Days of Thanks and More Garden Updates

I’ve been really looking forward to doing days of thanks again this November. I was telling Jean how I’ve been impatient to start again and she said, “Why don’t you start today?” So, I’ll do that by saying how thankful I am that we can play the thankful game again.

I’m following the same rules I had last year for myself:

  • no writing posts days ahead of time…I have to come up with it the day of
  • no make-up posts…if I miss a day, that’s just too bad
  • no duplicating (writing about the same thing twice in November) and I’ll try not to make subtle distinctions
  • no writing about things I don’t feel thankful for, even if I know I should be

Those rules make it a little more challenging, but I think it made me be a little more thoughtful and thankful by the end of the month.

On to the garden. Something has been eating my kale. Urgh. It’s not like I don’t have enough to share, but I’d rather share with people than whatever’s eating it. If you have any ideas, I’m curious. I suppose I’m just glad that whatever is eating my kale is eating the big leaves and not the little ones (I think the little ones taste better).

As you may be able to see in this picture, the first bed has more growth than the others (as far as cover crops…you may also notice that the food crops in the middle haven’t really done much…we might’ve put a little too much mulch on top). That’s because we planted the rye/vetch mix in the first bed over a week before the other beds. Also, the far bed has only vetch because we ran out of rye seed. I’m a fantastic garden planner….
I suppose that’s why you practice on a small space first….
Want some closer images of the rye and vetch? Here you go…rye and vetch mix (I am having a hard time finding the vetch…but not the weeds!):

You’ll have to also forgive the fact that I’m apparently not very good at even seeding. And just the vetch (I did a closeup on this one because, as you saw in the first picture, they’re still pretty small):

The sad thing about winter coming on is that the rain barrels had to be put away to prevent damage. Sure did like having a water source over there! We’re considering a pump for next year since the barrels aren’t much higher than the first beds and maybe not higher at all than the new beds. Actually, Tony’s talking about barrels for our house with a pump on them, but I haven’t told him (yet) that I might sneak the pump over to the garden occasionally. 
I guess the exciting thing about winter is that we’re talking about what we want to do differently next year and what sorts of things we want to add to the system. Somehow, talking about the things that succeeded and failed and what we’re going to do next year makes this year seem more…real isn’t the right word, but I’m not sure what is. The expansion of the garden and the talk of next year also makes me feel supported in my plans and I appreciate that Tony is willing to even consider this thing with me.
It’s late and I’m tired (I probably shouldn’t be writing and posting this), so please forgive my inadequate words. I feel like the previous paragraph isn’t communicating what I want to say, but I don’t want this to be my first November post.

School Garden Results

I’ve been working in the organic vegetable garden at school. It’s kind of a long story, but the program I’m interested in requires a certain number of internship hours. I got involved in the garden at school and, while the internship hours are important, I’m most interested in the experience. I’ve learned a lot since February. Watching the way the garden changes from winter to spring; spring to summer; summer to fall; and now, fall to winter, has been amazing.

In the beginning, at least two of us spent a lot of time planting seeds and transplanting them into larger pots/flats. Then, when spring really hit, we spent a lot of time moving things out. Then growth really hit. We spent a lot of time harvesting what little food there was in the garden and trying to keep up with the weeds. There are 18 beds that are at least 100 square feet each. There were at least five of us working, but that just wasn’t enough with the hours we had available. Spring bled into summer and we had more produce to harvest and we fell further behind on the weeds. Many of the people we had for the spring semester left and we only gained one new person over the summer who had about as many hours as I did (which didn’t cover all of the people leaving).

Then, when the new semester started, we got several people who had lots of time available and were hard workers. We’ve gotten more than caught up (helps that the weather changed and the weeds started slowing down) and it’s really nice to have the garden looking presentable again.

Now, the fall is fading to winter. I was kind of shocked when I went to school this morning after two frosts/freezes last week…there was so much dead stuff. I knew that I should expect things to be a little sad, but it was so barren. Even though things have been winding down, the plants were still producing something, but now, the plants are completely destroyed. We spent our time today taking out some of the plants that died. There’s going to be more work to do tomorrow, but with as many people and hours as we have now, I think we’ll be caught up pretty soon.

The really great thing about the garden, though, is that the food we harvest goes to the local food pantry. I appreciate that the resources I’ve invested in the project do more than just give me credits and experience. Anyway, we got a letter from the food pantry that said we’d sent over 1,000 pounds of food!

2013 Garden

In the spring, I put in a garden at Aunt Denise’s house. I had two (4 x 12.5) beds and put three little pieces of sweet potato in one and tomatoes, beans, corn, basil, and beets in the other (not necessarily all at the same time). The corn did not do well at all (I only had five plants and was probably using hybrid seed), the beans didn’t do great, the beets were horrible (only two matured and they weren’t even exceptional), the basil did pretty well, and the tomatoes were mixed (the large tomatoes generally rotted before they were ripe, but the cherries were pretty productive and delicious). So, that covers the spring/summer crops.

The sweet potatoes were really pretty (I especially liked the purple edging) and they produced a lot of vines and leaves (they took over the bed I put them in). I had a couple of marigolds at the far end and I put some tomatoes in the middle when I ran out of space in the other bed, but the tomatoes were choked out by the sweet potatoes and if the season had gone on much longer, the marigolds would have met the same fate.

The little potatoes you see in the picture are about the extent of what we got when we dug out potatoes at school. I was a little concerned about what I was going to find in my bed since their soil is in much better shape than mine.

Tony and I dug my sweet potatoes out last Wednesday and you can see the results – the variety of sizes and shapes we pulled out (and Q’s curiosity…although now Coke stands over them as if they are her prize). There were some very large sweet potatoes and several very small ones. The single I’ve included is about the size of my two fists put together (it’s in the top left corner of the bottom sheet of cardboard, to give you a sense of size). The ones you see on the cardboard came out to about 44 pounds, which was pretty awesome. Not all of them are easily usable, but if I can get them to the spring before they sprout, I can (hopefully) use them to grow more sweet potatoes.

We added three beds and extended the two original beds to the bence. The bed with the green has carrots (the green you see), kale, beets, Brussels sprouts, and spinach. They’re not growing as quickly as I would’ve expected, but I think it might have something to do with not getting a lot of water (we had a wet summer, but the fall’s been pretty dry) combined with the really clay-y soil. I put cover crops in the rest of the beds, hoping to improve the soil for next year. We’ll see what happens.

For a couple more pictures (including a picture of the little friend we found among the sweet potatoes), click here.