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)