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SCOUTS DO THE JOB WELL

This has been a busy weekend in the garden!  I recently got a call from Charlotte Savage asking if there was some project she could work on at the garden.  Charlotte is a Senior this year in Garland and will go off to college in the fall to become a cyber security expert.  She is working to attain Eagle Scout rank which is not an easy accomplishment.  To attain the Eagle rank, a Scout must earn at least 21 merit badges, fulfill leadership roles and display outdoor skills, demonstrate by example the Scout Oath and Law, and complete a comprehensive service project in the community.  

We have a spiral herb garden that is in need of serious repair so I suggested that Charlotte come help me work on that. I don't know all the rules for a "comprehensive service project in the community" but Charlotte was aware of these rules and for several reasons, helping to repair our spiral herb garden doesn't qualify.  However, Charlotte came down anyway on Saturday to help me out.  Judging from what Charlotte demonstrated on Saturday, I'm certain she will attain the rank of Eagle Scout even though, since its inception in 1911, only four percent of Scouts have earned this rank after a lengthy review process.  Becoming an Eagle Scout offers many benefits.  For example, Eagle Scouts are eligible for many scholarships. Unigo, a network for future college students, offers a list of Eagle Scout Only Scholarships.

We had fun figuring out how to repair the spiral garden and together we came up with a great solution:  concrete blocks for the main part of the wall that was broken and stones that we will set in concrete when we have warmer sunny weather.  The stones will cover up gaps and enhance the appearance of the spiral.

One thing is certain!  This project would not have been half as fun without the cheerful addition of a scout like Charlotte.


About Spiral Herb Gardens

An herb spiral is a raised garden built in the shape of a spiral. It’s taller in the middle and circles down to ground level. It can be made from a variety of materials like stone or wood, and offers different growing conditions within the same bed. Herb spirals are popular in permaculture design.  The raised shape of a spiral herb garden also means there are areas of the bed that receive full sun and areas that are a little more shaded. This mix of microclimates means you can grow both sun-loving and shade-tolerant herbs in a single garden. Basil and oregano are suited for full sun, while cilantro and parsley can grow in less light.

 

NOTE:  IF YOU KNOW OF A COMMUNITY PROJECT THAT MIGHT QUALIFY FOR AN EAGLE SCOUT PROJECT, PLEASE TEXT ME AT 972-571-4497 and I'll pass that information along to Charlotte.

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ONGOING CARE OF A LASAGNA BED

The ongoing care of a lasagna bed includes weekly and seasonal replenishment.

At first the bed will be about two feet high but it will gradually sink as time goes on.  After about a year to 18 months as decay and worms do their work turning the leaves and organic matter into soil. the bed will be reduced to half its original height.

You will need to feed your bed about once every week or two.  To do this, for a four foot by eight foot bed, you'll need two coffee cans (1 pound 14 oz each) stuffed with unused fresh produce such as tops from carrots, bottoms from lettuce and cabbage, apple cores, etc.  You can make a little hole in four different places in the bed and put half of each can in the hole.  Cover with leaves to prevent attracting critters.  

As for feeding your plants, there are few things better than compost tea.  Get a five gallon bucket with a lid. Dump some unused, uncooked produce from your kitchen in the bucket along with some coffee grounds which are rich in nitrogen and potassium.  Fill with water near the top.  Cover tightly with a lid.  Keep the can near your garden and use to water your plants once a week.  Just continue to add more spoiled produce and water each week.  Make sure and leave about 1/8 of the water in the bucket as this ensures you'll have plenty of microbes as a starter for the new batch.

In the winter you can let your bed  rest.  In December, cover  the bed with leaves and water well so your leaves don't blow away. This will also discourage pests from over-wintering in your leaves.  Return to it in March.

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Mar 13 @ 7:08 am

THE GARDEN IS A HEALING PLACE   

and often a family affair

There are many different reasons why people turn to gardening, but from what I’ve seen, if you dig deep enough, you’ll find that overwhelmingly it is the desire to heal that moves people to the garden. We turn to the garden because of our deep natural connection to nature and the encouragement we find in things that are growing.

Yesterday I had the wonderful opportunity to introduce a beautiful family to the garden. Kischa Howard, the matriarch of this family, last year suffered one of life’s most difficult injustices to a parent---the loss of a child. Kischa called me a few days ago and asked if I teach her how to garden. She also mentioned that she had lost a son to cancer just last year. He was teaching her how to garden and she wanted to continue in memory of him. Yesterday, on Sunday afternoon, not only Kischa, but also her daughter, son, sister, granddaughter, grandson and daughter-in-love came with her.  All will be working this beautiful family memory garden.

On Sunday, they completed the build for a lasagna bed and planted two yellow squashes.

I’m sure they will teach me much more that I’ll ever teach them--that’s the secret that many don’t realize but the teacher almost always learns more from the pupils than they learn from the teacher. At the very least, it is a mutual exchange.

Scientific evidence abounds in literature to support gardens as being healing places for human beings.  Gardens provide psychological, social, physical, emotional, and spiritual benefits to humans.  The term healing gardens is most often applied to green spaces in hospitals and other healthcare facilities that specifically aim to improve health outcomes. These gardens provide a place of refuge and promote healing in patients, families, and staff.  Any environment can promote healing, but gardens are particularly able to do so because humans are hard-wired to find nature engrossing and soothing.

Regardless age or culture, we find nature restorative. In one study, researchers Marcus and Barnes found that more than two-thirds of people choose a natural setting to retreat to when stressed. In another study, 95% of those interviewed said their mood improved after spending time outside, changing from depressed, stressed, and anxious to calmer and more balanced. [Source: University of Minnesota]

Why do we find nature so restorative? As mentioned, some believe that it is because we are hardwired in our genes. Roger Ulrich, a leading researcher in healing gardens, summarizes it thus: "We have a kind of biologically prepared disposition to respond favorably to nature because we evolved in nature. Nature was good to us, and we tend to respond positively to environments that were favorable to us." [Note: Dr. Ulrich is Professor of Architecture at the Center for Healthcare Building Research at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden, and is adjunct professor of architecture at Aalborg University in Denmark. He is the most frequently cited researcher internationally in evidence-based healthcare design.]

Another reason for our biological connection to nature could be that humans who paid close attention to nature gathered key information that helped them survive and reproduce. So, the tendency to find nature engrossing lived on in those genes.

The importance of gardens figures large in literature and religion. For example, the Christian story begins in the Garden of Eden.  Our literature abounds with stories developed around gardens in such works as Shakespeare’s Richard II; Keats Garden poems; Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass; Virginia Woolf’s Kew Gardens; etc.

I hope you'll visit the Garland Community Garden because then you will see what I mean.

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A woman called me a few days ago and asked if I could teach her how to garden.

THAT remains to be seen.  However, I did accept the challenge.

I'm meeting her in the garden tomorrow, Sunday, March 12 at 3PM.  I'll gather the materials and provide her with the instructions.

It takes about one hour to make and plant a lasagna Garden--much easier than tilling up the soil.

You are welcome to come and watch.

 

YOU CAN DO IT! Let’s make a Lasagna Garden

Lasagna beds are a no-till easy method of constructing a garden bed.  Great method for beginning gardeners.

 

Lay the cardboard the shape and size for your. garden. Wet it 
thoroughly with water. Worms are attracted to we cardboard and
will come to the surface.  No need to till. The cardboard blocks
sunlight and thus the grass and weeds die.

MATERIALS:

Cardboard (Enough flat pieces for a four by 8-foot bed)

Decaying logs (about 4)

Twigs (enough to cover the entire bed)

Newspaper (or any uncoated paper)

Uncooked vegetable scraps (enough to cover most of the bed)

Coffee grounds

Dead Leaves (about three or four large leaf bags

Two 2-cubic feet bags of garden soil

Vegetable transplants and seeds

Water

Six night crawlers (Get them at a bait store.  Walmart sells them in sports section.)

STEPS:

  1. Lay down the cardboard right on top of weed or grass.  Don’t leave any gaps between cardboard and ground beneath. This will kill the grass and weeds because they won’t have sunlight
  2. PUT DECAYING LOGS AND TWIGS ON TOP OF CARDBOARD
  3. Soak well with water.
  4. Crumple paper and put on top of logs and twigs.
  5. Pour two bags of dry leaves over twigs and paper.
  6. Pour uncooked vegetable scraps over entire bed.
  7. Water well.
  8. Sprinkle coffee grounds over vegetable scraps. (Worms love them and they add nitrogen and potassium to the soil. Amount no more than 25% of bed.)
  9. Gently release the night crawlers near the middle of the bed.
  10. Pile another bag or two of leaves on top of this.  Water well.
  11. Sprinkle entire bed with 1 to 2 cubic feet of garden soil.
  12. Now you are ready to plant.  Before planting seeds or transplants, dig a hole in the leaves and add about a cup or two of soil to anchor the roots or seeds.

You don't have to spend a lot of money buying wood to enclose your bed.  You can let the worms
and natural decay of organic matter to create most of your soil free of charge!

HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?  $25 to nothing

If you buy four cubic feet of garden soil and purchase the night crawlers, building a lasagna garden will cost about $25 plus seeds and plants unless you can get them from friends.

But if you have a yard, you can dig some of that soil and amend it with about 20% sand and about 10% dry leaves.  The sand can be purchase by 40 pound bags for about $6.

 As for night crawlers.  You can get them free by digging in the soil near a shrub.

 One of the easiest ways to gather worms is by leaving a wet piece of flattened cardboard in your garden or lawn overnight. Worms are attracted to wet cardboard, so they will crawl up to the surface in no time. Once you remove the cardboard, you'll have countless worms to place into your worm bin

 I get cardboard by driving behind businesses and taking cardboard from their bins.

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Left to Right:  Girl Scouts, Liz and Calley (supposedly the adults in the photo)

 

SUNDAY! WHAT A WONDERFUL SERENDIPITOUS GARDEN DAY!

It seems like for a few days that I've been nudged back to promoting my permaculture roots. All the gardeners at the Garland Community Garden and most community gardens are organic gardeners--that is to say that we do not use any chemical fertilizers, GMO seeds, pesticides or herbicides.
 

Permaculture takes organic gardening to another whole level.

Permaculture, at its core, is sustainable agriculture. It also includes 12 design principles that expand beyond farming and offer an ecological approach to modern living and communities—for example, energy conservation and zero waste living. All in all, permaculture takes its lessons from nature and how things grow naturally in a forest in particular.
 
In the beginning of the Garland Community Garden almost 10 years ago now, we "made" the soil for most of our beds the permaculture way: Lay down cardboard the entire area of your bed, right on top of the weeds or grass; Water it well; put a layer of twigs and several large old porous logs on top of the cardboard; Pile brown organic matter such as leaves on top of the logs; old newspapers torn up; mix a little green from shrub trimmings; and some rotting produce; straw; water well and wait for the worms to come.
Vegetables grown in our lasagna beds did not grow well so we gradually moved away from this method. It takes at least a year for most lasagna beds to attract enough worms to harvest the organic materials into rich soil.
 

Monica Escamilla, Starbucks Store Manager and community gardener

FRIENDS AND NEW ACQUAINTANCES ADD VALUE TO THE QUALITY OF OUR LIVES

Monica Escamilla Store Manager at the Starbucks on North Garland Road between a Walmart and Target store recently has come to our garden to help us out. Monica mentioned that her previous experience included working in a permaculture garden in Nashville. There are several in the Nashville area so I don't know which. one but talking with Monica reminded me of the value of this method of gardening. But more importantly Monica mentioned that you can buy live big night crawler worms and also the red wiggles at Walmart or any bait shop and add them to your soil.
 
I decided to make a lasagna bed on Sunday, bring worms to it and see what happens. So I bought three containers of worms collected the leaves I had raked from my yard and some cardboard and headed for the garden. At least as far as the beginning of this bed goes, it was magical.
 
I had barely started to pull the cardboard out of the truck when a troop of girl scouts flooded the garden like so many butterflies.
The girls were not only strong and enthusiastic, great listeners and action-oriented, they displayed great teamwork and kindness to one another.  This photo shows one of the older girls helping a younger one to loosen the roots of a transplant.  Yep, the garden encourages all kinds of good manners.
 
They were curious about what I was doing. When I told them they begged enthusiastically to come and help. Of course I said yes and Calley, one of our new gardener members joined in to help us. With the exception of going into the woods to get the old rotten logs, we let the girls do everything--from laying the cardboard to planting the plants which included some herbs, a tomato plant and a pepper plant. (The tomato plant was planted at the other end from the pepper plant as they are not good companions.)
The girls were fearless with the worms which surprised me. It was so much fun to see their enthusiasm and sheer joy.
 
After we were finished and the girls had left the garden it struck me that I had helped to create a happy memory for a group of children. This was likely an event that many of them would remember their entire lives. And I, as a participant, would also be remembered as well. I guess this is the closest we come to immortality--to make happy memories for others. No better place to do this than in the garden.
 
The Girl Scout's lasagna bed.  They have eight plants (herbs, one tomato plant and one Banana pepper plant.  In addition, this bed is the new home for about 15 worms.
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SPRING IS THE TIME FOR PLANTING.

When it comes to seeds,  you have three choices: Open Pollinated; Hybrid or GMO

I took up gardening late in life--about 10 years ago. One of the main reasons I did was to escape the world of politics but I soon found out as I dug up my front yard that such an act is rift with political ramifications.  You'll have people cheering you on and others criticizing you. Someone once wrote that digging up your front lawn and planting a garden instead of a lawn is one of the most political acts that a person can undertake.  You are defying the status quo that says all front yards must be an uninterrupted flow of green from one house into the next.  No dandelions allowed.  Do what you have to do: pull them out by hand or use an herbicide like Roundup.

Over the course of the two months that it took me to dig up half of my front lawn, over 120 people stopped by to chat with me, ask what I was doing, and talk about gardening.  Prior to that time, I had lived at this address for about 8 year and no one had ever stopped to chat when I was in my front yard.  [Note: I say over 120 because I didn't start counting until I was into my second week of digging up my lawn and people started stopping on day one.  It was from this group of people that the Nonprofit Loving Garland Green was started.

It’s amazing how steeped in politics that gardening is, but it is--right down to the seeds that one chooses to plant.
 
Open pollinated (OP) seeds are naturally pollinated by wind and bees. These are seeds of value to be saved from your healthiest plants and replanted. Preserving an heirloom means growing it out, maintaining the variety and sharing its seeds with as many growers as possible.
 
Hybrid (F1) seeds come from two inbred open pollinated parents bred for specific characteristics. For example, most of the tomatoes you buy in the chain grocery stores have tough skins. This is because they were grown from hybrid seed that was developed to create tougher skins for tomatoes so they could still look good after traveling the average 1,500 miles that fresh produce in our inefficient agricultural system must travel to get to your grocery store. Seeds from hybrid plants will not breed true to the plant they came from. Some might, but few will and you cannot count on seed from hybrids. Thus, for example, if you want to always get tomatoes with a tough skin, you’ll have the go to the store any buy these seeds. [Get the picture? A captured consumer.]
 
When it comes to seeds, GMO’s (genetically modified organisms) are typically hybrid plants whose DNA is artificially altered to tolerate higher levels of pesticides/herbicides. Note that hybridization has already achieved the beneficial plant traits; further genetic modification is strictly for monetary reasons. Europe has banned GMO’s for a multitude of reasons, including higher levels of chemicals.
 
In the final analysis, if gardeners only chose hybrid and GMO seeds, our food source (seeds) would totally be in control of a few people. Some say that we are headed in that direction. I’m sorry to say, but the evidence does seem to be pointing that way.
 
Seed banks have not prevented the loss of 93 percent of heirloom varieties since 1903.