A Crazy Week In and Out of the Garden

I was pretty happy to see the end of this week.

I try to make a point to never wish time away…but quite frankly, I wanted to get to the end of the week so I could do the work in my garden plot that I have been planning in my head for months.

The increasingly dry and very warm temperatures made it imperative that the water be turned on in the community garden…but being new to the management side of things, I wasn’t really certain how it worked.  I emailed Holly at Biggy’s, the landscaping company that installed the spigots, to start the ball rolling.  After various emails, the water was turned on, but the city then needed to do its part, so we waited some more.

This took more time and energy than I expected.  Now I know.

Complicating matters is that the City of Columbia Falls has closed the park for two weeks where our garden is located in order to have a brilliant company called Forestoration redo the entrance.  Gardeners have permission to go in after 5pm and on the weekends–making it tough to be on top of the water situation.  We cannot park in the gravel parking lot–instead we park in the street and walk in, which is not a terrible hardship unless you have to haul in water brought from home because the water inside the garden hasn’t been turned on.  It has been so dry that we just couldn’t wait any longer.

On Tuesday, the water was finally was flowing, and I stopped by at 5pm to water–quickly, because I had to be back at the school to give a speech at the National Honor Society induction ceremony.  That was a bit stressful–the watering and the anxiety about the speech.  My speech seemed to go okay…notwithstanding the coughing fit I had in the middle of it.  Of course, no one is going to tell me my speech was horrifyingly dull, so I’ll never really know.  Phew!  That’s over!

As I am getting out of the shower the next morning, my phone rings.  It is a fellow gardener, letting me know that a spigot is broken and there is three feet of water around said faucet.  I rushed to the garden to shut off the main valve.  No apparent water damage, but the spigot was completely detached.  I ran back to get ready for work–my hair never looked quite right for the rest of the day.

More emails.  Throw in the usual rides to karate practice, shopping for garden items, buying Mother’s Day cards, making dinner, etc…it was a full week.  Incidentally, it was also the first week that my husband was back to work for the season.

By Friday, the spigot was reconnected, water was flowing once again, and life was running more smoothly.  Beer me!  After work on Friday, my husband and I went to our watering hole, the Desert Mountain Brewing and Draughthaus.  I was so been looking forward to it…the weather was stunning, the beer was tasty, and we got to see our friends Craig and Staci (also plot holders in the garden).  Coincidentally, I finally actually met Holly from the Biggy’s Landscaping–you know, the one I had been emailing all week.  Small towns are great that way.  After a couple beers, Staci and Craig joined us next door at the Three Forks Grille where we had some dinner and then walked back to our house.  It was a good time.

Today, after a trip to a local gardening center, I was able to finish mounding my plots, and piling straw in the walkways (always looking for ways to keep the pasture grass at bay).  I brought all of my vegetable supports down, and had to walk them the distance from the car parked in the street to my plot which is the furthest away from the door.  At one point, arms filled, I noticed movement in my peripheral vision, and was startled to see a very large spider crawling out of the “shelf” of my tank top.  In my panic, I flung all the support structures I was carrying.  Ugh.  Shudder.

I planted kale, a few more garlics, leeks, parsnip seeds, bush bean seeds, broccoli, marigolds, and nasturtiums.  I decided to try the “red mulch” permeable plastic under my tomatoes (which won’t be planted for a couple more weeks).  I pulled more grass, set up my cucumber and squash support trellis and placed my tomato cages in the appropriate rows.  The I watered the entire plot, and realized that I was really sunburned.  I came home, and sent an update email to the plot holders (which, retrospectively reads like a “don’t don’t don’t” list–not quite what I intended–hopefully they won’t feel too brow-beaten).

Looking down the length of my garden plot(s).

Looking down the length of my garden plot(s).

I love the plot holders in the garden this year.  We have 20 families, of all sizes, ages, belief systems, and garden expertise…and it is fascinating.   Every time I go to the garden, there are plot holders working hard, battling pasture grass, getting dirty and planting vegetables.  We are sharing ideas and plants–which, as I’ve stated before, is what a community garden is about. They are quality people.

My plots from the other direction...

Wider shot

It feels good to know that I did everything I set out to do this weekend in the garden (except plant the first flush of carrot seeds…I will do that tomorrow).  Tomorrow morning I will mow and trim the garden, and then come home to tackle my own yard.  Perhaps because of my spider experience, I still feel like I have things crawling on me.  And my back feels rather as if it is on fire.  You’d think by forty years old I would learn to use sunscreen.  Nope.

The work never ends…but I love it!

Look!  Radishes!

Look! Teeny tiny radishes!

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Another Weekend in the Columbia Falls Community Garden

Man, am I sore!

Yesterday, I worked in the Community Garden from 8:30 am until nearly 5 pm.  It was a very productive day.  I took the black plastic off of my newest plot (I was hoping to kill the grass and warm up the soil).  Kyle, another original plot holder and I rented a tiller.  Even though we will no longer tractor-till the entire garden, it is simply much easier to break through a rhizome-y grass layer.

I use a website called GrowVeg.com to plan out my garden

I use a website called GrowVeg.com to plan out my garden each year

So he tilled his plot, Lucy and Andrew tilled their plot, and Kyle was nice enough to do mine, too.  I didn’t till my established bed, and hopefully this will be the last time I will have to do any of my beds.  Unfortunately, the tiller then broke, which means Brooke had to do hers by hand.  Yikes–that’s a lot of work.  My husband suggested that she actually use a shovel to cut away the whole grass layer, instead of just turning over the soil.  That seemed to be a good plan–the roots of the grass are deep and ubiquitous.

Eric and I did the same thing where the seven blueberry bushes will be planted.  It is not easy.

So after cutting away the grass for the blueberries, I went to work in my freshly tilled plot to pull out as many grass roots as I possibly could.  Even though I can hardly walk today, it will be worth it in the long run.  Eric rebuilt the base of the Garden’s homely little greenhouse, but it was too windy to put the plastic on it.

Naomi and Arnold and their kids showed up and finished the prepping of the blueberry patch.  Arnold added peat moss and sulfur to the beds, because blueberries like an acidic soil.  We will probably use a pine needle mulch to help keep that corner acidic.

In the meantime, Natalie and Jeff and their kids came to play in the garden for a while.  They raked in some manure, and even dumped a load on my plot for me.

There has been more activity in the Garden this spring than I have ever seen before.  Kids laughing, parents talking and working–and everyone helping each other.  This is what a community garden is supposed to be!

Naomi and I, per usual, discussed all the items on our to-do list.  The Center for Restorative Youth Justice kids are coming to work on Wednesday, and they will dig up the areas where raspberries and strawberries will be planted, so that is one item off the list.

  1. We need to get the table out of the shed and get it set up as a washing station.
  2. The shed itself needs organizing.  
  3. We need to finish marking out the plots with landscaping fabric.  
  4. We need to plant potatoes.
  5. The herb garden needs planting (in a few weeks).
  6. The greenhouse needs plastic.
  7. Strawberries and raspberry canes will need to be planted.  
  8. Irrigation for the community beds needs to be laid out.

I told Naomi that I have to constantly remind myself that it doesn’t all have to happen this year.  We are just so excited that everything is finally coming together, and we want it to match the vision we have in our heads.  I can tell this group of plot holders is going to be amazing.  The spirit of community has already sprouted (ha!  gardening analogy).  It makes us giggly!

This picture was taken more than three years ago, when the Columbia Falls City Council agreed to let us use the land.

This picture was taken more than three years ago, when the Columbia Falls City Council agreed to let us use the land.

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This is the same land today. Pretty soon, it will be lushly green with edibles!

As for my plot, I went back today to work on it.  I raked out the manure, and created mounds for future planting.  I think I will try straw as a mulch on the walkways this year.  I erected my pea trellis, and planted sugar and snap pea seeds.  It may be too early, but if so, I will just try again.  In my raised pallet bed, I seeded 2 rows of radishes, 2 rows of spinach, a row of romaine, another of a lettuce blend, and a row of green onions.

Not the most artistically staged photo–but you get the idea. And I just realized I was breaking the rule of tools…always leave them tines down!

This is what Pinterest tells me it will eventually look like...

This is what Pinterest tells me it will eventually look like…

We shall see how this works–it is supposed to rain tomorrow and the garden needs it.  We won’t turn the water on for another two weeks or so, until the danger of a hard freeze has passed.  A record-breaking hard freeze is forecasted for Tuesday night, so I will cover my onions with Reemay.  My seeds will be fine.  Hopefully my pea trellis will survive the wind event we are also forecasted to have on Monday.

So much to think about.

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The original Columbia Falls Community Garden group. Guess which one I am? Hint: look at the title of the blog…

A Busy Spring Break

Tonight is the last night of spring break.  I feel so very lucky to have this week off–and after volunteering to direct the community garden, I needed the time.  I had raised beds to set and fill and landscaping fabric to lay.  We were absolutely blessed with gorgeous weather.  My freckles emerged from hibernation.  It was in the sixties, with blue skies and a warm sun.  That is, until yesterday.

My awesome helpers

My awesome helpers

The very first plot holders meeting of the season was yesterday morning at 11 am.  When I went down to the garden at 9:30, it was breezy with some spitting rain.  Not too bad.  By the end of the meeting, it was full-on raining horizontally.  We were all shivering, and I just kept talking faster and faster so everyone could go home and get warm.

Still, it was a great turn out.  Nearly every plot holder made it to the meeting which I (silly me) scheduled on the same weekend that the ski mountain closed.  I have never seen so many people in our garden at one time.  It really rather warmed my heart (if not my freezing cold and wet hands).  I could already feel the beginnings of a “community”.   I provided some history to the garden, handed out keys, gave an orientation to the garden and the shed, answered questions, and had plot holders sign up for maintenance duties.    It was raining hard enough that the ink was running as they filled in their names.  They were troopers!

Something safe to plant...under Reemay

Something safe to plant…under Reemay

They need to be, to some extent.  Gardening in Montana, especially in the springtime, isn’t easy.  It is a constant battle with schizophrenic weather and cold nights.  Still, it is a rewarding “fight” and we have been gathering the necessary weapons to be victorious (hello, extended metaphor!)  We use Reemay fabric and Wall O’Waters to keep our young plants warm.  We watch the weather forecasts religiously.  Finally, around the fourth of July, after babying our plants, we can relax our guard and watch as delicious and healthy food grows in abundance.

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Our raised herb garden

It is possible to garden in the northern climes–it just takes some trial and error, and much vigilance.  And it is worth it.  Trust me.

 

 

Columbia Falls Community Garden

Wow!  What a fantastic day!

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Today was a major work day in the garden.  We had kids from the Center for Restorative Youth Justice complete some service hours in the garden.  The amount of work they accomplished in four hours is simply amazing…it would have taken Naomi and me days to do what they did.  Thank you to Anders and Keara from CRYJ for organizing the kids and providing positive support and encouragement.

Anders and Keara...working long after the last of the kids they were supervising had gone home.

Anders and Keara…working long after the last of the kids they were supervising had gone home.

Together, we set two raised beds, and lined the bottoms of them with cardboard.  We smoothed out seven paths between plots, put the dirt in the raised beds, and laid black landscaping fabric.  The kids smoothed out the land under where the greenhouse and herb garden will go, and laid landscaping fabric .

Our raised beds, nearly ready for onions, shallots and leeks.

Our raised beds, nearly ready for onions, shallots and leeks.

The community garden is really starting to come together.  Today, a nice man named Marshall walked by and inquired about the garden and available plots.  We are technically full, but a few of us have more than one plot and are prepared to give them up for newcomers.  Also, Naomi found a few more spots for half and irregularly shaped plots.

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I spoke with two nice ladies, Mary and Lucy, about the garden as I was leaving today, and I am so appreciative of their encouragement and kind words.

We had two plot holders stop by, as well as a former plot holder, and their children played merrily in garden while we worked and chatted–discovering earthworms, ladybugs and the joy of digging in the dirt.  It was truly a wonderful day–exactly what a community garden is meant to be.  It was filled with laughing children, chatting adults, and hard, gratifying work.

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Three years ago Naomi and her friend Connie put in motion the creation of our community garden. I joined in, along with others.  Today, we have seen the fruits of our labor.  A fully reserved garden, happy plot holders, and youths reconnecting with the community and the land.  This is what a community garden should be.  This is what our community garden is becoming.

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Lucy stopped by today with her kids to check out the garden. Even though she wasn’t dressed for it, she couldn’t resist digging into her plot!

Thank you to everyone who helped make it to this point!

 

 

 

Sun’s Gettin’ Shinery to Spotlight the Finery…Spring, Spring Spring…

907392_10151373119960886_2119007421_nWhen Montana chooses to show off, nothing can compare.  Beautiful sunny weather with temperatures in the upper fifties and low sixties have made it impossible to stay inside to write blog posts.  (Mantra…must remember…live life first, write about it if I have time)  And the fact is, we have just been plain busy.  Our friends opened a brewery, which we like to frequent.  We went to the high school academic endowment ball.  We threw a birthday party for my husband’s 40th birthday.  Time just gets away from you, you know?

Love the brewery!

Love the brewery!

Back to the weather.  We all understand, in this part of the country, that the price for this delightful weather is a rainy, cold June.  Or a late season snow storm.  Or an intense fire season.  But you know what?  We pretty much don’t care.  The sun is so wonderfully warm this time of year–the wind can be chilly, as can shady spots, but standing in the sun is simply blissful.  We look for reasons to be outside, which isn’t hard–but I’m running into that situation where I want to do all is yard work, but I can’t.  The fact is, it is still only the beginning of April.  Winter is not likely done with us yet, so you don’t want to invest too much energy into planting.

That didn’t stop me from staking out my new flower bed, or raking my yard.

My flower bed-to-be

My flower bed-to-be

I did some early season weeding.  I regularly walk around the side of our new garage, where I will eventually make raised beds and grow my tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, herbs and raspberries.  I visualize the shade garden that will edges the not-yet-existent sidewalk next to the garage.  I fret about whether my current raspberry canes will get enough light now that the garage has been built (they won’t…they have to move).

Visions of tomato and pepper plants danced in my head...

Visions of tomato and pepper plants danced in my head…

I have also been spending time in the community garden, getting ready for our first plot holders meeting.  I am thrilled to announce that we are FULL for the the first time since we were established in 2010.  It feels good, because the vision those of us in the planning committee had is finally coming to fruition (no pun intended).

There is still a lot to do–on Wednesday, kids from the Center for Restorative Youth Justice are coming out to help me even out the land for garden plots, raised beds, and the green house.  They will also help me organize the tool shed.  My partner-in-crime, and true heart of the community garden is Naomi.  She and her husband staked out plots this morning, and the two of us geeked out for a bit about all the exciting things we want to see in the garden.

My husband constructed the raised beds for onions and leeks, and we put some black plastic down on my own plots to warm the soil and discourage weed/grass growth.  I stared at the empty plots for a long time today, mentally arranging my plants for the season.  After planting the community garlic bed last fall, I had a few bulbs left over.  I couldn’t bear to waste them so I stuck them in my bed–and they are starting to grow (so cool to see the frist green growth of spring). It is way too early to put much of anything in the ground right now, even if the weather is trying to trick us into believing otherwise.

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Community Garden Garlic Bed

My cheeks are a little bit sunburned.  I have dirt under my fingernails.  And I couldn’t be happier!