We have had a surprisingly long (albeit troubled by early droughts and late hurricanes) growing season here in Baltimore. In fact, I just finished the last of the tomatoes gleaned from the garden during last Saturday’s volunteer day. Garden-fresh tomatoes in December, who knew?! As we wait for our first snow of the season this evening, I thought a summary post about what we have been up to at OUR Garden (to be officially named this Friday!) would be appropriate .
Preparation for this garden actually began long before this fall – students and staff members of various offices had held meetings about making this garden a reality as early as fall of 2010. It wasn’t until late August that we were able to gather a critical mass of students to present concrete plans for the garden to various university offices and begin recruiting volunteers to work on the garden. We had our first official volunteer day on October 22, and we have had a couple of very busy months since then!
This is what this garden looked like on October 22:
With the help of 13 volunteers, by the end of the two-hour work day, we had mapped out 5’x8′ garden patches with flags.
On November 3, we held our first garden community meeting, we presented our garden plans to our neighbors and general JHU affiliates who were interested in learning about the garden.
On November 5, we had our second volunteer day. It was a glorious fall day with the sun shining on happy volunteers. With the weather turning cold and all the falling leaves around us, we had to begin building a compost system to begin transforming brown leaves into nutrient-rich compost.
From a pile of land-filled bound pallets…
To a working compost system!
We also had to get our garlic planting started, first we dug a trench…
Then we filled it up with compost, garlic, topped off with straws.
During the first few volunteer days, we realized that one of our biggest challenges was the lack of tools for our eager volunteers. On November 12, Baltimore’s very own Community Greening Resource Network (CGRN) became our new Santa Claus! As CGRN members, not only were we able to borrow tools for our subsequent volunteer day, we even got free trees and pansies from them!
Early Christmas of tools!
November 12 was also the first volunteer day where we got awesome staff and faculty volunteers to join us. They tackled the unsightly bush:
Helps us dig holes for fruit trees and tulips:
And put the finishing touches on the compost system:
After a long break from gardening due to the Thanksgiving holiday and midterms, we returned to our gardening posts last Saturday. This was going to be a big garden day – remember what I said about a long growing season? Well, someone still has to clean that up before we can wrap things up for the winter! We also needed to start ‘growing soil’ in whatever way we can so we are well-prepared for our next planting season. We had teams of volunteers working at both the small garden and the big garden.
The CSC garden looked more or less like this:
And we needed to clean it up:
Farm Hands helpers mercilessly crushing marigolds.
We covered everything up with burlap sacks procured from a local coffee roaster:
As you can see from the last picture, we saved a few perennials (mostly dills), but we also held on to some very happy looking salad greens (they probably won’t be so happy after tonight’s snow):
After we cleaned up the CSC garden, we took the plant debris to the new garden, where a group of strong (willed) volunteers dug up sod and loosened up the compact soil for our future strawberry patch. All the plant debris were then chopped up and mixed in with compost to make more fertile soil:
We gently covered everything up with burlap sacks, again:
Burlap sacks work wonders as a weed barrier, but this loosely woven fabric is also perfect for composting. You can read more about what we are trying to do here. All the rain we have had over the past two days is actually perfect for encourage microbe growth (provided that we get enough sun for the next couple of days). As an aside, If you are reading this blog, you will probably find that we are obsessed with the weather (notice the weather forecast on the right-hand side of this blog?)! Food production requires ongoing monitoring of growing conditions, too much or too little of rain or sun could obstruct healthy plant growth. Gardeners all become much more in tune with nature as a result of their work, and that’s a very good thing! We all have so much to learn from nature!
Tomorrow morning, one of us will check on the damage of tonight’s snow/ice on the lettuce, and we may very well just have to toss them into the compost pile, and brace ourselves for the next 2-3 months of Mid-Atlantic dreariness and endless dinners of root vegetables. But fear not – spring will come before you know it. Remember the garlic we planted on November 3rd? Well, they are making their way up to brave the upcoming winter!
While the gardening part of Season 0.5 is wrapping up for now, there are plenty more to do on the planning side! We are looking for interested community and JHU affiliates to join us in organizing gardening classes, raising funds for garden use, recruiting volunteers and making decisions about… well, how decisions ought to be made for this garden. Our next garden meeting will be held on the 5th Floor of Mergenthaler Hall on JHU Homewood Campus this Friday, December 9 at 4pm. Join us!