Friday, June 12, 2009

Gardening at Nickelsville

Tuesday, June 9, my new gardening friend Crystal and I paced off a square of ground out at Nickelsville, a homeless encampment planning to become a sustainable eco-village. The 20' by 36' space is going to be an organic garden, built lasagna-style from the ground up.

The first stage will be laying down cardboard and newspaper to smother the grass and weeds, start them decaying into compost, and attract whatever earthworms live in the vicinity. I left a bucket to begin collecting compostables, which will be spread between layers of peat moss, until a bed at least a foot thick is built up by the end of summer. Then we'll spread a final layer of finished compost and topsoil, and be ready to plant fall/winter crops.

Using cardboard, newspaper, and compostable garbage in building the garden will also help the Nickelsville garbage bill!

We need many donations to help build the garden:

  • Cardboard
  • Newspaper
  • Peat moss
  • Compost
  • Compost bin
  • Worm bin
  • Worms
  • Rain barrel(s)
  • Seep hose(s)
The most important thing right now is a rain barrel. We want the garden to be an addition to the lives of the Nickelodeons -- not a competitor for water.

The health department has told the Nickelodeons not to discard waste water in the bushes. Once we have some loam built up, however, we can have a gray-water rain barrel that feeds water into the soil (up to 720 gallons a week). Anyone experienced in using gray-water in home gardens is welcome to advise!

Yes, we're still going!

A lot of plants died in our unusually cold winter, including some perennials. It took me awhile to get the spirit up to start again this year -- but I did!

Early in May, our favorite frat (Sigma Beta Rho) came by and spread the compost I'd made over the winter, and on Mother's Day I began planting anew in the garden. I will post current photos eventually!

Current plants:

  • Tomato: One each Sweet Million, Sweet 100, Early Girl, Oregon Spring -- and a dozen volunteers coming up from the compost, being slowly thinned out. :)
  • One hill of zucchini -- planted more, along with cucumbers, but rats dug all the rest up!
  • A forest of red orache (aka mountain spinach) sown from the seeds I saved off the one plant grown last year. I sowed them thickly because I didn't think I'd kept the seeds well -- then most of them sprouted! I'm slowly thinning them.
  • A forest of catnip from last year.
  • The rhubarb from last year.
  • One kale from last year, grown big and wild and gone to seed: almost ready to pick off and replant the seeds.
  • Volunteers from last year's plants: magenta spreen, borage, red russian kale, something that may be squash.
  • A couple of french marigolds (had more, dug up by rats).
  • 5 Easy Wave petunias, won in a contest! Were 6, one killed by rats; one other little hero has been dug up 3 times, replanted and keeps bouncing back!
  • I planted some beans and guess what dug them up?
Herbs surviving from last year:
  • The rosemary bush -- and it finally bloomed this spring!
  • Most of the lavender -- I thought I'd lost my favorite, the gray lady, but she's coming back.
  • The garden sage -- and it is blooming! It's not supposed to bloom -- but I love it. :)
  • The golden sage.
  • Oregano, both green and gold; blending beautifully!
  • Spearmint --- of course! :D
  • One of the three thyme bushes -- blooming nicely.
  • Chives.
  • Parsley.
Flowers surviving:
  • My grape hyacinths were blooming again, but some vandal dumped their container. :( I have salvaged the bulbs and will replant this fall.
  • One of the miniature roses had survived, was beginning to thrive -- then was stolen. :(
  • One of the three chrysanthemums is coming back, but hasn't bloomed yet this year.
  • Hoochy Mama (the heuchera) has survived! and is "blooming" (the leaves of the heuchera are much more impressive than the blooms).
  • The catmint is blooming bountifully!
About half of the strawberries survived, and a new half-dozen came up in the veggie bed. The first crop of the year is starting to ripen.

Friday, June 6, 2008

We're still here!

I apologize for the long absence from blogging -- but the garden is going strong!

End result, March 22March 22nd, the boys from Sigma Beta Rho came, helped dig over the whole veggie bed, spread all the compost I had made, add several bags of topsoil & some amendments, lay out a drip-watering system, haul off a LOT of trash, and set in some plants. End result on the left. (Built-up veggie bed held in by cardboard because request for wooden beams has not yet made it through the DESC budget process.)

Laying in the watering system. I haven't used it yet -- every time I begin to think "I'm going to have to water pretty soon" -- it rains. When I do have to water, though, it will go straight to the roots, not on the leaves, and we'll have less risk of downy mildew, I hope.

Of course, if things stay as cool as they've been so far, we may never have to worry about downy mildew.

Setting in the first plants. Lesson #1 of the year: Do harden-off plants you've started indoors, letting them transition to the outdoors slowly. A lot of my first starts didn't make it because I just moved them straight from indoors to outdoors. Ones properly hardened-off are thriving.

That would have been 20 hours of work for one person! And that's only if I was still as young as these guys!

The garden grew slowly over the next month, but as soon as things warmed up just a little it shot up like it had been coiling its springs. Below is a photo taken almost exactly two months later:

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Enough tomatoes already!

I have repotted the strongest of the tomato sprouts into larger pots: some newspaper pots, some recycled plastic containers, two of them from an oatmeal carton cut in half. Along with those that were begun in newspaper pots, I have, in the containers that they will be in until transplanted outside:

  • 3 Sweet Million
  • 3 Sun Cherry
  • 3 Brandywine
  • 2 Oregon Spring
  • 2 Early Girls
  • 1 Matina
  • 1 Florida Petite
  • 2 mystery tomatoes that I didn't label when I planted them
Crowded out of sight: 1 Brandywine, 1 Mystery Tomato

That is all that I am going to have room for, and then some! And I'm still sprouting some Marianna Peace and 4th of July tomatoes.

I've also potted one Rosa Bianca eggplant, and that's all the Rosa Biancas I want for my own garden.

Garden plan:
  • five tomatoes down the middle of the veggie bed
    (Brandywine / Oregon Spring / Matina / Early Girl / Brandywine)
  • in two tubs, one eggplant and three tomatoes
    (Rosa Bianca Eggplant / Oregon Spring : Early Girl / Marianna Peace)
  • one 4th of July tomato in a pot
  • upside-down hanging tomatoes: 3 Sweet Million, 2 Sun Cherry, a 4th of July; I might even try an Oregon Spring and an Early Girl upside down, unless somebody tells me I'm nuts.
I'm planning to give away the Florida Petite, one of the Sun Cherries, and one of the Brandywines as gifts. I would like to pot some more of the sprouts to give away: I still have three nice healthy Rosa Bianca sprouts, plus 3 Oregon Spring, 2 Brandywine, 1 Sweet Cherry and 1 Sweet Million; and I will (hopefully) also have more Marianna Peace and 4th of July than I can use. And I still want to sprout some more Florida Petite and pot them, as gifts. Unless I can give them away quickly, though, I may just plain run out of room. I've already run out of potting soil.

I started a small flat of geraniums and one of petunias today, in perlite. My first Amber Kiss viola is up! And Sid's catmint is sprouting!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

More! More!

I have tomato seedlings coming up! 3 Oregon Spring, 3 Brandywine, 3 Sun Cherry, 1 Sweet Million. And all Rosa Bianca eggplants have sprouted!

I did not take the spinach basket outside after all, because I found that the dill I took out has died.

I started a pot of habanero peppers for Wes - Red Savina, world's hottest pepper in 1994; 57,000 Scoville units.


Monday, January 21, 2008

In spite of what I said...

I wasn't going to start anything new for awhile... but I did. I recycled some of the non-sprouting peat pots to start 6 spearmint pots for Wes and 5 "226" eggplants for me. In soil-mix cells that I gave up on, I planted 4 Sweet Marjoram and 3 Stevia.

I was resolved to keep better track of which plant was which. I started out labeling everything by section: 9 pots of this, 9 pots of that, etc. Then some of the peat pots in the tray started sprouting before the others, and I moved them out to the light, and lost track of which section they came from. I sorted out and rearranged everything today, ending up with (including both peat pots and soil cells) 54 identified seedlings, 13 unidentified.

Three newspaper pots have sprouted! Those were only seeded 3 days ago! Add on soaking two days before that, it's still faster than anything in the trays.

The identification of the pots is tentative yet: I think I have one pot of Brandywines and two of Early Girls. I'll be able to tell for sure when they develop a bit more. I'm hoping I can sort the others out over time, too. :)

Hold the phone: one Oregon Spring cell in the trays just sprouted!

What's sprouting indoors

Of the seeds I started on January 9:

  • The Persian Garden Cress started coming up two days later, the scallions I planted in the other side of the flat started coming up two days after that. I am hoping that, with the daylight fluorescents, I can keep this flat indoors handy to the kitchen.
  • I had a wicker basket that I started plants in outside over the summer. In fall, I planted catnip in it. I also stuck one lone garlic bulb in when I couldn't figure out where else to put it. I was keeping the basket just outside my window, until somebody reached in and took all the healthy catnip plants, leaving only a few stragglers (and the garlic). I replanted in with dill and three more garlic cloves, planning also to keep this indoors by the kitchen. The dill started sprouting on the 13th and two more garlic shoots had poked up on the 17th. The whole bed also bloomed with fungus; I thought it was clever to mulch it with coffee grounds, and I made the mistake of using old grounds. Scraping the surface, and sprinkling with "compost starter" (lots of beneficial microbes) helped to tone it down, but it still kept coming back in spots. I finally took the whole thing outdoors, hoping the fresh air and cold will help.
  • I started another small wicker basket for the kitchen with chives and cilantro; the chives started sprouting on the 14th and the cilantro on the 17th.

  • I started some Dwarf Curly Parsley soaking on the 9th and on the 10th I put it in a plastic yogurt container with drainage holes cut in the bottom. It began sprouting on the 16th.
On the 13th I bought more seed-starting soil and two 72-cell, covered planting trays; one with peat pellets, and one without. In the peat tray, I started:
  • 6 Canterbury Bells
  • 6 leeks
  • 6 Red Winter kale
  • 9 "Marvel of Four Seasons" lettuce
  • 9 Moss Green Curled parsley
  • 9 "Johnny Jump-Up" violas
  • 9 King Henry violas
  • 9 winter pansies
  • 9 Swiss Giant pansies
I also planted, on the 13th, a wicker basket of spinach for the kitchen.

On the 16th, all 9 lettuce, 2 kale, 1 leek, 1 canterbury bell, 1 k.h. viola had sprouted; on the 17th 1 more kale, 1 more leek, 1 swiss pansy, and the first spinach sprouts. From then to the 20th, more Canterbury Bells have come up, leeks, kale, violas of both kinds, and pansies of both kinds.

On the 14th I put starting soil in part of the second tray and started 6 verbena, 6 Rosa Bianca eggplant, and 12 Summerlong basil. 5 cells of basil and 1 eggplant sprouted on the 17th; two verbena on the 19th, two more eggplants just came up on the 20th.

On the 15th I started soaking some Moss Green Curled parsley. On the 16th I also started soaking bell peppers, several kinds of tomatoes, several kinds of kale, leeks, and Swiss Giant pansies. I made my first newspaper pots, filling them with peat moss moistened with worm tea, and started 4 pots of tomatoes: 1 pot Early Girl, 2 pots Matina, and 1 pot Brandywine.

On the 17th, I filled more of the cells in the starting tray and planted 6 cells of Sweet Million cherry tomatoes, 6 Sun Cherry, 7 Brandywine, and 5 Oregon Spring. I also planted a yogurt-container pot of Moss parsley.

Also on the 18th, I planted sweet bell pepper seeds in a little plastic container that pearl onions came in. It has a flip-top lid, and air slits along the sides of the lid and the base.

The spinach basket began growing mold and some of the spinach sprouts wilted. On the 18th, after scraping off as much of the mold as I could and sprinkling the surface with Soil Alive and Dr. Earth Compost Starter, I planted some more spinach seeds, some leek seeds, and three garlic cloves. As of the 21st, four spinach shoots are going strongly, and two new ones are coming up. There is very little mold. I am thinking, though, that the spinach may germinate much better outside.

Some of the cells and pots in the seedling trays also began showing mold. I scraped it off and sprinkled them with the Soil Alive and Dr. Earth Compost Starter mix. I left the plastic lids off.

On the 19th, I made more and better newspaper pots, and potted the rest of the tomato and pansy seeds that had been soaking. Unfortunately, I did not label which was which. I told myself I would remember, and write it down tomorrow. I did not.

I know that in one box I have four pots of Marianna's Peace at one end, two pots of Swiss Giant pansies at the other, and four pots of Florida Petite tomatoes in the middle. I should be able to tell the difference between those soon after they show leaves; Marianna's Peace is a potato-leaved tomato, Florida Petite is not, and Swiss Giant are, well, pansies.

I used the plastic lid off one of the seedling trays to hold the other newspaper pots. In the middle are the pots I started the 15th, easily identifiable by appearance; each of my first newspaper pots was unique in its own weird way. At one end are some more Early Girls, and at the opposite end are more Brandywines. I think Brandywines are also potato-leaved, so I may be able to sort those out, too.

While the indoors temperature is too high for spinach germination, which prefers 40 degrees or so, it is not quite high enough for tomato germination, which prefers 75 to 80 degrees. I can put the spinach outside to germinate, but I don't know how to heat up the tomatoes without seedling heater mat, which costs more than I can afford. I'll just have to wait and see. I did plant several seeds per pot. If all of the pots do sprout, I'll be giving away most of the seedlings.

On the 19th, I planted catmint in a little wicker basket. When that grows up into a nice healthy mound, I'll take it into Real Change for Sid the Cat.

And that's that. I am going to try more winter sowing outside this week; I'm not going to start anything more inside until I get more shelving!