Think About a Winter Garden

There are several plants that can go into the garden now as seeds and will reward you with greens into the fall and, if you’re lucky, up to  Christmas and beyond.

seeds for fall planting

The yellow wax beans are finished in my community garden bed. I was away for a week and just picked the last of them a few days ago. They were old so I cooked them a long time with a slice of bacon, but they were too stringy to eat. It was worth a shot, but they ended up in the garbage. I didn’t put them in my compost bin as they had fat from the bacon on them.

I’ll pull those beans up in the next few days and plant some kale and lettuce. I’ve already done that at home and here are some photos of Russian Red Kale which is a terrific green to plant now. Kale is one of the healthiest things you can eat. You can even make Kale Chips out of the leaves. These seeds were planted 8-14-14 and a week later had secondary leaves.

Russian Red Kale 8-14-14

The tomatoes in my community garden bed are still producing so they won’t get pulled out yet. When I do, I will make sure the cut up the plants before they go into the compost bin.

So…consider a fall/winter garden. You will be rewarded.

 

Compost Bin Update

On Saturday morning Penny Haase, Robert Messick, Lynda Barrow, Val Kenn Gray and Mala and Roger Burt chopped, turned and cleaned up the compost bins. There is already compost in some of them.

organizing compost bins

Some reminders are in order.

1. It speeds up the composting if the things you put in the bins are cut into smaller pieces. Whole tomato plants, squash plants, for example, should be cut into smaller pieces and spread on the pile. You can use a shovel to break up a pile of debris you want to add to the bin. Don’t put big sticks in the compost bins. Put them next to or behind the bins and someone will get rid of them.

This is a photo of what we don’t want.

compost no-no

2. Do not put trash in the compost bins. This includes plant markers, bags from soil amendments (composted manure, LeafGro, etc.) Here is a photo of some stuff we pulled out of the compost bins. There is a trash can inside the shed. Please use it or take your trash home.

compost no-no's 2

3. This is what the bins should look like.

compost ready to work

Thanks for your cooperation.

Penny Haase shared beets from her bed with the workers. It pays to show up!

Penny Haase and beets

Garden Maintenance

Garden Maintenance

In any garden maintenance is an ongoing issue. In a community garden maintenance requires people working together. Bridges Landscaping Services delivered a second load of chipped wood to the garden and on Sunday morning five ladies showed up to work. In a little over an hour they had moved all the mulch to the paths between the garden beds. One more load from Bridges should be enough to cover all the open spaces and that maintenance job will be finished for this year.

mulching garden 6-1-13 Bev and Pennie

While we were dumping barrows full of chips, we had to pick up trash from around some beds. Broken rain guages, lots of plant markers, pulled weeds, an occasional stake and a couple of tomato cages. All of us need to be mindful of keeping the garden clean and tidy. For example, if we each pulled weeds from the paths around our beds, we could eliminate most Round-up spraying. That would be a fantastic goal.

mulching comm garden#1 on 6-2-13

Working on projects like this is a terrific way to meet the gardeners. Above are Val Kenn Gray, Pennie Haase, Bev Pratt and Mala Burt.  Meg Ingold helped and took the photos. Bobby Malzone, who mows the grass in the garden common areas, stopped by on his bicycle. He was interested in the composting process and wondered if we could get a bag for the mower. That would supply us with green layers for the bins. Bobby had already spread some mulch a day earlier. We were grateful. Maintenance is the job of the entire community garden and every little bit that anyone does helps our garden shine.

Kudos to Jack Gray who, on a recent hot day, dug through clay, brick and oyster shells to install our new sign.

community-Garden-sign

 

 

 

Composting 101

Judy Shuler, a Master Composter trained by Penn State, presented the do’s and don’ts of composting to a group at the St. Michaels Community Garden. Some of us who thought we were composting, now know what we need to do differently in our home piles. After her overview, Judy went to the garden and we began to build a compost pile.

Our bins are full of garden refuse that has been just thrown in the bins. This is not composting. Judy started by pulling the weeds out of one of the empty bins.

cleaning-bin-#2

The green layer of weeds and some green refuse in one of the other bins was chopped or bruised with a flat bottomed spade and thrown back in to make the first layer – a green layer. A little water was added.

chopping-green-layer

A bag of leaves was then added (a brown layer). This was easier than chopping up the dried stuff in the bin next door. That will be for another day. Some of what is in the bins has lots of soil on the roots. Judy says no soil should be added to the layers. Some of the stalks are so large they will have to be cut into small pieces or they will not decompose. Root balls may need to be removed.

brown-layer-added

The leaves – the brown layer –  was wetted, stirred with a fork until all the leaves were damp. The boards at the front of the bin were then replaced.

wetting-the-layers

This is the start of a real compost pile at our garden. Clearly we need to have more of our gardeners learn how to put things in the bins and how to build layers. Just throwing stuff in the bins is NOT composting. We also found that someone had thrown crab shells in one of the bins and hope that was not one of our gardeners. There is a list posted on the bins about what can be put in and what cannot.

To compost we need to build layers, there needs to be a certain level of dampness, and the pile needs to be stirred. It won’t be hard if more of us learn how to do it properly.

Judy Shuler is passionate about composting and will come back to help us again. We need to get as many people as possible on board with this process so we can reap the brown gold that is the end result. Our garden beds will all benefit.