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Archive for October, 2009

put to bedWe did a fall clean up at the Clarke Foods Garden on the corner of Clarke and Bremen last Sunday, Oct. 18. We stripped off all the dead plants, fertilized our garden plots with some organic chicken manure-based compost, and planted a cover crop of winter wheat.

We left some of our plants – late season crops like cabbages and onions. We’ll harvest them in the next couple of weeks. We also left some lettuces that are going to seed, in the hopes of harvesting a seed crop.
hot boxes
Hot Boxes
We built a couple of “hot boxes” to put our garden waste in. We are also adding kitchen wastes in a very controlled fashion – only a couple of households, and we’re very clear that we only put in vegetable wastes, and cover it with straw so it doesn’t get out of hand and annoy anyone. We’re hoping the compost from these boxes will give us a head start on soil next spring. It’s an experiment – we’ll let you know how it goes.

We were very lucky not to get tomato blight in our Clarke Street beds, so we feel okay about composting the plant waste. The blight was vicious in the Victory Garden, though, so we are planning to use compost created from wastes from the gardens for a proposed sunflower bed that we’re planning for next spring.
center garden

Cover Crop
Here’s how our center garden looks planted with our cover crop of winter wheat. (If you look very close you can see the little wheat berries on the soil surface.) We’ll be watching to see how this sprouts. We may decide to soak the seeds that we’ll be planting in the Victory Garden. Final plans for this will depend on temperatures, too. But red winter wheat is very hardy, so we should get a good cover before the snow comes (fingers crossed!).

How Long Will Our Work Day Be?
It took two of us about three hours to do all the clean-up work on the eight beds at the Clarke Street garden. I think if we start work at 10AM on Nov. 7, we can easily be done by early afternoon. We’ll see how the weather reports look as the day approaches, too. If it’s going to be nasty that day, we’ll make some alternate plans.

Funding for Fall Work
We are very blessed to have secured funding for fertilizer and seeds for our fall work in the garden. Gardener Theresa Kenney issued a “challenge grant” that was matched by the Riverwest Neighborhood Association, plus the “pass the hat” funds from the October RNA meeting. We should have plenty for our fall work. Thank you all so much!

Mark Your Calendars!
Fall Garden Clean-Up Day
Saturday, Nov. 7
10AM – 3PM
Dress for the weather.
Work gloves recommended!

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Predictions call for frost warnings tonight, Friday, October 9, and freeze warnings tomorrow night, Saturday, October 10.

It’s predicted that it will get to the very low 30s tonight, and into the high 20s tomorrow night. So if you want to dig up herb plants to take them in for the winter, or cover lettuces that might be going to seed that you want to harvest, or kale and chard and other leafy greens that do well in colder temperatures, do it tonight (Friday night) and tomorrow night (Saturday night).

Unfortunately, most of our tomatoes seem to have succumbed to the late blight that has troubled so many growers in southeastern Wisconsin and nationwide this year. But other plants can be covered and kept going for a few more weeks. Good luck! I’ll be out there with a bunch of old sheets later this afternoon myself…

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sunflowerAfter the hard work of summer, it’s pleasant to think that soon there will be time to rest as the Midwest winter builds just over the horizon.

We had some delicious long sunny days in our lush gardens – what a joy they have been to so many people! Now it’s time to plan for our final jobs, getting ready for a healing, resting season for our gardens, so they will be ready for us when the snow melts and we want to plant again.

Frost Warning
There is talk of frost coming as early as this weekend. That means you will want to harvest what you can this week, but you may also want to prolong your season. There are some simple ways you can do this.

Cover. Keep the frost off your plants by covering them at night with plastic or even with a piece of fabric like a bedsheet. If you keep the frost off the plants, then remove the cover during the warm part of they day, they can survive light frosts quite nicely.

Water. Remember to keep your plants well watered. Water during the warmest part of the day. Frost kills mostly by dehydration. Please note that we will be disconnecting and taking in the hose if there are frost warnings.

Harvest early. You can harvest green tomatoes and put them in a cool place to ripen.

Get Ready to Say Goodbye. Enjoy your gardens as much as possible in these last weeks. This is Wisconsin, and eventually nature will take its course.

Seed Saving
Did your lettuce get away from you? If your plants are going to seed, why not harvest seed for next season? Also, some of us are planning indoor gardens of greens under lights, and it’s very difficult to find garden seeds at this time of year. So save those seeds! Check the sidebar for links to seed saving instruction websites.

Work Day Plans
We are planning a work day for Saturday, November 7, from 10AM until 4PM. On that day we will strip the gardens of the last of our plants, top dress the beds with an organic fertilizer, and sow our cover crop of winter wheat.

Victory Garden will be providing materials for top dressing and seed for our cover crop – please just come and bring your willing worker selves and a dish to pass for a pot-luck lunch.

Composting Garden Waste
We are setting up an area to pile the dead plants and foliage that we remove from our garden. We will be roping off an area along the western edge of the property – it will be marked with posts and twine, and there will be a small sign there.

Please place the plant material from your garden beds on that area. We will be covering it with leaves and wood chips after we finish stripping the beds on Nov. 7, to keep it neat over the winter and ready for us to use next spring.

Please use this area ONLY for vegetable wastes from the garden beds – do not bring in any other waste materials.

Plans for Next Year
Many of you have asked if you can keep your garden beds for the 2010 season. We have just redesigned the Garden Application for next year – you can download it from the page in the right-hand column. There is a section in the application where you can request to keep the bed from this season or change beds.

Please fill out an application as soon as possible if you want to join in again next year. Email it to us at socialsolutionsmke@gmail.com

Strawberries and Rhubarb?
Some of you have planted perennial plants in your beds, such as strawberries, rhubarb and some herbs. You may want to think about how you want to handle these plants.

Some of these perennials require many years to get established, and many of them spread and will take over more space than you might wish to give them. Also, if plants are not removed from beds, we will be unable to plant our cover crops, and also unable to add in the extra layer of compost and topsoil that we will want to add next spring before we plant.

Let’s think about what we can do with these perennials. Shall we (a) move them to the middle bed, which has become a kind of “community garden” for everyone? (b) Establish a new perennials bed? (c) Something else that we haven’t thought of?

Please give us some feedback on the blog about this. We can discuss it at the workday and see if we can come up with a satisfactory solution.

Garden Survey
We are working on a final draft of a garden survey to find out how everyone’s experience was this summer. We will have copies of the survey to be filled out at the Nov. 7 workday, and will be mailing copies to other participants. Please take the time to fill out the survey, so we can plan for next year.

Growth for Next Season?
There has been talk of adding another “circle” of gardens for next summer. We are currently doing outreach to see if there would be enough interest to add another 40 beds or so. What do you all think? Again, give us some feedback on the blog, and there will be a question about this on the garden survey.

Thanks for a Great Season
As we finish up our garden season, we should take a few moments and congratulate ourselves on a wonderful summer. We have all met new people, made new friends, had wonderful times together in the garden, and enjoyed some delicious, healthy foods. Thanks, everyone!

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