Sunday, April 28, 2013

Turn it into a Party!

Many of the chores that must be done to keep a community garden running can be turned into social occasions!  If the weather cooperates with your event everyone can have a really great time while getting necessary work done.  Make sure to plan for all ages and if possible have activities that the children can participate in.  Although the kids can help with planting and weeding it is likely that their attention will not hold for very long.  By having something for the kids to do while the grownups work and ensuring that the area is safe the adults can get the work done and enjoy each others company.

This weekend a great group of gardeners got together to plant seeds for our garden this summer.  We planted squash, cucumbers, melons,zinnias, fennel, lettuce, herbs, and wax beans in containers.  Working together assembly line style we were able to get hundreds of plants started in just a few hours.  We punched drainage holes in recycled containers, labeled them with a wax pencil, filled them with potting soil, added seeds, and moved them to the green house for watering.  At the end of the event various families take home potted seeds to care for until our planting day later in May.  These seeds will be very young transplants but give us a fantastic start.  With our new black plastic mulch this step is necessary and may even give us a jump start on the season!

As we worked the gardeners had an opportunity to learn more about each other.  Some discovered that they had worked for the same employers, had moved from the same parts of the country, had friends in common, or had similar interests.  We had several generations present with grandchildren  grandparents, and parents all working together on a project that would benefit everyone!  The kids worked with us for a while and then ran off to play in the sprinklers.  My father hosted and he pulled out the grand kids toys for everyone to play with in the yard.  Nothing encourages parents that an activity is worth while than their kids having so much fun that they don't want to leave.

Remember to throw a little fun into all your gatherings and your community gardening group will quickly become a fantastic group with connections outside the garden as well!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Environmental Excellence

Striving for environmental excellence while creating and providing a community garden space is something we should all take seriously.  Many people grow vegetable gardens to avoid the pesticide and herbicide residues created in traditionally grown produce.  Certified Organic produce can be cost prohibitive and community gardening is one way for families to achieve high quality produce without the price.  Many of us are also gardening on public land and this comes with a responsibility towards good stewardship of the soil.  Those who garden after us should be assured that the soil comes to them free of contaminates and in good health.  Earth Day has brought a great deal of awareness to us all and in a community garden setting we can prove that growing organically is both realistic and achievable.

The Meridian Co-op Gardeners and the Community Garden at Kliener Park have been recognized for Environmental Excellence in 2012 by the City of Meridian.  I am very proud of what my efforts and my garden have achieved.  With a partnership with a project for March Against Hunger we have provided more than 5,000 lbs of organic quality produce to the Meridian Food Bank.  We have provided education and recreation for our gardeners and those passing through the park.  Many groups have enjoyed our garden while preforming community service projects.  Our garden covers near 3/4 of an acre and shows how productive gardening in Idaho can be.

Last year we had a very small core group of 10 families participating in the garden.  This year we are having to limit our number to 30 families.  Next year it is likely that we will have a waiting list.  As the public becomes aware of the benefits of community gardening and sees our successful garden it is my hope that the program will expand to other parks in our city.

This year I am spearheading an effort to bring the first public seed bank to the Meridian Library.  The idea is to give out free seeds, which gardeners will take home and grow, at the end of the season the gardeners will return quality seeds to the seed bank to be made available next year.  I will be teaching a seed saving class next week and have quite a challenge in determining how to manage this new project.  I need to build a seed book describing the seeds available and their individual needs.  I need to find away to keep track of where the seeds go and to encourage the participants to return seeds at the end of the season.  I can not tell you how excited I am to have a new project to work on!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

First Weekend Back

 This post could have been titled "Spring Cleaning" as we weeded winter weeds, cleaned out the garden shed, and generally prepared the garden for the coming season.  We also planted cool season veggies, marked out beds, made crop markers, and enjoyed time with fellow gardeners.  We had a fantastic group show up on Saturday.  I was so busy I forgot to get any pictures of everyone working hard in the wind.  We planted a ton of seeds, nearly 200 transplants of cole crops, laid out beds, and patrolled the perimeter for weeds.  A huge thank you to everyone who made this possible!

We planted wheat in with our sunflowers and I taught the youth group to plant leeks!
A big thank you to the Friendship Celebration Youth did an amazing amount of work!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Anticipation Builds as the Season Looms!

Fine...I'll admit it.  The anticipation of turning all of this brown dirt into a thriving and productive garden thrills me to no end!  All this bare dirt symbolizes all the possibilities of the coming year to me.  A rush of adrenaline floods my body as I imagine the rows and blocks of verdant greenery taking shape.  The chill in the air doesn't detour me as I pace out the areas for cabbages, chard, beets, carrots, lettuces, and kale.  The bright sunshine promises warming days in the future and the sounds of birds tell of Spring in full swing.

This year there are a number of improvements taking shape in the garden.  A drainage ditch filled with stones at the bottom.  A gravel pathway underlain with weed cloth at the top.  The drip irrigation system taking shape with the wonderful help of the Julius Kleiner Memorial Park staff taking shape- we are still waiting on a filtration system that will help with water pressure.  The black plastic mulch that we will use over the drip line for water conservation and weed suppression is waiting for us to put it in place.


Our first work day is this Saturday and I am very excited as we have a fantastic and large group eagerly waiting to start on this years community garden.  We will be planting seeds, planting transplants, and if time permits laying our black plastic to start warming the soil.  We have decided to limit the garden to 30 families this year. This is mainly to ensure that we are able to produce enough produce to keep everyone well supplied this summer.  A third of the garden will be dedicated to a project called March Against Hunger, managed by Carrie Swannack, and donated to the Meridian Food Bank.

These are the cole crops we will be planting. Our garden continues to be blessed by Spyglass Gardens through the generosity and helpfulness of Steve Smith.  He has been ordering transplants for us, ordering and delivering our plastic mulch, and generally offering encouragement and advice.  I have started a few seeds- pretty late!  They will not be ready for this weekend...but soon!

The garden is going to receive an award for environmental excellence from the City of Meridian in honor of Earth Day.  This is very exciting- especially for me as the gardens founder and creator!
The garden is off to an awesome start this year...looking forward to getting to know all of our new gardeners as the season progresses.  As always I love comments and questions- come by and visit our garden sometime!