On Saturday, August 29, we had ten students from North Garland High School Key Club attend our monthly group workday down at the Garland Community Garden.   If you want to boost the spirit of your organization, I can think of no better way than to invite the youth of your community to work side by side with your members. 

In the short time span of three hours these students laid a brick pathway around the Medicine Wheel Garden; worked with one of our members to install a hugelkultur (including planting a cover crop of peanuts); visited the loofah tunnel with Charlie (the Loving Garland Green board member who built it) and watched his demonstration of how to shuck a loofah.  And even with all that activity they still had time to pull weeds, observe and discuss an orb spider, and play with a baby toad.

We so appreciate their assistance and look forward to working with the North Garland High School Key Club on many projects this fall—one of them includes assisting them in installing a butterfly garden at their school.

Students completing the first row of a double row of bricks for a path around the Medicine Wheel garden bed.


Some of the students standing in front of the completed brick pathway.  With the exception of a few bricks carried by three Loving Garland Green members, and the barest of instructions, the students built the walkway themselves.



Members of the North Garland High School Key Club also worked with Loving Garland Green member, Kevin Keeling to complete construction of a hugelkulter bed. Kevin explained the principles behind the construction of these kinds of beds.  The students completed the build by adding the soil to the top of the mound and planting a cover crop of peanuts.  Next spring this bed should be ready for planting a vegetable crop.


A tiny baby toad was quite an attraction--all the students were interested in  it.  In the photo above he is on the arm of the young lady in the foreground.


Charlie Bevilacqua, one of Loving Garland Green's board members, demonstrated how to peel a loofah and create a bath or kitchen scrubber.  Each of the students were given a loofah to take home.  Prior to the demonstration, the students toured the loofah tunnel and learned a little about how loofahs grow and their commercial potential.



Monroe Todd, a frequent and welcome visitor to the Garland Community Garden, dropped by as well.  He talked with several of the students about the history of Garland and its land.  Monroe's family are long-time residents of our community.  In fact, I believe that some of his relatives once owned the property where we now have the Garland Community Garden.


Sophia Tran, President of the North Garland High School Key Club may look like she is just sitting, but she is also weeding.  

Jean Shortsleeve, Loving Garland Green member, is shown above weeding with one of the students.


 Jane Stroud and Margie Rodgers, both board members of Loving Garland Green, take a break from weeding for coffee and cookies.


Chris Savage - Vice President Loving Garland Green - At the July 2015 Work Morning Event

Garden Work Morning
Garland Community Garden - 4022 Naaman School Road - Garland 75040

Saturday August 29, 2015

7AM to 9AM

Come on down to the garden and watch us work.  We will have coffee (donation requested). Bring your own cup.   No, we won’t be so crass as to ask you to roll up your sleeves and pitch in, but our members will be there to talk with you as we work and answer questions you may have.  Of course if you want to pitch in, I’m rather certain that no one will complain.  I know that I wouldn't.


Scheduled Work Activities:  

  • Install a Hugelkultur bed [It’s been waiting (logs rotting) since May.]   
  • Build the brick path around the Medicine Wheel Garden
  • Add Azomite and Calcium amendments to the soil and plants.

Scheduled Loofah Shucking Demonstration:  9:00 AM

Either Charlie Bevilacqua or Liz Berry will demonstrate how to shuck a loofah and turn it into a bath sponge that you can sell.  The loofah is a member of the cucumber (Cucurbitaceae) family.  Loofahs can be eaten while still small and green.  Once they get to be eight to ten inches long, they are too fibrous.

Growing loofahs (or luffas as they are sometimes spelled) promises (like blackberries and okra) to be an excellent commercial urban crop to grow here in Garland.  Last year we grew 24 from a five-gallon bucket down at the garden and sold them in the fall at the Garland Marketplace for a profit of $24.  This year we expanded that operation a bit.  Charlie built a loofah tunnel. In spite of a critter (opossum or armadillo) living in our riparian area that loves to dig them up, the loofah vines have survived and are now producing loofahs.

In addition to bath and kitchen scrubbers, the loofah offers many other advantages.  For example, if you have a sunny backyard with no place for the kiddie pool, or a cool place for your lawn chair, you can build an inexpensive arbor with rebar and wire.  Here in Garland, if you plant loofah seed in late May, you can expect a shady spot with lovely yellow flowers by mid-July and the beginning of loofahs by the middle of August.  Bees and other pollinators love the big yellow flowers, which last up to the first killing frost.  PLUS you can eat them and sell some of them as bath scrubbers from your driveway—much more profitable than a lemonade stand.


Kale Transplants on my front porch waiting to be "monetized"

Individual Urban Farmer Plant Sale Demonstration:  7:00 AM to 10:00AM

Instead of throwing away the plants you thin out, put them in a pot and sell them!

 This is an experiment—an inspiration that happened upon me a few days ago.  One of Loving Garland’s Green’s missions is to encourage ordinary citizens like us to grow some of the food they eat and also to encourage people by our example to use urban farming in their own yards as a means of providing supplemental income.

It occurred to me as I was thinning out my winter kale seedlings that I could transplant some of them to pots and sell them.  I’m often reading these stories on the Internet about how people can make thousands of dollars a year just by growing seedlings and selling them out of their driveway.  We’ll see.

So far, I’ve gathered 50 kale transplants and 15 zinnia transplants.  I’ll be adding a couple of amaranths, and some other seedlings to the mix.  Most of them I will sell for fifty cents each.  I’ll have them on the table with the coffee on Saturday.  The plant sale will be small--likely only 100 or so plants. This is to demonstrate the possibility of the individual urban farmer--not the organization [although all proceeds will go to Loving Garland Green].  Yes, I'll also sell some seeds that I've saved.  Below is a photo of some french radish seeds.  I also have yarrow, dill, and other seeds for sale too.

Next spring I plan to do this on a larger scale and with plants that are difficult to find in the stores—Bee Balm and milkweed to name two—both of which are essential for butterflies and butterfly gardens.




Monarchs in the Garland Community Garden August 22, 2015 

Come to See the Monarchs!

If you need another reason, then come to see the Monarchs.  They are in our garden now—darting here and there.  

Monarchs hatching from eggs deposited in late August through mid September will be the fourth generation this year.  This is the special generation that will fly to the highlands of central Mexico.  Unlike the first, second and third generation Monarchs who only live 6 to 8 weeks, the fourth generation, who emerge in late September, to mid October, will live six months.  They are the generation that migrates and overwinters in Mexico.  In March they will mate in Mexico and then deposit their eggs on milkweed in northern Mexico and southern Texas in late March or early April before they expire after a long life (by Monarch standards).  The Monarch caterpillars only eat milkweed.  Thus, the Monarchs belong to a group of about 300 species who will only use the milkweed for a host plant.  The status of many of these species is endangered because encroaching urbanization combined with the zealous use of herbicides such as Roundup have destroyed much of the milkweed which was once abundant along our roadsides.  Even if folks don't want to go all out with a formal butterfly garden, it might be nice if they would still plant a few milkweed on their "back forty."






[diagram from We Are All Farmers - represents full spectrum of applicability for permaculture]

Permaculture is a system of agricultural and social design principles centered around simulating or directly using the patterns and features observed in natural ecosystems.

Membership in Loving Garland Green for most of us includes following the 12 principles of permaculture.   You can find them on our website at

The eleventh principle is one that is not always readily understood and more than once I’ve explained it to people because it is an important principle to observe in nature.  We can learn from our observations and then to use this knowledge as leverage to bring changes that conserve energy and maximize existing potential.  

Permaculture Principle 11:  Use Edges and Value the Marginal

As a culture we rarely use or even think of edges as any more than boundaries that separate different parts or areas.  As for “valuing the marginal”—more often than not, we view marginal as unstable and dangerous and run from it at full throttle.

David Holmgren, one of the co-founders of permaculture as a discipline is often quoted as saying:  “Don’t think you are on the right path just because you have plenty of company.”  That statement is a good principle in and of itself (even if it is not specifically one of the 12 permaculture principles).  And yes, almost the entire world can be wrong and historically have been more than once.  We all need to remember that. Ignorance can often manifest and spread like weeds to the far corners of the earth. The number does not increase the value of the weed.  If anything, it only makes it more noxious.

In nature, the place where two eco-systems or habitats meet (e.g. woodland and meadow) is generally more productive and richer in the variety of species present than either habitat on its own. In ecology this space is called 'ecotone'.

This observation of nature is central to the idea of using edges as a design method. The logic is simple. If the most productive bit of woodland is the edge, then design it to have a bigger edge.  Makerspaces that I've written about lately can be considered as putting permaculture principle 11 into action.  The makerspace is a way to widen the narrow edge occupied by skilled workers through the creation of spaces that make their tools and expertise available for teaching others.  The unskilled workers bring their own life experiences to this edge or space and thus new ways to use the tools and new possibilities for creation of new objects emerge from the merging of these two different worlds of the teacher and the student.

Intuitively, at least, we show some propensity to use edges and value the marginal.  For example, many people in the world desire to live near or on the edge where the water meets the land—lakefront properties, beach properties, and riverfront properties.  That we value such edges is reflected in the prices that we are willing to pay for these edge properties.

But it is peculiar how we can have such an understanding at one level that indicates a deeper understanding of the underlying principle and then turn around and totally disregard the principle in other applications. 

No better example of this than the way we have laid out our streets—particularly in residential areas.  If anything, the grid pattern which most residential developments follow totally ignores the edge and how it could be used to enhance the quality of any residential development and the lives of the people who live there. 

If you want to learn more about this particular example of how to waste the potential of edge, please watch this video: 




Jane Stroud, officer of Loving Garland Green Board of Directors multitasking in the garden:  watering and vacuuming bugs.

At the Crossroads of Sustainable and Practical with Loving Garland Green

This morning I got an interesting email from Jane Stroud, an officer on the Board of Directors for Loving Garland Green:

New idea!
I'm invaded with cucumber beetles. I saw on Internet you could vacuum with cordless vac and dump them in soapy water. I tried it this afternoon and you can suck them out of the air in flight. Done!  Gonna try this tomorrow morning when I water with Marie. Should work! Bringing a bucket of soapy water to test it in.  

This morning I went down to the garden to see Jane in action with her cordless vacuum and container of soapy water.  Yes, she was successfully vacuuming up squash bugs.  The process definitely works.

But is vacuuming squash bugs sustainable?  Strictly speaking, the answer is likely "no."

Environmental sustainability refers to the rates of renewable resource harvest, pollution creation, and non-renewable resource depletion that can be continued indefinitely. If they cannot be continued indefinitely then they are not sustainable.  Unless the vacuum is solar-powered, its use to suck up the bugs is not sustainable.




I’ve done considerable research and I can find no information on any beneficial aspect of the squash bug.  If you know of any, please educate me.  Generally speaking all creatures have a reason for being--even humans.


Injury is limited to squash, pumpkin, melon, and other plants in the cucurbit family. Adults and nymphs cause damage by sucking plant juices. Leaves lose nutrients and water and become speckled, later turning yellow to brown. Small plants can be killed completely, while larger cucurbits begin to lose runners. The wilting resembles bacterial wilt, which is a disease spread by another pest of squash, the cucumber beetle. The wilting caused by squash bugs is not a true disease. Squash bugs may feed on developing fruits, causing scarring and death of young fruit.


In spring, search for squash bugs hidden under debris, near buildings and in perennial plants in the garden. Inspect young plants daily for signs of egg masses, mating adults, or wilting. Place wooden boards throughout the garden and check under them every morning.  Then destroy any squash bugs found.

Cultural Practices

The best method for control is prevention through sanitation. Remove old cucurbit plants after harvest. Keep the garden free from rubbish and debris that can provide overwintering sites for squash bugs.

At the end of the gardening season, compost all vegetation or thoroughly till it under. Handpick or vacuum any bugs found under wooden boards. During the growing season, pick off and destroy egg masses as soon as you see them. Use protective covers such as plant cages or row covers in gardens where squash bugs have been a problem in the past and remove covers at bloom to allow for pollination.


Using a trellis for vining types of squash and melons can make them less vulnerable to squash bug infestation. [We are definitely going to 1) plant squash in new places next year and 2) trellis them  [at the least they will be easier to vacuum than vines on the ground].

Resistant Varieties

Some squash varieties, including Butternut, Royal Acorn, and Sweet Cheese, are more resistant to squash bugs.  [We may decide to go this route as well as we did get a few butternut squash this year.]



Biological Control

The parasitic tachinid fly Trichopodna pennipes, which lays its eggs on squash bugs, may be found in some gardens. Look for the eggs of this parasite on undersides of squash bugs.   [I'm very leery of introducing non-native insects into our local environment.  In fact, I don't do it.  Often this ends up drastically upsetting the balance of nature in the environment and you end up trading one problem for another.  We've seen this in many places in the USA with the introduction of various non-native species of dragonflies as mosquito controllers.]

Chemical Control has been found to be ineffective in the management and control of the squash bug.

[Information and photo on squash bug courtesy University of California Agriculture Department.]