Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Community Garden Update - April 2019

Work continues on the community garden. I've been working in the garden for 2-4 hours a day, five days a week  (it would be more but the weather forces me to take a break). I've gotten sunburn and splinters and have been coated in a layer of thick dust, but I absolutely love it!

In the last 2 weeks, the beds have been cleared out and the majority of the dead weeds raked from the property.

I've been removing the tattered landscape fabric from the planting beds and trimming it to salvage the pieces that are still good.

Some look better than others. When it's patched like this, at least it's doubled up in some places. This is just one way I'm trying to extend the garden budget.
Progress has slowed a bit because the entire neighborhood is getting new roofs. Remember that huge hail storm last year? Hail can do some serious damage.

Anyway, the roofing company has designated the community garden parking lot as their staging area.

At least there is a little room on one side to walk...
Since the parking lot is taken over and everything nearby is considered a tow-away zone, I have to carry in all my tools from a couple blocks away. NOT fun. I think I'm now looking into getting a garden cart to use.

So things are still moving along, just with a little more effort.

A local Boy Scout troop has been coming in once a week do do some work to earn their service hours. I REALLY appreciate the help! It would take me several hours (or days!!!) to move the dirt from all those planting beds!

Remember this tall planting bed that was falling apart?

It was disassembled and its soil was moved to other beds. The one that was leaning has also been taken apart.

The lumber was saved and they will both be rebuilt at a much shorter height. I plan for these to be used for planting herbs for community use.

I didn't realize the garden beds were made from privacy fence slats until I started taking them apart.
By reusing the materials available so far, I have been able to complete 5 of the smaller square planting beds with lining and soil.

The bottoms of the planting beds are lined with cardboard.
The exposed wood has been scrubbed down to remove old stain, splinters and dust. I'll be staining them this week (weather permitting) using donated stain.

The city has "free mulch" days and one of them is coming up this weekend. Although I can't bring in a whole truckload (or three) of mulch until June (when the roofers clear out), I plan to get several large containers of mulch every time there is a free day and use it to top off the planting beds. The soil dries out so quickly in this dry climate and the mulch really helps to keep it moist for the plants.

The rock pile just keeps growing. It's amazing how much rock was in the soil!

My winter sowing is coming along. I'm not sure where we would be able to have a plant sale now that the parking lot is fenced off, but if nothing else, there will be LOTS of plants for the garden!!!

I have several herbs spouting...

Winter sown cilantro.

Winter-sown dill...though what is that large leaf in there???

I've planted cilantro, dill, basil, oregano, chives and mint. All but the oregano have sprouted already (but I just planted the oregano last week so it probably just needs more time).

The "Red Siberian" tomatoes (from Botanical Interests) and "Early Jalapeno" (by Burpee) are also coming up...unusual since tomatoes and peppers are usually the last sprouts to appear. Perhaps it's because of the varieties I've chosen.

Some Red Siberian tomato sprouts.

I had to cover them last week for a blizzard/snow/freeze (I brought some inside, too) and they all pulled through just fine!

Slowly, slowly, slowly, improvements are happening...

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Quietman said...

I put in 21' tall beds because I have English mastiffs and they will just walk right through something only 6-8 inches tall.

Might I make a suggestion on filling these beds? I combined the hugelkutur and back to eden approach in my beds.

What I borrowed from hugelkultur- The idea is to fill the bottom 6+ inches of the bed with logs, branches and twigs. I pack a bunch of "green stuff" in between. Things like cut grass, leaves and even manure. Only put in enough to keep your actual soil depth at 9-12 inches. The logs and branches will act as "water reservoirs" when wet. They will also slowly break down over time. The green stuff is to prevent nitrogen leeching the first year.

One advantage is you don't have to add as much dirt initially. However, as they slowly break down, the soil level will drop, so you need to add soil each year. Which, if you add compost each year is a benefit. You can find free logs on Craigslist every week. I stayed away from pine because it's so soft and breaks down rapidly.

For the Back to Eden approach I just got wood chips from the free mulch pile here in Castle Rock. I typically run about 3" deep instead of the recommended 4+ inches. But that's personal preference.

With this combination I've only had to water once every 4-7 days in the middle of July and August (drip system). Other months, it can be 5-10 days. I'd have less watering if I added more wood chips.

And BTW, I do use the intensive / square foot gardening planting specs to get more food per sq foot.

You will need to add some fertilizer the first 2 years, but after that, you shouldn't need to fertilize. Even though my beds are on hard packed clay, when you turn the bed soil, the earthworms still found their way in and the beds are full of them. I never added worms from an external source.

The only real issue I've had is the plants are growing so large, the square foot spacing on peppers, tomatoes, and bush squash is too small for the size the plants get. I've had pepper plants get 4' tall with so many peppers they start to break the branches if they aren't supported in a cage.

I had tomato plants that grew well out of the top of their heavy duty tomato cages and actually pulled the cages out of the ground.

Best of luck with the community garden.

Trish said...

I would like to try to hugelkultur method. I just can't seem to find enough wood around here. But I will be trying the Back to Eden method. We're rebuilding the two beds about 16" high so still plenty of space for wood. And since they will be mainly used for herbs, they shouldn't need space for very deep roots.

Thank you so much for your input! I haven't been able to garden on a larger scale like this and every summer it seems to be a battle against drought, intense heat and hail so every bit of information you can offer from your experience out a great deal.