Tuesday was quite a day as gardening goes. . .  in fact, I gardened from 9 am to 6 pm.  

The Proof of Concept of Another Urban Garden Is Completed

The day began at Crystal Carel's home here in Garland where Charlie and I installed "Another Urban Garden".  We have thus far installed six "Another Urban Gardens" and we have two more scheduled to install.  After those two installations, we will have completed our proof of concept phase of this program--it can be done and there is a huge demand for the program in our community. The proof of concept phase has been paid for by members of Loving Garland Green. We now are ready to move on to the second phase of our program which requires funding from other sources such as the Neighborhood Vitality Program as well as other grant sources.

The second phase of this program involves local job creation.  Loving Garland Green will contract with local residents to construct and install the square foot gardens and perhaps later, also keyhole and modified Ruth Stout gardens.  A large part of our vision is job creation for local residents and stimulation of the local economy by moving it just a little closer a local plant-based economy.  

Another Urban Garden sponsorship for installing one 4 foot by 4 foot by 10 inch high bed is $170.00.  To sponsor a garden plot at the Garland Community Garden, the fee is $300 for one enclosed raised bed (per year) and $150 for a Ruth Stout Garden sponsorship.  Note:  the Ruth Stout Gardens are less expensive because these raised beds have no walls and thus a much lower initial setup cost.  For more detail on sponsorship, please visit the DONATE tab on the Loving Garland Green website.


 Another Urban Garden Installation at Crystal Carel's Home

Below is a photo of Charles Bevilacqua, board member of Loving Garland Green, showing off his muscles at the installation of Another Urban Garden for Crystal Carel this morning in Crystal's back yard.

 Charlie and I really had a good time at Crystal's home as she is an enthusiastic gardener!  Not only did we build the walls for her bed and complete the soil amendment process, we assisted Crystal in planting all of her garden with the exception of marigold transplants that she was saving until her children got home from school.

One hour and 45 minutes after we arrived, Crystal had "Another Urban Garden in Garland".  Below is a photo of Crystal and me--watching as Crystal plants the last spinach seeds.  In her garden Crystal has:  One square foot of  bell pepper, four square feet of beans, four square feet of squash, two square feet of tomatoes, two square feet of carrots, one square foot of broccoli . . .  sorry, I forgot the rest.  The total square feet of this garden is 32 square feet--and that's a lot of fresh vegetables for her family.



An Afternoon in the Garland Community Garden

After the installation of  Crystal's garden, I went down to the  Garland Community Garden at 4022 Naaman School Road here in Garland, Texas.

Down at the Garland Community Garden I dumped more leaves in the Ruth Stout mulch garden area and covered 192 square feet of the leaves with compost. Later in the afternoon two more members from our board--Anita and Robert joined me bringing more leaves to spread.  Note:  We now have twelve  8' x 4' beds--ten of which are open for Garland residents to claim.

In the photo below, the land to the left of the white marker is a 4' x 8' bed that I planted  a few days ago. To the right of the marker is the next 4' x 8' plot.  The rust colored blotches are cedar mulch surrounding  eight okra plants, a jalapeno pepper plant, two heirloom tomato plants, a rosemary bush, and some basil that I grew from seed.  The darker earth is wet soil where a few days ago I planted corn, Swiss chard, spinach and lettuce.  When those plants are a few inches high, I will mulch around them too.




 More on the Evolution of the Garland Community Garden

Loving Garland Green members are staying flexible and making the garden up as we go. In a sense, it feels like our most important task is to make sure that we don't stand in the light of the development of this space which seems to have a serendipitous life all its own that carries us with it. 

Our Own Garland Adaptation of the Ruth Stout Method of Organic Gardening

The development of the Ruth Stout section of our garden is a perfect example of this serendipity.   Ruth Stout (1884 - 1982) is the organic gardener known as "the mulch queen."  At about the same time I learned of her I also learned of Keyhole gardens--a raised bed gardening format that creates its soil from organic matter such as wood, leaves and even old clothes constructed from natural fibers such as cotton and wool.

When determining the format for any garden, one of the most important considerations is the climate of the area in which you live. Ruth Stout gardened in Connecticut which has a decidedly different climate from that of North Texas were the folks in Garland live. Ruth may have been able to throw her seeds into a pile of hay covered with a little bit of dirt and watch them grow, but such a method without a few adjustments is not likely to meet with great success in Garland due to our annual rainfall and lack thereof.

Loving Garland Green Gardening Format

1. Lay down wet cardboard on a 4 ' x 4' garden plot. (The brown corrugated cardboard is best.)

2. Put a layer of small twigs on top of the wet cardboard.

3. Put a layer of leaves on top of the twigs.

4. Put a thin layer of composted soil on top of the leaves.

5. Add another layer of wet cardboard. . . . Continue adding various layers of organic matter until the area is at least 8 inches high.

6. Water thoroughly.

7. Put a final layer of about 4 inches of garden soil and compost on top of the area.

8. In the center of the 4' by 4' area insert a cylinder you have made from chicken wire. This cylinder is about one foot in diameter and extends from the bottom of your mulch pile to about one foot over the top of your soil. You will need to stabilize the wire with about six small bamboo stick.

9. Put wet cardboard into the cylinder along with grass clippings and vegetable scraps from your kitchens (no meat or eggs). Make sure to line the cylinder that is above the soil with wet cardboard and cover with wet cardboard and garden soil to discourage critters.

10. Put in your plants or seeds according to the square foot method of planting.

Required ongoing maintenance.

Put new organic matter into the wire cylinder when the contents reach the level of the top of your soil. Since vegetables have high water content and contain nourishment, the roots of your plants in the garden will seek nourishment from this source. This also reduces the need for watering so often. To further reduce the need for daily watering: Once or twice a week wet cardboard, roll it up into small cylinders and insert horizontally in your garden soil (an easy task since the bed has no sides). Again this will reduce the amount of water needed to grow your plants.  No, it's not as easy as Ruth Stout's method, but I think if you want to go that route you will have to move to Connecticut.




Our Lady of the Garden - We now have another scarecrow. This one was created from the roots of a discarded plant intertwined with wire that was found in a bag of leaves.

The Aesthetics of the Garland Community Garden

The City has licensed Loving Garland Green a 17,000 square foot area at 4022 Naaman School Road in which to develop a community garden. This entire area is a lovely space that is largely a meadow. We plan to leave most of our licensed area in its natural state as a meadow for a number of reasons.

First of all it is home to large patches of clover which are loved by the bees. Since of all, it is simply beautiful. And finally, there are many shady spots under the large pecan trees that are perfect for family picnics on blankets spread in the cool shade. We would love to see more people enjoying this peaceful beautiful spot.


The Garland Community Garden version of the Ruth Stout mulch garden is expanding.  We currently have twelve 4' x 8' spaces availabe for Garland residents to garden.   Call 972-571-4497 for details.

Currently we plan to develop two more 100 foot long four feet wide adaptations of the Ruth Stout mulch piles. These two piles will be about eight feet apart and will run parallel to the existing one we have created.  This area borders the north side of the garden near the wooded area.

In the southeast corner of the garden which is now mulched, we will continue to install raised beds as well as various types of container gardens to demonstrate the various gardening formats available to the urban farmer. The appearance of this area will be enhanced with the addition of two by fours laid flat at the edge of the mulch and then a sand path extended from the two by four out to the edge of our boundary for the licensed area. The path will be about 3 feet wide.

We also plan to make sand paths within the mulched area to facilitate an easy stroll through the garden. In the future we may create another mulched area, approximately 10 feet wide extending on the east side from the current mulched area back to the border on the north where the bamboo grove begins. This area we would devote entirely to plants native to our area.

The  blue rain barrel will soon be covered with reed fencing as well as the white bucket and red container which house the water for our olla system for a square foot garden.

Oh yes, the signs are coming. We have worked out a design that meets the requirements of our agreement with the City. Each sign is construction of two concrete blocks to form the base, a four foot PVC pipe, an elbow, and a 12 inch PVC pile to form an L shape. Our signs will be 8 x 11 laminated sheets attached to the PVC pipe with tie wraps. The holes in the concrete blocks will feature herbs.




The Social Potential of the Garland Community Garden as a Gathering Place

Because of its high visibility on a thorough-fare in our Coomer Creek neighborhood,  the Garland Community Garden at 4022 Naaman School road has great potential for becoming a gathering place for people to meet for a chat.  In fact it happened last night.  I had gone back to the garden at dusk to install "Our Lady of the Garden" when Robert and Anita saw me and stopped by to see what I was doing.  It wasn't a few minutes later until Gene and Margie Rodgers drove by on their way home from dinner at the Olive Garden.  They saw us and pulled into the garden too.  We had a nice chat and a few chuckles over our new scarecrow.


What does the future hold for 4022 Naaman School Road?

First of all it holds some pretty nifty amenities that our City has planned for this area--a walking path up near Naaman School Road, a foot-bridge down by the creek, and a parking lot for easier access to the property.

What I can see for the future, even if some may not be able to at the moment, is the establishment of the Garland Urban Agricultural Center in the place of the shed that currently sits on this property.  Start thinking about it and it could happen.


In an attempt to escape the drudgery of cleaning up my home for the meeting of Loving Garland Green tonight, I went outside to inspect the garden now occupying what was once my front lawn.  Lo and behold!  There were enough strawberries ready to be picked and recorded into the crop records for my urban garden!  

Now that I think about it, I've already harvested and eaten about $15 worth of kale from my garden since January.  I must be more diligent about my crop records because at the end of the year I do want to be able to measure the value of my garden in terms of dollars and cents.  Its social value, as I've mentioned more than once is invaluable.  Its health value is somewhat measurable in that since I started my garden in June of 2013, I've lost 30 pounds without consciously trying to lose weight.  

Thus the first strawberry harvest has been duly recorded in my crop records book as:

Name of crop:  Strawberry

Location:  Raised Bed #8

Date Harvested:  April 28

Pounds/Oz/Units:  4 oz

Current Market Value:  40 cents*

*To obtain current market value, look at the grocery ads for the week of your harvest. Yesterday I purchased a pound of strawberries for $1.59.




JOIN THE REGISTRY OF GARLAND URBAN GARDEN CROP YIELDS and help us show others the value of growing at least some of the food you eat.

As part of our mission to raise awareness in our community of the value of urban gardens here in Garland, we have formed a volunteer registry that is open to all Garland urban gardeners.  We ask that you keep crop records of your harvest that include the variables from the sample above.  There are crop yield sheets available at our website for you to download free.

We would love for you to officially register  your urban garden with us by either calling Liz at 972-571-4497 or send us your information online at CONTACT US.



I'll be sure to return here in June when the morning glories are climbing all over Carol and Daniel's fence.

It's a verifiable fact that urban farms are on the rise in Garland Texas.  Last year on June 12, I replaced about half of my front yard with my first garden of fruits and vegetables. Of course the factor of increase in Garland urban gardens is certainly more than a factor of my one.  Almost daily I talk to someone in my Garland community who tells me they have a garden.

However, few people do urban gardening as eloquently as Daniel Bell and Carol Garrison.  Charlie and I stopped by their home in Garland's Oak Ridge neighborhood this morning after the rain.  Margie and Gene Rodgers had told me about this home and I had to see it for myself.  Like the keyhole gardeners in Clifton, Daniel and Carol's garden also abounds with evidence of their creativity and imagination.  The only thing more magical than urban gardens are the people who build them.  For certain, gardens are a wonderful expression of the better side of humanity.

Ever the bold one, I got out of the car and was busy taking photos of someone's private property while Charlie waited respectfully in the car.  Following are a few photos I snapped before Daniel came out the front door.  I was especially thrilled to see their treatment of the curbside area as it mirrors exactly the plans I have for my own curbside.


Like many members of Loving Garland Green and the Garland Community Garden, Daniel and Carol's urban garden features a square foot garden modeled after the design made famous by Mel Bartholomew in 1982.


And then Daniel came out the door and the real tour began.  He told us the story of his garden and of course we learned some valuable gardening tips from him.  He even took us around to his back yard--what a feast for the eyes.   


The back yard is as interesting as the front yard.  One of my favorite items in the back yard was the "garden bed."  He and Carol purchased the bed frame at a yard sale for $25.

LIke Deb Tolman and other creative gardeners, Daniel and Carol create unusual planters from discarded objects.  Below is an old wagon that Carol has owned for about 30 years.  Daniel mentioned that if you tried to move it the wheels would likely fall off.



Sculptures made from colored bottles might be a requirement for urban gardens.  Almost all the gardens I visited in Clifton on Friday had bottle sculptures. HMMMMM  I better get busy and build one for my garden. 




So are you still hesitant to start that urban garden?  What are you waiting for?  If it's courage you lack, I suggest that you come to a meeting of Loving Garland Green.   We meet every Monday at 216 East Kingsbridge Drive Garland 75040  from 6:30 to 7:30.  Our meetings are open to the public.


Another Volume from the Annual Keyhole Garden Tour April 25 - Clifton Texas

Leon Smith and his brother Lyndell of Keyhole Farm have manufactured the first semi-portable keyhole gardens.  Their lightweight and colorful keyhole garden kits are said to take approximately an hour to assemble.  They can be ordered online from, called in, emailed in, or even self-delivered. 

I was especially interested to see Leon and his brother's operations.  A couple of weeks ago Leon donated one of these kits to Loving Garland Green.  We will be installing it this Saturday, May 3, at 1PM--4022 Naaman School Road here in Garland.  Come on down and watch the installation, but be prepared as we are likely to put you to work.  The following week we hope to install a cement block keyhole garden also at the Garland Community Garden.  While you are there you can also take a look at our square foot garden and the beginning of our tribute to Ruth Stout (1884 -1980), a colorful American organic gardener known to many as "the mulch queen."


Keyhole Farm 

At first I was surprised to see that Keyhole Farm is located in a residential area of Clifton (1503 W 11th Street)--yet on second thought:  what a appropriate location for the manufacture of garden kits designed to be used in back yards and parks of cities all over the USA.

Leon's home is located on what appears to be about half an acre.  The back yard is filled with about 20 keyhole gardens in many shapes, sizes and colors.  

For those of you who may be disappointed to have missed the once-a-year keyhole garden tour in Clifton, don't despair as I'm almost certain that Leon would find time to show you around if you gave him a call and asked him.  Clifton is a lovely drive located only about two hours away from the DFW area (southwest toward Waco).



In the photo above Leon is showing one of the visitors the stalk of an Okra grown last year in one of his keyhole gardens.  The speed at which plants grow in a keyhole garden is amazing--even more amazing when one knows what goes into the "soil" which is a mixture of wet cardboard, leaves, grass clippings, small tree branches, newspaper, old telephone books, old clothes made from natural fibers such as cotton and wool, and kitchen scraps--all topped off with a mixture of compost and garden soil that is about 4 inches deep.  The total height of the wall of a garden is approximately 27 inches. 

Keyhole gardens are keyhole-shaped:  The shape of its six-foot diameter circle looks much like a pie with one wedge slice removed.  The walls of the garden are from 27 to 36 inches high.  The materials of the walls vary from one gardener to the next.  Traditionally most of the walls are constructed of stone or wood; however, just about anything can be used as long as it is strong enough to hold the soil--bricks, concrete blocks, stone branches, corrugated metal, etc.  The center of the circle features a wire cylinder (typically chicken wire) about a foot in diameter and extending one foot above the soil in the bed.  One feeds the garden by walking into the wedge and depositing vegetable scraps, grass clippings, etc into the wire cylinder.  Since vegetable are about 90% water, this process reduces the amount of water needed by the plants.  In addition, of course, this process feeds the plants.

Like most of the new processes for growing plants, Keyhole gardening stresses jamming as many plants as possible into the space available.  I was shocked to learn that Deb Tolman had planted 70 tomato plants in one six foot diameter bed last year.  They grew profusely and the only issues they had were with harvesting.  Apparently plants love nestling together.  Below is an example of just how lush these keyhole gardens become.  The photos below were taken of a bed at Keyhole Farm. Consider the plants in the bed on the right were planted from seed 23 days ago.   The Planting Worksheet signs are similar to the ones we plan to hang in the beds at the Garland Community Garden.  In addition to these worksheets we will also be recording our crop yields for each bed at the garden.  


Common elements among the keyhole gardeners of Clifton include their creative imaginations and apparent love of things whimsical and light-hearted.  Deb Tolman has her wall sculptures made of old bed springs and women's high-heel shoes.  Leon and his brother name their gardens.  Below we have "Lucky" and "Bee Mine".  These two are designs from The Keyhole Farm's keyhole garden kits.  They come in two sizes:  The larger one on the left is about six feet in diameter and the one on the right is approximately three feet in diameter.  Both designs are wheelchair accessible and easy to manage.  The smaller design is circular.



Often keyhole gardens are constructed from concrete blocks and then stone is mortared around the blocks.  Wood may also be used to construct the walls of the garden as shown in the photo on the right featuring a garden constructed by Jerry Crockett of Clifton.  Note:  Soil does not sift through the cracks in the blocks because prior to building the soil, the insides of the walls are lined with wet cardboard.  While the basics of the design of a keyhole garden are the same, the materials and appearance of the outer walls are as varied as the gardeners who build these gardens.


If you live in the DFW area and don't want to drive to Clifton to see a keyhole garden, stop by the Garland Community Garden at 4022 Naaman School Road any time after May 3.  We will be installing the bed donated to us by Leon Smith of Keyhole Farm.  The following Saturday we will be installing our own hand made concrete block keyhole garden.


Attempting to write about Deb Tolman is a formidable task because there is a lot to tell. Dr. Deb Tolman holds a Ph.D. in Environmental Sciences/Resources and Geography from Portland State University. With over thirty years experience in academic research and landscape design, she also has extensive training in plant nutrition, economics, and environmental education. She is currently owner of Avant Gardens, a multi-purpose business with the mission of developing sustainable approaches to landscaping, education, and sustainable coaching. She is also co-Director of the Silo Project, a Clifton-based educational facility dedicated to Sustainable Information and Learning Opportunities. Deb balances her time between research, education, writing, and sustainable community outreach. In her spare time, you can find her in her own garden!


Deb Tolman sponsors the annual Keyhole Garden Tour that I attended on Friday--and no wonder since she is the person who has promoted keyhole gardens in Clifton and the surrounding area in Bosque County Texas. Deb is to keyhole gardens what Ruth Stout is to mulch.  Deb holds classes and teaches people how to build keyhole gardens.  In fact, she has recently released an entertaining video that  you can purchase and D.I.Y.  Thanks in great part to Deb's efforts, there are no less than 60 keyhole gardens in and about Clifton, a small town in the Texas Hill Country.


If you wonder why the non-profit she co-directs is called "The Silo Project", you will no longer wonder when you visit the place out in the country where she lives.  One of the main buildings, soon to be her home, is a converted silo.  Currently she lives in a nearby 10' x 10' room, complete with an outdoor kitchen and outdoor shower.  Deb grows all the food she eats.  In addition to keyhole gardens, a few of her other sustainable projects and experiments include building a Trombe cob wall from straw and clay that will enable her to grow her lemon and lime trees outdoors year round; building an outdoor toilet with a composting toilet; designing large and beautiful Thai jars for collecting rainwater; creating art objects such as an outdoor wall hanging of high-heel shoes tied to an old bed spring;

Left is a view of the side of the silo.  The door shown on the right is the door to her current 10/ x 10' living space that is a few feet away from the silo.  Below is a view of the front door to the silo.  The cylinder to the left is the shower.

And in her spare time, Deb cooks gourmet pizzas in an outdoor clay oven that she made herself.  The oven can reach up to 900 degrees F and thus can cook a pizza in one minute.  The photo on the right below shows one of her elegant Thai designed rain barrels that she makes from ferrocement.


Below is a photo of a 15' x 15' greenhouse that Deb built from cob and straw for a mere $50.  The glass is reused patio doors.

Art and style are interwoven into all her demonstrations of sustainable living.  However, once in a while my eyes caught site of certain objects constructed by Deb that are pure whimsy and fun.  For example, her outdoor wall sculpture of high-heel shoes.  Also some of the walkways around her areas were paved with sparkly recycled tumbled glass.  The edges are smooth so one can walk on it barefoot.  Additionally on the property, visitors can see a garden planted in boat that has not seen water for decades, and then there is the truck garden which is planted in an old rusted-out truck.  Throughout the wooded grounds there are places inviting visitors to sit amongst cedar trees.  While I was there I took a rest in one of the wooden chairs in the photo below. It is very peaceful there. Her place reminds me of Georgia O'Keefe's Ghost Ranch--not so much the way it looks, but rather the relaxing way it feels.  It has a very similar feeling--relaxed and yet with a very strong underlying current of energy flowing beneath everything like a steady river.

About Deb's Keyhole Gardens

Most of the food that Deb eats comes from her gardens.  Because she is in competition with critters such as deer, armadillo and opossum for her food, all of Deb's keyhole gardens feature designs to prevent these unwelcome neighbors from crawling into the garden and chowing down on her food.



Keyhole gardens are indeed a revolutionary way to garden.  These gardens are particularly suited for drought conditions and urban dwellers.  This series of articles on the 2014 Keyhole Garden tour will conclude tomorrow with Vol. 3: a visit to Leon Smith of Keyhole Farm.

If you are curious about keyhole gardens and how they are built, be sure to come to 4022 Naaman School Road, Garland Texas 5040 on Saturday, May 3 at 1PM.  Members of Loving Garland Green are building a keyhole garden from a kit that Leon donated to us.


I just returned from Dr. Deb's annual Keyhole Garden Tour today. If you can make the trek to Clifton Texas (only two hours away from Garland) next year, I highly recommend it.   I guarantee that you'll never be the same! I met more characters and interesting people today than I normally come across in an entire year.  To tell even part of today's adventure will take me at least three more posts.

Today's experience reminded me of visiting Watts Towers in LA--another adventure that leaves one almost gasping for air as new realities and thoughts of what is possible are suddenly redefined without any warning for the viewer.



A bottle sculpture at the Norse Gold Honey Co.  The rock house in the background dates from the 1880's.

Keyhole Garden 9  on the tour--the Norse Gold Honey Co. 

Keep in mind this is only one of 9 keyhole garden sites on the tour today.

In addition to three beautiful keyhole gardens, Emily Neal and Bob Miller have a collection of historic rock houses they have preserved from the late 1880's. Their property also includes numerous hives, but the honey is reserved for their relatives and is not sold commercially.  The apparatus below is used to demonstrate to children how gutters work. It's a piece of corrugated tin on top of an ironing board with drain spouts attached at two corners of one end.  A bucket is situated under each drain spout.



Also at Keyhole Garden Site Number 9 on the tour today, there were three lovely keyhole gardens.  Below is one made of stones that abound in the area.  The inside walls of this Keyhole garden are constructed of 48 double concrete blocks.  The stone is attached with mortar to the outside of the concrete blocks.

Here is a another keyhole garden at site 9.  This one contains peach trees and its walls are constructed from cedar.  The chicken wire around the garden protects the trees from nibbling deer.



The FarmGirls were there at Keyhole Garden site 9!

Marilyn Simmons poses for me among her plants.  I purchased a Tuscan melon graft for Charlie.  Marilyn told me that it is believed this particular graft is the same Tuscan melon that Thomas Jefferson brought back with him from one of his trips to Italy.

I met FarmGirls Marilyn and Donnelle Simmons--a mother/daughter duo.  Back in July of last year I featured them in an article on another one of my sites. They have a radio show every Friday at 1pm for garden inspiration.  Tune in to 770KAAM.  You can also visit their website at  Garden Inspirations.



Ray's Rabbit Ranch was also featured at Keyhole Garden Site 9

They were serving rabbit chili and selling rabbit manure. I purchased 50 pounds of rabbit manure for $5--quite a deal.  Rabbit manure is a cool manure that will not burn plants and does not have to be composted.  It's very rich in nitrogen and plants love it.



Lost Tomorrows Made Cool Blues Music for the Guests who Visited Keyhole Garden Site 9



(The darker brown area is the part that was covered for a week)

Remember last Wednesday (April 16) I reported that I was trying a concoction of equal parts of beer, ammonia and coca cola poured over leaves and vegetable scraps?  Gene Rodgers, my neighbor had read on the Internet that if you pour that solution on organic matter, then cover and wait one week to turn it, then cover again and wait one more week and you will have soil.

The photo above is what my pile looked like yesterday when I uncovered it.  Some of the organic materials had already turned to soil.  I stirred up the pile and then covered it back up.  I'll let you know what happens next Wednesday, April 30.  I meant to ask Gene today what his pile looked like but I forgot.


Speaking of Gene Rodgers, my neighbor, the eternal inventor, tinker. . .

I stopped over to visit with Gene and his wife Margie today and Gene has yet another handy gardening apparatus that he has built for Margie--a self-watering plant container.  It is made from two five-gallon buckets that nest inside each other. The bucket on the bottom is the reservoir that holds the water and the bucket on the top holds the soil and the plant.  To  fill the reservoir, water is poured down a PVC pipe that is attached to the side of the barrel with a tie-wrap.  The pipe extends down into the second bucket where the water is stored.  A large hole is drilled in the center of the top bucket and then small holes are drilled all around the bottom of the top bucket.  A plastic cup, with holes drilled in its sides is placed in the center hole.  The buckets are nested inside each other and the top one is filled with dirt.  The dirt in the plastic cup acts as a wick to suck up the water from the reservoir.

Buckets nested together and waiting for the soil

The photo above shows the bottom of the top barrel.  Notice the PVC pipe is notched to allow for the flow of water into the bottom bucket that functions as the reservoir for the water.


This water barrel means the gardener does not have to water half as much as usual because so much less water is lost to evaporation.  Heavy mulching on the top soil will even further reduce evaporation.


Tomorrow bright and early I'm leaving for Clifton, Texas to visit no less than 20 keyhole gardens.  You can expect a full report from me on Saturday.  Until then. . . Happy Gardening. 




Scene from one of the pots in my urban garden this morning -- Garland, Texas

What I don't know about mushrooms will fill volumes, but that doesn't prevent me from learning and putting forth the following challenge:  Before the end of 2014, members of Loving Garland Green will be growing mushrooms--if not at the Garland Community Garden, at least in our homes.  I don't know yet, until I examine our licensed area more carefully (as well as learn more about mushroom growing) if we have enough shade.

The root structure of mushrooms, known as mycelium, has been proven to have immense power for things such as boosting human immunity, cleaning up oil spills and guarding against outbreaks of disease. Even though they are not plants, but rather fungi, they are still worth investigating. Besides, like plants, many of them are edible and even nourishing. Shiitake mushrooms are known to boost immunity and lower cholesterol and white button mushrooms have antioxidants that can reduce heart disease. Oyster mushroom have proven successful in their use to clean up oil spills.  

Indeed, Paul Stamets, a mycologist who has spent years studying the power of the mushroom, tells folks the mushroom can "save the world."  He runs a company out of the state of Washington called Fungi Perfecti .  Stamets develops different strains of mushrooms. One of his trials showed that an oyster strain could reduce diesel contaminants from soil from 10,000 parts per million to just 200 ppm in about four months.  I guess those kinds of results are close to a miracle.

Microscopic cells called mycelium--the fruit of which are mushrooms--recycle carbon, nitrogen, and other essential elements as they break down plant and animal debris in the creation of rich new soil. Stamets has discovered that we can capitalize on mycelium’s digestive power and target it to decompose toxic wastes and pollutants (mycoremediation), catch and reduce silt from stream beds and pathogens from agricultural watersheds (mycofiltration), control insect populations (mycopesticides), and generally enhance the health of our forests and gardens (mycoforestry and myco-gardening).   His book provides much detail:  Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Save the World.


Growing Mushrooms in Texas?

Yes.  Admittedly, unless you are very careful, they will likely not do as well in our climate as Mr. Stamets do in his damp Seattle climate, but as evidenced by the mushrooms from my garden this morning, we can grow them even here in Garland, Texas.

I looked up the instructions on e-how--a great Internet source for instructions on doing something you've never done before.  Here is a summary of the simple steps:

1.  Between one and three weeks after cutting a log, inoculate it with spawn.*

  • Drill holes in the log.
  • Pack the holes with spawn
  • Seal the holes with wax
    (You can also order logs that have already been inoculated.)

2.  Leave the log in the shade to colonize.  This process can take from several months up to a year.

3.  Induce fruiting.

  • Soak the log in cold fresh water 12 to 18 hours
  • Replace in shade.

4. Check for fruiting daily.  Cut them off with a knife when ready.  Inoculated logs can produce several crops.


*  Shiitake Mushroom Spawn

Mushroom Spores Grow Kits

Grow Your Own Oyster Mushrooms


Returning to the Garland Community Garden on Easter Before the Rain

It's no secret:  I love the Garland Community Garden.  I like to be there.  The air of the garden is filled with hope and promise of good things to come.   It's not much to look at now but if you close your eyes and imagine, you can see the vision to come.  In a month it will be lovely and perhaps already feeding people.  I hope you'll stop by and have a look.  Bring a gallon of water with you.  If one of the plants looks thirsty, please give it a drink. Soon we will have a mailbox at the site where you can leave a note if you like.  Also, sometime within the next two weeks we will have small signs on the bed providing a little information about the type of bed, the assigned stewards, and the expected yields.  Thus far we have 70 square feet planted.

Easter Sunday I stopped in at the garden to view the cement block bed we put in on Saturday. Someone (probably Gene Rodgers) had stopped by and filled the bucket currently serving as the reservoir for the ollas in our first bed.  The plants in the new bed looked droopy so I went home and filled three five-gallon buckets with water.  As I was filling the buckets in my driveway, I looked at two empty pots (recycled trash bins actually) in my driveway.  Last year they were home to a prolific eggplant and my one producing tomato plant.  The rest is now history:  I went to the store and purchased two Marion heirloom tomato plants, loaded the pots and installed them (along with two ollas in each pot) in front of the cement block raised bed we put in on Saturday. 

Each pot contains two ollas filled with water before I left home.  They are buried in the pots and the hole in top is covered with a shell.  Unlike Gene's more sophisticated system, these pots will be filled manually via the little hole in top that was once the bottom of a flower pot.

Below is a photo of the ollas submerged in the pot with shells covering the holes.



After the Easter Rain at the Garland Community Garden

Below is a view of the bed with its two container gardens this morning after the Easter rain.  All the plants looked perky and happy.


 After the Easter Rain in My Urban Garden--First Harvest for 2014

Last year in June I planted strawberries in the beds where I planted blue berry bushes.  This morning, when I was out and about in my garden. . . Low and behold. . .  and yes I promptly ate it.  The joys of perennials are great--year after year.


And I basked in the beauty of my little rose bush that I planted last year alongside one of the raised beds for my blueberries.


Don't say you can't do it. You can.  Don't say it's too late to plant this year.  I began the first real garden of my life last year (2013) on June 12.  I didn't know enough to realize that it was "too late" to plant Swiss Chard and Kale and carrots.  I planted them from seed and enjoyed them from July through November.

Two big secrets are 1) soil amendments and 2) raised beds. And this year, I expect ollas, along with mulching, to reduce the need for water by at least 50% in my urban garden.  I'm also looking forward to building the keyhole garden on May 3 and installing it with other members of Loving Garland Green at the Garland Community Garden.  

As I sometimes attend meetings of the good intention club, I lean heavily toward perennials.  They come highly recommended for the lazy gardener. In addition to all my berry bushes, perennial flowers, and fruit trees, last year; I planted a rhubarb and this year I've planted asparagus--both of which are perennial vegetables.


Garland Urban Vegetable Garden replaces a flower bed.

Yesterday was an exciting day!  It began with an email I received from a woman who lives in our Coomer Creek area.  She thanked me for inspiring her to  replace the flower bed in her front yard with a vegetable bed.  It always feels good to be recognized and thanked.  Note:  flower gardens aren't bad because flowers feed bees and some flowers are edible. Thus they are not the negative ROI of lawns. However, you can usually get a better ROI if you plant vegetables and fruit bushes because you not only feed the bees, you feed yourself.



A 4' x 8' concrete block bed complete with trellis was added to the Garland Community Garden on April 19. Regina and Cary Majors are the Loving Garland Green Stewards of this  garden which contains six okra plants, three zucchini plants, three cucumbers, mint, radishes (to be planted today) and marigolds.  Cary, who works in the IT Department of the American Heart Association, is currently attending a course in permaculture design. Regina who works in the medical field is also a professional chef.  She is bringing German Chocolate cupcakes to our Monday meeting to celebrate Gene Rodgers 40th 29th birthday.

Members of Loving Garland Green Install Another Garden at the Garland Community Garden

Regina Majors--one of the appointed Loving Garland Green Stewards for this new bed.

As the snail goes,  we are quickly getting beds installed at 4022 Naaman School Road here in Garland Texas.  Yesterday we put in a raised bed made of 32 repurposed concrete blocks donated by Liz Berry.  These blocks came from my first attempt at a raised bed last year. Someone forget to mention that sunlight is required for a garden.  I set up this bed in my back yard which is more or less a forest.

Part of our mission to encourage Garland residents to grow food and thus grow a prosperous and healthy community, includes using our site, generously licensed to us by the Garland Parks Department, as a sampler to demonstrate to folks that urban gardens can come in all shapes and sizes.  Thus far we have a 4' x 7' raised bed made from wood that we got from a Garland Home Depot 70% off lumber pile.  The wood for this bed cost about $5.  New it would have cost about $20.00 with tax.  By the time the bed is filled with amended soil (a must) and the plants are installed, the total cost of the bed is between $60.00 to $70.00. This, of course, does not include labor.  However, it is good to consider this is mostly a one-time expense.  If you save your seeds and compost, the only expense you have next year is your water--and there are even water conservation methods you can deploy to reduce the amount water needed up to 50%.

In addition to the 4' x 7' bed we have three small 2' x 2' raised beds also made of salvaged lumber.  These beds contain sunflowers, marigolds, blackberry plants and a zucchini.  Now we have a raised bed made of concrete blocks.  Soon to be added are two containers, repurposed from trash cans that will contain eggplant and a tomato.  After that, you can expect to see a keyhole garden installed on the Garland Community Garden site on May 3.

Charlie is installing the trellis for the zucchini and cucumbers as Cary supervises.  In the group photo, you see the Pareto Principle in action:  four of the five members who showed up installed a raised bed.  (I am taking the photo.)  It took five of us 3 hours to install the 4' x 8' concrete block bed.  This includes everything--from setting up the bricks to building the trellis to installing the plants.  The estimate does not include hauling the blocks to the site which took me two hours (loading and unloading them from my car.) An fairly accurate guesstimate for installing this size and type of raised bed is 17 person hours.  Thus if you are one person with no friends or family, you could expect to spend about 17 hours setting up such a bed.  The good news is that you would only need to do it once.


Burgi's Urban Garden

After lunch yesterday (here in Garland of course) Regina, Cary, Charlie and I went over to Burgi's home.  Burgi, like the four of us, lives in the Coomer Creek area.  Burgi had invited us over to see her garden.  Below is a photo of her 4' x 7' square foot garden.  Note the two by fours that line the edge of the mulch.  Burgi got these end cuts free from Home Depot.  They are stabilized with wire, bent into a horseshoe and inserted in the ground. That's the great thing about visiting other people's urban gardens:  you can always learn from them and get some great ideas for your own garden.  We will be putting this kind of border around the mulch at 4022 Naaman School Road.

If  you want lessons in growing garlic, Burgi is definitely the woman to talk to.  Below is a photo of Cary and Burgi with just one of her garlic beds.  Of course, being a vampire, I kept my distance.


Regina and Cary's Urban Garden

Like Charlie, Regina and Cary have a pool in their back yard.  (I did take note of their diving board and will return in late May as I love to dive.)  Pools do present certain challenges that yards without them don't have.  However, with a little determination, and raised beds, you can succeed in having great gardens as Charlie has demonstrated with his poolside garden, now in its third season.  The bed in the foreground at Cary and Regina's poolside is wedge-shaped to accommodate the area around the pool.

Regina and Cary are well on their way to becoming professional urban farmers.  While we were there, we saw their chickens.  When chickens are a little older, they will be moved out of the spare bedroom and into their very own luxurious chicken ranch by the pool.  

Considering the excessive interest in the chickens demonstrated by their two large dogs, it's very wise that Regina and Cary have purchased a chicken coop to assemble from Roaches Feed and Seed here in Garland along with their chicks.