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27. PicPost – Potentials & Possibilities

22 Nov

27. PicPost - Potentials & Possibilities

I have an idea in my head and I’m not afraid to use it.

25: Pecha Kucha and North Carolina Community Garden Partners

19 Nov
  • Learn more: Visit the North Carolina Community Garden Partners website: www.nccgp.org

On November 9, 2013 North Carolina Community Garden Partners convened their 2nd annual workshop titled “Nurturing Sustainable Community Gardens: How to Get Rooted in your Community.” Over 120 gardeners, organizers, and volunteers from all over the state gathered in Durham, NC during a seasonably grey day to learn, share, and discuss issues related to establishing and/or growing gardens in their respective communities.

Started in 2008, North Carolina Community Garden Partners (@NCCGP) is a non-profit organization based in Greensboro, NC with the vision to:

. . . increase the quantity, quality, and sustainability of community gardens in North Carolina.

NCCGP advocates community gardens on a statewide level by “increasing awareness of established community gardens; providing resources and best practices for establishing new gardens; organizing workshops, conferences, & tours on a statewide level; and promoting policies that encourage development, implementation, and sustainability of gardens and associated activities.” (see their about page to learn more)

The Novemeber 9th all-day workshop produced three tracts of sessions for its attendees; “Creating a Community,” “Growing a Garden,” and “Organizing a Garden.” The “Creating a Community” tract consisted of 3 separate panel discussions which covered topics related to establishing new community gardens such as Land-Use Policy, Funding methods, and Community Partnerships. The second tract, “Growing a Garden,” was a series of skills-based presentations to educate attendees in such areas as permaculture, composting, and season-extension. The third and final tract, “Organizing a Garden,” dealt with issues many existing community gardens deal with such as maintaining viability (Asset Based Community Development), community outreach, and sustainability.

The workshop then concluded with a 60 minute Pecha Kucha community garden presentation. Pecha Kucha is a series of visually based, fast-paced presentations that was originated in Japan as a way to quickly share creative concepts. This Pecha Kucha consisted of 5 different showcases each limited to 20 slides. Each presenter was given 20 seconds per slide to describe and/or elaborate on the existence of their community garden, its impact on the gardeners, and its impact on the community then promptly ushered off stage for the next presentation.

Highlights from this year’s Pecha Kucha included a presentation from Dara Bloom showcasing the amazing talents to Hmong refugees in the foothills of western NC. Transplanting Traditions showcased the successes of Karin refugees growing and selling produce in the Raleigh Area. Food Corps volunteers showcased the impacts and benefits of establishing gardens on school campuses; how students can feed themselves as well as supplement classroom lessons. Throughout each unique presentation a common message could be heard, no matter the people or the presenter, the message was that gardening has the power to bring individuals together, to make communities.

Whatever the case, from first year gardens in the coastal plains to school based gardens run by Food Corps volunteers; from refugee communities trying to grow like they did back home to charity drives for the elimination of hunger in northwestern counties, this 45 min fast-paced presentation was a powerful and inspiring way to conclude the days events. After the standing ovation on the heels of the final presentation, 15 minutes was given for viewers to pepper the presenters with their questions and praise. Many were awed by the amazing produce. Some could not help but be inspired with new ideas for planting methods and varieties. Some queried how they did it all. All were impacted.

After the conclusion of the day’s events a tour was given at the nearby Briggs Avenue Community Garden where attendees got a chance to see what a successful and thriving community garden can look like.

In conclusion, even though food and health issues might be sliding a bit off the national radar, groups like NCCGP, its members, and gardeners statewide are proving that community based solutions to food justice issues are still relevant in North Carolina. With continued advocacy from NCCGP and inspirational stories like those on display during this workshop, more and more North Carolinians will hear and answer the calls to start growing healthier stronger communities. Let’s get growing NC.

Grow It Forward

24. Permaculture according to Maurice Smalley

19 Nov
  • Learn more: Visit the North Carolina Community Garden Partners website: www.nccgp.org

20. Urban Agriculture

12 Nov

Wow! already I am at 20 posts in this 100 in 100 challenge! Whooda thunk it?

Time for some more edumakayshun.

Urban Agriculture seems to be a hot topic in the grower’s world these days or maybe I am just a bit late to the table. The latter is probably truer than the former. A quick study of the term reveals two words; “Urban” and “Agriculture.” “Urban”  meaning, “of or relating to cities and the people who live in them,” and “Agriculture” which means, “the science or occupation of farming.” So putting them together produces something akin to the science or occupation of farming as it relates to cities and the people who live in them. Actually Google Web Definitions defines “Urban Agriculture” as,

The practice of cultivating, processing, and distributing food in or around a village, town, or city.

Compared to its much larger, more familiar cousin Rural Agriculture, Urban Agriculture takes a more compact and intensive form. Located in or near more heavily developed areas, participants in urban agriculture often are limited in space and location. Eventhough the optimal growing conditions of rural agricultural areas (space, soil, water, and direct sun light) are not in abundance in many cities and towns, growers have developed many different ways to compensate for that which is lacking.

  • Square foot Gardening is a popular practice of intensive gardening that turns the traditional row cropping method on its head. By ordering and planting seeds in a density pattern based on individual 12 inch by 12 inch squares, growers of this method can reap comparable yields to growers requiring 3 or 4 times as much land area to plant in rows.
  • Vertical Gardening is the practice of using stakes, trellis, small containers, and whatnot to extend one’s growing space into the 3rd dimension, up.
  • Community Gardening is the range of methods that pools together multiple individuals to grow or produce their own food or food for market from communally allotted or organized tracts of land.
  • Community Supported Agriculture is typically the practice of a single grower pre-selling his crops in the community market in order to more directly estimate the demand for his produce.

This is a shortened list for sure. Others that belong on here include urban farms and hydroponics. Perhaps these can become fodder for future posts.

20 of 100. Wow. In need of some real inspiration though. It is beginning to be difficult just putting two sentences together. What have I got myself into?

14. Put off by Persistent Pests

5 Nov

This is perhaps the first in a series of Persistent Pests articles I might do in this challenge.

Small and Large Cabbage Whites

The Adult Cabbage White is an attractive looking pale white to yellow Butterfly of the pieridae family of lepidoptera. Introduced to our shores somewhere about 1860, this species of butterfly is highly invasive. In its homelands of Europe and Asia it has one maybe two annual flights, but here in the Americas it can be seen year round in most parts except northern most Canada and the Desert plains of the Southwest. It feeds on the nectar of flowers and since it visits many in its lifetime, this makes it an effective pollinator.

 

cabbage white in California

cabbage white in California (Photo credit: Mollivan Jon)

 

I am not an expert in butterflies, let alone this one. All the information and facts displayed here are an aggregation of facts and photos gathered from a few quick searches on Google and Wikipedia. Since I am currently dealing with this particular pest in my gardens I thought I might quickly compile some information as I learn and find it.

As beautiful as butterflies are and beneficial as they are to a gardener’s efforts in pollination, it is often their more destructive children that get overlooked in the larger picture of pollinators. In this case, after mating the beautiful female Cabbage White lays single eggs on the leaf underside of just about any suitable host plant. Its usual choices are green leafs in the radish and mustard families; this includes cabbages, collards, and kales. Here in North America, since this butterfly flies year round, a single adult female can lay her eggs several more times than her European counterpart.

Estimates show that a single female of this species might be the progenitor in a few generations of millions.

Wikipedia

These eggs then hatch to become the fuzzy green cabbage worm. In larvae of the Cabbage White will continuously munch on the tender green leaves of the host plant until they become a chrysalis and metamorphose into the adult butterfly. As they feed and live the younger worms will start on the underside of the leaves but graduate to the upper face of the leaf. Their fricasse will collect in the center stalk of the plant, looking like little black dots at the base of each leaf. Even though their damage can be hard to look at, if the plant is otherwise healthy, it will continue to grow new greens. Any greens damaged by the worm are still safe for human consumption if there is enough left of it. Just make sure the worm and its fricasse are no longer on the leaf when you munch on it.

Lacinato Kale damaged by the imported cabbage worm

Lacinato Kale damaged by the imported cabbage worm

 

Controlling the Imported Cabbage Worm

Manually removing the worms is by far the best way to control the imported cabbage worm in smaller, garden sized situations. This can be accomplished by simply picking the worm off the plant and dropping it into a solution of soap and water. If you happen to keep chickens, then feel free to feed them to the birds instead.

If you are not so inclined to hand picking the worms, whether because time or preference, then there are safe and organic solutions which can be applied in order to control and/or break the life-cycle of this pest.

  • Garlic Oil – applied in solution will kill the eggs and young larvae and can repel the older larvae and adults.
  • Hot Pepper Sprays – applied in solution will provide similar benefit as garlic oil. Just be careful not to breathe it in yourself.
  • Soaps – applied in solution will cause young larvae to dehydrate
  • Neem Oil – follow package instructions
  • Bt – by far the best organic solution for all caterpillars and leaf-eating worms. This biologic toxin safely targets only caterpillars and leaf-eating worms by poisoning their stomachs. Infected worms are killed in a matter of days. The downside is that Bt breaks down in a matter of 3-4 days of sunlight. Frequent applications may be necessary.

Establishing an inviting habitat for predatory insects and birds is always an effective way to control pests in the garden. Predatory Wasps will lay their eggs inside the soft bodies of these worms and caterpillars. As the eggs hatch the mature, the larvae feed on the insides of the host worm effectively killing it.

Installing physical barriers is an effective way of controlling the spread of this and other insects within your garden. Spun netting framed over the plants will prevent the adult from landing and laying its eggs.

If you like, you can even try catching the butterfly in a butterfly net. Just make sure you dispose of it properly and not in another garden or yard. This is not an endangered or protected species either.

Another method includes using eggshells strewn around your garden beds. Since this butterfly is territorial, it often mistakes the white shell as another adult and will fly away. You can also use an number of home made crafts to bluff or mimic the butterfly away.

I hope this helps. I know I learned a lot more than I bargained for.

Grow it Forward

10. Oh SNAP! Where did it all go?

1 Nov
English: Logo of the .

English: Logo of the . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This morning millions of Americans woke up to the startling reality that they will face a hungrier and poorer 2014 just in time for the beginning of this holiday season.  This sad reality comes as the US Congress allowed the expiration of the temporary economic stimulus package enacted in 2009 by the Obama administration. As of November 1, 2013, families and individuals receiving federally supported food stamps will see their benefit cut by as much as $36 per month for a family of four, or $1.40 per meal per person down from $1.48 per meal.

The House proposal, now being negotiated along with smaller, yet still significant, Senate cuts of $4 billion, would result in 3.8 million people being removed from food stamps in 2014,according to the Congressional Budget Office. The haggling comes at a time when more than 15 percent of Americans remain mired in poverty, and more than half are at or near the poverty line when stagnant middle-class wages are matched against rising costs of living, US Census data show.

courtesy Mother Jones.com

SNAP, as it is commonly called, is the federal government’s economic assistance program providing nutritional support to persons and families living in or near poverty in the form of Food Stamps. This assistance goes in large part to feed children and the elderly whose food is insecure. There are some abuses to and in the system which have given it a much maligned reputation. But the benefits to the security, health and over-all well-being of its recipients are clear and to reduce and/or remove these benefits in such economically difficult times is bad, to say the least. Especially when one considers that 1 in 8 Americans already deal with hunger on a daily basis, and most of them are children, infirm, and/or elderly.

 

How then are we to feed them? Can they be expected to feed themselves?

Suppose individuals and communities learned and practiced the skills of growing thus bringing the food cycle closer to homes and neighborhoods rather than depending on the industrial food machines of this day. What would happen if more of the fresh food “revolution” in our country made its way down to the lower social and economic brackets of our great society instead of being a bling ring on the fairer fingers of the nuanced and nouveau riche? Suppose more land were readily available for growing rather than constant sprawling development. What if the public schools in our cities did more to teach and encourage agricultural and horticultural practices beyond the operation of a lawn mower and weed eater? What if there were more economic incentives for persons and civic organizations to establish and maintain urban and suburban farmlets? What if more farmers’ markets and grocery stores carrying fresh produce started showing up in the harder parts of our cities and towns and not just the affluent and safer ones? What if we “economically stimulated” healthy eating and lifestyle choices for all levels of society, not just the middle and upper class? 

When societal norms and customs prohibit all members of that same society from attaining and living in and from a mutually accepted quality of health and wellness regardless of social or economic status, then that same society ceases to exist as one and relegates itself to a cluster of many. Thus, it becomes a collection of hierarchical factions grouped into many “have”s and “have not”s.  This is a defacto state of injustice. When a nation accepts this as the norm, especially in the areas of health and well-being, then it is always going to be the weakest, the most needy who will be cast aside and strode asunder the foot and mood of the mightier; of the able. This is not a new thought, however. Aristotle has often been quoted as saying you can judge a nation by the way it treats its most vulnerable citizens. And many other philosophers, politicians, preachers, and activists have espoused this idea throughout history.

“…the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; those who are in the shadows of life; the sick, the needy and the handicapped. “

Last Speech of Hubert H. Humphrey 
November 1, 1977 
Washington, D.C.

“The greatness of America is in how it treats its weakest members: the elderly, the infirm, the handicapped, the underprivileged, the unborn.”

Bill Federer

I do not intend to rant and rail against established machines and practices of our day. Rather I hope to encourage, to rally a cry for a change at the personal level rather than depend on the collective and sluggish effort of indebted government. If society is by default a sum of its parts, then if you start changing the parts you will by extension start changing the whole. Much like the peaceful civil rights movements of the mid-twentieth century that changed America, and the world, let us too begin at the personal level. Let us fight back at the injustice in our food distribution by bringing the food cycle down to lower more personal levels, where possible for each individual. Let us combat food deserts in our cities with persons willing to go into them and offer their produce directly to the consumer rather than through the marked-up marketplace. Let us control growth retake our lands one green acre at a time. Let us teach and encourage the next generation of farmers and growers with respect and thanks. I do not have the solutions here for all my readers. I do not have the strength to wield such a power. This is what I do have though; my health, the health of my family, and by the blessings and grace of God, a couple of small plots of land to grow on and some ideas of how to grow it forward. 

Thank you and God Bless.

 

8. Garden Improvements in the coming winter months

30 Oct

Winter is not yet here but the planting season for our area is all but done. That means that if you do not have in the ground now, then don’t plan on getting it in anytime soon. Unless we are talking about alliums and asparagus; those are about the only things you can plant these days without some kind of season extending devices. The winters here can be fickle, even tempting to gardeners and growers alike. Last year, for example, was incredibly mild, too mild. We had no freezes to speak of which allowed many growers to grow productively all through the winter. Or then there is the winter of three years ago which I had a hard time keeping pace with the heating bill on our little 1,000 sf home due to the extended and extremely cold winter. Generally speaking though, our area is good for growing year round vegetables outdoors, albeit selectively and with appropriate measures.  But, we have already experienced our first hard frost (for us that is sub 29) of the season and that was a full two weeks ahead of the typical November 5 first frost date. As for myself, other than the onions and garlic I planted early in October, I do not plan on starting anything new till next year’s planting season begins in March.

So for the time being I am managing my weeds, taking stock of my supplies, watering, and planning hard improvements. Hard improvements are what I call things like renovations and light construction work. Since this is my first winter in this garden, I expect to be performing a lot of improvements in order to get a good start in March. Of the first on my long list are raising the beds. I suspect I have acquired enough soil, though there is more to be taken from under the paths, if I deem it necessary. Then there is the issue of the containment of the beds. After much consideration, some inspiration from talks with some Masters in the garden and a video from Monte Don, I have decided to use an old technique called wattle fencing for the beds’ containment structure.

[Wattle Fencing] is not a new idea. Beginning in the Bronze Age, when knives, saws and hatchets came into use, many Europeans and early residents of the British Isles developed wattle work, the art of weaving branches into walls, fences and roofs. Wattle fences are made by weaving flexible green sapling wood between upright posts, like a wooden tapestry, so they’re both beautiful and strong. They were originally used to contain domestic animals, such as sheep. These days, wattle weaving is a great way to build all kinds of useful rustic garden accents from sustainably harvested wood.

Read more: http://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/make-simple-garden-fences.aspx#ixzz2jErVn6TL

My reasons for choosing wattle work are simple. I am seriously trying to avoid using personal funds in this garden, as much as possible. And, there is a large stand of young woods in the overgrown fields bordering the garden site. So the appeal of free material ripe for the harvesting is a major bonus. Then there is the appeal of the intrinsic beauty of wattle work. I do not expect this to be easy. As a matter of fact I expect it will require some serious labor. But labor I have plenty of. Not funds.

If I can make my attempt look half this good, I’ll be alright.

Other improvements I hope to accomplish on the site include some work establishing some batches in the compost area and constructing a more permanent hoop house solution for the 4×6 onion bed. At this moment the community compost area is in need of a lot of work. Members have been using the area as a dumping ground for all their material, but have failed to maintain it with regular turnings and doses of water. As a result the pile is now too large and too weedy for any single individual to conceive of managing to any real result. I hope to get in and establish a series of batches that can be managed by a single individual with relative ease, at least perceptibly so.

Last on my wish list is possibly a small greenhouse using as many found or discounted materials as possible. The problem is where to place it because to situate it on my plot, no matter how small, will mean sacrificing valuable growing space.

None of these are any small task. To do any one of them would be a large accomplishment in one off season. To do all three might be considered monumental. Time will tell. After all, that is what I am good at; thinking more stuff up to do. I need to work on doing it and finishing it.

Thanks for tagging along. You can see more here.

5. My first Garden Workday, and piling paths

27 Oct

And so my experiences of being a community garden member continue to grow me and challenge me.

This past Saturday was my first community garden workday.  The community garden workday is a day on the calendar to which each member/plot owner is contractually obligated to attend. These work days are usually spent working on larger projects, projects larger than a single plot. For our work day we tackled weeding and mulching the two main entrance paths. Alas I was too busy helping to spend time snapping photographs so this will be a picture-less post.

In the ten plus years of this particular garden’s existence, path maintenance methods have changed from grassy paths to mulched paths. Both have their merits. The current method is mulch since there is an abundance of free wood chip mulch material delivered to the site by various tree companies. We he piles and piles of it lining our frontage where the trucks dump it. It is a wonderful resource when used properly. Here lies a problem with this method in my opinion. This practice has gone on for several years now. In those years garden members have sought to overcome the weeds in the pathways between each garden with new layers of mulch. Weeds pulled, new mulch laid in. Problem solved. No, problem created I say. I have no problem with the use of this mulch to suppress weeds and to walk upon. I too use this method in my garden at home. From the very same sources, no less. The problem is that there is now an accumulation of many years of this practice upon the grid of paths in our garden. Thus the paths have gotten higher while the plots themselves have remained or in some cases lowered. This problem was exacerbated this past season when our area experienced the wettest summer of the past seventy years. The rains came in but could not get out of most gardens due to such high walkways resulting in lost crops and yields. For many gardeners the potatoes never stood a chance in all that wet. Not to mention all the other low to ground or sprawling vegetables such as squashes and greens. But the weeds loved it. They absolutely loved the neglected growth because it was too rainy for many gardeners to work in. Between records rains, failed crops, and massive weeds, it is sad to say that we lost many a member this past year. Too many members just walked away, paving the way for many new members of course including myself.

When I took on plot #32 this past summer, one of the first tasks I took to doing was this very issue as it existed in my plot. I needed to raise my garden with more soil and lower some of the paths bordering my plot. So I scraped off the weedy top layer of mulch then took the rich soil beneath it and placed it in my beds to raise them up. I have advocated this practice before to my fellow members who laugh at my apparent mounds. Some call them hugelkulture, some call them potatoes. I joke back and call them burial mounds. I had hoped I spread enough of this idea to my neighbors to effect the coming workday. Perhaps I did not talk to enough people. Perhaps I talked to just the right ones. Perhaps the majority simple wanted to accomplish the task as quickly and effortlessly as possible. For whatever reason, the mass of workers accumulated on that day did not scrape up the paths to lower them. They did weed them out some but then they just layered more cardboard and mulch right on top. If that large path gets any higher we could start calling it a wier.

Since I am new to this group I know there is only so much I can say in order to be heard, and not many are going to hear me till time and seasons have proven me out. I am fine with that.

Not all was as bleak as I may seem about the paths. there was a great much work accomplished in the community flower beds. I large overgrowth of Johnson Grass was pulled up and the ryzomes below lifted so they could freeze. Some mysterious slab was discovered beneath this bed that beheld the curiosities of a great many men for a while. If you want to watch men act like boys, bury something in the dirt and they will dig and dig in search of what it is. the leaf pile was cleaned up and quite a few loads of rich compost removed from beneath it. In general it was a very productive day even though I was not able to accomplish anything on my particular plot.

Aside from all the accomplished task, a great deal of talking did occur as can be expected amongst the gardening community. I imagine that community and civilization began as gatherers began to come in, planting fields instead, and they too carried on a great many conversations with their fellow planters. We who grow, love to talk. In our talking, plans were made, ideas shared, and new responsibilites accepted. All in all the coming seasons are looking bright in foresight and this member is looking forward to them.

And this makes five. Five what you say? Follow along here.

2. The Unexpected Swiss (chard, that is)

24 Oct

So a couple of weeks ago I gave in to my impatience and haste as a gardener and planted a very many alliums in two new raised beds just finished at plot #32. OK, truthfully, I planted them the very same day I built the two beds but I digress, you can read more about that account here.

This, my second post in my 100 in 100 challenge, is meant to be an ode (if I dare call it that) to the newest addition to plot #32; two transplanted Swiss Chard, a gift from a fellow community garden member, Toni. Thank you Toni for the gift. May it grow well in its new home regardless of the fact that I have never grown Chard before and really do not know what to do with it.

What is Swiss Chard?

Cousin to the better known beet, and also known as silverbeet or mangold, this leafy green superfood is as colorful as it is healthy. One of my favorite online resources, gardenate.com, gives this description:

Edible dark green glossy leaves with wide white or cream stalks produced over a long period. Some varieties have red, yellow or orange stalks. They are all edible. Both leaves and stalks are eaten. This is a cut and come again plant, providing leaves for some months before going to flower. Can re-sprout from around the base if cut off when it starts to flower.

How do I grow Swiss Chard in my garden?

By all accounts, this plant is a somewhat hardy vegetable. It will last longer into the spring than turnip, collard, mustard, and other leafy greens and will survive late into fall until it is killed by a hard frost. Since this area is not prone to many hard frosts till the holidays, I might be able to get a picking or two off these little guys before then. If you happen to live in an area that does not experience hard frosts, then the good folks at Bonnie have this to say:

In areas that never experience a hard freeze, Swiss chard sometimes behaves like a perennial, living for several years. When it blooms, you can cut off the bloom stalk and it will produce more leaves.

According to the research, in this area Swiss Chard is typically planted early spring (February/March) or late summer (August/September). We are in the third week of October now, so I might be a little late to the game, but one never knows around here. Plus, hoop-houses are fairly easy and common practice in this area.

Since it is a leafy green vegetable, Swiss Chard likes a cool moist but well-drained soil amended with a slow release nitrogen inputs. I am using composted cow manure (already turned into the soil at the time I planted the onion sets). Then the whole bed is covered in a layer of leaf-mold compost. Water regularly if not receiving 1-2 inches of rain a week.

This plant looks to be a forgiving and sturdy type. This is good news because I am just beginning to learn this one.

By the way, thanks again Toni.

2 down, 98 to go. Follow my 100 in 100 challenge here.

Image

RCCG#32 Update: Mid October 2013, New beds

14 Oct

This is an update long overdue. Over the weekend I was given an opportunity to spend my afternoon in the gardens. Thank you! But my story telling gene is not working this morning so this post will be less than flattering.

On my way to the community garden spot I stopped by the Home Depot and found enough lumber on the culled rack to install a smaller 4′ x 6′ end bed. These smaller end beds will be ideal for longer term crops, perennial flowers, and composting. Since they are smaller it will also be more convenient to protect them with better hoops or to continue raising them as a low-rise tower for growing tubers (potatoes, sweet potatoes) and drilling roots like carrots and parsnips. Lastly, the smaller size of these beds will also allow me to more easily control the soil type if I want to grow anything requiring different or atypical soil conditions to the majority of the more native crops I hope to grow in the rest of the beds.

Plus the 70% discount on the culled lumber was a good incentive to do something now rather than later.