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Heirloom Peach Blossoms - Garland Community Garden:  It's true.  You will feel better after viewing things in Nature.

Philia is one of the four Greek words for love (philia, storge, agape and eros).  Philia is brotherly love. 

Biophilia –a term coined by psychologist, Erich Fromm, means “love of life” or “love of living things.”  According to Edward O. Wilson who wrote a book in 1984 titled “Biophilia”, the deep affiliations that we have with life forms and nature are rooted in our biology.  Thus, human preferences toward things in nature are the product of biological evolution and survival.  It is suggested, for example, that our love of flowers is deeply rooted in our subconscious because flowers are often precursors to food.

A considerable body of research supports that being in nature makes people feel better emotionally and contributes to physical well being by lowering heart rate and muscle tension. Several studies suggest that spending time in nature can increase our ability to pay attention.  Humans find nature interesting and can naturally focus on what they are experiencing in nature.  Other research on children with ADHD shows that time spent in nature increases their attention span later.

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You Have Two Opportunities this Weekend to Join Loving Garland Green in the Garland Community Garden:  1) Saturday 10AM to 2PM and 2) Sunday 2PM to 4PM

Saturday is our month-end GARDEN SWEEP. 

The last Saturday of the month members of Loving Garland Green, the official stewards of the Garland Community Garden, meet to sweep the garden clean, to water, to add plants and to admire.  Like the garden itself, the public is always welcome. We don’t require that you work.  You can come, experience Biophilia, and chat with us while we work.  There will be lots to talk about as we will be preparing a project bed for planting on Sunday.

Sunday, March 26, 2PM to 4PM:  Kickoff for a Citizen Scientist Project* with the Installation of a Vegetable Garden

On Sunday you can experience Biophilia AND learn about how to create a successful vegetable garden here in the DFW area.

[*Citizen Science projects are hosted by a wide variety of organizations. For example, today, March 22 is World Water Day as designated by the United Nations when folks all over the world support the Earth Echo Water Challenge in various ways such as by testing water.  Results of these tests, taken by citizens all over the world are sent into the Earth Echo Water Challenge as part of an information-gathering process regarding the condition of our world’s water.

In the coming months, Loving Garland Green will participate in more of these Citizen Science projects sponsored by other organizations.  For example in September and October when the Monarchs come through our area, we will be supporting the efforts of Monarch Watch by netting and tagging Monarchs for a monitoring program hosted by Monarch Watch.

Loving Garland Green is hosting this particular project on vegetable gardens to illustrate how much food can be grown in a 100 square foot urban garden plot during the growing season here in Garland.  It is a joint effort being undertaken by members of Loving Garland Green and the North Garland High School Environmental Club.

We hope that by posting the results of the yield and dollar value of the produce we grow that we will encourage more people in our community to grow some of the food they eat.]

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In addition to planting 28 square feet of the vegetable garden plot, there will be a presentation of “The Simple Art of Pole Bean Planting”.  Free Green Bean seeds and poles will be available while they last.

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pH is a numeric expressing the acidity or alkalinity of a solution on a logarithmic scale on which 7 is neutral, lower values are more acid, and higher values more alkaline. The pH is equal to -log10 c, where c is the hydrogen ion concentration in moles per liter. 

Why Test for pH?

If you have a swimming pool, you are familiar with the importance of maintaining a certain pH value.  Avid gardeners are also familiar with the importance of knowing the pH of their soil as certain plants grow better in acidic soils and other plants grow better in alkaline soils. For example, blueberries want their soil pH levels between 4.0 and 6.0 while mint thrives at 7.0 to 8.0.  When pH levels are out of balance for the plant requirements, the gardener adds needed amendments to the soil.

Avid gardeners test the soil periodically throughout the growing season but it is especially recommended to test before planting in the spring and when preparing beds in fall to ensure that you are creating a healthy place for your edibles and other plants to grow.

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Loving Garland Green is testing soil tonight and celebrating the beginning of spring!  Come join us at 6:30pm tonight.  Bring a soil sample if you like.

Tonight is Loving Garland Green’s third Monday of the month meeting.  (You are welcome to come—6:30 to 7:30PM -216 East Kingsbridge 75040.)  On the third Mondays we have member presentations and other activities.  Tonight we will be testing the soil in our gardens and from the Garland Community Garden using the rule of thumb method described below and using a soil testing kit that was purchased at a big box garden store for $12.

I am testing:  1) some compost from the Mesquite landfill 2) Two different commercial garden soils 3) some soil from my garden and 4) some soil from a bed at the Garland Community Garden where I plan to plant green beans.

We will also be packaging some green bean seeds that we plan to give away at an upcoming Garland Community event to be held on Sunday afternoon from 2 to 4 PM—but that’s another story I’ll tell later in the week.

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THREE LEVELS OF SOIL TESTS:  From "Rule of Thumb" to Professional

1.  THE ALMOST FREE RULE OF THUMB SOIL TEST – only a rule of thumb for pH.

You can test your garden soil pH with vinegar and baking soda. Collect 1 cup of soil from different parts of your garden and put 2 spoonfuls into separate containers. Add 1/2 cup of vinegar to the soil. If it fizzes, you have alkaline soil, with a pH between 7 and 8.  Add distilled water to the other container until 2 teaspoons of soil are muddy. Add 1/2-cup baking soda.  If it fizzes it is acidic.  [The soil in the Garland area, which is part of the Blackland Prairie ecoregion as is most of Dallas County, is primarily alkaline with pH variance from 7 to 8.]

2. THE INEXPENSIVE COMMERCIAL SOIL TEST KIT- more accurate test for pH and also test for Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K).

You can purchase a soil test kit from a local nursery or from a big box garden store.  They cost about $12 and can test not only the pH but also the Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium (NPK) levels of your soil.  NPK ply a vital role in plant growth just as vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates and protein play important roles for our health. 

 

3. THE PROFESSIONAL SOIL TEST—the most reliable

You can obtain soil testing bags and instructions from the Dallas County Extension office and send the samples off to Texas A&M for testing. 

Several different soil tests are available at the Extension Soil, Water, and Forage Testing Laboratory. These include tests for routine nutrients, micronutrients, boron, detailed salinity, lime requirement, texture and organic matter. After taking the soil sample, select the appropriate test to obtain the desired information.

The routine test determines the soil pH, salinity, nitrates (NO3-N), and levels of the primary nutrients (P - phosphorus, K - potassium, Ca - calcium, Mg - magnesium, Na - sodium, and S - sulfur) available to plants. The routine test will provide the basic N-P-K fertilizer recommendation for selected crops. This test meets most application needs.

For more information on this opportunity, download this document:

http://soiltesting.tamu.edu/publications/E-534.pdf

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Waiting to be Reborn as Pole Bean Pots – Oh My Aching Back! 

I’ve noticed that as I get older, I’m much more interested (most of the time) in keeping things simple than I was in my younger days.  In other words, I’m more inclined to look for the easiest way to do something.  It’s no surprise that this inclination is spreading over into my world of gardening.

 

 

The Pole Bean Pot Components:  Fencing to the left is used to fashion a trellis that will sit inside the pot along with half of a 55-gallon barrel covered with Eco-Cloth.

 Sometimes I forget to “keep it simple” and the old KISS formula.

My inventive monkey-mind sometimes makes more work than may be necessary for me and for others (as Charlie would be the first to confirm).

For example, container gardening affords urban families a great opportunity to grow edibles in a small space.   To help educate folks in my community to take full advantage of this, I’m working with members of Loving Garland Green in partnership with the Good Samaritans of Garland to create a pole bean garden at the Good Samaritan house here in Garland—both as a source of fresh produce for their clients as well as to teach folks how growing some of the edibles they eat can be fun, healthy and can also even save money.

I designed containers by cutting 55 gallon food-grade barrels in half, drilling holes in the bottom of each half, covering the barrels with eco fabric, and constructing a trellis out of wire fencing. 

(We acquired 8 barrels for free.  The eco fabric was also free as we picked that up from the Byron Nelson Charity tournament last year.  The soil, since we obtain it from Mesquite and bring it back in our truck will cost about $20 for this project.  Thus sixteen 27-gallon pots will cost nothing.  The fencing for the wire trellis will cost $40. )

At retail the sixteen 27-gallon pots alone would cost $480 and the soil $192 would total $672.  Adding the trellis, even if we made it from fencing, would bring the total to $712.  Compare $712 to $60 spent and you can easily see the cost-effectiveness of this project. 

BUT would people currently having access to limited resources be able to duplicate it?  No, of course not.  Not everyone has the power tools or the skill know-how to cut the barrels in half or drill the holes in the bottom of the barrels. Not everyone has a ¾ ton truck to pick up the 55 gallon barrels or the 3 cubic yards of compost from Mesquite for $20.

 

We don’t all have access to the same resources.

Access to resources is a fact of life that many of us need to stop and consider before we criticize some folk’s lack of ability or enterprise to “pull themselves up by their bootstraps.”  Generally speaking, the more wealth a person has, the more access they have to more resources.  However, American ingenuity and “McGivering it” can provide us with increased leverage for achieving our goals.

Note:  That’s one of the things I like about Maker Spaces.  They provide access to tools and shared knowledge that as an individual, a citizen might not have. Maker spaces help provide for a democratic expansion of equal opportunity by providing learning experiences through shared resources in a community.

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A SIMPLER WAY IS ALMOST ALWAYS OUT THERE

After spending most of yesterday washing out barrels, drilling holes and cutting the cloth to cover them, I carried my old aching muscles to bed thinking:  “There has to be an easier way.”

This morning it came to me, as most of my ideas, just a few moments after I awakened.

 

THE TIGHTWAD’S POLE BEAN GARDEN

Of course, this solution will only work for people who are fortunate enough to have a yard.

1.  Buy or find three seven-foot lengths of PVC pipe or some other sturdy 7-foot pole (but don’t take some family member or your roommate’s fishing pole).  [If you buy 3 new 1.5 inch PVC pipes you can expect to pay about $15 total.]

2.  Purchase one bag 1.5 cubic feet garden soil [$6]

3. Purchase one package of Kentucky Wonder pole bean seeds.  {$2.50)

Note:  If you don’t have a shovel, borrow one from your neighbor.

            1) Dig down about 1.5 feet

2) Stick one of the poles in the center and cover back with the soil from the hole.

3) Put about 1/3 of the sack of garden soil on top.

4) Plant the seeds about four inches out from the pole (about seeds)

REPEAT steps 1-4 for each pole, spacing poles about 1.5 feet apart.

Make sure and keep soil moist—not soaked—until beans germinate.  After that, water in the mornings if the leaves look a little droopy.

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 Pole beans are tough and they are great producers as long as you harvest them on a regular basis.  In our North Texas area they will produce from June up to the first frost although production does slack off a little in late July and August.  It will pick right back up again in September.

The average price per pound for fresh Green Beans is $2.14 a pound.  Source: https://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/fruit-and-vegetable-prices

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Note:  To recoup the investment of $23.50 for the "Tightwad's Pole Green Bean Garden", the gardener would only need to harvest 12 pounds of beans.  Believe me, you are likely to get more than 25 pounds from a three-pole garden—probably enough to share with your neighbor.  AND more importantly, they will taste much better than any you’ll purchase in the grocery store.

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Garland Community Garden 7:48 AM March 8

The Garland Community Garden has its own special beauty—not unlike that of our City or even our nation for that matter.  You won’t find all the symmetry of a European garden.  Instead you will see a diversity of garden plots—each one unique, yet standing united together to create a great space for pollinators and for people.

Sometimes we don’t get validation for the things we create.  In fact sometimes we get resistance and criticism.  Even worse, but true, some people who create beautiful things never receive validation for their work when they are alive—Vincent Van Gogh is one example of this and I could name hundreds of others down through history.

Validation (approval from others that you are doing the right thing and even more importantly, that your feelings and emotions are valid) is important to all of us.  Ideally, we give and receive validation to others on a daily basis.

Iris and Ceramic Bunny Garland Community Garden – March 9, 2017 7:41 AM

Loving Garland Green is lucky in that we have received official validation from our community for our work and particularly for our stewardship of the Garland Community Garden from several sources.  In 2015 we received an award from our Mayor for our work and we won third place in a statewide award for community achievement given by Keep Texas Beautiful.  Our Parks and Recreation Department had a sign made for us that folks driving by can see and know that we are “official”. The day the Garland Community Garden opened for business, the Garland City Manager had a truckload of mulch delivered to the garden.  We’ve even gotten validation at a national level as well.  The National Wildlife Federation has certified the Garland Community Garden as a wildlife habitat.

 

Valentine Wish Delivered on March 6 to the Garland Community Garden

Informal validation often arrives as a beautiful surprise.

The informal validation we receive from the community is the validation that touches my soul and helps me to realize that our work in the Garland Community Garden is important and special to the people in our community.  As of yesterday, I now have a special place on my computer where I am recording all the validations I receive for the existence of the Garland Community Garden.  At the end of the year I’ll post them all here as a “Gratitude Log From the Garden.”

A Valentine Message in the Leaves

Some of the validation we receive for the work done at the garden belongs in the inexplicable category of the mystical, or religious if you would prefer.  Some might call it chance, but I’m not so sure about chance as even Sigmund Freud is quoted as once saying “There are no accidents.”

One silent form of informal validation comes when members of the community respond to our different campaigns for educating our community.  Monday, for example, I was once again given validation of the success of our November Leaf Campaign.  This campaign was undertaken for the month of November to raise community awareness that the leaves they put in plastic bags and place curbside go to the landfill.  Over the weekend, someone had left 23 bags of wonderful mulched leaves down at the garden.

On Monday, as I was emptying the 23 bags of leaves, out tumbled a perfectly intact valentine card. It was brand-new clean. I felt like it was meant for me.  I picked it up, read it and then tossed it in the trash. This morning, as I was writing this post, I decided to go down to the Garden and retrieve it.  As you can see from the illustration above, the message is still intact but, having survived a rain, the card is no longer clean.  Perhaps it is a metaphor--a message from the Garden to take better care of the gifts that I receive.

Unspoken Validation from a Stranger

Just as I was leaving the Garden on Monday, a battered pickup truck pulled in.  The driver, who was missing more teeth than he had, stopped and pointed to his eyes, then he pointed to the garden and patted his heart and then gave a "thumbs up".  I don’t know if he could not speak at all or if perhaps he could not speak English.  But it was such a sincere heartfelt appreciation that it brought tears to my eyes.  I patted my heart and blew him a kiss in return.  When I told the story to some Loving Garland Green members that night, the more religious among us told me that it was definitely an angel who visited the garden.

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Photo of Rain Garden from TAMU files

Rain Gardens are a beautiful way to treat the pollution from stormwater runoff before it enters our waterways. They add aesthetic value to a site, increase wildlife habitat and are a highly effective best management practice (BMP) for treating stormwater runoff.  Not only do they filter off the pollutants, rain gardens also slow the flow of the water from heavy rainfalls and thus help reduce flooding in areas prone to these incidents. The benefits from incorporating rain gardens into landscape designs are numerous.   

A rain garden is a shallow depression in the ground, planted with native plants that can live in a soggy environment as well as a dry environment. The depression is sculpted so storm water runs into it and gets trapped. The soil bottom of the rain garden contains different layers of materials that allow the water to drain into the surrounding soil. Once the water has been trapped in the rain garden, natural biological processes will begin to remove the nutrients from the water and break down pollutants into nutrients plants can use.

 

Illustration from Prince George’s County Bio-retention Manual

Rain Gardens Are More Efficient and Cost Less than Traditional Methods for Treating Stormwater before It Enters Waterways

It doesn’t always cost more to do things better and more ecologically friendly.  The City of Bellingham, Washington found this out about 15 years ago when they designed a 550-square-foot section of land to catch runoff from a parking lot with 80 spaces.  The rain garden was also designed to treat 91 percent of the runoff from a 50-year storm event.

Cost Comparison from the Bellingham Rain Garden

Conventional Stormwater Technique

(4,400 foot wet vault)

 

$52,800

 

Rain Garden

 

$12, 820

 

Cost Savings

 

$39,980

 

 

 

 

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RESOURCES

If you or your city is interested in exploring the possibility of using rain gardens as a way to help control stormwater runoff and pollution, we have a great resource right here in the DFW area:  Our Dallas County Texas A&M Extension department.  In particular we have two people associated with the Texas A&M system who are experts in stormwater management and rain garden design:  Fouad Jaber, Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist; and Dotty Woodson, Extension Program Specialist.

https://fortress.wa.gov/ecy/publications/documents/1310027.pdf

https://www.austintexas.gov/sites/default/files/files/Watershed/growgreen/raingarden_factsheet.pdf

http://rainwaterharvesting.tamu.edu/files/2011/05/Rain-Garden-Plant-List-11-02-09.pdf

http://water.tamu.edu/files/2013/02/stormwater-management-rain-gardens.pdf

https://nepis.epa.gov/Exe/ZyPDF.cgi/P100D97A.PDF?Dockey=P100D97A.PDF 

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Charles Bevilacqua  - Citizen Scientist, member of Loving Garland Green and Monarch Whisperer

Parks and community gardens are perfect settings for Citizen Scientist projects. Non-Scientists can meaningfully contribute to scientific projects.  Citizen Scientist projects are excellent projects for Scout and other youth groups.  In fact,  such projects can end up being career paths for students. 

As we move toward our third anniversary as stewards of the Garland Community Garden, Loving Garland Green is also moving toward establishing more citizen scientist projects in the garden.  We want to encourage people to get out and enjoy nature.  Enjoying nature is a proven healthy activity.  In fact, spending time in nature makes people feel more alive and improves their overall health. [http://www.rochester.edu/news/show.php?id=3639]   When we better understand the ongoing daily dramas and life cycles of nature, we will understand more clearly and respect the important relationship these activities have to the quality of our own lives.

One of our programs that we presented in the garden last fall was All About Native Bees.  Many folks don’t realize that while the European Honeybee is important, it is by no means the only bee.  We have about 879 different species of native bees here in Texas.  Our native bees are solitary creatures who do not build community hives, nor do they make honey for human consumption.  Most of them are ground nesters. Some species are so tiny they are often mistaken for flies.  Among the many good things about them is that most of them don’t sting humans and those that do sting do not cause allergic shock as does the Honeybee for some people.

 

Citizen Scientist Projects with Pollinators

The insect world is a critical part of the human world.  One of every three bites of food that we put into our mouths is thanks to a pollinator—most of whom are insects.  Loving Garland Green has an informal program in place for a couple of years now with the Monarch butterfly in support of our Mayor’s work with other mayors across the USA who have signed the Mayor’s Monarch Pledge. 

We installed a butterfly garden and a sign with photographs of all the butterflies native to North Texas—many of which visit our garden.  For the past two years members of Loving Garland Green have also rescued caterpillars from the garden and placed them in a temporary habitat (mesh laundry basket) to ensure they are able to complete their lifecycle.  We have shared many of these caterpillars with our local schools.  When mature, we release the butterflies in the garden. 

This past fall we also have begun tagging Monarch butterflies. In 2016 we tagged 35 monarchs and noted the time, date, sex of the monarch, R(for raised) and C (for captured).  This information we reported to Monarch Watch www.monarchwatch.org —a cooperative network of students, teachers, volunteers and researchers dedicated to the study of the Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus). 

Beginning in August when we start to see Monarchs returning, we plan to capture with approved butterfly nets, tag and release.  We secure our tagging kit materials from Monarch Watch. 

Citizen Scientist Projects can be varied and many.

There are many classifications of scientific activities that can be undertaken by Citizen Scientists.  One of them is biosurveillance.  There are countless activities in nature that would benefit people from reports gathered from biosurveillance.

In fact, what started my thoughts rolling toward the topic of this article was the photograph of the wasp (Cerceris fumipennis) in the previous article.  I learned about this creature in my Master Gardener course.  It lays its eggs in a live beetle.  It prefers beetles with a metallic sheen to their bodies.  The female Cerceris fumipennis stings the beetle, paralyzing it and then drags it back to her ground nest.  Once she has amassed enough beetles to feed her eggs, she will lay the eggs inside the beetle.  The larvae will then feed on the live beetle.

This sounds rather awful, but then so is the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB)—a non-native wood-boring pest of ash trees that poses a significant threat to both stressed and healthy ash trees.  Native to Asia it was first discovered in Michigan in 2002.  Now it is found in 26 states and has killed tens of millions of ash trees.  Texas is home to seven species of Ash that are susceptible to the EAB. And yes, the EAB has arrived in Texas. Read more about what the Texas A&M Forest Service is doing to reduce the devastating impact of this insect. http://tfsweb.tamu.edu/content/article.aspx?id=24246

The Texas statewide plan includes monitoring beetle movement, conducting educational campaigns, providing technical assistance in prevention, preparation and recovery, and working with regulatory agencies in considering and establishing quarantines in affected counties.

How can Citizen Scientists support efforts to combat the EAB?

Citizen Scientists could easily be trained to recognize the Cerceris Wasp.  Excellent literature abounds on the topic.  The surveillance activities are simple:  Locate the ground nests of Cerceris Wasps and monitor the types of beetles they bring to the nest.  When an EAB is identified, report that to the appropriate scientific authority in your community or state.  Of course this is just an overview.  It is important that a proper schedule is set up as you don’t want to systematically remove the entire food source for future generations from the wasp.  

HOW TO SET UP A CITIZEN SCIENTIST PROGRAM IN YOUR COMMUNITY

 The ideal community sources for managing and dispersing information regarding these programs might include your local parks department, public school system, local garden clubs and other nonprofit organizations.  Let them know that you would like to see these opportunities developed in your community.  You might begin by listing at least 20 Citizen Science Projects that appeal to you and then contacting people in your local community to further the development of a Citizen Scientist program to support these programs in your community.

Additional resources:

Citizen Science Alliance - www.citizensciencealliance.org

Texas Bee Watchers - www.beewatchers.com 

Monarch Watch www.monarchwatch.org 

Texas Master Naturalist