It was great seeing so many returnees to the garden yesterday! We had a great turnout this week and got a lot of the more labor-intensive chores out of the way. A shout-out to the Alpha Chi Omega sisters who attended and helped us get a handle on our compost! Another shout-out to Judy for coming back again (all the way from the Valley woah) and dropping off her hammock! Things are definitely sprucing up in the garden, the place is lookin' good.
Bed Updates: We’ve had a hot few days so yesterday we used our man power to mix the dry soil in beds 4, 5, 6, and 8. We first cleared the leaf litter, then added water as we turned the soil. We took out debris and beetle grubs along the way (thank you to Ariel for squishing all the beetle grubs from bed 4!). We want to keep these beds nice and moist so they don’t bake into un-plantable bricks, and also keep the pests out. Beds 7, 9, and 11 were nicely moist just under the surface so we let them be. We also left bed 2 alone.
Bed 8: For some reason this bed has a very low soil level, we wanted to mix some potting soil in with it but held off because our bags of soil were covered in ants. Maybe we’ll use some home-made compost to fill it up in the future, we’ll report back.
Bed 5: After mixing the soil and getting it nice and moist, we decided to do a bit of an experiment. We divided the bed down the middle and covered the western half with a quarter inch of Wynbrandt compost, as is our custom, and planted a layer of kale seeds sprinkling them evenly across the surface as Steven Wynbrandt showed us during his workshop. For the eastern half, we used some of our own Dig compost, from the compost bin, and planted an equal amount of kale seeds. We’ll report back on how our compost performs in comparison with Wynbrandt’s. The race is on. This bed was planted with kale most of last year, so we think it should do well again. After sowing seeds on the opposing sides, we covered the bed with a tarp.
Bed 10: We replanted Janet. Janet is the nickname of the italian oregano that Janet Napolitano planted herself in the garden over the summer during her visit to UCLA. See the story here. It was the only plant left in the bed and so we replanted it in a ceramic pot to clear the bed for future mixing. We trimmed it’s more lengthy stems and put it by the bench under the pomelo tree. The bed is now empty.
Bed 13: Cloudy did some trimming in the herb bed.
Compost: Thank you to the Alpha Chi Omega Sorority girls who came out yesterday and helped a ton with our compost. They processed the huge pile of dry organic matter that was accumulating between the two bins, chopping it up and mixing it with the existing compost. We’ve officially named the southern more cube-shaped compost bin Alpha seeing as it is our primary compost bin where members can dump their food scraps, and the Alpha Chi girls helped out so much with it. The other cylindrical bin closer to De Neve Drive has been dubbed Vader, because it looks like Darth Vader’s helmet. The girls harvested a great bunch of Dig-made compost from the bottom of Alpha by sifting its contents and separating the fine dirt. A little bit was used in bed 5 (see below update) and the rest was bagged and bucketed and labeled. The bag and the bucket can be found in the westernmost storage section. We dumped the remnants from the sift into Vader.
While sifting, we found a bunch of worms. We think they may be California Red Wrigglers, which are great at breaking down organic matter but not what we intended for the compost bins. We collected them and gave them to Steven to get his worm compost up and running again. We want Alpha to be a primarily hot compost bin, with microbes as the active decomposers. The presence of the worms means that the bin was fairly cool, we’ll report back on more specifics and decisions. We’re still a bit hazy on this whole compost thing, but we produced some great looking stuff!
Plant Progress: Last week (10/19) we planted seeds in the following beds. Apparently, because of the intense heat we’ve been getting, we should have covered the beds with tarps to keep the seeds as moist and as protected as ever. Despite the intense heat we did get some germination action, but not as much as we would have liked. We’re going to try to draw some more of the seedlings to sprout, so yesterday we added tarps supported by wire frames to beds 1, 3, and the small portion of 12 that we planted with sweet mace last week. We’ll keep these tarps on for the next few days and hopefully be Wednesday we’ll see a bit more sprouting and be able to take them off. The tarps are a short-term technique to get the seeds going but once they’ve germinated the little guys need sun, so water-ers keep an eye peeled for germination under the tarps and once you see it picking up then we’ll know to take the tarps off.
Bed 1: We think we saw some of the Rainbow Swiss Chard sprouting, but it’s a little too early to tell for certain. We covered the bed with tarp.
Bed 3: The cabbage in the center of the bed seemed to peaking out, but again too early to tell. We covered the bed.
Bed 3A: No nasturtium action yet.
Bed 12: We didn’t see any of the Sweet Mace Herb from last week, we covered the little patch with tarp to hopefully help it along. The butter crunch lettuce that was planted on October 5th in the bed is doing great, it’ll most likely be good to harvest in a few weeks. The butter head lettuce that we planted right next to it (closer to the compost) at the same time still is showing nothing. We think that the butter head seeds may have been duds, but when we first were getting those guys going we used a green tarp over the butter crunch (which is now doing spectacularly) and black tarp over the butter head (the duds). Maybe the darker tarp killed the butter head? Maybe it’s a coincidence? We dunno. We’re going to wait it out a bit more. Meanwhile, the corner of the bed is still unplanted.
Take-homes: Last week we dispersed seeds to various attendees in small pots. The basil seeds that were dispersed have germinated! and are doing well. The mint that we tried to propagate is showing no known progress.
Hammock!: Thank you to Judy for donating her hammock to the garden! We successfully put it up with the help of Jonathan, Shawn, and Steven and it looks great! Unfortunately it’s still too low/loose to sit in (you’ll hit your butt on the ground). Next week we’ll hopefully get a ladder to scooch it higher up the tree trunk, dig out a small ditch underneath, or tighten the ropes so it doesn’t sag as much. Jonathan’s got handle on it no matter what we decide. It’s set up between the first two trees to the east of the shed.
Suggestions for next week:
Plan a Pizza Night
Figure out what to do with all the pill bugs. Are they horrible pests? Should we try to control them?
Plant int the empty beds (2, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11).
Fill bed 8 with our own compost.
Other suggestions are welcome!
By Kaylie Edgar
Our garden has experienced quite a few changes since the ground was first established in 2006 as a student garden. From short raised beds to row planting to now our large raised beds, the garden has had the intention to maximize growth in a minimal space. However, these wonderful beds need to be filled with soil. As we learned from a visit from Steven Wynbrandt of Wynbrandt Farms and Biodynamics, a garden is more concentrated in growing good soil rather than growing great produce. That is, if your soil isn't good, neither is your production. What constitutes good soil as good soil we have learned comes down to a few factors namely it's ability to retain water, humus, and fineness of particles.
In Fall of 2013 our beds were coming back from a very productive previous Spring and our members were ready to tackle a new year of production. We began to realize that our soil seemed to have been counter productive to our goals. It was dry, lacked life, unable to absorb water, and contained large pieces of mulch or bark that made it difficult for seeds to germinate. After instructions given to us by Steven, we began to start a conditioning process in order to remove the large pieces and keep the fine particles of soil.
Here's what we did beginning in February of 2014...
By Jacob Garson
Thanks to all the first-timers who stopped by the garden yesterday for our Week 2 Dig In! We did a lot of seed sowing yesterday in beds 1, 3, 3A (the small bed that used to house nasturtiums on the western side of the garden between the fence and bed #3), and 12 as well as planted our fig tree in the ground and covered a few of our other regular duties (mixing the compost, etc).
Seed Sowing: We really want to get the garden producing again after the desiccation that was this past summer, so we planted a lot including onions, cabbage, swiss chard, sweet mace herb and nasturtiums.
Bed 1: We planted four distinct rows length-wise in bed 1. Facing the numbered side of the bed (with your back to the picnic table), the rows from left to right are Onion Violet de Galmi, Rainbow Swiss Chard, another Rainbow Swiss Chard, and Onion Bronze D’Amposta.
*Note: When prepping the soil for bed 1, we added water and a huge swarm of ants erupted around the sides. We think there must be an ant nest underneath. Jonathan suggested a water/vinegar mixture, which we’ll look into.
Bed 3: We also planted all of bed 3. Facing the numbered side (back to the picnic table), there are three rows on the left of Tokyo Long White-Bunching Onion, two rows in the center of cabbage (Copenhagen Market brand), and three rows of Onion Yellow of Parma on the right.
Bed 3A: We planted a single row of Spitfire Nasturtiums, four separate seeds about 10 inches apart. This bed used to be filled with them, so we’re thinking they’ll do well there again. We also wanted to make sure the nasturtiums were contained because they can spread fast and far and we want these guys under control.
Bed 12: For the L-shaped bed, the lettuce we planted there a couple of weeks ago is sprouting nicely. This week we added three rows of Sweet Mace Herb to the farthest right hand side (again facing the numbered side, with back to the picnic table). The corner of the L is still empty.
For each set of planting we first mixed the soil, adding water and taking out grubs and roots/debris, then leveled the soil, added a thin layer of Wynbrandt compost, poked holes (depths accordingly), planted the seeds and finished off with a light watering. We’ll report back on their progress!
We also did some take-home plants. Mint, basil seed, and beans were planted (propagated for the mint) in small pots and dispersed amongst a handful of the attendees.
Fig Tree: We put it in the ground! The hole we dug earlier this quarter was all set; we added a bit of compost to the bottom, massaged the roots of the fig tree and placed it in, added two bags of potting soil around the roots, a layer of compost on top, watered, then scavenged for some mulch to cover the base and hopefully prevent against water evaporation from the soil.
Compost: We made a small dent in the big pile of organic matter drying out next to our compost heap yesterday, but when we first opened the compost bin we were surprised to find about two dozen small plants sprouting. The looked like they may have been bean sprouts, but we really weren’t sure. We decided against harvesting them and so we churned them into the compost with the rest of the material that we were processing. We’ll watch out for them again and hopefully get an ID!
Suggestions for next week:
Brainstorm pet names for the different beds.
We’ve established that one should be devoted to our patron saint, Alyssa Curran.
More take-home plants!
A lot of the seed packages suggest starting the plants indoors, maybe we can get some more of those going in various dorms and apartments. Audrey pointed out that if we reserve the beds for transplants, we’ll have more uniform yields instead of sporadic sprouting.
Any other suggestions are welcome in the comments!
Also thanks to Ian for getting this site up and running!