--no beetles!  But here are some of my Dark Red Norlands
Need I say more?