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Rain Barrels, Blue Birds, Chaparrals and Hugelkulturs at the Garland Community Garden

Another Rain Barrel Added to the Garden

Garland Community Garden has a new rain barrel that was installed April 1, 2015.  This rain barrel was created by Ken Risser.  Ken, a member of Keep Garland Beautiful, has started a small business here in Garland.  He hand-crafts rain barrels for local folks.  These barrels are recycled pickle vats from a local pickle factory.   Ken donated this barrel to Loving Garland Green.  However, on Monday we will vote on purchasing a second barrel for Ken for $120. You may be able to purchase a rain barrel for $89 from a chain store BUT if you purchase your barrel from Ken's local business, more of the money you spend will be recirculated in the local economy which in turn enriches you and your neighbors.

Ken's new business is a perfect example of how urban gardens create new markets and support existing markets--processes that Loving Garland Green supports.

For maximum efficiency in harvesting rainwater, the design of Ken's rain barrel is best suited to be placed at the four corners of a building/home that has a gutter system.  However, since we don't currently have a gutter system to take advantage of, we will be putting these rain barrels to a slightly different use.  We will be using them to measure and monitor water usage over our beds.  We will fill them with water from the faucet, leaving a little room in the barrel for some collection from rain.  A particular rain barrel will be designated to be used for a particular bed only.  Records will be kept on each barrel as to how many gallons and when the barrel is filled.

Amounts can be checked with a flow meter attached to the spigot. About 60 gallons will provide about 1 in. of water over 100 sq. ft. Since our climate is especially dry and we are using raised beds, a little more water will be needed.  The general rule of thumb is about 1 inch of water over your plants each week. Most people overwater.  Using the 50 gallon capacity of the rain barrel and the 28 square feet of the garden bed in front of it, we should only require filling that barrel about once every three weeks.  Also to maximize efficiency we will attach a drip hose to the spigot so that we water at the soil level.

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Perhaps the Future for Rain Barrels in the Garland Community Garden

We would like to see every bed and/or groups of beds at the garden assigned to a particular rain barrel for monitoring water usage.  This will happen over time.  Even when/if we have access to a gutter system and a larger reservoir we would still like to see that system feeding into these rain barrels because visitors can more easily see just how much water it takes for a vegetable garden and it will encourage people to not overwater their plants which is never good for the health of the plants.

Supporting a Local Business 
As mentioned, Ken Risser makes these rain barrels. They are very high quality.  They come with brass fittings for the spigot and the spigot itself is in a housing designed for large aquariums.  The barrel has a drain valve below the spigot and also one near the top of the barrel.  The drain near the top can be used to connect the barrel to other barrels to increase storage capacity and thus take fuller advantage of the rainy season.  And on top of it all, Ken can design these rain barrels according to your own artistic specifications.  When I went to pick up Loving Garland Green's rain barrel, I saw many beautiful barrels--all designed with various logos including one with our city's firewheel logo on it.  If you are a Cowboy's fan, Ken can design a  cowboy rain barrel for your home.

Currently we have a few of our city organizations represented down at the garden.  For example, we have a garden bed that is stewarded by the Garland Multicultural Commission.  We are also putting in a large bed that combines all the city council members with the Mayor's garden.  Last year we had separate beds for each council member and one for the mayor.  This year, in keeping with our mission of community connectedness we are combining them.  It would be nice if they could all pitch in a few dollars and purchase a rain barrel from Ken for their garden with the city logo on it.

Additional Possibilities for Serving Our Community
If a local or chain store business would like to purchase a rain barrel with their logo on it from Ken, Loving Garland Green will assign it to one of our beds at 4022 Naaman School Road.  This makes us all winners.  Loving Garland Green wins because 1) we are meeting one of our goals to improve our local economy through urban gardening and 2) we have a rain barrel that we need to illustrate water conservation methods. Ken and those who purchase rain barrels from him win because they will be broadening their customer base through advertising at a place where many of their prime customers hang out.

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Clover Patches in the Meadow between Winding Garden and Front Garden at the Garland Community Garden

Our community garden features two expanses of meadow:  one in front of the licensed area of the garden.  The official steward of this meadow is the Garland Park and Recreation Department.  There is also a meadow in between the Winding Garden and the Front Garden.  Loving Garland Green members are the stewards of this meadow.  It has patches of clover that we allow to grow without manicuring as the flowers from these patches feed many hungry bees.  If you ever feel like coming down and rolling in the clover, be sure to make sure it's not feeding time for the bees.

Bluebirds, Chaparrals, Owls and Other Magic In the Happy Garden

It's official.  We have a pair of nesting bluebirds down at the Garland Community Garden.  Robert, using a telephoto lens yesterday, took a shot of the inside of the blue bird house that Colby Clark built a month or so ago and installed in the garden. There is a nest.  I had my doubts about that birdhouse, but Colby assured me that he know what he was doing when he installed a tiny home, only six feet up on a post and with an opening that had no perch.  He was right.

Of all the birds a gardener could choose to attract, the bluebird is the quintessential helpful garden bird. Gardeners go to extreme lengths to attract and keep them in the garden for their advantageous properties. Bluebirds are voracious insect consumers, quickly ridding a garden of insect pests. [Source:  The Self-Sufficient Gardener: Episode 109 Blue Birds - accessed April 1, 2015]

In addition to their practical offerings, the bluebirds also represent the symbol for happiness in our culture. For example we have many songs with lyrics exalting this bird to the status of a good omen--The Bluebird of Happiness being one of the most outstanding examples of this connection.  There will be Bluebirds over the White Cliffs of Dover is another example.

A Resident Chaparral

Yesterday when I was eating my lunch in the garden with Margie, we had the honor to watch a chaparral (road runner) run almost the entire length of the winding garden. It is thrilling to see wildlife unexpectedly appear like this. According to reports from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Pueblo Indian tribes, such as the Hopi, believed that the Roadrunner provided protection against evil spirits. In Mexico, some said it brought babies, as the white stork was said to in Europe. Some Anglo frontier people believed roadrunners led lost people to trails;It is thrilling to see wildlife unexpectedly appear like this.

At Least One Owl Who Talks in HIs Sleep

Many times when I've been back in the garden where snow peas are growing on the trellis at the edge of our licensed area, I've heard an owl hooting.  This puzzles me as I've always thought that owls are nocturnal creatures who sleep during the day.  Although the owl sometimes is said to portend death, among many native American tribes this totem has other more subtle meanings bringing with it totem gifts of hidden knowledge and ancient wisdom.  It is said to offer clarity in the darkness.

The Magic Wishing Chair

It takes a magic person to find a magic wishing chair.  And speaking of Bluebirds of Happiness, we have one member, Robert Opel, a local artist who works at the Dallas Museum of Art who is perpetually cheerful.  Yesterday he came across a perfectly good wishing chair that someone had carelessly tossed to the curb.  Robert, realizing the true value of this piece of otherwise ordinary-looking furniture brought it down to the Garden.  Now residents can come down and sit in the wishing chair under the pecan tree and make wishes.

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Perhaps a Hugelkulter Waits in the Future for the Garland Community Garden

A Tree Lies Waiting in Transformation At the Back of the Garden in the Riparian Area

Perhaps a Hugelkultur in the Fall

Hugelkultur roughly translated from German to mean "mound culture."  It's an ancient practice of creating raised garden bed by covering wood with soil.  The buried wood acts like a sponge, capturing water and nutrients for later use by whatever you choose to plant.  As it decomposes, the wood draws in beneficial fungi and quickly turns into rich soil.  The results are amazing for such a simple process.  The Hugelkultur is a fertile self-hydrating raised bed.

Hugelkulturs can be built up with any size and age wood.  In general, the taller the pile the better.  Some are up to six feet high.  Taller piles will of course hold more moisture in their decomposition process.

Note: Building a  hugelkultur on the area indicated above would not be possible without permission from our Parks and Recreation department as they are stewards of this riparian area of the property.  Such a request would and should require some investigation regarding the possibility of disturbing the habitat of creatures in the riparian area.  We could, however build a hugelkultur elsewhere within our licensed area of this property.  All these considerations for another day, however, as we are far too busy now in dealing with spring planting.  Perhaps in late summer our thoughts will turn to hugelkulturs.

PROCESS FOR BUILDING A HUGELKULTUR

It's simple:

1. pick a site at least three feet wide and six feet long.

2. Put wood pile down (avoid cedar and walnut)--put the biggest pieces on the bottom. It can be as high as six feet.

3. Put soil, leaves, manure, kitchen compost in between the pieces of wood/logs.

4. Cover with at least two inches of top soil.

5. Add straw as mulch and plant a cover crop in fall of perhaps red clover to suppress weeds

6. Berries love Hugelkulturs and the height of the beds make for easy picking.

Thursday, April 2, 2015