Friday, May 27, 2011

MAY 27, 2011
Straw has arrived-$3 per bale, put money in the donation can as usual. We bought all the straw he had available, which was only 28 bales. If you do the math, this isn't quite enough for the whole garden.   If you have a full plot, start by using 1/2 bale each. People with half plots, 1/4 bale each.  There should  be enough to go around once for all the plots.  If that is enough for your plot, well and good. If you need more, wait a week or so to give everyone a chance at it. Some of you are bringing  leaves or other mulch to put on your plot. Good plan. There may be more straw available in July. We'll see what the need is then. And a big thank you to Sue for delivering and stacking it in the garden. She got her exercise today!

Grass path-The path from the south gate to the shed needs mowing. If you are able to schlep a lawnmower to the garden, a quick mowing would be much appreciated. And it would be a good way to put in your volunteer hours.

Education Department-The original plan of our garden included an educational component-gardeners teaching each other. For the past 2 years we have had our hands full getting the garden up and running and there was no time or energy to put into classes. At the last board meeting we revisited the idea of offering classes. I'm putting it out to you gardeners to see what kind of interest there is for this. Please give me feedback :
  • Are there garden related subjects you would be interested in learning more about? What are they?
  • Do you have an area of passion or knowledge that you would like to share with others? What is it?
  • Would you be willing to pay a small fee ($5 or so) to take a class? Money from this would be used for fund raising.
August Event-August is Community Garden Month in Minnesota (who knew?) The board is discussing a good way to celebrate this occasion-possibly holding a tour of the garden on a Sunday evening. More details as they become available.
Fund raising-Another plan is in the works for a bake sale at the Farmer's Market in June. Stay tuned for details.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Bind Weed, part two

Sorry to learn we also have bindweed in the garden, It is most important to prevent it from going to seed this year so the problem doesn't multiply for next year. An ounce of prevention. As far as keeping if from damaging crops. it can be dug up and cut right down at the soil level without having to untangle any that are starting to climb crops. The tops will die naturally.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Bind weed

Email from Gary Flynn:
I was about to till my plot on Thursday, and found that I have bind weed growing in
about 1/4 of the plot--in the place where I put straw last year.  I hear that it is really aggressive stuff.  I dug down as far as I could and pulled out roots (which were extensive and reminded me a lot of Lilly of the Valley roots, but bigger).  I noticed that in some places it was coming up thru the newspaper and mulch in the aisles around me.  I also saw that it was in a couple plots near me; and Ray Kiihne said that it is growing in one of the plots near him. 
     Do you have any idea what to do about it?  I'm reluctant to plant any seed, in case it pokes up and overwhelms the little plants.  I will look on the Net for ideas; but wanted to alert you.  It looks more difficult than thistle.  Also, do we need to
reconsider straw?  I had always heard that it could bring in undesirable weed

My comments:
Bindweed is a real pain, and I'm noticing it all over the garden this spring.  Once it gets started it's as hard as thistle to get rid of.
It's fine to plant your seeds. Just keep pulling out the vines as they appear.
If you find out any useful information, let me know.

Everyone:  Let’s add bind weed to the daily weed pulling routine. Getting all the roots out is a noble goal, but probably hopeless. If we systematically keep those vines pulled, it will get less of a toe-hold.
Reconsidering the straw is not a bad idea-We talked about alternative mulches at the board meeting Sunday. I’ll post more about that later.  

Friday, May 20, 2011

Ma Nature and Bare Ground

Ma Nature doesn't like bare ground. The sun burns and bakes the soil, the rains will wash it away. Ma Nature protects the soil. She tends to cover it in weeds. To avoid this cover the ground before Ma Nature can. Plant things close together so that when they are at their fullest they will shade and cover all of the ground. But most importantly - Mulch. Mulch suppresses weeds, and shades the soil keeping it cool and moist, It gives shelter for the organisms of the soil. It feeds worms and other creatures that are part of the soil food web. Eventually it will break down and become part of the soil. Healthy soil is alive. Nurture your soil. Feed your soil.

I tend to use "dirty" mulches under cleaner mulches. Anything that was once alive can be a mulch, but let's stick to plants. Anything compostable can be a good mulch. "Clean" mulches are those that you are comfortable having on the top layer and that won't attract flies, etc. Thus, clean.

Dirty mulches:
Used Coffee grounds (UCG's) - where I work there are three breakrooms and I have a collection can by every coffee machine!
Newspaper, Cardboard, paper plates, paper towels, partially composted material, compost, and manure are all great under layers.
I like to use cardboard under paths and newspapers around my plants and then cover with ...

Clean mulches:
Grass clippings - my Dad once told me he was hauling bags of grass clippings to the dumpster, I gave him a look :( Now he drops them off at my house. My place of employment generates tons of free grass clippings as well.
Leaves - shredded leaves are best. They won't hold back water and break down quickly. If you don't have a shredder try mowing them with a lawnmower, then tarp them or bag them. They will store forever. Add water and keep them bagged for two years or more and you'll have leaf mold. I collect lotsa OPBL - Other People Bagged Leaves. More than 20 per year. I never have too many. People look at me funny when first I ask for them, but then they call on me every fall to take them away for them. Gladly! :)
I tend to layer grass and leaves as a top layer like a lasagna bed, but there are others...
Straw - works very well and there are no seeds!, but you have to buy it.
Hay - breaks down faster than straw, but usually has seeds. Usually slightly more expensive than straw.
Peat Moss - even more expensive that Hay! looks nice though.
Cocoa bean mulch - also expensive, but looks nice
Wood chips - the old classic for paths works in the garden too. It takes a long time to break down and can suck nitrogen from the soil if worked into the soil. Can be acquired free from tree trimming services or crews clearing power lines - best suited for perrnenials and around trees and on paths.
Pine needles - in large quantities can mess with the pH - they are acidic, but can be found for FREE and they look nice.

Play around with different combinations, layer them up like lasagna. Mulch before you plant and just pull back to plant things or mulch after you plant up to the stems of the plants. Just mulch.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The compost should be arriving today, Wednesday.
Help yourself.
Two wheelbarrow loads should be sufficient for a large plot, one for a small plot, one bucketful for a flower strip.
There is a five-gallon bucket in the back side of the shed. Shovels are in the compost bins.

Compost is $3 per wheelbarrow load, $1 per bucketful
Put money in donation can in the shed. I'll check it daily
Checks should be made out to "Winona Garden Plots"
If someone has a wheelbarrow they would be willing to leave at the garden for a couple of weeks, that would be very convenient and much appreciated. Otherwise, plan on bringing your own wheelbarrow.  

If you have already planted things
 and are wondering how to incorporate the compost into your plot,
"top dress" it.
That is-sprinkle it gently on top of your soil
 and let nature and the worms do the heavy work.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

State of the Garden
May 16, 2011

Compost has been ordered and should be delivered soon. I'll put out an email as soon as I know it has arrived.
Straw-Lea is ordering some straw. We need a truck or trailer to deliver it. If you have one, or know of one that is available, let me know. Gas money is available for the person who can deliver.

Trash-The blue barrel by the south gate is for rocks only, not trash. There is a 5 gallon bucket in the back side of the shed for small trash. Big trash should be hauled off.

Baby plants-If you have extra plants that you can't use and would like to share, put them in the wooden box by the compost bin.

Reminder-Keep working on the thistle. It's really sprouting up. If you don't have time to dig, spray them with vinegar. In the shed there is a spray bottle and a gallon jug of vinegar. A couple of squirts will wilt those suckers. Even though they will resprout in a few days,  we may eventually make some headway.

Flower strips- If you haven't chosen flowers for your flower strip yet, consider planting a beneficial flower border. Below is a copy of an earlier post.  Most of the suggestions are perennials, but many annuals are also good.

Happy Gardening!

Flower borders:
The flower border surrounding our garden is an excellent set up to attract beneficial insects to our garden. The insects are out there, they just need to be invited in. Beneficial insects are of 2 types-the pollinators and the predators that attack the "bad" bugs. A couple of principles to keep in mind for a beneficial border are: (1) a border that blooms the whole season; (2) a diversity (at least 3 species)  of flowers blooming at the same time; and (3) a grouping of flowers that is large enough to attract the insects, about 25 square feet. Below is a quick chart that I made up. It is by no means complete, but it might give those of you with flower strips a way to start thinking about what you will plant this summer.
Beneficial border

Early blooming
Middle blooming
Late blooming

Mint, catmint
Purple coneflower
All the herbs: basil, thyme, marjoram , etc.
Mint, catmint
Purple coneflower
Tithtonia (Mexican sunflower)
Russian sage
All the herbs: basil, thyme, marjoram , etc.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Compost and Straw


Lea has been looking into buying compost for our garden. She has found some high quality organic compost that can be delivered. It will cost about $250 for a truckload big enough for all our plots. The compost itself is fairly inexpensive, but the delivery adds a significant amount. The garden operates on a shoestring and this is beyond our budget. My question to you is: would everyone be willing to chip in to pay for this? Breaking the cost down, 2 wheelbarrowfuls for the full plots would be $6, 1 wheelbarrowful for the half plot would be $3, and a bucketful for the flower strips would be $1.

Please respond to me by email and let me know what you think about this. I will need to hear from enough people before we go ahead and order it.

Additionally, bales of straw to use as mulch, would work the same way. Last year we paid $3 a bale. One bale is enough for a large plot.

I believe that both these amenities are valuable tools in successful gardening. But because there would be an extra charge, I thought I should put it out to you first.

(or is it wheelbarrowsful??)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Matt Cyert

I was really impressed with what we were able to get done with the compost situation.  We took out many wheelbarrow loads of dirt out of the bins as we transferred the material.  With an empty bin we can start fresh. 

I really think that most of our compost problem stemmed from making new garden space where there was once grass.  We threw so much sod in the bins and the sod was mostly soil.  Soil doesn't compost. 

The full bin is mostly carbon rich material - plant stalks and straw.  It could really use some nitrogen.  I'd like to suggest adding grass clippings to the bin and mixing them in for the next month or two.  Stopping by July 1st at the latest to let it cook.  That will give it July, August, September and October before it freezes.  By next spring I think we could harvest a decent batch of compost.  There will be chunks that will not compost because the woody items didn’t get shredded, but we can pick those out and add them to the next batch.  I think we have a decent chance of heating the pile up with grass clippings and I can get a bunch from work.  We could add manure, but I don't have a good source for that and the smell can be offensive if you're not careful.  Someone suggested human urine, but I'm not sure the authorities would appreciate that.  Although it would work very well with less work. :)

In the empty bin, I suggest we pile everything that gets added in one end of the bin.  Leaving the other end free will allow us to turn the material easily.  I thought about putting woody material on one end and other material on the other end, but I don't think there will be much woody material to add now that most of last years stalks are in the full bin. 

I'd be willing to make some signs to post on both bins with the rules you laid out below as well as  the additional instruction of piling material on one end.


Monday, May 2, 2011

MAY 2, 2011

Opening Work Day- What a fun and productive work day. Everything on my list was accomplished in about 2 hours. (except for the newspaper/chips project). A huge thanks to all of you who came to work, who brought water (which we ended up not needing), who brought refreshments, or who contributed in any way. 

Next Work Day-Because of the wind yesterday, we didn't even try to lay newspapers. We can schedule another work day soon. This is just a medium-sized project; a couple of hours should do it. For those of you who were not able to make it yesterday, here is a golden opportunity.

Logging Your Hours-There is a sheet on the bulletin board inside the shed. Don't forget to log your hours.

Compost-An especially big thanks go to those of you who worked on the compost bins, a dirty and muscle-challenging job.  All of the un-decomposed compost material was chopped and moved into the north bin. revealing our reward of several cubic yards of lovely compost on the bottom, something I hadn't expected.  The south bin is empty at the moment. Here are the rules for the compost this year:
  • Use the south bin only this year. We will let the north bin cook for a season. I will try to find a tarp to cover it so it will get hotter.
  • When weeding your plot, leave small, tender weeds on your plot, root side up to die and decompose.
  • Knock off all the soil from the roots before putting weeds into the bin.
  • Chop large, woody plant material into smaller pieces
  • Put plants that are diseased or that have seed heads into the round plastic bin. This closed bin will heat up enough to kill pathogens and seeds.
Hopefully, this will bring our composting situation under control.

Water-I had hoped that this would not be an issue this year, but alas, that is not to be. The good news is that the water is on. The spigot with the water meter is on the north hydrant (moved from last year). To turn it on, turn the yellow handle with care-it's actually a stepped-down fire hydrant. The bad news is that this is temporary. The city is putting in a new water main and at some point during the summer they will turn off the water to our garden. I'll keep you posted as I get more information. You might want to save back a couple of water jugs or used milk bottles in anticipation of hauling water at some point this summer. Because we don't know have a timeline for the beginning of this project, I won't plan to set up the hoses. People can use the watering cans or 5 gallon buckets to haul water from the hydrant. This isn't great, but it is what it is. If anyone is enthusiastic about setting up the hoses (which includes digging a small trench from the spigot), talk to me. I'm not opposed to doing it. It just seems futile.

Vole Patrol-Wayne worked through most of the winter to reduce our resident population. He trapped dozens (maybe hundreds). About a month ago he surrounded the bottom edge of the compost bins, where we suspected they were living and breeding, with hardware cloth to a depth of about a foot. Yesterday, while working on the compost I think we found only one live one and one dead one. Maybe they have decided to go elsewhere, like back to their lakefront homes. Yay, Wayne!

Peace Corps Donation-March 1, 2011, was the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps. Returned Volunteers from the Winona area held a celebration. The theme was "Food Security", and the group chose to support our garden with a donation. Yesterday Julie Chiasson presented the garden with a check for $75. Thank you so much to the Peace Corps and to Julie for thinking of us.

Wow! What an incredible group of gardeners! So much got done with such energy and enthusiasm. Even with a cold, late spring I think this will be the best garden year yet. Thanks and appreciation to everyone involved.