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.