There’s Something Happening Here…in the Columbia Falls Community Garden

I’ve been a bit remiss about posting pictures of the garden this season.  Fact is, the garden looks fantastic!  Best ever!  We have wonderful plot holders who are committed to the upkeep of the garden.

We all walk around the garden looking at the various ways people grow their healthy food–and this, of course, is the beauty of the community garden concept.  We get ideas from each other, we problem solve together and we celebrate our successful harvests.  We get a little overly excited about when our beans sprout, and we become gravely concerned when a hole appears in the leaf of a new pepper seedling.  We worry about chilly NW Montana mornings, and we stare endlessly at our gardens–contemplating the next chore, wondering why our potato plants aren’t as big as Robbie’s, and discussing the merits of rows vs. mounds.  Should we use straw?  Is the compost ready yet?  Why won’t the mower start?  Should I have done square foot gardening like Staci and Craig?  Drip hoses or hand watering?

I love it!  So here are some pictures of the garden in early June.  Enjoy.

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Only gardeners get excited about compost bins, I think.

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Bug motel. The good kind.

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Hops. Under new management. Welcome, Coralan and Nate!

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Food Bank plot looks fabulous, Robbie!

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Neon!

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Corn sprouts

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Some haphazardly planted potatoes. Still, I think my ten-year-old minion did a great job!

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Peas and flowers. And I got fancy with the trellis.

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Erin’s pretty much perfect plot.

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Erma planted some lavender in our corner bed

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I think we are set on oregano.

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Also set on chives.

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Great idea–a hanging basket!

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Raspberries are thriving

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Colorful cages

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A riot of strawberries

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Beautiful brassica bed

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Zinnias!

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Ready and waiting!

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Sweet potatoes in a tire!

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Square foot perfection

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A ridiculously large rhubarb. Pie, anyone?

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My onions. I will never have as many as Erin, but I will keep trying!

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Volunteers sunflowers, maybe?

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Pallet veggies

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Potatoes, all in a (crooked) row.

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Peas getting ready to climb

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Check back in a few weeks–the changes will be amazing!

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The Great Tomato Dilemma

I love growing tomatoes.  Hands down, they are my favorite yield from the garden.  We eat them fresh, and can the rest.  Such satisfaction!  Last year, I started 12 Roma  plants from seed during the first week of April.  They were amazing, if a bit behind their local nursery counterparts.  In fact, because I never trust my own seedlings to thrive, I bought 20+ “back up” tomato plants of different varieties–and then planted my dozen starts because they were doing so well.  I put up 74 jars of tomato products. It was a banner tomato year.

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Last year’s crop

Emboldened by my success, I started 36 tomatoes from seed this year during the first week of March.  Now, understand–I have shelf with two grow lights as my set up, which works fine for a seed starting tray with 72 holes.

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But guess what?  Plants grow.  And they need to be re-potted into six packs.

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And then into 4 inch containers.  It is rather a pain.  Hoping I could get the plants into the raised bed, I held off on the last re-potting.  But they were a tangled mess, falling over and breaking their stems.  Still, I really thought I could hold out.  Maybe I could make it to mid-May, as long as I covered them against the still cold nights.  So silly–I live in NW Montana!  You just don’t put tomatoes (or peppers or basil) into the ground until at least Memorial Day.  Or, as the old-timers say, “until the snow is off Big Mountain” which some summers might mean mid-July.  I vacillated about this for 2 weeks.  My poor husband and my friends had to listen to me debate myself:  re-pot one more time, or wait it out?

I decided to wait.

But then, as I was watering my beloved tomato plants, I noticed these:

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The dreaded root nodules

Horrid little nodules on the stems.  I used this picture, threw it into Google images and voilà!  They aren’t good.  The stress of the too-small containers were likely forcing the plants to create these root nodules.  The nodules develop because the first line of saving itself is trying to throw out more roots to gather more nutrients.  But this just wouldn’t do.  I decided that I would just plant them out–after all, I could protect them with Remay and soil warming plastic, right?  Well…even though we had just experienced 3 70 degree days, it was still too early.  I knew it.  But I rationalized that I couldn’t possibly re-pot all the tomatoes, and the seven of them that looked especially peakish would die anyway if I didn’t plant them.  So I took the four of the least sickly of the sickly plants, and, without hardening them off (because who really needs to do that?  Well, me.  I need to do that) planted them in my raised bed.  I covered the soil with red plastic, which I used successfully last year.  I placed crunched up egg shells in the trench I dug, and placed the plants in sideways as is recommended for root growth.  I put the tomato cage around the plant, watered it, and then wrapped the cage in Remay.

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My little tomato soldiers.

But you know what?  It’s way too early to plant tomatoes.  And they definitely need to be hardened off.  And I should have just gone and found bigger pots.  Because these are sad, sad little tomato plants.

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The one on the left has a chance, maybe.  Not really.  I’ll keep you posted.

On the bright side, I went ahead and re-potted the rest of my tomato seedlings in anything I could find.  Some of  the less hearty ones needed to be sacrificed for the good of the whole, which was very hard for me to do.  I feel guilty thinning carrots.

I found supports and tied my stems to them and look great.  I moved some to a sunny window.  Now my peppers have a little room, and I imagine I will be re-potting them next weekend.

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What is the moral of this story?  Wait two more weeks to start seedlings.  Maybe three.  And unless you have lovely hoop houses, don’t put tomatoes out when it is 50 degrees with wind and rain.

Self Promotion or Self-Aggrandizement?

I decided, after several suggestions from friends, to start an Etsy shop.  It isn’t a big deal–I just listed a few extra knit items I have and the lip balm I make.  I’m really not convinced my stuff is actually good enough to charge people money for it.  When friends and family say they like my things, I always assume they are just being nice.

I have trouble setting prices.  As anyone who knits knows, if I actually charged for my time and materials, no one would  buy my knits due to the cost.  I recently listed a baby tunic in my store.  This one piece took me two years to complete because I struggled with the lace pattern, the small needles and the lightweight yarn–it wasn’t something I could do with other people in the room, or with regular interruptions–I had to count stitches! I kept putting it aside and coming back to it.  I probably made and remade the thing 6 separate times.  If I used minimum wage to determine the price, not even including materials, the cost would be in the hundreds.

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The million dollar baby tunic

Last week  I was asked specifically to make something for a friend, and I did–so why did I feel ashamed specifying a price?  She didn’t seem to think what I asked was too much.  Other items are relatively easy to make, so I feel stupid charging people because they could seriously make them themselves.  Yet my sister-in-law says that even if they could, not everyone would, which is why a pair of boot cuffs (that take about 2 hours to make) sell for $20-30…and people actually pay that.

I had a conversation with a friend this weekend about how hard it is for me (and her) to self-promote.  She has to as part of her job, so she’s learned, as she says, “to fake it to make it”.  However, I am definitely passive aggressive in my approach (writing a blog post about it? Soooo passive aggressive!).  I’m confident in other areas of my life, so why am I having such a hard time with this?  Other people sell their crafts regularly, and I don’t think anything of it, so why do I care so much?  Is it a Midwest thing to feel like promoting myself is actually self-aggrandizement?  (By the way, I would never mark my own post as “super-awesome”–why is this even an option, WordPress?) Since I am trying to work through this,  I am going to go ahead and link this post to my Etsy store, SixthStreetKnits.  And blush while I do it.

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Who else struggles with this?

Trying to Find a Balance

I decided this past fall that I simply couldn’t keep up with posting daily–real life had to come first.  Yet, as I was looking through my blog today, I realized I really missed it.  So I guess the answer is balance.  I am going to try to post at least once a week.  This may be crazy, as garden season is right around the corner, but I’ll figure it out.  It might just mean one less thing gets knitted each week.

Speaking of knitting, I just opened an Etsy shop called Sixth Street Knits–just for the extra stuff I make.  I feel a little silly because I’m not sure my knitting is good enough for someone to actually give me money for it, but people seem to like what I’ve been making.  We’ll see what happens.  One thing that I listed is the finally finished “Fiona’s Top” pattern.  (See the post:  The Saga of Fiona’s Top).  It took me two years to get that sucker done–I frogged and reknit that thing so many times I should have at least half a dozen of them now.  It may be a while before I attempt another–small needles + light yarn do not satisfy my instant gratification needs.  Right now, I am making another little sundress for my cousin’s baby–bigger needles and less lace make for a quicker knit.

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 This year I want to find some balance between knitting and gardening.  Last summer I hardly picked up any knitting because I was so into working on my garden plot and yard.

So there it is…a short post to get back into the swing of things on From Michigan to Montana. Feels good to be back!

The Columbia Falls Community Garden – Mid July

It is unbelievable how much a garden can grow in two short weeks.  Take a peek at just a few pictures of our progress.

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Andrew and Lucy have a ripe tomato! Call me jealous!

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OK…and they have this perfect looking little cabbage patch. Precious!!

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A glimpse down my garden rows

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A good looking onion!

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I have so much kale…and so many kale chips to make…
Who has a great recipe for kale chips out there? I’ve tried garlic and sea salt, salt and vinegar, and sriracha.

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Climb, little cukes…climb, climb!

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Some hail damage on the zukes, but they are still producing like crazy. We ate zucchini boat enchiladas last night, and zuke slices sautéed in balsamic vinegar. Yum. What will it be tomorrow? Fritters?

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Again, the hail upset some of the aesthetic qualities of the squash, but not the production!

 

I forgot to take pictures of the cauliflower that I planted thinking they were cabbage (I received them from a friend).  They are gorgeous–bright purple and yellow.  I will add some shots of them tomorrow.  And…since I have never eaten cauliflower, what exactly does one do with it?

I want to thank Jesse and Lauren for making some wonderful signs for the garden.  They look great! For some reason I missed taking a picture of the garlic and onion signs…sidetracked by a garden visitor.  I’ll get it posted tomorrow.

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That’s all for now!

The Columbia Falls Community Garden at the End of June

I have definitely realized that I am a “cold-weather blogger”.  When winter lasts as long as it does in NW Montana, it seems silly to spend those few nice months inside at a computer.  Still, I want you to see the progress of our community garden.  It has truly never looked better.  

Warning:  if you don’t like pictures of vegetables, stop here.  

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This is the Boys & Girls Club plot

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Starting to look like the Pinterest project that inspired it…

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Desert Mountain Brewing is growing hops in the garden. Aren’t they pretty?

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More hops

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Thanks to Arnold and Naomi for making the compost bins!

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This is the Food Bank plot. Thanks to Robbie and all the work she has done!

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If you’ve made it this far, thanks for checking on our progress this season!

 

Columbia Falls Community Garden Photo Essay – End of May, 2013

It has been forever and a year since I last posted.  Turns out, May is a ridiculously busy month at work, at home and at the garden.  Who knew?

I don’t have too much time to write…I have to finish knitting an end of the year teacher gift, but I wanted to show you what has been going on in the garden.  If you are not a fan of pictures of garden plots, emerging vegetables, and the like, this post may not be for you.

Remember when I mentioned that River’s Edge Park, where the garden is located, was closed for two weeks?  This is what they were working on:

The new entrance to River’s Edge Park

There are cool trails that the little kids just love…and there are big rocks to climb on…

So, ultimately, it was worth having to adjust our gardening hours.

Here is a nice shot of the Garden sign with some of the new landscaping:

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And another shot:

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Now for a garden tour.  Everyone has been doing such a fabulous job prepping their plots.  For those of you in other parts of the country who are worried that we are getting a late start, rest assured that gardening in NW Montana is a late May, early June kinda thing.  We had about 2 inches of heavy wet snow late last week…lots of branches down, but luckily no garden damage.

First, the community beds:

Our herb garden against the backdrop of the new landscaping

Chives in the herb garden

Gorgeous oregano

Majoram. I’ve never used this herb before…what do you use it with?

Raspberries

Community potatoes–looks like they need a little weeding!

Onion and garlic beds. The onions look great–but I think we put too much straw on the garlic over the winter. Always a lesson to be learned.

Kyle planted corn–another plot holder asked if the corn knows to come up through the little holes in the plastic. I think it does!

Strawberries

On to our plot holders’ gardens:

Tasha’s plot

Ken and Leslie’s plot is looking good!

Ken and Leslie Plot #2

Janina and Brian have some onions and potatoes going

A long shot of Marlene and David’s 2 plots. They have been working hard!

I think Kyle and Erin have a thing for onions. Look at those beautiful rows!

…and their sweet hoop house

Another shot of Erin and Kyle’s plots–I have a tinge of gardener’s jealousy going on!

Master gardener Robbie’s plot. She is growing it entirely for the food bank.

The dedicated CFCG Food Bank plot is coming along

Adam and Kristen’s plot

Natalie is getting her plants started in Wall O’Waters. Great idea!

Naomi and Arnold are experimenting with potato “structures” and they have some things flourishing in their hoop house

Lucy and Andrew’s hard work is paying off

Staci and Craig have been attacking that pasture grass every weekend. It will pay off, I promise!

Ric and Jenna’s plot is cleared and ready to go

…as is Karissa’s

Long shot of Erma and Gary’s plots. I am jealous all summer long about how meticulous their plots always are!

Rhubarb in Daniel’s plot

I always watch what Kyle does in his plot very closely…his peppers were amazing last year. Without them, I wouldn’t have been able to make salsa–my peppers just never produced.

And finally, if you have made it this far, this is what is growing in my personal plots.

Pallet radishes

The beginnings of lettuce and spinach…not entirely sure the pallet was the best way to go with these, but it is always an experiment!

Kale

Tomatoes and peppers. I went with the “red mulch” this year, and wow…the soil really is so much warmer underneath. Even more so, I think, than under black plastic. I may put it under my peppers too, since they are so sensitive to cold. A little research, first, though.

Squash of all flavors

Long shot of my plots…note the wheat growing in my straw.  Weed free doesn’t mean seed free.

Baby sugar snap and snow peas

French marigolds

Broccoli Lane, with a few cauliflower at the end. My youngest insisted on cauliflower. Seriously.

Pretty potatoes in a pretty crooked row.

Newly emerged bush bean

Cabbage and garlic

I just realized I forgot to take pictures of the hops being grown by Desert Mountain Brewing…I will edit the post to include them tomorrow.  This is our wonderful community garden.  We still have some work to do, but I am so very happy with what we have accomplished.

Happy gardening!