A unique and viable approach to establishing local food self-reliance and building stronger communities.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Generous Garden - SC

We recently heard of another "Sharing"-type garden in South Carolina called the Generous Garden Project. They too grow food on a volunteer basis and make it available for free to Food Banks, Shelters and others in need. They are excited to announce that they have been gifted with two, twenty acre parcels of land to expand their project! Watch this inspiring video made several years ago when the project was just getting started.  Enjoy, and be inspired!


Check out their site if you wish to learn more about them.


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Enough and To Spare, To Give and To Share

Signs indicate where donors can leave materials. Chris tills the ground with greenhouse in the background.
"So, are you getting enough volunteer participation this season?" asked a visitor to the Sharing Gardens last week. The answer is, we're getting "enough" but not very much. Of the 4,000+ seedlings we started in our new greenhouse (mostly from seed we saved ourselves) and the hundreds of those transplanted into the ground, we've probably done 95% of them. But we're not feeling burdened by this and in fact, in some ways we're feeling more supported than ever this season. The donations we're receiving of cash and materials free us to spend less time earning a living and more time in the garden (anywhere from two to six hours a day) growing food to help those in need. Support is showing up in other important ways, outside the garden, that help us keep things moving forward.

Beautiful worm-compost.
For example, Monroe resident John Kinsey has a red-wiggler worm farm in his backyard. He takes kitchen scraps, weeds, grass clippings and other organic material and feeds it to his worms who turn it into fantastic compost and worm castings (poo). He also brings us bags and bags of grass clippings from his own and other people's yards which we use to mulch our plants. John is also growing this year's garlic crop in his raised beds and will grow exclusively JalapeƱo pepper plants so that he can save pure seed. He lives close enough that it will be easy for him to share in the bounty of all the other kinds of peppers and garden produce grown at the main garden-site so it's a real win-win all around.

Sam and Becky Bowman, with Chris.
Sam Bowmen has been another friend who's been doing all our small-engine repair and maintenance. Brother to Loren, who started the Monroe Food Bank, and Curtis, who manages it now, he comes from a family of community servants and has extended himself generously to keep our tillers, mower and string-trimmer running smoothly. Sam and John are both examples of people finding where their own talents and interests can intersect with the garden's needs and, though they may not be physically in the gardens with us, their support makes the gardens possible.

Volunteers plant tomatoes amidst straw -mulch paths.
Support has also come in the form of donations of materials and money. Mark and Heather Frystak keep amazing us with their generosity. Heather's family has lived in the area for generations and, though Mark has "married in" he's become a major networker and advocate of the Sharing Gardens by securing donations of coffee grounds (from relatives who run a coffee shop in Albany) and straw from Soggy Bottom Farms near Harrisburg (also part of his new extended family). The Frystak's generosity has not stopped there. Mark keeps a regular watch on the Wish List published on our website and, showed up with 22, brand new, ten-foot T-posts. The really amazing donation followed our request for a set of tires for our 1968 GMC pick-up truck. We were hoping someone might have a used-set sitting in their barn or garage, that they're not needing anymore. Imagine our surprise when Mark sent us an email saying, "Meet me at Les Schwab tire store, and I'll make it happen." And he did. he bought us a brand new set!

Amy, Cindy and Adri sort donated pots and flats.
Our friends and neighbors, Larry and Germaine Hammon, not to be outdone, have donated an 18-foot, fifth-wheel travel trailer, in very good condition. We just need to do some minor repairs and detailing and it's up for sale. All proceeds will go directly into the Garden account. In the past six weeks we have also received a $1,000 grant from the OSU Thrift store, a generous cash donation from Claudia McCue, several hundred dollars in donations from people who have come for seeds and starts at our "Give-aways", and a full $200 donation from the Circle of Children Village/School at Triangle Lake who received the last of our starts on Sunday, June 3rd. Thanks got to Gini Bramlett and the Tribune News for publishing so many of our posts and helping us reach people who don't have internet access. Rann and Doreen Millar bought the Gardens a subscription to the Tribune News so we can clip the articles for our scrapbook. We are also grateful for the delivery of sheep manure from David Wells and steer manure from Mike Spoerl (who also gave us a 55-pound bag of powdered kelp.) Keep it coming!

So, though we welcome more volunteer participation in the garden, and are grateful to those who have already been coming out in support, you can see, we are being well embraced by the community.

Other Sharing Garden news:

As many people know, we are no longer gardening at the Alpine site. Building the greenhouse in Monroe has meant we must go there at least once a day for watering and we felt it would spread us too thin to manage and maintain both sites. The fence is still up and it appears some local residents are carrying on with the gardening, which is wonderful.
OSU students help us mulch and plant in April.
In April, we had four volunteers from OSU's Geo 300 class come and help us with mulching and transplanting broccoli, kale, lettuce, chard and spinach. They were a huge help. Imagine our chagrin when, only three days later, two of the four rows planted had been decimated by slugs which were practically growing before our eyes. Follow this link to read about the non-toxic, simple solution we discovered to bring these voracious eaters back into balance.

Volunteer, Jennifer Rivais and Llyn wheel a cart-load of starts for Jen's garden.
In May we were invited to give a presentation to the United Methodist's Lady's Tea - an annual event dating back many decades. Ours was one of their best attended (over 35 ladies). We ran a slide-show of about 100 images of volunteers and bounteous harvests, while answering questions from the audience so they could direct the presentation based on their interests. We provided potted Cosmos and Marigolds, and the Church served strawberry shortcake. My favourite moment was when we invited the ladies to come on a tour (the gardens are directly behind the church) and a dozen or so made their way, in their Sunday finest, along the freshly mulched paths and into the jungle of greenery filling the greenhouse. It looked like we'd been graced by a flock of rare, tropical birds. If you are local and have a group who would like to see an inspiring and informing presentation, contact us to set up a time.
Pink Cosmos
On Sunday, June 10th, we hosted a potluck/picnic for the Corvallis Organic Gardening Club - a group that meets monthly throughout the year to share best practices on organic gardening and enjoy each others company. Through the winter months the group meets at the 1st Alternative Co-op in Corvallis for seed swaps and talks on relevant topics. In the summer months we tour member's gardens. It was very gratifying to share about our project and gardening practices. Chris and I both led groups around and fielded questions. The bonus of the evening was live entertainment from one of our favourite, local bands - "When Picks Fly". They brought a down-home, Old-Tyme style of acoustic, stringed instruments. "When Picks Fly" will also be playing at the Farm to Farm Century Ride - our second, annual fund-raiser that features a cyclists' tour of small scale farms, and focuses on "Eating Local and Healthy."

"When Picks Fly" Joe, Kathy, Shep and Warren (l to r) Toe tapping fun at the Sharing Gardens!
Current needs:
We have used up the last of the straw that was previously donated and still have need of several tons more. We use a deep-mulch method that feeds the soil as the worms digest the organic matter from below. The 4-8 inches of mulch also block weeds from growing and moderate the temperature and moisture levels of the soil minimizing our need to water and giving the plants a stable environment in which to grow.

If you are a rancher, or have horses and need to get rid of last year's hay to make way for the new, please bring it to us. We can provide a tax-receipt for your donation and you will know you are contributing to a worthwhile cause.
OSU students apply deep mulch in the paths. The garden uses literally tons of hay, straw and other organic materials each year.
For our full wish list click here.

Organic Solution to Slugs - Iron Phosphate

Slug eggs - if you find these in your garden, get rid of them (not in your compost pile!)
The Monroe Sharing Gardens is located on ground that stays marshy well into the spring - even on a dry year. For the last few years since we've been there, we've had exceptionally wet springs so it can be downright boggy. Add to this the fact that we add - literally - tons of leaves, straw, grass and other kinds of organic matter and you've got the perfect environment for slugs to thrive. In 2011 we had a bad infestation--they decimated lettuce, kale, broccoli, peas -- all the cool-weather crops but even in the heat of summer they never died back and some tomato plants were basically just slug apartment dwellings; all you can eat buffets for the gastropods that make the Pacific NW famous. Buckets of potatoes were too slug-eaten to save and went straight to the compost. We knew that this year would be even worse as we came across underground deposits of hundreds of their small, pearly white eggs, just waiting for the perfect spring conditions for them to hatch.

Getting rid of a slug infestation is no fun!
 We moved forward in good faith, figuring that somehow their numbers would balance out and they could join in the spirit of sharing that the gardens are famous for - a little for them, a lot for everyone else. But when we came to the gardens just a day after a team of four OSU students did a massive planting of literally hundreds of lettuce, spinach and broccoli and found two out of the four, seventy-foot rows practically disappeared overnight, we knew we had to find  a solution, and find it fast.

Whole rows of lettuce and broccoli, eaten overnight.
Chris went on-line and searched for organic solutions. We needed to find something that would get the slugs under control without endangering our healthy earth-worm population, the snakes who feed on the slugs, the birds who frequent the gardens, or any other wildlife. Nor did we wish to put anything in the garden that would be unhealthy for humans. There are a lot of folk-remedies out there such as coffee grounds, eggshells, citrus peels and beer-traps. All with only moderate success rates, or unpleasant side-effects (emptying beer traps with decomposing slugs is not a pleasant task!)

So, imagine our great joy when Chris discovered that iron phosphate, commercially know as "Sluggo", is a mineral naturally found in the soil and is non-toxic to humans, worms and other wildlife. The iron phosphate is coated with something that is appealing to slugs, and keeps the pellets from dissolving in the rain (it can last up to two weeks for each application. It's also very easy to use -- you just sprinkle a little at the base of each plant, or in the spaces between the plants. When the slugs eat it, it makes them lose their appetites, or binds up their digestion and they die within a few days of eating it. This also disrupts their reproductive cycle as the slugs aren't around long enough to mature and lay eggs so, theoretically, once we bring the population back into balance, we will need to use far less of the product (or none at all) in future years.

Healthy rows of lettuce.
We have been applying it now for about six weeks and are having fantastic results. In the beginning we had to reapply it every few days to keep up with all the slugs being hatched. Now, the applications are staying uneaten until the product naturally dissolves into the ground.

If you buy the product "retail" you can expect to pay $6.00 - $7.00 (or even more per pound). We found a wholesale source in Portland, Oregon -- Naomi's Organic Farm Supply -- where we got it for about $3.00/pound (but we bought fifty pounds of it!). We will probably use all but about five-pounds of it by the time we're done applying it, so it was worth it for us to get the larger quantities. (Our garden is 110 feet by 170 feet). We were very happy with the service we received. Here is a link to Naomi's.

Kept in balance, slugs are a natural part of a garden's fauna.
Here is info from another organic farming site attesting to the safety and effectiveness of Iron Phosphate: Posted from: Green Methods

"Sluggo" Iron Phosphate Bait

Iron phosphate (brand name Sluggo), is an organic slug and snail controlling compound that breaks down into fertilizer which has proven itself extremely safe and amazingly effective, even in the wettest of conditions where slugs and snails tend to be most problematic. In fact, based on the copious amounts of positive feedback we’ve gotten over the years, we can say with conviction that this product last longer, works better, and is much safer than the industry standard, highly toxic, metaldehyde.
This product can be used just about anywhere, and up to the day of harvest on crops. To use it, towards evening simply scatter the plastic-like granules on the ground or in the pots/benches where slugs and snails are found feeding (even in wet conditions). Once they have eaten the bait, they’ll find cover and slowly die. And it is literally as simple as that.