Thursday, March 8, 2012

Busy Times

Even though it isn't quite spring, there has been plenty of garden-related activity in my life recently. Last Saturday, my friend Susan and I gave an "intro to veggie gardening" talk at Smith Gilbert Garden, and the Wednesday before that, my Plant-a-Row-for-the-Hungry (PAR) garden group had a planning meeting. Here at home, a tray of plant babies is looking happily green under some fluorescent lights; out in the garden the peas are poking up through the soil, and the little pale green cotyledons of some lettuces and the strappy, darker cotyledons of the spinach also are visible.

Saturday's talk seemed to go well. A wonderfully large group of gardeners, both new and experienced, showed up, and they had great questions and comments. I know I say this a lot, but it is soooo great to be in a room full of people who are interested in growing food!

One gardener (thank you Cathy!) shared her method of keeping track of varieties that do well in her yard: In the garden, she marks the varieties with the little plastic labels that come with them at the store, and if the variety does well, she stores the label in a plastic bin that she can refer to the next spring. It turns out that she hasn't ever been able to manage the pencil and paper kind of record keeping for her garden, and this has worked for her. She also stores photos of the garden, labeled with the date on the back, in the same bin as a way of keeping track of what was planted where, to help in planning the crop rotation for following years. For other gardeners with the same pencil-and-paper problem, and whose gardens are small, this could be a useful idea.

At the PAR meeting, we talked some about design and management of our new space. Our old space at Smith Gilbert Garden had been shaped like a short, squat ice-cream cone, with a big circular dome on two straight sides that met at right angles. We let that dome/circle design guide the layout of the crops - dividing the space into wedges like a pie. Sounds weird, possibly, but the garden was beautiful. However, we occasionally ended up with some very short rows that seemed a little inefficient. Looking at the garden, the trade-off was totally worthwhile, but the new garden at the Fountain Gate Counseling Center is a different shape.

Our new space is a giant rectangle, so we are going to return to the wide rows (link downloads a 2.8 mb pdf) that were used when the PAR garden was at its first space, on county property in Marietta. The wide rows have their own limitations and benefits, but they are a good choice for the size and shape of the available space. We also are going to use companion planting (eg: marigolds with the tomatoes) and cover crops more consistently. I'm looking forward to getting started!

I'm also working on some short talks/demonstrations to give at the new community gardens that are sprouting up in Cobb County. I have one for working with transplants (handling the plant babies, depth of planting, spacing, use of a "starter" fertilizer solution) and one about succession planting for the year-round raised-bed garden, but I want to develop a whole series. If anyone has suggestions for useful topics, let me know?

Today, it is supposed to be 70 degrees and mostly sunny here in Kennesaw. I expect to do some work in the yard. Hope everyone else has beautiful weather to enjoy!

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