Yep.

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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!

 

 

 

A Dozen Homemade Organic Garden Remedies

I think I may have to try some of these…

Hope Gardens

12 home remedies

Veggie gardens need special care. Vegetable plants are prone to all sorts of disease and fungus. They are highly sought after by pests both big and teeny teeny tiny. A slight negative change in their environment can cause them to stop producing. And we aren’t happy when our veggie garden is just limping along…we want it to thrive!

We also expect our vegetables to be nutritious and safe to eat; and as if that’s not enough, we demand our gardens be harmonious, attractive and a boon to their environment.

This is a lot to ask of our humble garden, but it can be accomplished! Generations of our ancestors have done it, and they’ve done it with less. Maybe we should follow their lead…

You can do it with less by using homemade natural remedies to treat pests and disease. With readily available ingredients, fertilizers too can be mixed up right…

View original post 1,256 more words

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!

 

Have I Mentioned that I Can’t Wait to Start My Garden?

It is still cold here.  The ground is still frozen.  The sunshine is beautiful–it tricks you into thinking that it must warm and spring-like outside, but alas, you step outside and a cold gust of wind blows snowflakes from a passing cloud into your face.  Sigh.

So, instead of actual gardening, I have been in planning mode.

I just finished reworking the Columbia Falls Community Garden season agreement.  I am assigning gardeners to plots on my plot map.  I am making plans to do some prep work in the Garden with kids from the Center for Restorative Youth Justice.  I started some seeds (the onions have sprouted!).

I also spend a lot of time on Pinterest, looking for gardening ideas.  Of course I would love to try everything, but instead I picked out a few of the “most-likely-to-actually-get-done” projects.  Take a look!

egg shellsThis one should be easy enough.  There are apparently all sorts of things you can use egg shells for in the garden.  I will definitely use them when I plant tomatoes to prevent blossom end rot.   I told my husband that we should start rinsing and keeping our egg shells in April.peppergreen

I always have trouble growing peppers, so I will take advantage of any tip I run across! This pin suggested we use “1tsp epsom salts in 4 c warm water….spray on plant and then 10 days later it produces more fruit due to boost of magnesium… especially for tomatoes, peppers and roses”.  Worth a try!IMG_6233_sm2

I have little patience for making seed holes…I’m not entirely sure I will make one of these, but the idea is cool.  Maybe if I made this square foot seed hole maker doo-hickey, I would feel so guilty thinning out my carrots and radishes–I could just stick a seed in each hole.  

Spraying weeds with diluted vinegar to kill themIn the Community Garden, we struggle with weeds and grasses.  Following our organic principles, we need to find creative and safe ways to combat weeds.  This could be it!pallet pathLike just about everyone else, I like the idea of upcycling pallets.  I have heard that it is difficult to take them apart, though.  On site suggested using a car jack to do it.  We will find out, I guess!  I like this foot path.  It is important to make sure that you aren’t using chemically treated pallets in your garden, though–and to seal them thoroughly.

Here is another pallet idea:4fc8ba9a81d6683d33638c11ca88ff1eThis:

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A Toad Abode!

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Raised beds with cinderblocks

What do you think?  Are you dreaming of neatly planted rows of vegetables? Do you love Pinterest as much as I do?  Do you have any sure-fire ways of breaking down pallets?