Winterizing by helping hands.

The six communal rows, believed to be 22′ by 2′ each, gave us pounds and pounds of produce this season – tomatoes, beets, basil, greens, squash, melons, potatoes, turnips and carrots are just some of the veggies that came to mind when I started drafting this blog post .  Alas, all good things must come to and end, and we needed to winterize the communal rows area well so that the soil will continue to be productive next year!

Garden produce

To winterize the communal row areas, we decided to plant some rye, a hardy cover crop that will grow over the winter. The plants will hold the soil in place and retain the soil’s nutrients, which can be tilled back into the soil next spring. We also wanted a cover crop for weed-prevention reasons. The loamy, fertile soil in the communal rows also happens to be the perfect place for Bermuda grass and crabgrass to grow. If we aren’t thorough with weeding at the end of the growing season, we will likely return to a weed-covered growing area next year!  The rye’s extensive root system should also compete for space with the invasive rhizomes (underground runners) of Bermuda grass. Hopefully, the rye will help with crowding out unwanted weeds!

The six communal rows were cleaned up on two separate volunteer days. We got lucky that the end of the growing season coincided with the JHU President’s Day of Service  on October 27, 2012.   18 volunteers from the JHU Chapter of Nu Rho Psi, the national honors society for Neuroscience (cleverly named, of course) lent us a huge helping hand!

We started with cleaning up the wild jungle of tomato plants in communal rows D, E, and F. The area was full of vine vegetables this season, and the soil began to look very compacted and overgrown with weeds.

Volunteers uprooting dying plants.

Of course, we had to make sure that nothing went to waste, so another team of volunteers gleaned tomatoes from the uprooted plants. The produce, about 40 lbs of tomatoes and greens, were taken to the Franciscan Center’s food programs later that day.

Gleaning tomatoes and weeding.

Once the rows were cleared of crops and carefully weeded, the volunteers tilled the soil.

Carefully weeded and hand-tilled soil!

And we sowed some rye seeds!

Rye seeds!

A member of NuRhoPsi watering down the straw mulch.

The volunteers also helped us making painted signs for the partner plots. We were very grateful that the JHU Parents Fund provided financial support for the seeds and materials used on President’s Day of Service!

Volunteers painting signs.

Communal rows A, B, and C, were cleaned up on November 17th by volunteers from Real Food Hopkins and Hopkins Farm Hands (we all forgot to bring camera that day, so no pictures). We harvested about 25 pounds of produce that they, and the bounty was  shared by the volunteers and gardeners who were present. Everyone seemed pretty happy about taking home a little extra produce home for their Thanksgiving feast!

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