In 2015, I helped start a donation garden at our family church in Littleton, CO and three summers later, the garden is still growing strong. We donated over 400 pounds of organic vegetables in years one and two and hope to again this year. The primary benefactor of the produce we grow is Sheridan Food Pantry. Each Wednesday, we harvest, weigh and record the harvest before volunteers pick it up for delivery to the food pantry.
With eight raised beds, several community plots and 30 X 30 square feet of plot space to plant, the garden is fairly large. This year, my key partner in the project moved on to another area of ministry so I’ve been managing this project practically on my own. But despite her loss, I remain committed to the project and am excited for another banner year of harvests. Stepping Stones, a center for adults with special needs has reached out to volunteer in the garden — and their help has been great. My husband, boys and several friends have also chipped in to water and plant. Next season, I hope to recruit more volunteers and increase the engagement of the church community as a whole.
As with many gardens, some of the seeds planted did not come up and now that the spring crops have been harvested, there is abundant space for fall crops. This week, I worked to prep the available space and devoted several hours to planting carrots, beets, cabbage, broccoli, beans, peas, and more. The summer crops are producing well now and I’ve been harvesting summer squash, zucchini, squash, peppers, cucumbers, herbs and more. Green tomatoes are growing on the vine, little green pumpkins are hiding beneath large leaves, miniature beans are appearing and the beets and carrots are almost ready to pick.
When the seeds come up weeks after planting in the smooth turned soil, it always seems miraculous to me. Its always a joy when a thicket of green leafy vegetables emerges. The hard work has paid off and our garden is thriving!
April is a heady time of year for me. Passionate discussions about all aspects of gardening (in-person, on the phone, via text message), frequent visits to local nurseries, intersecting projects and conversations, early morning inspirations and a parade of dirty shoes, gloves and digging clothes littering my floors are all signs that my brain and energy are focused on one subject – THE GARDEN. Fortunately, the days are getting longer, I have time to work on a myriad of projects and garden geeks eager to talk and share surround me at every turn.
Making Lacto Bacillus Serum – organic fertilizer
- Contacted John Swain, the horticulturalist for the Denver Golf Courses and designer/planter/co-manager of the donation garden at Harvard Gulch Golf Course and passionate home gardener. A winter has come between our last fact filled gardener conversation so we had a lot to talk about. As always, he is a fountain of enthusiasm and information and turned me on to two important sources as well as the benefit of using lacto bacillus serum in the garden (labs for short):
- The Unconventional Farmer: http://theunconventionalfarmer.com/
- Build a Soil: https://buildasoil.com/blogs/news/8634877-gil-carandang-lactobacillus-serum-recipe
- Labs are a workhorse of beneficial bacteria (which is edible) and has multiple applications including — speeding decomposition in the compost pile, unclogging drains, treating powdery mildew on squash plants, eliminating odor in animal bedding and most importantly, “Improves growth of plants when applied as foliar spray and soil drench. Improves their efficiency in uptaking nutrients so naturally, growth is enhanced. With the use of these microorganisms, the nutrients you spray or drench to feed your plants become more bio-available and easily absorbable by the plants. Technically, you can say that plants do not use organic nutrients directly. Microorganisms convert organic nutrients to their inorganic constituents which the plants utilize. Utilizing microbes, you will notice better plant growth and health.” -The Unconvential Farmer.
- Labs recipe: I mixed myself up a batch and its still incubating. Its easy to make and the recipe can be viewed on the link about from the Build a Soil website. Basically, you wash rice and take the water and fill a Ball jar about 75% full and cover with a paper towel — make sure air can get in. Store it on top of the refrigerator and after a few days, the liquid will separate. Siphon off the center layer adding 1 part serum to 10 parts milk and put in another container, cover tightly and let sit for another few days. Once curds appear, you can strain the liquid with a cheesecloth (the curds can be fried up and eaten). You add 1 part serum to 20 parts water to spray in the garden. Store in the frig or add molasses to store at room temperature. Stable for about a year.
- Strawberries and asparagus grow happily together; plan to add strawberries to my new planted asparagus patch
- Used my mole cages to sift compost into my cold frames
- Sprinkle carrot and beet seeds together every few weeks to have a continuous crop
- Marijuana growers have to dispose of growing mix are harvesting the plants; the vermiculate and soil less mix is great mixed into raised beds and helps lighten the soil
- Dryer lint can be put in the compost pile
- I used paint stirrers for marking seeds and plants. Pick them up for free every time I stop at Home Depot or Lowe’s.
Progress at Rosedale Garden – my 19th year in this community garden!
- Planted purple and green asparagus in two 8 inch deep trenches this week; once sprouted will cover with 3 inches of dirt
- Peas planted on March 15 finally sprouted, planted a third row on April 7
- Prepped more beds and mapped out where everything is going
- Seeded pumpkin bed with winter wheat; won’t be planting there for two months
- Garlic planted in frozen soil in late December is up and growing; looks like its going to make it!
- Susan has been making videos of me at the garden and I am learning how to edit them!
Opening up the St. Philip Donation Garden
- Scheduled a work day for this Sunday to get started prepping the beds at St. Philip.
- One volunteer came and we cleaned up two beds, added fresh compost and planted peas, onions and a variety of cold crops. Watered and talked about plans.
- Three plots are spoken for with another two gals potentially interested in volunteering in the donation beds.
- This is our third year and I’m sorry that I’ve lost my partner of the first two years, Lerae Schnickel to another church ministry. She was great to work with and its hard to move forward without her support.
Helping at a Jovial Gardens Neighborhood Project
- Jovial Gardens is a really cool Denver-based organization that helps build gardens in neighborhoods. One of their goals is to decrease food scarcity in the urban environment and grow food for local food banks. The group originally started in Edgewater, a suburb on Denver, and organized gardens in more than 40 yards in the neighborhood. https://jovialconcepts.org/about-us/
- My friend and master gardener, Teri Connelly is working with Jovial to install gardens in the yards of a number of her neighbors in Arvada. Today, I had the chance to visit on a work day and saw work in progress in at least 6 yards. The enthusiasm and excitement of the neighbors and volunteers was awesome. Teri shared that in one front yard garden they harvested almost a 1000 pounds of organic produce last year. I would love to start such a program in my neighborhood (Trailmark) in Littleton.
Seedling Update on the Home Front
- My experiment of seeding tomatoes and peppers for the first time has had mixed results. All but one of the 12 varieties of tomatoes I planted has sprouted. It took less than a week. I learned that they need a heat mat and lights!
- 8 of 11 peppers sprouted this week. More time needed?
- The tomatoes are very leggy but John Swain told me that they need grow lights and that its not too late for them to stabilize.
- I only have one grow light so I’ve set it up for 14 hours alternatively above the trays of peppers, then the tomatoes. Ordered a 4 foot rack with light from Amazon yesterday so hope it arrives this week.
- Nothing has sprouted in the milk jugs I planted last week. Time will tell
Its been a busy garden season and with the big harvest this year, I’ve been too busy to write. But today, I received a copy of an article that features my garden exploits and want to share it. Several months ago, my sister’s friend Tyler, asked if she could interview me about my experience as a master gardener for an article she was writing. I answered a few quick questions late at night so she could meet her midnight deadline — and forgot all about it.
Fast forward three months and I receive an email from a Wisconsin woman wondering if she could hire me to help plan her son’s garden in Denver. Of course, that’s the kind of thing I do — plan gardens — but I wondered how she’d gotten my contact information. In her email, she mentioned an article in “Exclusively Yours”, a local magazine I grew up reading in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. In an effort to locate the article, I googled and called the magazine, called my mom and sister who live in Wisconsin. Nothing. Finally, my new fan emailed a copy and it all came back to me.
Its fun to share my passion for gardening with everyone I know. In the article, I mention the master gardening program at Denver Urban gardens, my donation garden at St. Philip Lutheran Church, the new donation garden I helped plan at Harvard Gulch Golf Course and more. Check it out. Please contact me if you want to talk gardening or need help getting yours started. firstname.lastname@example.org.
Power point presentation given on 2/21/16. The outline is below.
Gardening for Beginners, St. Philip Community Garden 2/21/16
Things to Consider:
- A Plan/Vision
- Good Soil – fertile, well-drained soil
- A sunny spot
- Good Tools
Benefits to raised bed gardening:
- Higher yields and less area to weed
- Reduced soil compaction
- Earlier planting – better runoff and drainage, warmer soil
- Frost protection
- Soil improvement
- Architectural interest
- Accessible gardening
- 4 X 4 Ft. Plot can be built for less than $40
- Dry climate, need to water, mulch, shade
- Clay soils, need amendment – compost, garden mix, organic matter
- Frost dates – May 15, Sept. 20-Oct. 20
- Cold Crops vs. Warm Season Crops
- Pests – take a look at your plants, animals – rabbits, mice, dogs, deer; insects good ones and bad ones
- Snow in the Spring, hot, dry summers
- Cold Season Crops (plant before last frost March-mid-May) lettuces, spinach, onions, radishes, beets, peas, chard, kale, broccoli, scallions, cabbage, carrots, potatoes
- Warm Season Crops (after last frost May 15-22) tomatoes, peppers, beans, herbs like parsley, basil, etc., eggplant, cucumber, squashes, zucchini, summer squash, melons, pumpkins,
Benefits of Community Gardening
- Learn from others
- Fresh air and exercise
- Improving the community
- Individual garden plots
- Leadership, social and volunteer opportunities
- Youth education
- Low cost and grocery savings
- Fresh local produce
- Reduce carbon footprint
To reserve a garden plot, please email email@example.com. Plots available April 1.
Tomorrow, I am doing talk on Building a Community Donation Garden at the American Community Gardening Association Annual Conference and this is my Power Point presentation. I put it here mostly for test purposes.
Resources for more information: