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Native Bumblebee on Zinnia at Garland Community Garden - 9/9/2016 - We have homes for native bees scattered throughout the garden.

Several experiments have been undertaken at the Garland Community Garden in 2016.  I use the word “experiment” loosely.  I do not mean a highly controlled and measured scientific experiment with an experimental and a control group along with detailed note taking.  I mean a loosely controlled layman’s observation more along the lines of:  “Let’s try this and see what happens.”  This is a mindset that we like to encourage for all Garland gardeners as great new innovations sometimes arise by accident and from casual observations. 

Of course, as the mainstay for the core of our gardening activities we stick to the tried and true methods based on scientific knowledge provided us by groups we respect such as Texas AgriLife and other gardening experts in our area.

Intercropping

Intercropping is a technique that is especially applicable to the urban gardener as it maximizes limited space.  It is a multiple cropping process that involves growing two or more crops in close proximity thus enabling a greater yield on a piece of land than would have been obtained with a single crop.  Of course it is important to not have plants that will be competing for the same resources.  Thus shallow rooted plants are placed with deep-rooted plants; tall crops with shorter crops requiring partial shade; etc.  Biodiversity is achieved which in turn provides a variety of insects and soil organisms.  By reducing the homogeneity of plants in one area, you also increase the potential for a diversity of insects and thus the likelihood of predators. Thus, there are more insects to feed upon one another as opposed to feeding on the plants.

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Overall Increased Planting of Legumes at the Garland Community Garden

More legumes than ever before have been planted down at the Garland Community Garden this year.  We have done this primarily as a technique to improve the soil in our beds as we plan to turn the plants under as green manure to increase the nitrogen content of the soil as well other organic nutrients.

Legumes (peas, vetches, clovers, beans and others) grow in a symbiotic relationship with soil-dwelling bacteria.  Legume plants have root nodules in which Rhizobium bacteria are present. This bacteria coverts atmospheric nitrogen into nitrites that can be absorbed by plants to form or to make proteins that it help in nitrogen cycle


Intercropping with peanuts

We planted peanuts as a cover crop beneath our tomatoes, and okra.  We also planted peanuts as a cover crop on a small hugelkultur we installed in August of 2015.

Note:  Yes, peanuts grow well in a sandy, slightly acidic loose soil and not so well in the heavy alkaline clay soil of our area here in North Texas. However, if you amend the soil with expanded shale, you can grow not only peanuts, but just about anything in our soil.

A couple of days ago I pulled up a couple of peanut plants from the hugelkultur bed.  Low and behold!  We have peanuts!  Soon we will be harvesting them all over the garden.

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 Stringless Organic Pole Beans - Garland Community Garden - 9/9/2016

Pole Beans as Opposed to Bush Beans

Last year the green bean crop we planted down at the garden consisted mostly of bush variety beans.  Down at the garden this year we planted pole beans exclusively and have been very happy with the results.  Bush beans grow on a bush while pole beans grow on climbing vines. 

Pole beans have several advantages over the bush varieties:  they will continue to produce beans for several months whereas the bush varieties are good for only two crops and then they are done.  Since pole beans can grow vertically, they are ideal for tight urban spaces.  You don’t need to go out and purchase an expensive trellis.  Simply tie three bamboo poles together in a teepee fashion.  Arrange the poles around the perimeter of a five-gallon bucket and watch your beans grow.  This gardening format is beautiful to look at and the beans are easy to pick—much easier that stooping down to get them from bushes that are only about 20 inches tall.

Just writing this article has inspired me.  I’m sending a note to Jennifer Clements, a second grade teacher at Watson Tech here in Garland to see if she would like for Loving Garland Green to come help her students create three or four pole bean buckets this fall.  We can have them outside until the weather turns cold.  Then we can bring them inside their lovely greenhouse.  The kiddos can have green beans for Thanksgiving and Christmas and they can learn how little space it actually takes to grow some food.

Pigeon pea shrub in center--Kale right corner - Garland Community Garden 9/9/2016

Pigeon peas intercropped with Kale

This year we received some pigeon pea plants from Susan Metz. We planted them in our Multicultural garden area and they have grown to over 7 feet tall.  Susan has worked as a Senior Research Associate for the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station.  Today I believe she works as a consultant to the City of Garland Parks and Recreation Department.

Texas AgriLife Research has been undertaking many different studies involving the potential offered by the Pigeon pea.  Susan was involved in a research and education project titled “Pigeon pea:  a multipurpose, drought resistant forage, grain and vegetable crop for sustainable southern farms” under the direction of Dr. John Sloan (Associate Professor from Texas AgriLife Research).  Search under “Pigeon Pea and Texas AgriLife” to get a list of all their related studies.

The pigeon pea makes a lovely shrub.  You can see it down at the Garland Community Garden from now until our first frost.  Susan tells me they die back.  I don’t know if it will return in the spring or if we will need to plant again.  I’ll let you know by the end of March 2017.

The pigeon pea holds much promise as a food crop to feed the world.  Perhaps the most complete collection of information on this topic can be found in the 542-page document:  “Lifting the Level of Awareness on Pigeonpea”.   This book serves as a reference for all stakeholders involved in the production of this crop, particularly farmers, traders, policymakers and scientists. The book focuses mainly on the crop’s production system, research and development (R&D) efforts, economic significance and recommendations with information on geographical background and agricultural system of each country where the crop is grown. In the concluding chapter, readers will find the authors’ recommendations on the environmental and economic significance of this crop, and its commercial viability 

http://exploreit.icrisat.org/sites/default/files/uploads/1378359476_296_10_Lifting_eh_level_of_awareness_on__Pigeonpea.pdf 


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 Loofah Blooms at the Garland Community Garden -9/8/2016

Positive Effect of Garland Community Garden:  Loofah Vines instead of Morning Glory Vines

I was talking with someone down at the garden last week.  They told me they always planted morning glory vines for their back fence, but after seeing our loofah vines down at the garden for two years they are going to replace morning glory vines with loofah vines next year.

Why not!  You get even larger more beautiful blooms with the loofah.  The plant blooms all day long from June through mid November.  Unlike morning glory blossoms, you can eat loofah blossoms.  You can also, of course, eat the loofah vegetable when it is small.  And you can harvest the loofah for bath sponges when it is mature.  Indeed the loofah is a very easy-to-grow and giving plant.

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