Archive for the ‘Walt’s Updates’ Category

More Hard & Rewarding Work at the Victory Garden

Hi everybody!

According to the solar calendar, we’re almost into summer. Who would have ever guessed? Still, I worked in short sleeves yesterday and today (Monday, June 15).

My Yukon Gold potatoes are doing great, and my Golden Bantam corn is going into the ground tomorrow. (I have marked off the center of the central garden at Jan’s suggestion.) Some people have planted things there, and I have moved these plants to the perimeter.

We have received and spread two more loads of wood chips from the City, and one more load will do the trick. Also we have received a fourth 20 yards of fine soil, some of which is being moved to another community garden.

Members of the Lutheran church across from the UWM Student Union have planted most of their garden and will be finished in short order. Lady Di (Diana) has also completed her vine trellis, with help from her spouse and his dad.

With generous help from fellow gardeners, I have also assembled two vine trellises from old ladders. I think they’ll be installed tomorrow (Tuesday), with a little help from my friends…!

People walking through the park or driving by are fascinated by our project. (My mailman always honks when he sees me in the garden.) Lots of other people honk, too.

Just this evening, as I was counting my corn kernals, two women walked by with two dogs. I always say “hi,” and we sat and talked until it got too dark to plant my corn. I encouraged them to come back on Saturday or Sunday. There might not be any plots left, but there will be plenty of work to do and produce to share later on…

Yours in gardening, Walt.


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Oh, dear, fellow gardeners!

Saturday morning (May 23rd), I got from Jan the most eloquent testimony ever about the tolls of community organanizing. I had offered to inventory her seed packets by the same bio-intensive methods offered in my most recent blog.

Well, all but one packet was from Seeds of Change, a most reputable producer of organic seed. All Jan’s packets are unopened; but the most recent ones are from 2007! There’s actually a packet, Chiogga Beets, from 2001!

Jan also has a few packets of 2006 brassicas, one of cauliflower, one of broccoli and three of kale! Cauliflower takes the whole season to mature and tastes best after a hard frost. Broccoli is a perreniel plant and unlikely to bear fruit the first year. Kale is much like cauliflower and very rich in potassium, good for everybody.

Jan’s special interest is lettuce, and she has 5 planting selections from 2006-7. Besides the beets, she also has a packet of Golf Currant vine tomatoes. So, if we have beds available, I’m wondering if we couldn’t consecarate them to JAN’S MEMORIAL SEED BED?

(I also have some seed packets from 2007. I seem to have used up my seeds from 2008… I didn’t put the 2007 seeds in my inventory because they are so old, but if there is space, maybe I can have a memorial seed garden, too! Whatever happens, they’ll end up compost…)

Sunday morning, I met Marguerite and Nick, who came to plant some tomatoes. Later in the day, I found the energy to climb the hill. When I got down to the garden site, a woman was just arriving with a flat of plants for her plot. I don’t remember her name, but she knows about the blog.

Sunday afternoon, I got a phone call from someone else who read about my seeds in the blog. As usual, I don’t catch names the first time, but she’s going to call me between 9:30 and 10am tomorrow to remind me to show up! She is the first plain indication of recognizing my seed offer.

Gardening here is such hard work and so much fun!


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Dear fellow gardeners,

It’s been a long and hard work, but I have finally made an inventory of all the extra seeds I want to share with you, as well as the ‘institutional gardeners’ in the 20-foot plots. I am donating these high-quality seeds for free, so please don’t go out and buy ordinary seed from just anywhere!

Following is a list of my seeds for free, as well as some free seedlings already started. With each item on the list is the number of square feet needed and if it grows so fast that it can be planted more than once during the summer.

The square feet needed are according to the “biointensive” method, meaning that plants are grown as close together as possible. This is perfect for urban gardening!

Our standard garden beds are 4-by-8 feet, meaning 32 square feet. 24 of them are already in place, with another 13 waiting to be moved from the COA parking lot.

The longer “institutional” beds are 4-by-20 feet, meaning 80 square feet. All eight of them are already in place, but they need a little more work to last a long time.

So, here are my list of seeds and seedlings, with the square feet they need and if they can be planted more than once during the summer. Also shown are the seed which can be trained to climb a trellis.

Arugula, Rocket 200 seeds by 12″ spacing for 100 square feet (Can be replanted in the late summer to weather mild winters.)

Carrot, Amarillo 500 seeds, broadcast over 20 square feet.

Collards, Champion 240 seeds, 150 square feet.

Corn, Bantam 150 seeds means 180 square feet. According to rules Jan has suggested to us, corn should not be grown in the main garden complex. (The same goes for all members of the mint flamily, including thai basil and even catnip. So, maybe we can place one or two frames south and east of prevailing winds, to grow these “prohibited substances”…).

Kohlrabi, Early White 135 seeds, 4inches apart, meaning 10 square feet.

Okra, Clemson 2 packets of 100 seeds, 12 inches apart, 120 square feet.

Pak Choi asian green 80 seeds, 40 square feet.

Radish, French Breakfast 750 seeds, 10 square feet!

Radish, Podding (meaning they grow on the branches) 60 seeds, 20 square feet.

Sunflower, Giant 50 seeds, 200 square feet, to be grown beside the trellises for support (great fun for our bird and squirrel friends).

Celery, Leaf 280 seeds, 40 square feet.

Cucumber, Suyo Long 16 pots along the 13-foot trellis.

Pepper, Joe’s Hot 30 seeds, 20 square feet.

Pepper, Jalapeno 30 seeds, 20 square feet.

Pepper, Chocolate 30 seeds, 20 square feet.

Tomato, Cherokee 30 seeds, 100 square feet.

Tomato, Rose 30 seeds, 85 square feet.

I am sorry to write that I do not yet have anything to report on the pepper and tomato seeds I have tried to start. These are subtropical plants and not very happy up here in Wisconsin. They have so far been very unenthusiastic in my apartment windows!

If you really want to grow tomato or pepper plants, you should try Growing Power, 5500 West Silver Spring Road, 527-1546, or even nearer by, Kellner Greenhouses, 3258 North Humboldt, 264-6605. (Note from Jan: Fischberger’s Variety Store at 2445 N Holton also has heirloom plants and seeds!) You should probably get indeterminate tomato plants, because they will continue to produce small amounts of fruit during the later summer. Determinate tomato plants produce all their fruit at once, kind of overwhelming! (Pepper plants are all determinate, but their fruit can easily be dried.)

Having managed, with so much work, to organize all my seeds for sharing, I have offered to do the same for Jan’s seeds. She’ll be bringing me the packets she would like to share, at our work session this coming Saturday, starting at 10am. I’ll then calculate their square-food needs according to the biointensive method. The second time around, it shouldn’t be so hard!

So please remember: don’t go out and buy ordinary seed from just anywhere, when you can get high-quality seed for free from Jan and me! To reserve seeds or peat pots from me, please email me at saveland@uwm.edu. If you don’t use the internet, we’ll have to talk about this in person, this coming Saturday, May 23rd, starting at 10am.

In order to receive free seed from Jan and me, you must have a plot reserved in the Victory Garden. In return, everything we grow together can be shared by all of us. We’ll all also be responsible for taking care of all our plots all summer long. This is important to me, maybe others, because I’ll be out-of-town for two or three weeks later in the summer. Somebody else might have to stay home because of sickness…

Your friend in gardening, Walt Saveland (372-1998).

PS While taking a break yesterday, over in the COA parking lot, Paul and I were talking about how to get rid of the unusable lumber. We both had the idea of a gigantic Victory bonfire! Of course, this would require more community organizing from Jan to get the needed permits… We think that it would be better to have it in open space just west of the COA parking lot, so we don’t have to move unusable lumber over near the Victory Garden.

Enjoying wet spring weather, the risk of fire spreading is little, as long as the wind is not blowing too hard. Some might worry about the “carbon imprint,” the release of carbon dioxide into the air, by burning crumby wood, which contributes to global warming… Well, I have two comments about that.

First, hauling this stuff off to a dump on the outskirts of the city, or even to the Victory Garden itself, would involve a big pickup, and probably several loads. Second, it would be great fun for all of us who have worked so hard on the garden, at little expense to the environment. Instead of driving around this summer to buy our food, we’ll be able to get super fresh vegetables nearby!

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Dear gardeners,

We got a lot of wet weather during the week, and I made sure the preferred lumber was kept dry when it rained and allowed to air when possible. By the time I got to the garden about 10:30 yesterday (Saturday), a small but enthusiastic gang was already hard at work on a second 20 yards of fine soil.

As some got tired or had to leave for various reasons, others took their places at laying ground cloth, placing and staking frames and attacking the pile of soil with shovels and wheel barrows. All in all, we were at it until about 2:00. Also, we got tastey relief from sandwhiches, beverages and even pizza! Tired as we were at the end of the work session, we were every bit as enthusiastic as when we began.

As I drove home around the resevoir, I stopped again at the COA parking lot to say hi to Terry’s dad, a carpenter, and his son. They had driven up all the way from Kenosha to help out, sawing wood, and were also just finishing up. They’ve left Paul with another nice batch of planks to assemble more frames! The weather’s forecast is to stay dry for a couple days, and I’ll drop by to see if I can help out. I’ll also be assembling my vine trellises, maybe with a little help from Paul.

But today (Sunday), I planted this morning the Yukon Gold seed potatoes I ordered from Jung’s, up north in Wisconsin. Jan had assigned me plot #13 for them. There were 26 sprouting half-tubers in the package, and I planted them in three biointensive rows within the frame: nine in each outside row and eight staggered in the middle row. The inside dimensions of the frame being a little less than 4′ by 8′, this still gives each planting more than a square foot of space.

I understand that Jan also hopes to have a work session this coming Wednesday (weather permitting), once again to haul, place, stake and fill frames. There’ll be plenty of work to do, so come on out if you can!

Also, if the city can break out of its bureaucratic inertia, it would be nice to receive a load of wood chips ASAP. On the one hand, it would stop the wear and tear on exposed ground cloth between frames. On the other hand, it would let us pull and reuse our little plastic spikes.

Finally, my main project this week is to inventory all my extra seeds in terms of their spacing needs. (I’ve promised this before, but now it just has got to be done!) The result will be an interim report this week about quality seeds, and some seedlings, all of which I want to share with you. I think Jan has seeds to share, too. So, please, don’t rush out and buy just any seed off a rack somewhere !

Respectfully submitted to Reverend Jan and others, by Walt Saveland.

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Hi again, fellow gardeners,

Since the last report, the two dozen initial frames have been have been filled with excellent gardening soil, with the help of young people affiliated with COA [I think]. I was absent because of another commitment, but by the time I got there around 2:30pm, the work was done!

Paul G, the fantastic carpenter helping us out, has built another 19 frames, with very little help from me. However, last evening, I removed the large plastic sheet covering the small remaining pile of soil and replaced it with one of my small blue tarps.

I then took the sheet to the COA parking lot and covered the lumber Paul had set aside for additional frames. Those planks are so long that I used my other little tarp to finish the job, and it did again begin raining last night…

Our next work day is scheduled to start at 10am on Saturday, May 16th, weather permitting. (Because of a rummage sale at my building, I might not get there until the afternoon.) The tasks at hand will be to lay down more sheets for the ring of frames, to measure out the spacing of those frames and to transport them by pick-up from the COA parking lot.

I have not yet figured out the areals needs of all of the quality seeds, seedlings and seed potatoes I have in surplus, but I’ll report that later this week. All of my seeds are short-season open-pollinated, and most of them are chemically untreated, from Bountiful Gardens in California and Johhny’s Selected Seeds in Maine.

My seeds, seedlings and seed potatoes will be free of charge to gardeners willing to collaborate communally. (Among other things, I might be away for couple weeks in July and would like to know that our veggies are well tended.) Let Jan or Kris know of your interest.

Respectfully submitted for blogging , Walt Saveland.

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Fellow gardeners,

Since the last report, more than two dozen frames have been built and placed in the garden, with the formidable help of stage carpenter Paul G and a gang of MSOE students, as well a little help from me. Because the ground is now too soft for heavy trucks, Jan hopes to have the soil, then the wood chips, dumped at the east end of Garfield Avenue this week.

Our next work day is scheduled to start at 10am on Saturday, May 9th. Hopefully, the soil, wood chips and wheel barrows to haul them will be avilable! (Because of a rummage sale at my building, already posponed twice), I might not get there until the afternoon.)

Jan has projected the ring of the circular garden to include raised beds of 20′ by 4′. Given that frames of 13′ are very heavy and difficult to haul from the more secure work site near Commerce Street, we might consider frames of, say. 12 or 14′, even 8′. For long loads, we should have some kind of red flag at the tail end of a truck.

The frame for my vine trellis is 13′ 4″ long and too heavy for Terry and I safely to mount onto her truck. We’ll all soon know what is availabe from Bliffert Lumber…

Having more seeds, as well as seed potatoes than I could plant in one standard bed, I want to share them with others short on quality seeds. All of my seeds are short-season open-pollinated, and most of them are chemically untreated, from Bountiful Gardens in California and Johhny’s Selected Seeds in Maine.

Extending the idea of ‘community gardening,’ maybe we can share both plots and chores. Echoing native-american tradition, rather than claiming ‘territories’ in the style of European colonialists, we could share our plots along a north-south axis through the center of the garden, from sunrise to sunset.

My seeds, seedlings and seed potatoes will be free of charge to gardeners willing to collaborate communally in this manner. , I’ll soon be sending a list of my seeds, germinating plants and seed potatoes, along with areal spacing, to you. (Among other things, I might be away for couple weeks in July and would like to know that our plantings are well tended.)

Let Jan or Kris know of your interest: respectfully submitted for blogging , Walt Saveland.

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With lots of help from the Marquette volunteers, we removed nails from about a third of the lumber on April 18. It was hard work, and we were a little short on tools. So, we only worked to about noon. Because of rain forecasts, I later came back, stacked the wood more carefully and put a tarp over it.

On Thursday afternoon, Gary and I got together again, along with my friend and long-time English student, Alejo (who will be gardening with me). I brought along more tools, and we figure we passed the half-way mark in about an hour and a half. I had also found another tarp in my locker, so the wood with nails is now fully protected (hopefully!).

Because Sunday is too wet to pull nails, I will probably only get back on Thursday. Maybe Gary will find some time meanwhile. Also, Alejo and I will periodically check to make sure the tarps are secure.

Once we’ve removed all the nails, we’ll sort the wood by length, measure it and mark necessary saw cuts. In order not to waste time, energy and wood, some of the resulting frames will not measure exactly 4′ by 8′. As ground sheets have already been placed, it will be interesting to learn how covered and uncovered surfaces differ in the re-emergence of weeds. Luckily, we have plenty of room for both standard and eccentric frames! (I also plan to build, from old wooden ladders, a trellis for climbing vines, which approach 16′ in length.)

Once we’ve removed nails, sorted by length and marked saw cuts, the wood will be ready to move up to the garden area. I hope to borrow Alejo’s little pick-up for this, but maybe someone else can help with the many needed loads. (There is probably little reason to suspect that cleaned wood will be more likely stolen up above than near Commerce Street.)

For the garden area, I have an extension cord of 25 or 50′, but a portable generator would be nice! Also, the guy who designs and builds stage sets surely has the the power tools needed to prepare the lumber. A couple saw horses would be handy, too! In addition to sawing, it might be a good idea to drill holes through cross-grain pieces (for 2-1/2 to 3″ spikes), to avoid splitting. Galvanized nails would be OK organically.

Reporting and planning so far, Walt Saveland.

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