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

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Why We Grow and Eat "Organic" Food

Organics - Better for Health!
We recently came across an article that revisited the incredible results from a 2019 study of four families who radically reduced the traces of insecticide, fungicide and herbicide residues found in their urine from switching to an organically-grown diet for just six days (study linked below). And, while this is a very small sample of people to test, the results are striking!

Chris and I eat almost exclusively organically grown foods when we're at home. At 70 and 57 years old respectively, we are both very healthy. Neither of us has seen a doctor for any reason since we met 13 years ago! We take no prescription medications and, in fact had a bottle of aspirin pass it's expiration date in our medicine cabinet because we were too slow in using it for occasional muscle soreness or headaches! We each have had two colds in the last 13 years but no other illnesses that caused us to be bed-ridden for even a day. Our food is our medicine (along with other healthy lifestyle practices including the practice of generosity, meditation, stretching and exercise practices and limiting electronics usage) and we feel strongly that a societal shift towards an organic, whole foods, plant-based diet would have significant positive effects both on people's personal health and the health of the natural environment as well.
Image credit: Maria-Marlowe
We are at an advantage over most people as our large gardens provide a high percentage of the foods we eat but for many years we have made it a priority to let our food-budget reflect our values and we only buy groceries that are organically grown. The only times we don't eat organic are when we eat out at restaurants or are visiting friends, which amounts to a few times per month.

This post offers an overview of what we feel to be the most important reasons to shift to an organic diet. For those readers who have the financial means to make this shift entirely, we encourage you to jump into an organic life-style whole-heartedly. We also encourage you to cultivate relationships with local farmers through shopping at farmer's markets and co-ops that feature local, organic foods or joining a CSA. See also: Seven Tips for Shopping at a Farmer's Market

We realize that, for many people who are living close to the edge financially, that committing to buying all your groceries organically-grown may be impossible at this time. If that is the case, consider making smaller incremental changes such as committing to only buying organically and humanely produced animal products (where farm chemicals become most concentrated) or only buying organic "treat foods" (whatever that means for you). Their higher prices may encourage you to eat less of these items which is likely to be better for your own health and will definitely be better for the health of the planet.

Another option to increase your intake of organic garden-produce is to start your own garden, or start or join a community-garden. LINK: So, you want to start a Sharing Garden.

We like to remind ourselves as we adopt new lifestyle choices that "it's a direction, not perfection." Be gentle on yourself as you make new changes and, if sometimes you decide to eat something on your "no-no list", do it consciously, do it with joy and then re-commit to following your chosen dietary guidelines once again. Happy eating!

Image credit: Enki quotes.com
So, here are some of the top reasons we feel it is important to eat organically grown foods.

Healthier for you: Ingesting farm chemical residues isn't good for your health. Many of these chemicals can build up in one's tissues over time so, even though we may only eat small amounts with each meal, their accumulated amounts can be significant over a life-time. Also, children tend to be more susceptible to environmental toxins as they are building new tissues at a faster rate than adults. LINK - How much Glyphosate is in the foods I eat? LINK-Pesticide Action Network
Any farmer who grows "organically" may not use herbicides, pesticides or fungicides - unless they have been approved by the organic-certification agencies.
Slow-grown food is more nutrient-dense.
More nutrient dense? The truth is, most organic-farmers struggle under the same competitive conditions as farmers who grow using conventional practices. This means, they need to invest the least amount of money in fertilizers and other soil amendments, and grow their produce as fast as possible, to get it to market ahead of their competitors to make the most profit. These practices lead to more "water-weight" and less nutrient-dense foods. This means that the vitamin/mineral content may not vary much between organic and conventional farmers.  But many people do find that the flavor of organic foods is often much better than non-organic produce.
This is why it is important to know your farmer so you can confirm that their food is slow-grown and that the farmers are replacing the minerals that get depleted in their soil from harvesting crops.
Adding compost-tea to our gardens is one way we replace many of the nutrients that are depleted through harvesting.
GMO versus organically-grown:  There is still debate about whether foods produced from Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO's) are a health risk to humans. We are strongly opposed to them because of the compelling research pointing to the possibility that eating GM plants, or livestock raised on GMO feed can lead to leaky-gut syndrome and a whole slew of health problems including severe food-allergies, learning disabilities and autism-spectrum disorders in children. LINK Institute for Responsible Technology-a GMO watchdog group. Genetically Modified plants and animals have the potential of interbreeding with plants and animals that were not genetically modified, with unforeseen consequences. Some GM plants (corn and soy) are specifically bred to be resistant to Round-up and other herbicides meaning large amounts of these chemicals can be used to grow them. This leads to well-documented cases of super-weeds that have become resistant to herbicides and require ever stronger chemicals to keep them in check. LINK: The Dangers of Round-up Ready Foods, LINK-GMO Health Risks  Also, GM corn and soy are used extensively in livestock-feed so you can imagine how these farm-chemicals concentrate in their tissues.
We feel strongly that it is important to avoid eating any genetically modified plants. We feel it is especially important to avoid eating animal-products (meat, dairy, eggs) from animals fed on GM feed.
Sharing Gardens - 2019
But what about just eating non-GM foods? Well yes, this is a step in the right direction but just because something is non-GMO does not mean that it's grown without farm chemicals. Industrialized farming uses plenty of chemicals in growing the food. Did you know that it is also a legal practice for farmers to use Round-up as a desiccant (which causes withering and drying in plant tissues) to artificially dry crops if conditions are too wet for the crops to fully ripen in the field? LINK-Wikipedia, LINK-EcoWatch.
By definition, organic farmers are not allowed to grow Genetically Modified crops, or feed them to their livestock.
Better for the environment. Anyone following the news knows that our environment is under attack from all sides. Industrial farming is one of the biggest culprits.

Pollinators are under siege from the practices of growing "mono-crops" (all one variety) for thousands of acres, offering no variety in their diet of pollen, and many farm-chemicals are damaging to their health as well. LINK - Why growing sunflowers is great for bees.

Honey-bee on tansy. We let some weeds flower in our garden intentionally as they provide important pollen-food for beneficial insects. Here's some good news: Grassroots bee petition in Bavaria forces greener farming practices: 
Soil health: Industrial farming - through over-tilling and depleting soil of organic matter makes soils void of all life and destroys the structure of the soil itself which no amount of added fertilizers and chemicals can restore.
Healthy soil means healthy soil-organisms. Eight-year old, Ricardo holds an earthworm found in our gardens.
Industrial farming is a major source of water-pollution. Industrial farming has negative effects on the world's water for many reasons. Here are a few: Heavy Metals build-up; Algae Blooms, Dead-zones and Acidification; Nitrates; Pathogens and Over-use of water reducing water-levels in our aquifers. (LINK-How Industrial Agriculture Effects Our Water)

Many bird species have a hard time finding enough insects to feed their young. Farm chemicals tend to concentrate in the tissues of animals, the higher-up you go in the food chain as Rachel Carson so famously proved in her landmark book from the 1960's titled Silent Spring.

Thorin, Eliza and Adri harvest cabbage, 2018.
Be aware too, that this principle of chemicals concentrating in tissues applies to foods raised for human consumption too. The accumulation of these chemicals in our own bodies will therefore be less with a plant-based diet. The more meat, dairy and eggs one eats, that are not organically-raised, the higher concentrations people have in their bodies of these chemicals. Bear in mind too that the quality of life for livestock animals grown organically is more humane as well.
Organic farming practices keep our air, water and soil healthier and can even contribute to the increase of viable habitat for wild plant and animal species.
Organic farming is better for the farmers and farm-workers who grow our food. Sharing Gardens volunteers digging potatoes 2018.
Healthier for the farmers and farm-workers: When we use our purchasing power to make a statement about our values, we are directly contributing to healthier lifestyles for everyone involved in the food-growing community. LINK - Agricultural Chemicals and Human Health
In this complex world of competing dietary studies which often offer contradictory results it can be difficult to know who to trust and which dietary practices will be best for your health and the health of the environment on which every living things depends.

If you have been feeling on the fence about whether to make the commitment to eating more organically-grown foods, we hope this post has helped you make that shift. Just remember that wise saying, "You can either pay your farmer now, or pay your doctor later." We think this is good advice.

Get to know your farmers! Chris and Llyn in the Sharing Gardens, your friendly, neighborhood "farm-acists".

Bella loves kale!
Other relevant LINKS:
Synopsis of "Organics for All" Urine study

Organic diet intervention significantly reduces urinary pesticide levels in U.S. children and adults - Science Direct 

What the pesticides in our urine tell us about organic food - The Guardian

The States in America That Use the Most (and Least) Glyphosate - Zero Hedge

What's in standard 'fast food'?

The Sharing Gardens is a registered charitable and tax-exempt organization. We exist primarily through donations. If you have benefited from our project or site please consider making a donation through PayPal (a receipt will automatically be provided for your tax records).

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Sharing Gardens CSA - 2020

We are now accepting CSA subscriptions for our 2020 season. We have a limited number of spots so, if interested please reserve your subscription.

Here's a description of our CSA:

Llyn and Chris-Your local 'farm'acists.
What is a CSA? A CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) is a membership-relationship between you and a farm. Members receive a "share" of seasonally available produce, on a weekly basis. This gives you the benefit of superb freshness, knowing where your food comes from, how it is grown, and that you are giving direct support to the people who grow your food.

Your subscription will bring fresh and local food to your family while supporting us in our mission to donate healthy produce to people in our community, through local food charities  (3,399 pounds in 2019). We focus on familiar, staple crops; the things that are most popular at grocery stores and farmer's markets.

Home-grown fresh!
What's in my box? In the beginning of the season, boxes are less full as there are not as many crops ready for harvest in the spring. Over the course of the summer and into the fall, the boxes increase in the amount that's included so, over the course of the season, you receive generous value for your membership.

May, June: Beets, cabbage, carrots, chard, onions, kale, lettuce and radishes
July: same as above, AND early tomatoes. summer squash, garlic and cucumbers
August, Sept.: same as above, AND green beans, celery, large tomatoes, peppers, apples, pears, plums, blackberrries and grapes
Oct., Nov.: Most of above, AND winter squash and potatoes.

Dates of the season: The Sharing Gardens CSA provides weekly boxes of fruits and vegetables from May until November as it is available.

How much is in my box? At the height of the season, each member receives enough produce to feed the average family of four. We cannot customize boxes but if you are receiving more produce than you can consume, we encourage you to be generous with your friends and neighbors so it doesn't go to waste.

Each member will be added to our special CSA email-list and receive recipes and ideas for using the produce provided. We ask members to check their email regularly so as not to miss our communications.
Lettuce grown from seed we saved.
How do we grow your food?

No herbicides or pesticides
Soil-fertility is created primarily through compost, worm castings, leaves, grass-clippings and wood-ash.
Slow-grown for maximum density of nutrition and flavor.
We encourage birds and beneficial insects for natural pest-management.
We grow all heirloom varieties (no hybrids or GMO) from 85% (or more) of seed we saved ourselves.

Commitment to living lightly on the Earth: Each weekly box will have a large, plastic liner that all - but a few items - will be placed in without separate plastic-bags. Liners will be re-usable. Less plastic - better for the Earth! Thank you for helping us reduce our environmental footprint.

Healthy food for you and your family!
Cost of season's 'shares': $700 (payable either in full - when you sign-up, or in two payments of $400 - when you sign up, and $300 by July 1st). This works out to about $25/week.

Payment methods: We can accept cash or checks made out to 'The Sharing Gardens'.

Where do I pick up my box? Members in the Monroe area will be able to pick up their boxes on Wed. afternoons from 1:00 to 5:00 at the Sharing Gardens.
664 Orchard St., Monroe 97456
Corvallis and Junction City: We will have a single, weekly delivery site to both Junction City and Corvallis. Day of week/time and site location to be determined based on enrollments.

Can I share my membership? Yes, if you find someone to share it with.

Can I cancel my membership? Only if we have a waiting list. You will be refunded the balance of your fees if there is someone else who wishes to buy your "share".

To sign up for the Sharing Gardens CSA,  send an email to us at - ShareInJoy@gmail.com - We will email you an application for you to fill out and mail to us, along with your payment.

Questions? Phone: Chris and Llyn (541) 847-8797
Call: 8:00 to 12:30 or 2:00 to 6:30 (we keep 'farmer's hours' and take a nap each day. 💤)

Benefits of the Sharing Gardens Model

The Sharing Garden is a unique community-garden model. Instead of many separate plots that are rented by individuals, the garden is one large plot, shared by all. All materials and labor are donated. Share-givers (volunteers) typically come one to two times per week (at scheduled times) to help in all aspects of farming from planting, through harvest. The food we grow is shared amongst those who have contributed in some way as well as with others who are in need in our community (through food pantries and other charities.) In 2018, as a fund-raiser for the Gardens, we started a CSA (community supported agriculture).

Amy and Cindy sort donated pots and trays.

Our project encourages community in a tangible way. Growing food together helps build relationships. The  Gardens have become a hub for distributing surplus building materials, garden equipment and supplies, canning jars, seeds and 'starts' and other related materials. Neighbors bring us their excess (or invite us to come pick it up) and we distribute it to those in need.  

Llyn preparing tomatoes for dehydrating.
The Sharing Gardens also has a strong educational component: share-givers learn about organic gardening, creating habitat for pollinators and other beneficial wildlife, saving “heirloom” seeds, pruning and other food-growing skills. We have also offered classes in cooking from scratch, using ingredients from the garden and encourage our share-givers and blog-readers to learn about canning and other food-storage techniques.
Every year we have been able to provide local food-pantries with a bounty of fresh, organic fruits and vegetables from the Garden's surplus. We have given away  thousands of surplus 'starts' grown in our green-house to other sharing-type gardens, and food-pantry customers. We save over 85% of our own seed which is shared through seed-swaps, and to those who will use it for non-commercial growing.
OSU students re-potting 'starts'
In recent years we have partnered with Oregon State University's "service-learning" projects. Over the school year we host 50-60 students, for four-hours each (in groups of 4-6). These students help with all aspects of our project and learn about organic gardening, sustainable living and experience the joys of being in service to the community -- while receiving college credit.
Apples gleaned from our neighbors.
Currently our project gleans fruit from neighbors' trees and provides a drop-off site for gardeners/farmers to drop-off their surplus. This is then distributed to those in need. Since purchasing the land that hosts the Sharing Gardens (2014), we have planted dozens of fruit and nut trees and berry-bushes. As these mature, we are significantly adding to the quantities of fresh, organic produce we can share in our community.

We have a strong commitment to providing habitat to birds, small-mammals, insects and reptiles. Our style of gardening provides food and shelter for many of these critters who's habitats' are shrinking due to humans' lifestyles habits.

There are many benefits to growing food in the sharing model.

You can:

Grow the maximum amount of food: Sharing Gardens use the garden space more efficiently. Since we grow all the food together (instead of separate plots) there are fewer pathways between garden rows and all of the same kind of plants can be grown together making harvests more efficient too.
Delicata squash on harvest-day.
Water more efficiently: Plants can be grouped together with similar watering requirements.
Manage weeds and pests more easily: In a typical community garden setting, pesticide or herbicide applications in one plot can lead to a mass exodus of the offending bugs or weeds into adjacent plots. This can lead to a mini “arms race” between garden plots to bolster plants against pests. In a Sharing Garden, if pests/weeds appear, they can be managed selectively without the need for ever-accelerating methods of eradication.
Cindy, Rook and John have a "weeding party".
Save pure seeds: Many plants will cross with their neighbors, or hybridize. This means that, in a typical community garden neighboring gardeners would need to coordinate so their seed-stock doesn't cross with neighbors. In a Sharing Garden, you can plan your crops to keep strains from crossing and save enough seed to last for a few years. In years that you're not saving seed, it doesn't matter if you plant varieties that might 'cross' in neighboring rows.
Kidney beans grown for food and next year's seed.
Build community: Though some community gardens have regular work parties and social gatherings, the emphasis is on each gardener doing his own thing. In a Sharing Garden, the focus is on cooperation and sharing a common goal. Having a meaningful shared purpose builds great camaraderie.
Children enjoy eating the food they helped grow and harvest!
Share knowledge: Sharing Gardens become a place where gardeners can share their experience with each other. Participants are also learning about food preservation, gleaning and other ways of increasing local food security.
Participants learn about food-preservation.
Live more lightly on the planet: An additional benefit of this style of gardening is that we use salvaged material whenever possible. This keeps these materials out of burn-piles and the land-fill while providing new life for tools, leaves, grass clippings and building supplies. By encouraging people to share their surplus we build a tangible sense of community and networks of relationship that can be drawn from in times of crisis.
Ken and Chris create tomato-cages out of old fencing material.
Help local wildlife: Each of our gardens is designed to create habitat for pollinators and other beneficial wildlife as we believe it is important to "share" the earth beyond our human family.
A Sharing Garden creates a healthy environment for humans and non-humans alike!
We are pleased to see that other communities around the U.S. are beginning to adopt the Sharing Gardens model. It's an idea with so many benefits and very few "down sides". 

The Sharing Gardens is a non-profit and tax-exempt organization. We exist entirely through grants, our CSA program and donations from people like you. If you have found benefit from our site, our project or just want to support the work we do, please consider making a donation through PayPal. (Click button below.)

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Sharing Gardens - Overview of 2019

Hello dear friends, We're already preparing for the 2020 season (we'll start our first seeds in just six weeks) but this post looks back at some of the highlights from 2019, one of our best seasons ever! This post also offers thanks to all our supporters, near and far. We couldn't do it without you!

We are truly grateful.

Chris and Jim harvesting potatoes with little Jace's help. Potato harvest 2019: 676 pounds; our best yet!
Well, the numbers are in! The Sharing Gardens have surpassed all previous records for harvesting this year with a total of 8,006 pounds!
Here are the highlights of our donations to charities:
South Benton Food Pantry: 1,513 pounds
Local Aid Food Pantry: 1,311 pounds
Other Misc. charitable donations: 575 pounds
                                                Sub-total: 3,399 pounds
Shared amongst participants:
Sharegiver's (volunteers) weekly distribution of the harvest (and one family facing a cancer crisis who we donated a CSA membership to): 1,447 pounds
Food Preservation (canning/dehydration) and winter storage (potatoes, squash etc) - also shared amongst participants and will continue to be donated to the SB Food Pantry through the winter: 1,078 pounds
                                                Sub-total: 2,525
Three CSA memberships (Community Supported Agriculture - LINK): 1,075 pounds
Equivalent of four CSA memberships offered to a class on healthy living for 12 weeks: 1,007 pounds
                                                Sub-total: 2,082

Sharing Gardens 2019 Harvest Total: 8,006 pounds!

OSU student-volunteers with sweet-meat squash harvest.
Previous years' harvests averaged closer to 6,000 pounds. The increase this year comes largely from the fact that our orchards and vineyards are beginning to really bear fruit (approx. 521 pounds). We also grew lots of potatoes (681 pounds) and winter squash (676 pounds). We've also continued to expand our vegetable garden spaces for growing annual vegetables, and in planting succession crops, so fertile ground is not left empty after crops are harvested early in the season.

In addition to the food we grew ourselves, each week we received all the surplus produce from the Corvallis Farmer's Market that was picked up by Jim Templeton from the Monroe Gleaner's. We sorted it and redistributed it back through the Gleaners and through Local Aid which amounted to over 800 pounds total - thus keeping this valuable food from going to waste.

We have so much to be grateful for.

Cash donations from individuals:
  • Peter Stoehl, Karen Josephson - $2,100 (from an I.R.A required distribution).
  • Judy Peabody - $500 
  • Karen Salot: $100 
  • Lee Cornforth: $100
  • Jim and Cindy Kitchen: $50
Jim  and Cindy Kitchen (with Chris in the middle) - enjoying watermelon.
Other donations:
  • Victor Stone - honey (when a huge maple tree split open in a storm this winter, it revealed a hive of wild bees who then abandoned their hive leaving us with two gallons of wild-honey). Four cords of maple-firewood (a $1,000+ value): Victor already had enough firewood stored up for his needs so he helped us chop up that maple tree (and two others that also came down in the storm) and load the "rounds" into our truck. He got the debris from the storm cleaned up and we got several winters' worth of firewood. Now that's mutual-generosity! Victor has many maple trees on his land and this year, once again, he's blown the leaves into huge piles and then loaded them into our trailer for garden-use. Nineteen trailer loads so far!  - Enough to cover the entire garden. Much thanks.
  • David Crosby - loaned us his log-splitter to split Victor's wood-donation. Who needs a gym-membership when you have to split and stack all the wood you'll need to heat your house for the winter? David is also a local with lots of big trees on his land. We received five trailer-loads this year that he and his helper collected and delivered! Wow!
  • Neighborhood leaf donations: Our leaf drive has continued to be a big success. We estimate that we've had approximately 150 bags of leaves donated this season.
  • Llyn spreading donated leaves. Donations have been enough this year already to cover all outdoor garden-beds, our greenhouse paths and still have a surplus for next summer's growing season.
  • S.A.G.E. Garden: S.A.G.E. Garden is a non-profit project run through the Corvallis Environmental Center. Like us, they grow a huge garden of organic vegetables to be donated to soup kitchens and food pantries. We donated over 100 cabbage and broccoli "starts" to them and they let us fill up a few dozen buckets of their surplus compost. Again, "mutual generosity"! LINK
  • John and Donna Dillard - donated a chest freezer that was no-longer needed. The Dillards also donated a couple of trees-worth of firewood from trees taken down to make room for their new house. Also, cinder-blocks, large plastic and terra cotta planters, and salvaged lumber. Best neighbors ever!
  • Larry M. - Fixed mower belt. Our trusty ride-on mower finally wore out the belt that drives the mower blade. Larry saved us the money it would have cost to have it repaired at the dealer, plus the hassle of transporting the mower.
  • Craig Erken: Llyn's uncle Craig donated a Mother Earth News-subscription - the classic guide to homesteading. Also, after her help in cleaning out his garage, Craig donated a dutch-oven we are using to cook with on our wood-stove, a  mini-shop-vac, a Champion juicer and a bunch of other useful miscellany.
    OSU Service-Learning students with kale-bouquets. Nov. 2019
  • Peter Alford - driving our donations to Local Aid.
  • Wanda Foster: a grocery bag full of fresh-picked Chanterelle mushrooms (it's been a great year for them but we've only managed to go out picking a handful of times ourselves).
  • Cheryl Anson: wheelbarrow, salvaged redwood decking. Cheryl is the warehouse manager at Local Aid - one of the main recipients of our produce donations.
  • Jim and Cindy Kitchen: gloves and pruners. The Kitchens also transported two of our CSA member's boxes each week on their way home from volunteering in the gardens.
  • Catherine Henry: three and a half pounds of seed garlic (six varieties) which we've planted in our greenhouse.
  • Mara Friddle - USDA/NRCS Plant Materials Center: Forty wire tomato cages made from fencing material.
  • Our wonderful Share-givers: We couldn't do this without our core group of six wonderful volunteers. They came almost every week during the growing season for three hours, doing whatever needed to be done.
  • Oregon State University "Service Learning" students: The SG has hosted six groups of 4-6 students-each to volunteer with us in 2019. The students receive hands-on experience in some of the many tasks needed to grow food for the community, an extensive Q&A session where we delve into their curiosity in living a more generous and sustainable lifestyle, and we receive an incredible boost of high-energy labor! A real Win-Win!
Llyn, with some of summer bounty donated to the SB Food Pantry.
Foundation grants:
  • Benton Community Foundation - $2,400: This grant funded the Sharing Gardens to provide vegetables to the Total Health Improvement Program (THIP), a twelve-week free class designed to help participants address, prevent and heal from chronic health issues through adopting a whole foods, plant-based diet, and stress-reducing behaviors such as meditation and exercise. The class is a partnership between our local, Monroe Health Clinic, it's vegan doctor - Dr. Kyle Homertgen, the South Benton Food Pantry and the Sharing Gardens.
  • South Benton Food Pantry: $1,800 - for general operating expenses. This is the second year in a row that SBFP (a main recipient of Sharing Garden's produce) has made this generous donation.
  • OSU Folk Club Thrift Store granted us $772 for general garden expenses: tools, hoses, gloves and potting soil to fill up our raised beds.
Thank you "berry" much! Bella, Adri and Jasmyn enjoy summer's blackberry abundance.
The Sharing Gardens is a non-profit and tax-exempt organization. We exist entirely through grants, our CSA program and donations from people like you. If you have found benefit from our site, our project or just want to support the work we do, please consider making a donation through PayPal. (Click button below.)

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Leaf Love!

How we use leaves in the garden...

Shag bark hickory.
Hello folks - Well, the autumn leaves have mostly fallen here in Monroe. It's been our best year yet for leaf-collection! We had a couple of cold snaps early on and not much rain so the colors were gorgeous (prettiest I can remember in over 20 years of living out west) and wonderfully dry, which makes it easier to rake them and bag them. This is the second year we've had a sign out front welcoming leaf-donations and the locals are definitely catching on. Hardly a day goes by without at least several bags showing up under our big Hickory tree. 

It's a real "win-win" as neighbors have a free, local place to bring their leaves (which they would otherwise need to burn, compost or take to the land-fill). We recycle the leaf-bags by hanging them in our greenhouses to dry and re-bundling them in packets of six which we offer free to folks in a trash can out front, saving people money from buying new ones and helping to reduce the purchase of single-use plastic.

Leaves in greenhouse paths.
The gardens benefit from having a free source of fertilizer - whether added to our compost bins, the paths of our greenhouses or directly mulching the garden-beds over the winter.

About a month ago, a local reporter offered to write an article about using leaves in one's landscape or garden and she included info about the Sharing Garden's leaf-collection program. Here is Edie's article re-printed with permission from the Tribune News (where it was first published).

By Edie Moro

The trees are beautiful in the fall with their shades of red, orange and burnt yellow. Then, the leaves are shed and the trees are bare. What do you do with the leaves?
Homeowners may want to make use of their bounty of leaves in their own gardens. Spread the leaves in a layer on the lawn and run a lawnmower over them several times. This chops up the leaves and adds grass clippings, which may then be spread over garden beds and under shrubs. Keep the chopped leaves away from the base of shrubs or trees where they could hide voles and other rodents that may chew on the bark.

Mowing leaves to use as mulch.
Also, for rhododendrons and azaleas, spread a light layer, no more than one or two inches, over their root zone. These shrubs are shallow-rooted and need access to oxygen. Piling mulch and clippings too deeply around these plants has been known to smother and kill them – called “death by volcano.”

Even easier - homeowners may want to just mow the leaves and let them melt into the lawn over the winter. It is a great, economical way to feed the lawn.

Sharing Gardens in Monroe would love your leaves. They use them to cover large areas of the gardens so they have time over the winter to compost and feed the worms and other soil-organisms and suppress weeds. The garden has stopped using animal manures as a source of soil fertility, and have turned to leaves, grass-clippings, wood-ash and coffee grounds as a replacement (see links below for more info).

Llyn Peabody and Chris Burns are the Sharing Gardens coordinators. They write a blog about the garden at www.thesharinggardens.blogspot.com/, which includes gardening information, recipes and other "homesteading" info. 

Llyn explains the need for the leaves, “There is a saying that, 'for every calorie you harvest out of a farm or garden, you must put at least a calorie back in'. In a typical year we harvest and share over six-thousand pounds of produce. We have to replenish a huge amount of organic-matter so our soils don't get depleted!”

Neighbors bring us grass!
The garden will accept most bagged leaves and grass clippings, with the following exceptions: “no animal waste, trash or sticks/branches, no holly or roses (too sharp), or black walnut leaves (they can kill plants). Also do not include diseased or insect-laden plant material. Just leaves and grass.

Sharing Gardens is located at 664 Orchard Street, Monroe, Oregon 97456, where there is a bright yellow house behind the Methodist Church. The coordinators ask people to leave the bags in a pile under the big, hickory tree at the back of the church parking lot. There are free previously-used lawn/leaf bags available in a trash-can underneath the hickory tree. The coordinators ask that bags be filled not too full and only lightly tied so that they may be re-used.

Thank you Edie and thank you to all the new and returning leaf-donors from this year! 
Gratitude for garden support!
For info on using leaves and grass clippings for fertility in your garden, CLICK HERE.

Leaves to mulch the gardens in winter.
For info about using wood-ashes and coffee grounds for fertility, CLICK HERE.

Adding wood ashes (and coffee grounds) for fertilizer.
For info about making your own potting mix (soil) in your greenhouse paths - using worms, CLICK HERE
Grass-clippings in our greenhouse paths.

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