Friday, November 14, 2014

It's a Food-for-all!!

Fenceline planting project, 2015 season. For the last 4 or 5 years I have been trying to bring purpose to the under utilized area along the north fence line at Eco Gardens. One year aaI had minor success with popcorn and pumpkins, but for the most part the projects have been a bust. The reasons? Not enough advanced preparation and not enough seasonA6long love. The area is heavily populated with invasive plant an like buttercup and comfrey, it is out of normal watering range, and I have always had other projects going that took my time and attention. This season I am hoping to change all that. My goal is to prepare and plant this area with crops for all the gardeners. Summer squash will be one of the main crops. Most gardeners want summer squash and we all plant some in our plots. It does well, takes up a third of our space, and then produces more than we need. By not free up individual plot space by having q community squash patch?  In

Monday, April 1, 2013

S.O.A.P. 2013, Getting Started

Matthew's Credo: Eden was a Garden, NOT a farm.
© Matthew
Potatoes anyone?? Ashley is putting the finishing touches on our potato rows in the team garden. Learning from the mistakes we (I) made last year, this year we made some awesome potato beds. Should be rolling in potatoes this year. Purples, Golds, and Reds! 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Jardin de Don Mateo

Matthew's Credo: Eden was a Garden, NOT a farm.
© Matthew

This first batch of photos was taken by my (crappy) cell phone camera. Sorry about that.
Next time I will bring a real camera.

 For me, one of the funnest parts of gardening is the planning. The only thing I like better than sitting in a coffee shop on a cold, rainy, Pacific Northwest (Zone7-8) winter day, planning how I will use my small space, is actually taking the drawn plan and creating it in the garden.
At The Evergreen Community Garden, the plots are 12 ft. by 12 ft., so it is creativity and quality above quantity. To the right is my initial garden plan on graph paper.
Today there was a little break in the rain and I was able to get about six hours of work in at my little garden plot.

 On the left is a picture of the actual plot. Last fall I sowed some cover crop, and in addition to that, a huge number of non-intentional plants (formerly known as "weeds") grew in abundance. I left it all because the lush greenery protects from erosion through five to six months of pounding rain.
Amidst the protective greenery can be seen my first "Going Vertical" trials. Last fall I prepared a few pallets and planted them with strawberries for this season. I left them laying flat over the winter for two reasons: 1. To protect the soil below, 2. To let the soil in the pallets set instead of wash away, 3.So the dirt-filled pallets could be inhabited by earthworms all the way to the top (which indeed they are!)  

So...according to the "Master Plan" the picture to the right depicts the area I called "Zone 1." This is where I want to do my vertical gardening trials. This is situated on the west side of the plot, and the plot is next to a pathway, so the only thing the vertical portion will shade out is the grassy pathway. My ONLY goal today, the first day of work, was to get the pallets set into place and maybe establish a prepared area for peas and beans. The soil is still too wet to do anything more without compacting it.

Here is a picture of the vertical planting in place. The steps I took were:
1. Excavate the area where the pallets would stand and the  area that would serve as a pathway. I did not want to leave any good soil uselessly buried or compacted, so I piled it to the side in advance of the next phase.
2. Put a layer of sand in the excavated area and stand the pallets in place. These soil-filled, waterlogged pallets were VERY heavy.
3. Level them out the best I could.
4. Fill in pathway with wood chips and a light layer of sand. Even with three years of soil-building effort the soil is still heavy in clay so the wood chips will add some beneficial carbon and the sand will 
provide coarser parent material for improved drainage.

Here you see the light layer of sand I put over the wood chips. It's easier on the feet and it improves the drainage in our clay laden soil. Also the beginnings of the bean trellis. Try to imagine it a few months from now dripping with green beans.

Bean Trellis taking shape.

I like using the biodegradable twine because that plastic stuff is a nightmare. The twine breaks down in compost. That said, it also dissolves in the rainy weather, so to hold the trellis poles in place I used some old hose which is unsightly so I  then wrapped it with twine

Most of the plants that I transplanted last fall (courtesy of the amazing Gardener Linda) seemed to survive the winter. 
As a finishing touch, I planted some new plants 
into the tops of the pallets.

That is all I got done on Day One. Notice the smaller pallets to the left and right? There are a few strawberry plants in them as well, but I hope to plant some salad greens into them as well. Update to follow.

**Side Note** For the 2011 and 2012 seasons I was garden coordinator and did not have a plot of my own, but both seasons this plot was abandoned midway through. Too late to really do anything with it, but with enough time to do some soil building work. I am very pleased that now, three years later, I am finally a regular gardener and the plot I have been working on all this time is available. 
Here it is as pictured when I first prepped it midway through the 2011 season.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Student Organized Agricultural Project at Evergreen Community Garden

Student Organized Agricultural Project at Evergreen Community Garden
(Part of the Evergreen Community Garden Club, a Registered Student Organization)

Student Operated Agricultural Project is a GO for Year Two*.
*Garden Tip #1: Until the soil dries out more, the best way to take care of the soil is to leave it alone
Working on wet soil will compact it, killing the soil food web and making later work even harder.

Some of the 2012 S.OA.P. members, breaking ground
We have a HUGE plot in Evergreen Community Gardens dedicated to people who do not want an individual plot, but still want to get their hands dirty at Evergreen’s garden. It works great for anyone who thinks they might be gone for part of the summer, isn’t sure they want their own plot, can commit some time, but aren’t sure how much, and people who just like the idea of working on a team in a larger plot, with more crop options.

Last year it was a lot of fun. We started with around 10 gardeners. A few moved out of the area and we ended up with way more of some food than we could use. Some things do really well, and some things kind of flop, so we learn as we go. Every season is different and there are no “experts”.
Gardener Ashley with Baby Sunflower
  •  10 to 20 gardeners
  • Regularly scheduled meetings especially during the planning and work party stages, but come and go as you please.
  • Everyone who participates shares in the harvest
  • As of today the soil is still too wet to work but there are several things we can start on.

  • Here is a general list of gardeny things we can do:
  • Get together and create our crop plan
    • Go through seed catalogs
    • Decide what we want to plant (so we can get seeds) and where we want to plant them (crop rotation from last year)
    • Draw a plan on garden map
    • Make a “To Do” check list to help guide gardeners who come at different times
    • Starting seed in homemade paper pots
    • Tool familiarization
  • Start seeds in the greenhouse (can start now, on-going through the season)
    • Some good things to start now are hearty greens (kale, collards etc), onions, etc. 
      •     Working the soil – creating seed beds
    Bean Trellis - Before
    Bean Trellis - During
    • Clear out old beds
    • Dig and/or double dig
    • Add soil amendments (compost, etc.)
    • Let rest for a week or so, then
    • Plant our starts

  • Garden Feng Shui
    • Creative use of space
    • Vertical gardening
    • Shape of the beds
    • Ornamental/Insectary borders (flowers and herbs)
Rose, holding one of the many harvest baskets
  • Culinary herb patch
    • What herbs do we want to grow
  • Tending and maintenance
    • Watering
    • Weeding
    • Thinning
    • Pruning
    • Snacking
    • Harvesting
    • Garden Potlucks
  • Helping with Community Garden upkeep
    • Doing our part for the larger garden
    • Pitching ideas/helping out with Harvest Festival

 The S.O.A.P. garden group is forming now. There is still time to sign up. The first step is to
put together an Interest List.

All interested people should contact garden coordinator, Ali M. at and she will compile a list of people interested in the Community Plot, or contact Matthew at . Our first preliminary planning meeting will be some time in late March - we are waiting to see what the status of the greenhouse expansion project is.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

A Companion Planting Guide I find useful

There are several companion planting guides out there. Here is one that I like. What I hope to do soon is to combine the many and various planting guides into one document, but for now, this one is a good start...

(Click on images for larger view)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Posts run from newest to oldest. Scroll down for earlier posts.

When I went through the Agriculture Program at The Evergreen State College my focus of interest was on urban agriculture. Because of the problems bees and other pollinators are having in urban settings, I wanted to design a project that created resources for insects. The small corner directly south of the Pole Barn at the organic farm was the closest thing to a "back yard" setting I could find. Below is a pictorial record of a ten month project to convert the area from a junk pile to a bee yard. Posts go from most recent (finished) to oldest (the site as I found it). I keep hoping someone at the farm will take up the ball on this...there were more plans on the drawing board, and creative contributions from faculty/manager, Stephen Bramwell, which were never completed.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


Today was one of the highlights of my entire summer. A wild honey bee swarm took up residence it the empty box in the bee yard! One of the P.S.A. team members asked me how much I thought it had to do with all the flowers I planted there and I (facetiously) answered: "Everything!" Truth be told, I have no way of knowing why these rambunctious bees chose that spot. My best guess is that it was a combination of things. The fact that the box was still there in the first place. The little patties of bee food that were still placed inside the hive. Maybe the bee attractive landscape. One thing I am pretty sure of...these bees would have given it a pass if it had still been a junk yard. In absence of proof to the contrary, I am taking this as the ultimate validation of my project. Yeah bees!!

Friday, August 5, 2011

The End.

(Thank you to Vanessa for the help with those final pictures!)
The project I started back in November/December 2010 draws to a close, at least for me. I don't know what will happen now to the ground I cleared and planted but it is out of my hands. This project has been a lot of fun and a lot of work but I learned a lot too.

The soil in Area One was heavily amended with vermicompost and the farm's windrow compost. I went a little heavy on purpose for two reasons; One, I thought that soil was in pretty bad shape having been covered by an impermeable tarp for who knows how long and Two, I intended to plant that area heavily in an effort to out establish intentional competition before the invasives had time to re-establish. In a normal back-yard setting you might not be able to get this kind of plant density. Though the plantings did seriously deter the Morning Glory (though did not eliminate it), there were some drawbacks to planting this heavily. In this picture, taken in late July, the chamomile has been cut out. It was pretty played out and going to seed and then we had a big rain storm and it lodged over on top of the purple basil. The echinacea planted between the calendula and the dill was more or less smothered. I still think it will make a showing but probably not this year. It was also hard to get in and weed out the unintentional plants.

(Thank you to Vanessa for the help with those final pictures!)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Of Wind, Water, and Unexpected Harvests...

Many thanks to farm hands Lauren and Kyle, as well as to the unnamed random visitor to the farm, for your help weeding Area Two this week. Much appreciated.

The new insect group examines the honey bee hive. This hive has had a hard time. It was thriving in February (see This Post ) but then all of March, April and May were unusually rainy and cold.

During those cold, wet months the hive experienced mold, mildew, mites and ants. Meanwhile the queen seemed to be acting odd. The former bee group did what they could but in the end the hive started to falter.

After this examination the bee group pronounced this hive nearly dead. My theory is that because the queen was acting strange the hive swarmed taking a good part of the population with it. At the same time, the queen did not produce a replacement population so as the worker bees died of natural causes there were fewer and fewer to replace them. The bees did not die off of unnatural causes they simply were not replaced.
 Bad news for the honey bees, but on the bright side, the overall bee and pollinator 
health seems to be thriving. Here are some pictures of the activity in the bee yard. 
The flowers are swarming with insects. It is gratifying to see all the activity.
A bee says hello to the calendula.

Here is a bee coming in for a landing on the phacelia.


On Thursday I came in to find that several flowers had been harvested out of the bee yard. The cut stumps of phacelia and sunflower were the most obvious. In consulting with the farm manager I discovered that the PSA students had harvested the flowers based on a "misunderstanding." There was a rumor that these flowers had been offered up for sale at the campus farmers market. The harvest of a few flowers was not a huge deal but the trampling of the planted area was unacceptable.

"Too 'In Your Face'." - Farm Manag

It was suggested to me by farm staff that I make a sign for the area to reduce the possibility of new misunderstandings. Here was my first sign.
The farm manager objected to my first sign as being too
"In your face", too big, and too close to the path. She
suggested a smaller sign, set
back in the yard.

This was
my second sign. So far there have been no objections to this one.

Notice the soaker hoses in the above picture. I planted several herbs and ground cover in Area Three and am experimenting with different watering strategies.

Another challenge was the big wind storm we had on Thursday. I came in Friday to find all the sunflowers lopped over onto the dill. I ended up spending a good part of the day tying them up to supports. Since sunflowers track with the sun I tried not to tie them too high which might have impeded their movement.

In the community garden next door a large sunflower also blew down and it snapped off at the base. None of the bee yard sunflowers broke and I think I was able to save most of them. I attribute their survival to the presence of the dill in front of them and also to the fact that I had done a heavy watering that day so their whole root mass leaned with them and helped prevent snapping off.


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Amelia's Phacelias

Click on flower pictures for a larger view


At the suggestion of one of the greatest PSA students ever I planted a patch of Phacelia in the bee yard.

This variety, Phacelia tanacetifolia also known as Lacey Phacelia is a gorgeous plant that the bees go wild for. 

 The foliage is beautiful too and it was a joy to watch this plant grow. Now it is coming into bloom.

Many thanks for the great suggestion, Amelia! I call the patch "Amelia's Phacelias" and you have made a lot of  bees very happy.