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.

 

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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

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.

Why Did My Plants Die?

ImageMala Burt posted a poem she could relate to:

Why Did My Plant Die?
by Geoffrey B. Charlesworth

You walked too close. You trod on it.
You dropped a piece of sod on it.
You hoed it down. You weeded it.
You planted it the wrong way up.
You grew it in a yogurt cup
But you forgot to make a hole;
The soggy compost took its toll.
September storm. November drought.
It heaved in March, the roots popped out.
You watered it with herbicide.
You scattered bonemeal far and wide.
Attracting local omnivores,
Who ate your plant and stayed for more.
You left it baking in the sun
While you departed at a run
To find a spade, perhaps a trowel,
Meanwhile the plant threw in the towel.
You planted it with crown too high;
The soil washed off, that explains why.
Too high pH. It hated lime.
Alas it needs a gentler clime. You left the root ball wrapped in plastic.
You broke the roots. They’re not elastic.
You walked too close. You trod on it.
You dropped a piece of sod on it.
You splashed the plant with mower oil.
You should do something to your soil.
Too rich. Too poor. Such wretched tilth.
Your soil is clay. Your soil is filth.
Your plant was eaten by a slug.
The growing point contained a bug.
These aphids are controlled by ants,
Who milk the juice, it kills the plants.
In early spring your garden’s mud.
You walked around! That’s not much good.
With heat and light you hurried it.
You worried it. You buried it.
The poor plant missed the mountain air:
No heat, no summer muggs up there.
You overfed it 10-10-10.
Forgot to water it again.
You hit it sharply with the hose.
You used a can without a rose.
Perhaps you sprinkled from above.
You should have talked to it with love.
The nursery mailed it without roots.
You killed it with those gardening boots.
You walked too close. You trod on it.
You dropped a piece of sod on it.

We Went to a Garden Party

Today was the second Garden Party for the St. Michaels Community Garden. It was just a year ago that the garden was completed and beds planted. Today was sunny with a chilly breeze, but we gathered inside the St. Michaels Library for refreshments and conversation before going outside to take a look at the garden.

garden party 4

Most beds have been turned over, and many have been planted. Our cool spring has put us behind last year, but seeds are sprouting and so far the squirrels and deer are not a problem. It wasn’t long before people who had not planned to work on their beds were pulling weeds and planting lettuces grown and donated by a smiling Carol Bean.

Carol Bean and lettuce starts

Reverend Emmanuel Johnson spoke about the garden as a gift to the community. He said the garden’s effects are rippling out in ways we don’t know. For many of us the friendships we are making while we tend our garden beds has been the unexpected harvest.