Welcome to 2017!
While it may be cold outside and the possibility of snow is looming, I’d like to take just a moment to look back at the 2016 year and thank those who volunteered in the community garden.
Last year we added the local Salvation Army to those receiving food from us. The other recipients were Blue Ridge Area Food Bank and The Haven. Recent reports state that one in seven Americans is food insecure and rely on local food pantries, shelters, or aid in order to feed themselves or their family. As a part of the system of community gardens and school gardens in the Charlottesville/Albemarle area, there is much that we can contribute in order to help those less fortunate around us. With a good effort this year, we can raise more food than ever before.
Led by community volunteer Ella, our hoop house now has a second plastic skin on the interior and insulated front and back sides, as well as a venting system designed to open when it begins to get too hot inside. The tables have been arranged for maximum usefulness and rocks, cinderblocks, and water barrels are adding thermal mass. Together, these actions and a few others unmentioned will help us begin spring growth earlier and get an excellent crop ready for transplant when the frost date passes.
Let by community volunteer Mary Beth, our compost bins and contents are in better shape than ever, and one of our large, raised beds is sheet mulching over the fall and winter. Come spring, that soil will be full of earthworm castings and decomposed into some gorgeous black gold. We are also attempting through multiple means to control the mugwort growth in some areas where it was rampant. Volunteer Hannah planted some winter grains that we will chop back into the soil where their decomposition will replenish that particular bed’s fertility.
Our native plant borders and beds have been in the process of being labeled by highly decorated and exotic rocks. If you haven’t seen them, they’re the best plant labels ever!
This past Sunday was spent tightening up the hoop house walls and reorganizing the seed trays within it. We moved our rocks and leftover cinder blocks into the hoop house to increase thermal mass, hoping this will help it remain a bit warmer, and moved seeds to the center or floor, hoping those areas will be warmer than near the exterior walls. We drained the irrigation system for winter, tucked the umbrella away, and otherwise readied for winter inaction. We also harvested and brought bags of mustard greens, turnips, radishes, lettuce, chard and kale to the Salvation Army’s kitchen.
We’re still seeing the hoop house temperature drop too cool for our winter plants to survive, so methods to increase the warmth include a second plastic skin, a space heater, straw bales, and better framing around the leaky gaps, including the front door.
Thanks to all for a wonderful fall season. We look forward to seeing yo in the spring! If you’d like to stay involved over the winter, email firstname.lastname@example.org. There are always tasks with a community garden!
Saturday was rainy and as I peered out the door of the hoop house I simply knew that our volunteers were going to stay snuggled in their beds. At best, I thought they might emerge and hit their schoolbooks, and as the time ticked past the appointed hour, my certainty that I had been stood up only grew. So you can imagine my delight at being proven wrong again when two cars slowly slid into parking spots near the garden and five UVA students walked through the rain into the garden. I beckoned them into our warm, dry hoop house and we spent two very lovely hours laughing, chatting, and continuing our native plant rock label planting. The results were quite lovely and, like all our new labels, should last for years to come.
By the way, our Madison House came out on Sunday and weeded several of the beds, which are looking quite well kept as we try to get in this last crop before frost. Monday’s low may dip into the high 30’s, so winter is well on the way.
We’ve been painting rocks in the garden. That might sound barmy, but they’ll make great, fun native plant labels. We might have gotten a little bit overexcited with some of our labeling (compost rock, for instance)….. but I don’t think so.
Here, Chris, Samip, Henry and Ella are doing some painting inside the hoop house on a bit of a wet day.
We are the grateful recipient of mulch from our Charlottesville tree wonders Bartlett Tree Experts. Every so often we’ll call them and they are always friendly, professional, and a huge pile of mulch shortly gets delivered to the garden. The mulch helps keep our operation in the garden going, proving walking paths for our raised beds, decomposing into soil, blocking weed growth, and generally helping us keep the place growing and beautiful.
You can find them at https://www.bartlett.com/
On Wednesday, Sept. 21st we participated in the 25th annual United Way Day of Caring. Megan Borishansky does a wonderful job coordinating the largest volunteer day in the greater Charlottesville area. This year, over 1,900 volunteers went out to hundreds of non-profits and schools, happily donating their time to our community needs. We had three groups choose to volunteer in the garden, including two teams from UVA and one from Westminster Canterbury. Two of the teams were returning from a few years ago and we thank them so much for choosing us AGAIN.
We had a wonderful time and a simply incredible amount of work was accomplished. Over 30 people came and spent the morning in the garden. Even now, two weeks later, I simply have to rub my eyes and take in the difference those 100 person hours made. Come to the garden sometime and see for yourself. Don’t forget, we’re always looking for community members who simply want to spend time volunteering in the garden.
This past Sunday was one of those picture perfect days in the garden. Under cloud streaked blue skies, a variety of volunteer worlds collided in hail fellowship. We had Ella and Mary Beth, community volunteers extraordinaire. Chris, PVCC employee, showed up to till, mow, and trim weeds (Saturday too). Hannah, who bridges the UVA and PVCC worlds, came in before her shift at work. Henry, Samip, Chris and Angela returned from last year’s UVA’s Madison House crew. My son Parker and I joined in the fun.
It must be understood that in the community garden we keep a journal in the shed that allows volunteers to write down what they’ve done on a visit, and many people have read each other’s notes but never actually met. So yesterday was one of those moments when people had the opportunity to put faces to names.
We have been a beneficiary of the volunteers through UVA’s Madison House for the past several years, as written about previously. Really, without their help the Charlottesville community schools and nonprofits would be able to offer so many fewer services. They do so much, contributing an incredible amount of person hours over the course of the year. While the United Way Day of Caring may be splashier as a huge one day volunteer event, Madison House students help out throughout the year, making a continuing impact.
This year the Madison House team will be lead by Henry Wykowski and Samip Patel. Both have experience working in the PVCC Community Garden and we are very exited to welcome them back. And though Madison House is still in the recruiting stage for this year’s volunteers, Henry and returning MH volunteer Dalma came back to the garden last Friday. They couldn’t wait to get back! We harvested squash and okra, plus weeded and planted a good chunk of the garden’s largest bed.
They’re a great team.
Project SERVE was in the garden last Friday and, as usual, this group rocked the house! Helping local service organizations while making acquaintences with other, new UVA students is the goal of this project and they do an incredible job. We’ve had years of being a Project SERVE site and they always work hard, make great conversation, and hopefully a few lasting friendships along the way. We cleared one of the eight raised beds of summer weeds and planted it full of two kinds of turnips, kale, and mustard greens.
Thanks to everyone who participated and have a wonderful fall semester. Our gate is always open to you.
This summer the garden has had some really terrific volunteers and I’d like to take some time to celebrate them here, for without our cadre of volunteers this garden wouldn’t exist at all. There have been so many great ones over the years, coming and going, lending their passion to a greater good. Being a community garden coordinator is funny thing. At our garden, we have volunteers note in a spiral bound notebook what they’ve done during their volunteer shift. Some of us never meet each other, but we’ve been reading and enjoying each other’s notes. From Alan, for instance, we get ruminations on time and the beauty of the sunset. Ella brings ideas aplenty, always looking out for ways to improve the garden. Lately she’s been thinking about ways to make the best use of the hoop house, or bringing peach or mulberry trees. Georgia plunks down her stool and weeds the beds thoroughly. Though my hours seldom intersect with hers, I always enjoy the bright, positive perspective she brings to the garden. Albina found us through a Biology professor and though heavily pregnant, tended her row of tomatoes. Congratulations on the recent addition to your family, Albina, and thanks for returning so quickly! Chris, our police chief, is also known around the garden as the guy who devotedly mows, trims, tills, and also manages to work one of the raised beds with his children. Mary Beth, a recent addition to the garden, has taken over not only the compost bins, but also worked with Ella to build a sifter to remove the mugwort plant – in addition to half a million other things. Most recently she and Ella organized a rock party.
What, you say?
Yes, complete with kids a’plenty, refreshments that included passionfruit juice from the garden and a professional illustrator! We painted rocks in bold colors and then painted some of our native plants on them, writing the plant names as clearly as possible. Then we preserved everything with a spray of clear coat. Those rocks now adorn our garden, labeling some of our native plants for all to see. It worked so well we can’t wait to do it again!
This is not nearly a complete list of volunteers, gentle reader, just a start. Andrea, Hannah… the list goes on and on. Come, visit, and see.
By the way, you can also friend us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pvcchorticulture/