Sunday, April 4, 2010

Getting going and already catching up

Hi Y'all. So, it's official--we're blogging. Here, T and J will chronicle the trials, tribulations, triumphs (and joys, jubilations, and juxtapositions) of their efforts to grow yummy food at the Oxford Community Garden. In our favor: Lots of sun, lots of heat, lots of moisture, and a nice long growing season. Working against us: The bugs and the fungi, which also love the heat and the moisture, along with the clayiest, stingiest, poorest-draining soil you can imagine. Let the games begin. Hopefully, the collective power of the OCGA blogosphere can help us all make fewer mistakes and grow a better tomato.

With this first post, we're going to get caught up, with a reverse-chronological account of our activities since the shovel first hit the first chunk of clay:

April 3-4, 2010. Always the good news first: Beet seeds are germinating! J & T used cedar half-logs to line the outside edge of the plot, and added some more soil/compost/manure to the edges to fill it out. Also planted a second round of radish seeds today. Added a layer of newspaper and then mulched with leaves, all around the kale, chard, dill, parsley, and arugula plants. Did some general community garden maintenance by adding woodchips to thinning areas of the paths in the northwest zone of the garden. Momma Killdeer is still patiently sitting on her four eggs. Other birds noted today at the garden: Black Vulture, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Northern Mockingbird, Northern Cardinal, Carolina Wren. So many “Northerns” in such a Southern place.

April 2, 2010. In J & T’s plot: Radish seeds are germinating! Also: J thinks he found a cucumber beetle eating our kale. It got squished (by J; T is not a fan of killing, even if it's better for our harvest). Our first insect pest met an untimely death, so hopefully word will get around that our plot is a tough place to make a living as a pest. More cucumber beetles were seen eating dandelion pollen/nectar in the nearby field.

J helped Marie and some parents corral a big group of Cub Scouts at the garden today, and gave tours to small groups of the little rugrats. We hope some of them learned something about gardens, compost, the smell of thyme, and the Killdeer nest in one of the garden plots. The scouts and their parents were a big help in piling leaves and straw around the border of the garden, and in moving a bunch of soil into the future blueberry patch.

March 27, 2010. First day of planting! In future years, we hope to start a bunch of things from seed, well ahead of time, but this first year it’s a bit off-the-cuff. T & J planted one of our two plots with kale sprouts from Frank & Liz’s Farmer’s Market store, and chard sprouts, parsley, dill, arugula, & thyme from the Garden Center. All of the holes for these sprouts got a handful of worm compost from J’s backyard worm bin, plus a handful of alfalfa pellets (pet food type) for a nitro boost. We also planted a row of beet seeds and a small square of radish seeds. Now we’re crossing our fingers. Plan to check on the plot every couple of days, watering when needed and watching for bugs and weeds. We also ordered some more seeds for warm-weather plants like tomatoes and green beans, and some row-cover material to help keep pests off some of the short-stature brassicaceous plants.

March 20, 2010. First day working on our plot at the community garden. T, J, and P prepped the plots as follows: 1. Used shovels to skim off a layer of weeds and turn them over. 2. Laid a thin layer of newspaper to help keep the weeds down, wetting the newspaper as we went along to keep it from blowing away. Could’ve probably used a thicker layer of newspaper. 3. Covered that with a layer of straw. 4. Covered that with a layer of aged manure (cow?). 5. Covered that with a layer of aged, shredded leaves. 6. Covered that with a 1:1 mixture of nice black compost and “topsoil” (red, sandy, poor soil). Whether we've got an adequate layer of soil is TBD, but we're banking on rapid decomp of our leaf layer. But next year, watch out!

We divided our 16’ by 16’ plot into four 7.5’ by 7.5’ squares, with a foot-wide straw path in between. Gonna need to add at least one stepping stone in the middle of each square for easier weeding, pruning, etc. P & D get two squares, and J & T get two squares, but we plan to do lots of helping each other with watering, bug patrol, etc.

So far, so good.


  1. T - you're integrated pest management girl. Can't you plant something in the middle to attract beneficial insects? If you find a cure for snails let me know - they are eating some of my plants again...

  2. Indeed, I'm all for IPM -- planting companion plants to deter could help, planting plants that attract natural enemies could help, but we're starting with row cover, which is supposed to be most effective against flea beetles which are the pests most likely to show up first, and then we're out there every day, and Jas is good at squishing. Truthfully, we haven't had hardly any trouble with insects yet. One of our neighboring plots is planted very densely -- growing much better and bigger than ours -- yet she has but a tiny bit of leaf chewing on her chard. So far so good.

    My only suggestions for the snails are diatomaceous earth (application is tricky) or beer traps. Seems like people really like the traps -- you tried those last year didn't you?