Recently we tested a few of our eight raised beds and found that they’re generally in good shape but could use a few amendments. A local farmer was awesome enough to drop us off a load of manure to help improve soil fertility. I don’t know if he’d wish to be named and run the risk of everyone flocking to him, but we’re very grateful!
The local extension office does a very quick and useful soil test, just in case anyone isn’t already aware.
On Saturday, April 8th. students participating in UVA’s Big Event came to the garden. We had a lot of fun working in the native plant beds and prepping some of the vegetable beds for planting. April is Charlottesville’s most beautiful month and we are looking good with spring planting!
We’re still weeks away from the last frost date for this region, but things are heating up in the garden. Madison House has begun visiting, the beds are tilled up the asparagus are starting to rise (sounds like fly fishing), and the flats in the hoop house have inhabitants that are getting hopeful. Some of the beds have already been planted with potatoes, onions, and garlic. Thanks to club volunteers, community volunteers, and visiting students from UVA’s Women’s Leadership Development program!
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.