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

Sunday, January 29, 2023

Onions - Growing from Seed - Using heat mats and shallow pots

Note: This article explains how to start onion seeds using a heat mat and shallow pots. To read about how to start seeds in deep pots, without heat mats, CLICK HERE).

There are literally hundreds of varieties of onions grown in this world, but unless you grow your own you usually have access to only a handful of varieties from the grocery store.  If you rely on growing onions from ‘sets’, (the little onions, about the size of a large grape) your options are often still quite limited.  Growing from 'sets' has other disadvantages too; often they will produce a significant number of ‘doubles’ (meaning smaller onions at harvest-time) or they bolt and go to seed, which makes them tough and unpalatable.
Here is a guide you can follow that will increase your chances of success at growing onions from seed.

Onions going to seed.
Here in the Willamette Valley of Oregon (USDA Zone 7b - Link to finding what zone you are in), we do best to grow what are called ‘long day’ varieties which include Cipollini (chip-o-leenie) both red and yellow varieties, Southport White Globe,  or White and Yellow Sweet Spanish. (Choosing Onions-Long or Short Day?) There are many more varieties to choose from; check your seed catalogs or go online to see a greater selection. (Be aware that, if you wish to save your own seed, you must choose Heirloom/Open Pollinated non-hybrid seeds. Those listed above are all Heirloom varieties.)

You will need:
  • Sifted potting mix
  • Sand (optional)
  • Pots: We used to use rather large pots (4" x 6" deep - 25 seeds per pot) but have shifted to using tofu containers with holes drilled in the bottom (see picture below), or jumbo six-packs. These use less soil for the same amount of seeds.
  • Seeds: start with fresh seeds each year; onion seeds lose viability within one or two years. If you wish to save seed, choose Heirloom/Open Pollinated varieties. Choose a variety appropriate to the length of your summer days.
  • Greenhouse or grow-lights
  • Heat mat (seeds will germinate better with a little bottom heat).
  • Plant-mister  
When to start: About eight-to-ten weeks from the time you wish to transplant them into your garden. Usually we get the seeds started around the middle of February but, if we have extra seed, sometimes we experiment with starting a little earlier (this would only work using a heat mat for bottom heat). By late April the seedlings will be ready to set out into the garden.  They are ready when you can see a clearly defined "bulb", 1/8" to 1/4" pushing above the soil-surface in the pot. At this stage, the sooner they get into the ground the larger your onion bulbs will be at harvest time.  It’s always a good idea to have a bed in mind that you’ve prepared during the previous fall since it’s difficult to prepare beds in the spring if you have a long rainy season like we often experience here in Oregon. The seedlings can handle a touch of frost at this stage but its no fun transplanting them in really muddy garden beds. Some people wait until early or mid-March to start seeds and still have plenty of time for the onions to ripen.
Another option, if you have raised beds in your grow-tunnel/greenhouse, is to transplant the 'starts' there - instead of outside). Onions are easy to use to fill in spaces between larger plants, maximizing your raised-bed use. But they need full sun so don't plant them where they'll get a lot of shade later in the season as other plants mature.
When planning ahead for planting, consider also the practice of companion planting as some plants are more or less compatible with onions (LINK).

Pots: If you will need to wait more than 8-10 weeks, to transplant the seedlings into their permanent growing space, follow this guide for planting in 4"x 6" pots. This way you won't run the risk of the onions becoming root-bound before you transplant them.
In recent years, because we have increased space in the raised beds of our greenhouses, we've shifted to using re-purposed tofu-containers with holes drilled in the bottom - (see picture below - approx. 3"x 5"x 2" deep) (we eat a lot of tofu! - if you're local to us and need some of these containers for seed-starting, let us know!). Jumbo six-packs work too.
Tofu containers for seed-starting. We've used them as 'six-packs' too. Though the roots of the 'starts' grow together, it's easy to tear them apart without damaging them. The tofu containers, 3"x 5"x 2" deep, use less soil than jumbo six-packs so we save on potting mix.

Start with a good organic seed-starting mix.  It doesn’t need to be a premium potting blend, in fact, if you start with too rich of a soil blend you can experience a condition referred to as ‘damping off’ which looks like algae or mold growing on the surface and which causes the young seedlings to rot as they emerge from the soil.  One way to help eliminate this condition is to sprinkle a thin layer of sand over the seeds.  By keeping the soil damp but not too wet and having good ventilation you shouldn’t have this problem. 

Onion seeds can be started in a variety of containers.
Fill the pots with a sifted soil to about 1/2" from the top (tiny seeds find it difficult to germinate in soil with large chunks of material). Level out the soil, tamping it down with the bottom of another pot to create a level surface so that all of the seeds will be sewn at the same depth (otherwise they germinate unevenly). Label each pot with the name of the variety and the date you started them. 

Seeds: You may want to actually count out the seeds the first time so that you can have an idea of what 25 - 35 seeds looks like because that is about how many would be optimal to sew in the tofu-containers or six-packs.  You can adjust up or down depending on the size container you choose.  The idea is to not have an overcrowded condition that would produce weak and unhealthy seedlings.  Place the seeds in the palm of your hand and pinch out a few at a time. Gently drop them on the surface of the soil, distributing them as evenly as you can without becoming too concerned about accuracy.  It’s OK if some seeds are touching each other. Sprinkle a sifted layer of starting mix or sand over the seeds at a depth of about an eighth to a quarter inch.  Tamp it down again and water gently (a planter mister works great at this stage). 

Watering:  Keep the soil moist using either a small spray bottle or water them from below by putting water in trays and setting pots in them (light watering minimizes 'damping off' too). Tiny seeds, until established can be washed away with more aggressive watering techniques. Do not over-water! Soil should be damp but seedlings should never be in standing water. 
Heat mat: A heat mat is helpful for germinating seeds if you are doing so in an unheated greenhouse and nights still are getting cold. Heat mats can cause soil to dry out more quickly than ambient air so cover the seedlings with something to keep warmth and moisture contained.
Then it’s time to be patient, and let Nature do her work.

The seeds will not require sunlight until they have emerged from the soil, usually about two weeks from the time they are sewn, so you can keep them indoors where they will not freeze, on a window sill or in a greenhouse if you have one. Once the greens are up, they will require full sun. If you don't have grow-lights or a greenhouse, be sure to bring them inside at night if it looks like you may have freezing temps.
You will know it is time to transplant when the greens are stout and well-established and you can see a tiny bulb pushing up from the surface of the soil.

Teasing onion-roots apart before trimming.
Transplanting: Each pot of seedlings must be teased apart. You will need to trim back both the tops and the roots before trying to stick these tiny seedlings into the ground. You trim the roots so they're easier to slip into the holes and you trim the tops so that the pruned roots can support the greens above. Don't be too aggressive with your pruning however or it can shock the plants and make it hard to recover.

First, dump the whole pot into the palm of your hand.  Next, separate the clump into several sections (maybe 10-12 seedlings in each clump).  Hold one clump by its 'greens' and gently tap the root ball until most of the soil has fallen away.  Tease the seedlings apart and lay them back in your hand so that the small bulbs are in a line (see picture below). Using a scissors or hand pruner, cut away the tips of the roots, so they'll easily slip into the soil.  Trim the tops to about the same length as the roots. Now set the clump into another shallow container with a little water in the bottom to keep them from drying out while you prepare the rest for transplanting.  Prepare only as many as you are able to transplant in one session. If you end up with extras, surround their roots with some moist soil and keep them in the shade until you have time to get them in the ground.

Trim roots and greens to same length.
If you are going to plant them in rows, open up small holes about 4-5 inches apart. When we plant our onions this way, our beds are 2'-3' wide, with several rows in each bed. 
In recent years we have planted rows on the south edges of the raised beds in our greenhouses and in and amongst other crops that won't shade the onions later in the season (for example, on the south side of tomatoes or peppers), or we plant them among crops that will be harvested before the onions are mature, leaving the onions in full sun (like among lettuce plants).

Make holes: To make the holes you can fashion a planting stick called a ‘dibble’ from a smooth branch or a ¾ in dowel with a point or, just use a ‘Sharpie pen’, or even your finger to make the hole.  Be systematic: make  5-10 holes and then go back and drop a single onion in each hole.  Gently press the roots into the hole and pinch the soil around each one, making sure the part that was under the soil in the pot is covered when you transplant, leaving only the green top and a tiny bit of the bulb showing.  Be sure that all the roots go in the hole and don't "J-root": with bits of the roots poking out from the soil; this will dry out the plant and force it to use extra energy in turning its roots back down into the soil. You’ll get the hang of it after a few tries and be able to transplant hundreds in no time at all!

Onions in a wide bed.
Now the focus becomes keeping the bed weed-free and well watered.  Mulching between the onions with fresh grass-clippings keeps moisture in the soil and fertilizes the plants each time you water through the clippings. Just don't bury the seedlings! Once the plants have become established and the warmer, sunny weather settles in you’ll be amazed at how fast everything grows.  Feel free to thin out your onions when they are immature and be sure to use the whole thing, greens and all. 

If you have planted non-hybrid seeds, hold back a few onions to replant next spring to save seed. Onions are biennial meaning they don't produce seed till their second year. By collecting your own seeds you can begin the process all over again, and saving seeds, dear friends, is one big step toward greater food security!

Link to another post we wrote about onion-growing.

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Why We Grow and Eat "Organic" Food

Organics - Better for Health!
Here we are at the New Year 2023; time to commit to new Resolutions. If you've been wanting to increase the amount of
organically grown foods in your diet this article is for you! Here are many reasons including the beneficial effects on the environment, the people who grow and harvest our food, the animals raised to provide food and your own health. Thank you for taking this important step in your life.

Chris and I eat almost exclusively organically grown foods when we're at home. At 73 and 60 years old respectively(Feb. 2023), we are both very healthy. We take no prescription medications and, in fact had a bottle of aspirin pass it's expiration date in our medicine cabinet once because we were too slow in using it for occasional muscle soreness or headaches! We each have had three colds in the last 16 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 habits including meditation, stretching and exercise practices and a generous lifestyle geared towards service) 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 two or three 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 (Community Supported Agriculture). 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 will be better for your own health and  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-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.  On the other hand, some studies suggest that, on average, organically-grown produce is consistently more nutrient-dense and lower in pesticides and heavy metals. Nutrient Levels in Organic vs. Conventional Foods

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. Autism and GMO's 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:

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'?

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Kale joins the "Dirty-Dozen' list: and How to Grow Your Own Kale

Kale - a generous plant!
Every year, the Environmental Working Group publishes the findings of their analysis of concentrations of farm-chemicals in popular produce. This CNN article goes into more detail about this year's study. Unfortunately, kale and collards - two of the most nutrient-dense foods available, have made it onto the list again.
Below is a  a re-post of an article we published back in 2019 with other useful links on the topic of farm chemicals in food and some tips on growing your own garden-greens. If you're local and have some garden-space to add some kale, chard or collards, let us know soon so we can start some "starts" for you.

The re-post:
In recent weeks (April 2019) we've seen several headlines announcing that kale has made it onto the "Dirty Dozen" list for the first time in ten years.  The "Dirty Dozen" list is compiled each year by testing thousands of samples of fruits and vegetables from different sources to see which have highest concentrations of herbicides and pesticides LINK. And the farm chemicals are not just showing up on the vegetables themselves, studies have shown that, people being tested have increasingly been found to have these chemicals show up in fluid samples such as blood and urine (see links below). 
It is unfortunate that kale has returned to the "Dirty Dozen" list as, in the past few years, it has shown a surge in popularity. Its recent following is not surprising as it tastes similar to broccoli and it is at the top of another list - The Aggregate Nutrient Density Index (ANDI), that rates foods by their nutrient density. Kale (and collards) have the densest concentration of nutrients, per calorie, of a wide range of foods tested. (PDF of 72 tested foods) (explanation of chart). On the positive side of things, people who have switched to an all-organic diet have been able to reduce these chemical residues by as much as 90% in as little as two weeks (see links below).

Kale is the most nutrient-dense plant tested! (PDF of 72 tested foods)(explanation of chart)
So, if you'd like to incorporate more organically grown kale into your diet  and you're on a budget (we've noticed that prices for organic kale have really risen in the past few years...) perhaps you'd like to try and grow your own!

Kale is very easy to grow! Here's our POST on growing kale.
Grow your own kale: Kale is super-easy to grow and 2-4 plants will easily keep a family fed over the course of the summer. If your climate isn't too harsh you can grow a second crop that will produce food through the fall and winter too (though at a much slower rate). Here's our POST on growing kale.
Home grown veggies, freshest and best!

How we grow our food at the Sharing Gardens: Because we are not a commercial farm, all our labor is provided by volunteers and we are under no pressure to produce food on a forced timeline to get it to market ahead of the other farmers in our area, our food is slow-grown, with less water-weight and hence more nutrient-dense. We fertilize primarily with compost derived from leaves, grass, weeds and food scraps, wood-ash from our wood-burning stove and with worm castings we harvest from the paths of our greenhouses LINK. We do not use commercial fertilizers. The wood-ash and the composted tree-leaves both provide re-mineralization of our soils because the tree-roots pull up minerals from deep within the soil. Without forcing our plants to grow fast with high-nitrogen fertilizers, or animal manures, they are more resistant to diseases and insect infestations that are caused, in part, by the thinner cell-walls of plants forced to grow unnaturally quickly.
Sign posted at the Food Pantry to encourage more kale-eating.
Related links:

Thursday, January 5, 2023

A Wintery Summary - News from the Gardens Jan. 2023

Howdy Folks - Well the 2022 garden season has finally come to an end. Actually, it never really ends but the autumn clean-up, seed-saving, food preservation and the harvesting of all the compost we've generated in our greenhouse paths are done.

This post has some reflections on the 2022 season as well as a look forward into how things are changing at the Sharing Gardens.

Our house, workshop, Oz-greenhouse and garden shed - 2022.
One big change was that we dropped the CSA (weekly boxes of fresh-farm produce provided on a subscription basis) which meant we had a rebound in the amount of surplus fruits and vegetables we were producing. At the same time, our volunteer crew  was the largest and most committed group of share-givers ever. Some weeks we had 10 helpers (besides me and Chris) spread over the week. Since all share-givers receive as much produce as they can use in a given week and this year we also converted about 20% of garden space that had been used to grow annual crops into orchard (due to an invasion of bindweed) the garden's surplus was probably the lowest since 2018 as well.

Fortunately these factors which reduced the surplus we had to share coincided with a reduction in need by the main Food Pantry we have served with our donations over the years: South Benton Food Pantry. This is due to a variety of reasons. (other farmers/gardeners donating their surplus; other 'sharing'-type gardens making donations (SAGE Garden, Corvallis); the food warehouse that serves our local food banks contracting with farmers to grow food for distribution and, in one case, a Food Pantry partnering with a Gleaners group to collect surplus produce from the Corvallis Farmer's Market and First Alternative Food Co-op).

Though we took a year off from weighing our donations, we estimate that the SBFP still received at least 500 pounds of produce. We also donated almost a thousand pounds of produce to Stone Soup Kitchen who prepares hundreds of meals/week to share free-of-charge to people in need. Though it was sometimes a challenge to find a way to deliver our donations (a half-hour from the Gardens) we always felt good about our contributions, knowing our produce was being made into delicious meals. (See: Generosity of the Stone Soup Kitchen) But honestly, there were times at the peak of summer harvests that even the Stone Soup folks were overwhelmed with donations!

When we began the Sharing Gardens in 2009 we had one main purpose: Our mission was to encourage mutual generosity by growing food as a community (no separate plots) and sharing the harvest with those who had contributed in some way while having enough surplus to donate to local food charities. At that time the main fresh fruits and vegetables most Food Pantries received were the cast-offs that groceries couldn't sell. There were hardly any gardeners growing extra veggies to share, or they didn't know where to bring their surplus. This has changed dramatically in the 14 years since we started.

Chris and Llyn: Sharing Gardens founders at original site - 2009

Llyn with first donation: July 8, 2009

We are very happy to see that times have changed and fresh food, much of which has been grown organically, is available now to food-charity recipients. On the other hand, it has caused us to ask ourselves, "Have we fulfilled the mission we set out for ourselves," and if so, "what is our role now"?

This is part of the produce selection we donated one week to the S. Benton Food Pantry in 2017. We were still the primary donors at that time. Now, at the peak of the harvest season, the pantry has four tables of donated/procured produce each week! Some weeks we can't find room for our donations (wow!).
We have already begun to expand to provide services to a wider circle of neighbors through our leaf and grass drop-off site and wood chip pick-up sites. Here are some posts about these projects:

How we grow...Veganic Community-based gardening
: includes info on our successful leaf and lawn-clipping drop off site. (Cindy, rt. spreading donated leaves around the artichoke plants.)

Free woodchips for our town! - a new development this year that provides a mutual benefit to our neighbors as well as the tree trimming companies that use our site.

Moving forward, the gardens are still going strong. We'll continue to grow all the usual favorites (tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, beets etc) to share with our share-givers to keep them fed and healthy, and there will still always be some surplus of these annual veggies and fruits to pass along to charities. 

In addition though, we're shifting some of the emphasis of garden-plantings more towards winter-storage foods. Here's a post about these shifts:

"Squashes and grains and beans, oh my!" -  a shifting focus on what foods we grow... (Jenny, rt. harvesting sorghum).

The next few months we'll focus on pruning our orchards, weeding and mulching perennial beds and continuing to prep the raised beds in our greenhouses in anticipation of planting the early spring crops.

We also have some other ideas of how the Sharing Gardens may expand into a more comprehensive, "full circle" project in the months and years ahead. With environmental and economic issues so pressing, the need for models of locally based community-building processes that meet real needs (fuel, shelter, food etc) for humans, and habitat restoration for wildlife, seem more relevant than ever! 

We are curious to see what's next. Along with our continuance with the gardens, and the wood-chip/leaf and grass-clipping sites mentioned above, here are some possibilities we are exploring: firewood gleaning team, tool sharing co-op, construction-material salvaging parties and/or conservation "guilds" to spend time on each other's land cultivating wildlife habitat.  

Let us know if you'd like to be involved!