|Chris gives a lesson in seed-planting - 2015.|
"Anyone who thinks gardening begins in the spring and ends in the fall is missing the best part of the whole year; for gardening begins in January with the dream." - Josephine Nuese
|Adri fills pots with soil.|
Soil-prep: (Growing food using "organic" methods is a very dynamic and ever-evolving process. What follows are the techniques we are currently using but we won't necessarily know if we are successful until crops come to harvest. Also, a method that works one year under certain climate conditions may not be successful in years to come).
|Chris adds and mixes in compost.|
Because we're slowly weaning ourselves from using the rototiller to loosen soil (outside) and creating permanent beds (in the greenhouses) much of winter "gardening" involves preparing beds for spring planting.
Greenhouse Prep: In the Fall we pulled old plant material from the beds and gave them a light sprinkling of wood-ashes and a thicker coating of coffee grounds. The ashes provide many needed minerals. The coffee-grounds also boost the nutrient-content of the soil but the main reason we like to use them is that they are a favorite food for worms. With this food source, they reproduce rapidly and add their worm-poo (castings) to the soil which is an almost perfectly balanced fertilizer! In the Fall we also covered the beds (and paths) with a thick mulch (leaves, straw and fresh grass-clippings).
|Llyn adds more coffee grounds.|
Once the beds were cleared, we added more coffee and compost, and gently dug it in a few inches. We've been absolutely amazed with how much worm activity we're finding in our greenhouse beds!
It's good to have several weeks with the bare soil exposed as the sun's heat will warm it and activate many micro-organisms. The added coffee also encourages worm-reproduction which adds more nutrients and worm-tunnels to the soil. LINK: Preparing Garden Beds - One Low-tech Way
|We put the first batches of seeds on electric heat-mats with plastic covers to keep in heat and moisture. This gives a head-start to seed germination. For later batches of seeds, when there is more sun to heat up the soil, we won't use the mats.|
|This is what the greenhouse will look like in a short time!|
|Peas back-lit by the sun.|
|Cindy with carrots - 2016.|
As an experiment, we've started a small patch of carrots and beets in a greenhouse (they prefer cooler soil to germinate). Ideally, they'll be done producing by mid to late-spring leaving room in the beds for summer-crops such as tomatoes and peppers that love the heat!
|Burgundy Globe onions-an Heirloom variety from which you can save seed.|
|Lettuce! Can't you just taste that tender goodness?|
|Red Winter Kale - one of the most nutritious land-vegetables!|
|Llyn with Broccoli-2009|
|We use milk-cartons or large soy-milk containers as collars.|
The collars - pictured above - provide pest-protection, cause the celery to grow up-right and "blanch" the stalks so they are more tender.
|These potatoes, with their short, stout sprouts, are ready for planting.|
|Re-potting a tomato seedling.|
Saving Seeds: We save and re-plant over 85% of our own seeds. Developing this skill is fun and very rewarding. The seeds you save yourself will be adapted to your own micro-climate and soil conditions. One of the advantages of having a community-garden organized like the Sharing Gardens (with all of us growing food together; no separate plots rented by individuals and families) is that you can coordinate seed-saving and isolate varieties that might 'cross' and give you impure seed. LINK to saving your own seeds
|Chervena Chuska peppers. If peppers are pulled up in the Fall before the first frost, and hung indoors, they will continue to ripen on the plant.|
|Chris has been painting a new sign for the Food Pantry.|
Winter's not over yet! Though the days are growing longer and signs of spring are all around, there's still plenty of time for creative projects, baking and other activities that must retreat to the background in the height of the garden-season.
|...and Llyn's been having fun in the kitchen baking pies and bread and muffins!|
The Sharing Gardens is located in the southern Willamette Valley of Oregon and is considered Zone 7b by the USDA. Click here to find your gardening zone. To find a planting guide for your area, do a search on-line. Most agricultural universities offer guides specific to their regions.