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

Monday, October 29, 2018

The Great Monroe Leaf Drive!

Our beautiful hickory tree!
The Sharing Gardens is now accepting autumn leaves to help build up our compost piles in preparation for next year's growing season.



Neighbors bringing leaves.





We are blessed to have two "neighbors" who bring us leaves from their oak and maple trees that amount to ten or more trailer-loads full each year. We use them to cover large areas of our gardens so they have time over the winter to compost and feed the worms and other soil-organisms and suppress weeds.

This year, we are very happy to announce that Monroe's City Hall is including a flier about our need for leaves in this month's newsletter which is mailed to all the town's residents in their water bills.

Here is the text of the mailing:

Please bring bagged leaves and grass to:
664 Orchard St., Monroe (bright yellow house behind the big, white Methodist Church) and leave the bags in a pile under the big, hickory tree at the back of the church parking lot.

Please no animal waste, trash or sticks/branches, no holly or roses (too sharp), or black walnut leaves (they can kill plants - LINK). Just leaves and grass 😊.
Free bags to share...

We have plenty of previously-used lawn/leaf bags to share. They are available in a trash-can underneath the hickory tree.  Please take what you can use.

Please don’t fill bags too full and tie them lightly (so we can re-use them).

We would prefer that you bring the filled bags to the Sharing Gardens but if you have more bags than you can bring in your own vehicle, please save up enough bags to make it worth our trip to come get them. Place them on the curb, up-side-down (so no rain gets in) and give us a call for pick-up. Chris and Llyn (541) 847-8797 (Before noon or after 2:00, please. We take a rest mid-day). End of flier.

"Veganic" Agriculture:

Since we began weening ourselves off the use of animal manures as a source of soil fertility, we have turned increasingly to leaves, grass-clippings, wood-ash and coffee grounds as a replacement. 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 four-thousand pounds of produce. We have to replenish a huge amount of organic-matter so our soils don't get depleted!

Each year we must replenish the organic-material to keep our gardens fertile. That's a lot of leaves!
Llyn spreading leaves
We tarp the leaves with various recycled materials to keep them from blowing away. This is called "sheet-composting" or "solarizing" and it has the added benefit of killing many weed-seeds that germinate in early spring which means far less weeding for us later in the season.

There are many materials that work well for solarizing: carpet-scraps, old pieces of green-house plastic (greenhouse plastic is specially coated so it's protected from UV-rays and won't break-down as fast - beware of using regular plastic sheeting because, as it disintegrates it breaks-up into many little pieces which are then polluting for the environment). Black plastic works too.

Another great source of solarizing material comes from lumber-yards. Much of their lumber comes wrapped in a woven plastic "paper". They give this plastic-wrap away for free and it appears that it holds up fine for at least two seasons.

Tarping the leaves keeps them from blowing away and kills many weed-seeds that germinate in early spring.
We use metal fence-posts and pieces of pipe to weight down the tarps/plastic.
Please note that all of these materials we use are re-purposed; most of them were headed for the land-fills and by finding uses for them we extend their life-times.

We weight down the edges of these materials with fence-posts, metal piping or whatever we have on-hand to keep the tarps from blowing away.

Another neighbor collects used-coffee-grounds from a local coffee-shop and brings them to us. We now have over 150 gallons of them stock-piled for the spring! We heat our home exclusively with wood and use the ashes as another source of soil-fertility. Here's a post about the "Benefits of Coffee-grounds and Wood Ashes in the Garden".

Leaves make excellent mulch for trees...
We add leaves to the raised-beds in our greenhouses too...

Here are some links explaining this style of deep-mulch gardening that we practice:

Benefits of Deep-Mulch Gardening

Grass-clippings for soil-fertility!
Grass-Clippings and Leaves for Fertilizer

Mulch We Love, and Why

More on Mulch

Something to be aware of when you're using donated mulch materials...Some materials - particularly un-composted horse manure can contain high levels of herbicides and can pollute your soil and compost piles if you are not careful. Here is a post we wrote about our experience with this:

Herbicide Contamination?

This compost pile was made entirely from leaves and grass-clippings...

...beautiful compost leads to...

...bountiful harvests. Buttercup (green) and Delicata (white) squash.

...and playing in the leaves is just good fun too.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Coffee Grounds and Wood Ash for Soil Fertility

Coffee grounds collected from coffee-shops.
Since we began weening ourselves off the use of animal manures as a source of soil fertility, we have turned increasingly to leaves, grass-clippings, wood-ash and coffee grounds as a replacement. Here is a summary of our "Deep Mulch Method" in which we cover the topic of leaves and grass and other organic materials in our gardens.

Regarding coffee:

Coffee grounds provide generous amounts of phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, and copper. They also release nitrogen into the soil as they degrade. When we have it, we spread it about 1/4" thick on beds before we plant. We also layer it into our compost piles. Here's an informative article about "Using Coffee-Grounds in the Garden".

For some reason, worms love coffee grounds! By sprinkling grounds in your garden beds, you will attract worms to come into your soil and, since coffee grounds also contain many nutrients on their own, we also recommend adding them to your greenhouse paths and compost bins. They will attract worms and speed up the process of decomposition.
We sift both our coffee grounds and wood-ashes. Here are students from OSU performing "service-learning" at the Sharing Gardens.
...and Wood Ash:

Wood Ashes provide all necessary nutrients for plant growth except nitrogen and sulfur.  We use ashes from our wood-stove (that heats our house). We use only newspaper to start the fires and burn pure wood. We don't burn anything with paint; no ply-wood or other man-made products so the chemicals in them don't get into our food-chain. We sift the ashes to remove any big chunks, and use a heavy-duty magnet to remove any screws or nails.  

Be very careful not to use too much! We put just the lightest dusting in our beds. Do not use wood-ash to make a potting soil. It is caustic to worms and will alkalize your soil so use only a little, and wait 7-10 days before planting seeds or seedlings. Do not use around acid-loving plants (like blueberries, or in potato-beds). Article from our local University Extension Service: "Wood Ashes Can Benefit Lawns and Gardens". And, from SFGate's garden-site: About Enriching Soil With Ash
Heating with wood has many benefits. Here's a wood-stove in one of our greenhouses we made from a barrel-kit.
Here's Caleb - our youngest coffee-spreader!