Wednesday, May 12, 2010

You win some, you lose some

A few weeks after planting the last round of cold-weather crops, it's time to assess how they are doing and begin transplanting the plants we started in trays. The radishes and peas are up and off to a great start. A few strawberries are even reddening and looking sweet. The kohlrabi and turnips look good and need thinning. The spinach and lettuce is coming up but looks strained (could have used a few weeks earlier start). Only a few carrots have popped up. Maybe they were planted too deep, or maybe we just need to be patient! The nasturtium flowers look promising. The onions never came up (probably planted too late). The garlic looks fabulous. Raspberry bushes left over from last year also look strong.

The trays of tomatoes, peppers, and collards we started in early April look good and are ready to be transplanted. One lucky Celebrity Bush Tomato became the inaugural plant in the lasagna beds we built in January. Wooo! It didn't die, so we went ahead and followed up with alternating tomato and pepper plants in one giant lasagna bed, and planted broccoli starts from our Flying Squirrel friends in another. Ben and courageous volunteer Ricky potted the remaining tomato starts so they'll have room to grow until we give them away. The peppers and tomatoes we planted as a second round mid-April were probably planted too late to make it this year, but we may be able to salvage a few. We also lost some collard starts to drying out.

All in all, things are looking promising, and when the soil dries out after all the rain this week, it will be time to plant summer crops.
With Spring fully here, April was a busy month in our 36th garden. The first week of April, we planted tomatoes, peppers, and collard greens in trays on a grow-shelf indoors. This way these sun-loving plants can get enough light and water without being exposed to the cold, wind, and occasional frosts as the weather begins to warm. We planted plenty of each plant hoping we will have an overabundance to share with neighbors. (Next year, we'll shoot for early to mid-March for getting these starts going so that they have a full 8 weeks before the average last frost in this region).

The second week of April, we planted a round of crops that can handle colder weather. Carrots, radishes, kohlrabi, turnips, spinach, and peas all went in the ground. We planted the carrots and radishes along side each other as many believe they grow well as a team.

On April 18th, a mighty group of volunteers helped us do a second round of cold weather crops, and also to prepare a bed for some highly anticipated blueberry bushes! The bed for the blueberries runs along the eastern edge of the garden as a border between the alley and our property. The blueberry bushes will serve as a living edible fence that will protect our beds from wind and hold in soil and other organic matter like leaves and straw on the property, halting erosion.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Making Lasagna Garden Beds!

On January 9th, a group of Urban Mountain Farms volunteers overcame the wintery cold and completed the remaining garden beds for the 955 yard.

The garden beds were made of layers of tree leaves and horse manure piled on top of a base of cardboard. The cardboard was spread out in the desired shape of the gardens. The cardboard makes a good base and stops plants and weeds from growing up from the original ground layer

Next, leaves, that had been collected by fellow Indianapolis residents and set out on the curb in plastic bags, were spread out on top of the cardboard in a layer about an inch thick. Many of the bags were filled with whole leaves that had been raked into the bags, but the most valuable bags contained leaves that had been mulched – or cut up – as they were picked up by a lawn mower. The mulched leaves break down more quickly and develop more useful bacteria and fungi to help garden crops grow.

On top of these leaves, manure was spread out in an even layer also about an inch thick. The manure had been collected from a horse ranch nearby, with additional manure brought from a horse ranch on the South side of town.

Leaves were again layered on top of the manure and manure on top of those leaves in successive layers until the pile reached about 18 to 22 inches. This is the desired height to develop hardy top soil to be used for gardening. The layers mimic natural layers of plant material found in the environment. They break down together with the help of fungi and bacteria that are also aid garden crops in growing.