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

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Giving is Growing - Peak Moment Video

 Here's a beautiful video about the Sharing Gardens, just released by our friends at Peak Moment TV. Filmed in July 2013 with the garden's bounty as backdrop, we explore the philosophy that is at the root of the gardens: simple-living, gratitude and giving without accounting. Enjoy!

Our deepest gratitude goes out to all of you who have supported this project in any way, from distant well-wishers to those of you locals, rolling up your sleeves and getting your hands in the dirt side-by side! All of us together have made this expression of 'sharing' possible.

Here's the video (watch it here on our site by clicking on the image below, or click the icon in lower right-hand corner of image to view on YouTube):

 To watch it on the Peak Moment site, or view their other excellent programs, Click Here.

If you've enjoyed it, and feel so inclined, please pass it along to your network of friends and family. Much love, Llyn and Chris - The Sharing Gardens

Part of our massive beet harvest - 2013

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Putting Down Roots--The Sharing Gardens Has a Permanent Home!

Chervena Chuska sweet peppers
Hello friends and supporters of the Sharing Gardens, near and far -

We realize it's been literally months since we've posted anything new on our site. So much great stuff has been happening that we've been feeling too overwhelmed to write! What follows is the really big news. We promise we'll fill in details and share photos and highlights from the 2013 growing season as soon as we can, but for now...

The most exciting development is that we're buying the land we've been gardening on for the past four years in Monroe! The property is about three and half acres (we've been growing food on about 2/3 of an acre up till now). It has two existing sheds and a farmhouse built in 1875 (it's the second oldest house in Monroe). There's a deep, strong well that produces delicious abundant water and an artesian spring that brings water right to the surface. The farmhouse is two-stories high and will need a lot of work (it's been unoccupied for about seven years and heavily vandalized.) But it's "bones" are solid and it's got great soul. We've already begun renovations and it's going to be a sweet place to live.

The 1875 farmhouse.
Back side of farmhouse
The majority of the land has been pasture/grass. Now that we know we can stay, we're preparing ground to put in fruit and nut trees and berry bushes. Our local friend and supporter, David Crosby (not the rock star!) has been helping us find nursery stock to get us going. Eugene Wholesale Nursery is providing us with 33 trees, 6' to 8' tall (apples, pears and plums) at three dollars apiece! They're the "seconds" so some may be shaped a little funny till we get them pruned up right. David has also helped us connect with Fall Creek Nursery who specializes in blueberries. These folks have made an outright donation of three dozen bushes, specially selected for our growing conditions (that will be three, fifty-foot rows). We also want to plant figs and seedless grapes. Please let us know if you have a lead on where we can get some cuttings locally and we'll root a bunch to share. (Please see our complete wish list to see how your cast-offs can become Sharing Gardens treasures.)

Most of the original square nails are still holding the farmhouse together!
Some of the plans for the land are still developing... There's a low part of the land that might be perfect to grow cane-willow (for basket weaving) and bamboo (for various purposes). Our neighbor has been encouraging the native Camus lily to re-establish itself on his wetlands and we too want to encourage native species to regain a foothold. We've started a hedgerow of Rosa Rugosa - which will provide giant rosehips for both humans and wildlife and we've managed to establish five American chestnuts (endangered on the East coast). Chestnuts also provide food for people and our animal friends.

Tree planting--a sign of hope.
We are very grateful to the Crowson family (the previous owners of the land). Chester (the patriarch of the clan) was the one we first approached about using the land for free. He really loved our project and gave us his full support--even paying to have a new pump installed in the well and paying the power-bill to keep the pump running for these past four seasons. When he passed away in the winter of 2012 we were a bit anxious about whether we would be allowed to stay but his grown children were happy to carry on with the original agreement. We always knew that the land was for sale and that, if it ever sold that we would have to leave at the end of that year's growing season. That's why we never planted fruit trees or invested much in permanent improvements to the land or buildings.

At first, when oldest son, Jerry Crowson told us that the family had to get serious about selling the land, our hearts just fell. The original asking price was way beyond anything we could afford. But then he told us that they were dropping it by about 2/3 and it suddenly was within our means! Much thanks too to Llyn's Dad, Bob Peabody who made the finances available for us to purchase the land.

Sunny days in the bean patch
Now we can really put down roots and expand our rural arts school--offering hands on, practical experience in growing food organically, canning and other forms of food preservation, vegetarian cooking, basket-weaving and all the other aspects of our Mission Statement. The Sharing Gardens will continue to thrive and grow providing a common-ground gathering place dedicated to the cultivation of generosity.

A great year for carrots...and kids!
Thank you for all your support and help to encourage us along the way.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Family Heirlooms - Saving Your Own Seed

Llyn, with a variety of bean seeds
In the Sharing Gardens we probably save about 80 - 90% of our own seeds. It really isn't that difficult to do and it is very gratifying to experience this deeper level of "local food self-reliance". If you have a garden plot that is separated from other gardens by at least 500 feet (to prevent unwanted cross-pollination) you can save your own seed. Even if there are other gardens nearby, there are many crops you can grow that will not cross (tomatoes, beans and onions, for example) so don't let that stop you.

There are many good reasons to save your own seed:
  • It will be more adapted to your local growing-conditions
  • You can "select" for certain qualities/characteristics (early ripening, sweetness, cold-tolerance etc)
  • The flowering plants provide food for pollinators
  • You have better control over the quality of your seed
  • You are not as dependent on supplies being available from outside sources
  • It's fun!
Chris, winnowing lettuce-seed.
Some plants easily cross-pollinate with their related neighbors. For example, either of its parents. It is difficult to control the outcome of these crosses and, you won't know the results until you grow out the seed the following year. Many gardeners have had the experience of having a squash seed germinate in their compost pile, grow to gigantic proportions and discover at harvest time that their "zucchini" is funny shaped, or has a woody skin. These variations are due to cross-pollination. Peppers also cross easily so, if you grow hot- and sweet-peppers close to each other, the seed you save may either "cool" your hot peppers, or "heat" up the sweet. If you wish to save seed from the plants listed below you either need to learn which varieties cross and keep them far away from each other when they're  going to seed, or grow them on alternate years.
beets can cross with chard, and kale with broccoli. Within the squash and melon 'families' you can get crosses between different kinds of squash, and many melons will cross with each other. Sometimes these crosses are beneficial, creating a variety that is an improvement over either of its "parents" but these crosses are rare. Often (unless you know what you're doing) you'll end up with something that isn't quite as good as

Squash-blossom with bees.
Examples of cross-pollinators:
  • Squash - with other squashes
  • Cucumbers - with other varieties of cukes
  • Melons - with other varieties of melons
  • Peppers - with other peppers
  • Lettuce - with other lettuce
  • Broccoli/Cabbage/Kale/Cauliflower - with each other
  • Chard/Beets - with each other
Some plants won't easily cross, even with other plants in the same family. Tomatoes are a good example: you can grow two, five or ten varieties in close proximity with each other and the seed you save with have the same characteristics as the plant you picked it from (note: though we haven't experienced this ourselves, on some sites we've read that potato-leaf varieties such as Stupice or Brandywine can cross with other potato-leaf varieties.)

Brandywine Heirloom tomatoes
Examples of plants that won't easily cross-pollinate:
  • Tomatoes
  • Beans
  • Peas
  • Onion family (includes garlic, shallots, leeks)
Always start with Heirloom (or "open-pollinated") seed. "Hybrid" seed is developed in a carefully controlled environment that crosses unique qualities between parent-plants to yield consistent, specific results (like early-ripening "Early Girl" tomatoes). If you save seed from a hybrid plant, it is likely that it will revert back to one, or the other's parent-qualities and not give you the desired outcome. Many seed-companies will label their packets, or inform you in their catalog descriptions so you know what you are starting with;  or you can do an on-line search and have your "shopping list" handy next time you pick out seeds, or starts. Of course, once you start saving your own, you always know you've got "heirloom" seed.

Can my garden seed cross with "weed' seed? Yes! There are wild relatives of domestic vegetables that, if flowering at the same time, can 'cross' making your seed produce fruit that is woody, or bitter or has other undesirable characteristics. Learn to identify your local weeds (especially if there are big, open fields of them nearby). Consult expert sources to learn of techniques to avoid this problem (i.e. hand pollinating, bagging the flowers, timing your bloom to avoid the wild varieties' blooming. etc). Examples: Wild lettuce can cross with domestic lettuce; Queen Anne's Lace is a wild variety of carrot.

Dustin saving sunflower seed
Can I "save seed" from produce I buy from the store? Sometimes, but not always. Tomatoes are often hybridized (and being "organic" does not mean they grew it from heirloom-seed). Melons are often from hybrid seed, and they may have been grown in a field next to other melons that they could have crossed with (true with squash as well). On the other hand, we have gotten excellent bean seeds at the bulk-food section of the grocery, and grown fantastic sunflowers from bulk-seed (raw and unsalted, and still in the shell -- of course.) See the article below, if you want to grow potatoes from grocery-store "seed".

This post just covers some of the most basic aspects of seed-saving. For more detailed info, read our posts below and/or consult other sources through books or the internet.

Please leave us comments about your own experiences of saving seed. It's great when we can all learn from each other!

Here are several posts we've written that include information on saving seed: (click on the bolded text.)

Tomato Seeds: Tomatoes are a good plant to start with if you're learning to save seed. As long as you know that the plant you're saving from is not hybrid (see above) you are bound to be successful!

Lettuce: Just be sure you save seed from only one variety of lettuce at a time (it crosses easily if plants are closer than 50-feet apart). With one plant you can save enough seed to keep you, and your whole neighborhood (!) supplied with seed for several seasons to come.

Peas: are easy (if you can restrain yourself from picking every last ripe pea-pod <smile>). Be sure to follow the instructions in the post and, once the seed is fully ripened and dry, freeze the seed to prevent pea-weevil larvae from ruining your batch.

Scarlet Runners: Beautiful red blossoms, big seeds (easy to harvest and dry) and the most delicious bean we know of...what's not to like!

Potatoes: If you're already growing potatoes, saving seed is as simple as sorting out the smaller egg-sized ones and storing them till next season. You can also find seed-potatoes in the organic section of your grocer's in the spring.

Saving your own seed is only one of the many benefits of a sharing-type garden (one big garden, instead of many separate plots). To read about how a sharing garden works, and many of its other benefits, CLICK HERE).

Ismael trimming dill seed-heads; lettuce going to seed in lower-left corner.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Planting a fall and winter garden

Here we are, in the Willamette valley of Oregon, halfway through June, having just finished planting our gardens for summer and fall harvests, and it's already time to begin starting some seeds for our fall and winter harvests, as well as our overwintered vegies that will feed us early next spring.  For those who are fairly new to gardening it probably seems counter-intuitive to plant fall and winter crops during the heat of summer, but when you consider that it will take months to mature crops planted now, it begins to make sense.

So, here's how we do it at the Sharing Gardens.  We start broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, kale, lettuce and chard  around the 3rd week of June and into early July.  We carefully drop two seeds into each cell of a jumbo six-pack or a suitable smallish pot using a complete organic planting mix with good water retention capability.  Black Gold is a great brand if you don't have access to your own blend of compost, leaf mold and weed free garden soil.  Any brand of 'Organic" potting mix should do just fine.  The important thing is that it be able to hold moisture throughout hot summer days and that there be no other weed-seeds that could germinate. Once your seeds germinate, thin them to one plant per cell or pot.

For starting seed this time of the year we set up a table on saw horses outside the greenhouse.  A mist head sprinkler is set up on a timer to come on at 10:00 AM and then again at around 5:00 PM. This should be adequate to insure that the soil doesn't dry out.  Keep an eye on your starts and make adjustments or include an extra hand watering as needed.  You also will find it helpful to set your six-packs in shallow trays on a level surface to hold water for supplying moisture over longer periods throughout the hot days.  However you do it the key is to maintain constant moisture. 

Another thing to be aware of is that some birds LOVE tender young greens and will actually dig out young seedlings as they begin to emerge.  This problem can be averted by purchasing some floating row cover which will allow water and light to get through but will thwart the birds.  The brand we use is called 'Remay' and is available by the foot or in small rolls at local garden supply stores and nurseries.  It can be reused for years if it is kept away from nesting rodents when being stored.  Another more permanent solution is to build frames covered with window screen to put over your starts.

In planning your year round garden you'll want to get used to the idea of earmarking the places where your fall and winter plantings will go.  After your early plantings of greens are harvested, be ready to add compost and other soil amendments a couple of weeks ahead of your later planting to give the soil a chance to reestablish healthy populations of worms and other soil organisms before setting out your later crops.  With practice and experience you will begin to establish a pattern and rythym and the process will become familiar to you.

When your starts are about 4-6 weeks along, it's time to transplant them into the garden into the beds you've previously prepared to receive them.  Just open up holes large enough to drop them in place and gently press them into the soil. Be sure to give them the proper spacing apart from each other.  Crowded plants don't produce as well as ones with plenty of room to expand.  And it's also very good to give each 'start 'a dose of manure or compost tea to get them off to a good 'start.'

The internet is a wonderful resource!   We went online and did a search, 'vegetable planting guide for Willamette Valley Oregon'  and found a printable guide compiled by Oregon Tilth,  which helps to take the guess work out of garden planning.  You can do a similar search if you are not in our general area.  There are a variety of other vegetables you can probably grow aside from the ones I've mentioned here.  We want you to know that the harvest doesn't have to end with the first fall frosts.  You can enjoy eating fresh vegies pretty much year 'round in many parts of the world.  This article only touches on some of the techniques for fall and winter gardening.  We hope that you will look into the subject further and be well on your way to greater food security for yourself, your immediate family and your community of friends.  Be well!!!!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Tomatoes and Peppers - Last weekend!

Tomatoes in our new greenhouse - 2013
This is the last Saturday (May 25) to come pick-up tomatoes and peppers at the Sharing gardens from 9:00 to 11:30.  There are still over 100 left but there are other "sharing"-type gardens we'll be passing the surplus along to after this weekend.

It may still be early to put these heat-loving plants into the ground. We recommend you keep an eye on the weather and if there's a frost-threat bring them back inside at night or cover them with buckets, boxes or some other protection. We won't have replacements if these get frosted. Local wisdom suggests waiting until Mary's Peak is snow-free, or after Memorial Day (whichever is later).

We always like to provide free 'starts' to those in need, but if you've already budgeted money to buy starts from the store, consider making a donation to our project instead. You'll have some of the healthiest, robust, organic 'starts' available. The funds we receive all go towards keeping this vital, local project thriving.

Please continue to bring your six-packs, flats and small, square pots for us to re-use. We don't need any hanging baskets or round pots.

Garden location: LINK

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Tomatoes and Peppers are ready!

The Sharing Gardens is happy to announce that we have beautiful, healthy, heirloom tomatoes and peppers (grown mostly from our own seed) available these next two Saturdays (May 18 and 25) from 9:00 to 11:30.

It may still be early to put these heat-loving plants into the ground. We recommend you keep an eye on the weather and if there's a frost-threat bring them back inside at night or cover them with buckets, boxes or some other protection. We won't have replacements if these get frosted. Local wisdom suggests waiting until Mary's Peak is snow-free, or after Memorial Day (whichever is later).
We always like to provide free 'starts' to those in need, but if you've already budgeted money to buy starts from the store, consider making a donation to our project instead. You'll have some of the healthiest, robust, organic 'starts' available. The funds we receive all go towards keeping this vital, local project thriving.

Please continue to bring your six-packs, flats and small, square pots for us to re-use. We don't need any hanging baskets or round pots.

Garden location: LINK

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Gallery of Givers - Spring 2013

Thank God for the children!
So much to be thankful for! The abundance just keeps multiplying. Here is a gallery showing many of the ways that support for the Sharing Gardens continues to grow.
Our Spring Plant Giveaway and Fun-d Raiser has been very successful, bringing in close to $200 so far. We still have some plants left so come on down on Saturday morning for lettuce, cabbage and kale. We've got about 500 heirloom tomato plants started (mostly from our own seed) and many peppers and flowers. They'll be ready for pick-up in early June so get your garden plots ready!
We're grateful to our neighbor Rick Fielder who's been keeping us supplied with grass clippings, and David Crosby, the Dillards and George and Irene for massive leaf donations.As readers know, we mow the leaves and grass together and use the combination to increase fertility in the gardens. LINK
Mark Frystak heard our impassioned plea for straw and spoiled hay and used his networking skills (and massive dump truck) to bring us over three tons! That's Chris pulling flakes off an 800 lb. bale!
Lynne and Mike Miller and Lynne's  mom Pat Gray brought us three truckloads of straw mixed with sheep manure...
...and several boxes of seed potatoes ready for planting. We have extra now, so come on by if you need some.
Here are just some of the leaves donated by David Crosby.
Chris tilled the leaves into the ground using David C's tractor.
Here's about 2/3 of the new 80' x 100' garden space. The leaves were tilled in in late February. In two months time, they've had time to compost into the soil and grass has grown back to make comfortable walking paths.
For the second year in a row we've received a generous cash donation from the OSU Folk Thrift Shop in Corvallis. Please stop by and patronize them when you're in town. Their store (originally run by the wives of faculty at OSU) raises thousands of dollars for local service-projects such as ours. LINK to their history and website.

We were blessed to have four OSU students come for four hours on April 20th for a service-learning project. They were great helpers and moved the project forward in several areas:

Brianna and Whitney mulching the potatoes just planted.
Brianna, Whitney and Llyn transplanting Red Iceberg lettuce. The straw makes it so pleasant to be on our knees!

Amanda and Chris loading straw.
Chris and Amanda forming a mulch caravan! Donated leaves in the foreground and compost bins made of pallets in the background.

Justin spreads the mulch in our tomato patch. "Justin time!"

Whitney and Brianna tying tomato cages to baling twine so they don't fall over.

Brianna and Whitney tying up bamboo for a pole-bean trellis.

We've had steady help from our core volunteers (now called "share-givers"!) in the new season. We've just now begun to have regular hours in the garden each week. If you'd like to come join us, CLICK HERE.
Christine is one of the first people we met when we moved to the area in 2008. She's become a close friend and walking buddy of Llyn's and we always look forward to having her in the garden.
It's been great watching Kaitlynn grow. She's always such a cheerful, willing spirit! This is her third year in the gardens.
Shelby (on the right) brought her friend Melissa to help mulch the garlic. Melissa's sweet girl Lily supervises.

Shelby's partner Kurtis loves to work up a sweat! We appreciate his gentle, serving nature.
Boys love to dig in the dirt! Here David is showing Austin (one of our newest friends) how to prepare the soil for tomatoes by digging in rabbit manure.
Jim and Cindy Kitchen mulching the NE garden beds. These guys drive an hour round-trip each week, from Corvallis, just to be in the garden. They did a picture-perfect job on the mulching and 20 minutes later we watched a giant dust devil come and blow a wide swath of the straw out of the paths and over 100 feet in the air. Very dramatic!
Jennifer and Doreen met for the first time and shared stories as they transplanted "maters and pepps"! (tomatoes and peppers) Doreen was one of our very first volunteers (along with her husband Rann). They stopped in on their bicycles to get a drink of water at the Alpine garden just as we were breaking ground and became our steadiest support the following summer once they'd moved to nearby Harrisburg.
Here are a few special thank yous to supporters of the gardens far and near:
David Heath has been sending us emails from Turkey (where he's living on a sailboat he helped build with his wife Janet). He's been sending us links for some informative and entertaining videos (which we'll pass along the links to soon) and made some astute comments on some of our earlier posts: Keep 'em coming, Dave!
Dave Roux - shows up every Saturday with his award-winning smile, eager to serve in whatever ways he's needed. This year he's begun collecting video-footage for a Sharing Gardens documentary!
This dear woman made it possible for us to move from an 8' x 40' travel trailer to a five-bedroom farmhouse, just a short walk from the garden. We love our Cathy Rose!

Our sweet new home!
Well, time to get back to the garden!
A bouquet from our new home. Each week something new and beautiful comes into bloom!