Sunday, July 20, 2014

Week 11: When things aren't working the way they should

July 14-20

This week, we have run into several things that aren't working the way they should. 
            Early in the week, we noticed that our hose at the 38th street garden had been mowed over, and that the drip line at 46th was not working. While we cannot repair the hose, we located the problem in the drip line: a tiny kink near the spigot cut off the water for the entire garden. We straightened it out, and now the garden is getting the irrigation it needs. For the plants not along the drip line, we have been trying to use the water in the rain barrels at both gardens. We have also been using the rain water to keep the compost and the vermiculture damp.
            On Friday, Kayla and I turned the compost piles at the 46th street garden. I noticed that my pile was not even warm—when decomposing properly, a compost pile can reach up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Because most of the pile was brown matter—sticks, coffee grounds, coffee filters—we added some green matter like bee balm prunings and rotting apples so that the pile would decompose more quickly and efficiently. Now that the piles have a good ratio of carbon (brown matter) to nitrogen (green matter) they should begin to heat up.
            Lettuce, the first crop that we planted at the beginning of May, is nearing the end of its season. For about two weeks now, our lettuce has been bitter, and the stalks have started to bolt and go to seed. Last week, we harvested the final leaves from most of our plants before uprooting the stalks and throwing them on the compost pile. We gave away our lettuce at the open air market— while we didn’t want to waste it, it wasn’t fit for sale. 
            But the good thing about gardening is that there is always the hope of new life. We plan to plant broccoli, which is a cold weather crop, in place of the lettuce. The compost will begin to break down, and give us good fertilizer, and we can replace the hose. Another positive news item is that we are nearly finished mulching both gardens. This means that we will not have to weed or water as much for the rest of the summer. As we do not plan to till next summer, the mulch will protect the soil from erosion. We are blessed to have such easy access to mulch—we can drive the truck to facilities at any time and completely fill the bed with the chipped wood from the branches cut down all over campus.
            Our raspberries and black raspberries are nearing the end of their seasons, but the corn is tassling, tiny fingers of okra are emerging, and cucumbers are coming in by the bucket load. We separated our basil, which was planted in bunches, so that it can spread out. Unfortunately, we had to burn one of our squash plants because it was crawling with squash bugs. We cannot use pesticides, so we are hoping that none of our other plants fall prey. Katie found an enormous dragonfly as she was harvesting, and we hope that it continues to keep our garden pest-free.
            On Saturday, our entire crew (minus Kayla, who had to work at the her other job) drove over to Victory Acres for their third annual Pie in July celebration. In addition to a pie contest, there were workshops, a hay ride around the farm, and a potluck meal. We enjoyed talking with the share holders and the other interns that came out for a fun evening.
             This is my last week writing for the blog as Zach returned from Puerto Rico on Friday. Writing for the blog has helped me to be able to articulate the things I'm learning. Thanks for reading!

squash bugs: public enemy number one


Hannah Combs

Alliance Garden Intern

the compost piles at 46th 








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