Friday, October 8, 2010

Fall Veggie Progress...

All of our fall seeds have sprouted except for the spinach...what's up with that?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Garden Alert from Peggy!

Ladies!!!  Drum roll please….. we have seedlings coming up ALREADY!  Bok Choy, Radish, Kale and Lettuce coming up.  YEAH!!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

End of Summer Harvest and Fall Planting

"Long time, no blog!" you say? Well, there just hasn't been much to report lately -- the gardeners really just spent the summer watching the garden do its thing and collecting veggies now and then. However, the time has come to review our first season's harvest and to commence fall planting. So, off we go...

Last week, we harvested the last of our summer/early fall crops: a big bunch of carrots and several sweet potatoes. The carrots were quite delicious, and the sweet potatoes are now in the process of "curing" per instructions recommended by Jane. In about two weeks, the sweet potatoes will be ready for baking, mashing, scalloping, tempura, deep frying, or whatever else we can think to do to them. Mmm....Only the parsnips remain in the garden, and they will continue to grow until winter.

Overall, the garden's first season did not produce as many veggies as we had hoped -- and some plants were more successful than others. We are still convinced that our harvest was limited by the early hot weather and the less-than-optimal soil with which we started (see photos below). We had success with our first round of lettuce and radishes; carrots; sweet potatoes; green cucumber; green beans and snow peas (though both of these passed their prime very quickly); Roma and Tumbling Tom cherry tomatoes; and sunflowers. Disappointments included bok choy, cowpea, eggplant (both varieties), green onions, leek, garlic, all pepper varieties, spinach, patty pan squash, the remaining tomato varieties, and zucchini (of all things -- we didn't get a single one!). The herbs did quite well before succumbing to the heat of the summer, and the fate of the rhubarb is uncertain -- Peggy's is definitely dead and Virginia's alternately produce leaves and appear to die out. We shall see if they make a stronger comeback in the cooler weather.

We decided to amend and seed two of the garden beds for the fall: the root vegetable bed and the tomato bed. After debating the benefits and availability of various soil amendments, we decided to simply purchase several bags of premixed potting soil (consisting of compost, peat moss, and perlite) and to work it into the existing soil by hand. The remaining beds would be cleared in preparation for the winter. Peggy and Virginia tackled this job yesterday.

Here's how the garden looked before the autumn cleanup:

We went to work on the tomato bed first, and quickly decided that our job would be easier if we didn't have to work around the accidental asparagus. Peggy couldn't bring herself to kill it, though, so Virginia pulled it up while Peggy averted her gaze. After a moment of respectful silence, we carried on. The existing soil came up in large clumps of clay as we forked our way through the garden bed and we had to spend a significant amount of time breaking down these lumps. We then slowly tilled in 1.5 cubic feet of potting soil, which seemed to lighten the dirt considerably. When we were fairly satisfied with the consistency of the soil, we planted kale, our lettuce seed mixture, and snow peas (and provided two large tomato cages for the snow peas to climb).

The root vegetable bed presented much more of a challenge. The existing soil was very difficult to break up -- so much so that we felt compelled to record our battle in photos:

...that is one huge solid lump of dirt!

We were eventually able to dig up the soil around the parsnips to the depth of our garden forks, and to introduce a 1.5 cubic feet bag of potting soil into the existing dirt. We then planted radishes, bok choy, carrots, and spinach in the amended bed.

Finally, we attempted to clear the large gardening bed, but the dirt was so hard that we couldn't dig our forks into it. It's no wonder that very few of our veggies managed to grow in it! Since we had reached our planting goals, we decided to set a date in the near future to dig out at least a third of the dirt from the large bed, and to replace it with a potting soil mixture. We will also amend the herb bed, after we transplant the thriving butterfly bush to a new spot near the garden.

And voila, the garden is (mostly) ready for the next growing season!

Watch this space for more updates on our new crop of veggies!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Free Wildflower Seedlings: Appalachian Mock Orange

Virginia now has Appalachian mock orange seedlings available for adoption. This variety grows into medium sized shrubs (4 to 12 feet in height) with large white (mostly scentless) flowers. It apparently does well in the shade. Pretty!

If you would like a seedling or two (or more), please leave a comment on the blog or contact Virginia by phone or email. 

Garden Maintenance

Well, the garden is chugging along with very little help from us, but it's not producing very much. Hmmm...Poor soil? Overcrowding? Too much moisture? Not enough moisture? We will have to investigate before the next planting season and revise our gardening strategies accordingly.

Our only other problem has been an invasion of mealybugs and some powdery mildew, which we have treated with natural products specifically made for vegetables. So far, the damage seems minimal.

We have had to reinforce the corners of the e-fence because the plastic posts had started to lean toward the garden beds and the wires were drooping. Our remedy was to place short lengths of rebar next to the plastic posts and to secure them to the original posts with plastic zip ties. This tightened up the wires considerably.

Also, the sweet potato vines had been growing out of the bed and shorting out the e-fence, so we corralled the vines with a length of short garden fencing kindly donated by Jane.

We continue to wait patiently...

Friday, June 4, 2010

Last Spring Harvest

The last of the spring lettuce, various herbs, and our first batch of pole beans and snowpeas...yum...

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Garden Review

The gardeners got together on Memorial Day and we discussed our successes and failures so far. (Wine and spicy chocolate cupcakes were on hand to facilitate our conversation...)

First, it appears that we need to increase the drainage in our garden beds and to be very careful with moisture levels. We have lost several seedlings and all of our spinach as a result of problems related to overwatering. (Planting the spinach earlier in the season might also have prevented it from bolting, as we had an unusually warm spring.)

Second, in the large garden bed, the position of the pole beans and tomatoes on the far trellis should be reversed if we plant them again. The tomatoes do not seem to be getting quite enough sun, whereas the bean plants look a bit crispy.

Third, we need to be more deliberate in thinning our root vegetables and bok choy as they grow. Although the bok choy was certainly edible, the plants were spindly and didn't develop the deep green leaves, plump stalks, and classic bok choy taste that we were hoping for -- we think that overcrowding might have been the problem.

We will take these notes into account as we prepare for our next planting season!

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Free Wildflower Seedlings: Cardinal Flower

Virginia has been growing wildflowers from the seeds that she gets as a member of the North Carolina Botanical Garden. And because she believes in spreading the love, she'd like to give some of those seedlings to friends of Savasana Community Garden.

Right now, she has about six cardinal flower (lobelia cardinalis) seedlings that are ready to find new homes. According to the Botanical Garden, cardinal flower is a hummingbird favorite with its "striking red flowers," and it requires average soil and sun to part-shade. Read more about this plant here.

If you would like a seedling or two (or more), please leave a comment on the blog or contact Virginia by phone or email. The seedlings will be a distributed on the usual first-come-first-served basis. Enjoy!

There will be more wildflowers to come!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Remember Kids: Safety First!

The garden has received several days of steady rain, which has been great for the veggies but not so good for the gardeners, who were left with slippery and treacherous paths between the garden beds. To remedy this, Peggy and Virginia spread several bags of rubber mulch between the beds this afternoon.

We also snipped a few herbs (the basil smells amazing), harvested the rest of the radishes and some lettuce (and replanted both), and thinned out the bok choy to give the remaining plants more room to grow. Salad, anyone?

This is how the garden is looking today - fabulous, no?

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Our First Harvest: Radishes!

We harvested our first crop of bright red, crunchy, and delightfully spicy "Cherry Belle" radishes after yoga class on Thursday - Raphanus sativus never tasted so good! We will plant another row in the next week or two because we just can't get enough!

Our zucchini and tomato plants are starting to flower, and everything else looks happy and healthy.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

The best defense is a good e-fence!

As promised, here are some photos of our new electric fence, which appears to be successfully protecting our garden from the local rabbits and squirrels. It's a very simple system, with aluminum wire (about 75 feet) strung through metal cotter pins attached to 2-foot plastic rods. We strung two wires, one about six inches above the ground, and the second about two inches above that. The wire is connected to an energizer on Peggy's deck, which is grounded by a 2-foot rebar sunk into the ground below.

Now we just have to be careful about not tripping on the wires as we garden! Peggy's going to devise a flagging system to help us remember that the wire is actually there.

As for the garden itself, we have some new friends in the form of toads (who were instantly given a toad house, thanks to Peggy) and some new seedlings (because even if you're urgently shopping at Lowe's for electric fencing, it's hard not to cruise through the veggie and herb aisle!). We lost the Hillbilly tomato (which did start out in poor shape) and all of the cucumber seedlings (due mostly to overwatering, as mentioned previously). But from Lowe's we gained parsley, replacement cucumbers, sweet potato "Beauregard" (it seemed like a good idea at the time!) (you see, asparagus looks a lot like dill when you're in a hurry...). Jane's husband Greg has also donated a Roma tomato plant.

The new cucumber seedlings have gone into the large garden bed, the parsley is now in one of the herb tubs, and the sweet potatoes are in the new tomato bed, along with the Roma tomato and the accidental asparagus. (We took a "let's throw it in the tomato bed and see what happens" attitude toward the asparagus because we really don't know what we're doing there.) Peggy has also rustled up some actual dill, which will find its way to a herb tub very soon.

And now, with any luck, we just sit back and watch it all thrive.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Yesterday afternoon at 3:41 p.m., Jane and Virginia received an urgent message from Peggy: 

Ladies, we had our first rabbit in the garden this afternoon!!!!  I chased it away with a fierce threat, but I think we’ve been found out.  If the little creature tells his friends we’ll be cleaned out in a matter of moments.  Any suggestions for prevention? 

Needless to say, we went into high-alert mode and held an emergency garden meeting. It was decided that Peggy and Virginia would attempt to find an effective and yet reasonably priced protective system for the garden that could be installed by nightfall. Since we were pressed for time, Lowe's and Home Depot were really our only options. The local stores offered nothing that met our needs, but a knowledgeable employee at Lowe's directed us to the store in Garner, which carried electric fencing. (Interestingly, the Cary stores are considered "too metropolitan" to carry such items...?) Off we went to Lowe's in Garner, where we found a very reasonably priced electronic fence kit, which promised to give us 100 feet of fence and appeared to be easy to install. (We had measured the perimeter of the garden before heading to the store, and decided that we would need about 75 feet of fence.)

We raced back to the garden and tackled the fencing project, working by the light of a large halogen flashlight held by David S as the sun set. We couldn't really tell if the posts holding the wires were appropriately placed or if the wire itself was level and in the right position, but we did our best and David S helped us rig up the energizer. The highlight of the evening was Jane's courageous attempt to test the fence, which she did manage successfully after remembering to remove her rubber gardening boots!

This morning, Peggy sent us another message:

Well, this morning there was no evidence of garden invasion form our pesky friends.  However, there was a rabbit in the back yard who seemed preoccupied with the surrounding grasses as opposed to our garden.  I don’t know if he was shocked by our newly installed e-fence and decided to avoid the garden or not.  I left him alone to see what would happen and when I returned after breakfast he was gone and the garden was unscathed.  YEAH!!! 

We returned to the garden this afternoon to straighten out our work, and to add a second wire to the fence posts. Virginia found an electric fence tester to save Jane from further fence-testing trauma. Photos of the finished project will be posted soon. We sincerely hope that our e-fence will end this threat of rodent hooliganism!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Mulching Day! A New Bed! More Plants! Better Photos!

April 17th was mulching day at Savasana Community Garden. We pulled as many visible weeds as possible, then surrounded our seedlings with a dark wood-based mulch. We hope that the mulch will prevent further weed growth and keep the surface of the soil moist (the top of our disappointing soil tends to harden when dry).

Check out these mulching action photos!

Since we were given even more tomato seedlings, we also decided to use up our remaining wood and soil to build an additional 4.5' x 4.5' garden bed, henceforth known as the tomato bed. We're mulching the tomato bed in the photos above.

In addition, we have planted various herbs in two containers:

Determined to harvest rhubarb next year, we now have three experiemental rhubarb plants in the ground: one is situated on the south-facing wall of Peggy's house, and the other two are in the northeast side of Virginia's property. All are looking healthy at the moment.

Here's how the garden looked by the time we had finished last Saturday:

From the top, we have: the large gardening bed,
Cherry tomatoes
Cowpea (still just a single seedling!)
Cucumber (yellow and green)
Eggplant (Japanese and Fairytale)
Green beans
Patty pan squash
Snow peas
Zucchini (Eight Ball and regular)
Peppers (mini and Maxibell
Tomatoes (German Johnson, Homestead, and Tumbling Tom) the herb bed,
Garlic (additional tubs of garlic have been planted by Jane and Virginia at home)
Mixed salad greens (butter lettuce, green leaf lettuce, and romaine)
Butterfly bush
Chives the root vegetable bed,
Bok choy
Green onions
Peppers (Chocolate and Long Red Cayenne)
Parsnip (which has finally germinated and is growing well)
Radishes the new tomato bed,
Tomatoes (Homestead and Hillbilly)

...and in the two herb tubs,

Today's Update:
A check of the garden today showed that squirrels have been digging holes in the mulch, and they appear to have dug up about half of the green cucumber seedlings just for fun. Grrr. We will have to consider cages for the plants if this hooliganism continues (*sigh*).

In addition, the yellow cucumber and Petit Gris melon are showing serious damage from accidental overwatering (a malfunctioning soaker hose is to blame); the melon is definitely a goner, but the yellow cucumber may still survive. Finally, the two seedlings in the tomato bed (which were not very healthy to begin with) are still looking quite weak, but if we're lucky one of them will pull through.

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Garden's Progress 12 Days After Planting

An Overview: Peggy has been watering the garden beds conscientiously every day. The soaker hose that you can see in the large bed is connected to the faucet on the rain barrel. So far, the garden has not sustained any noticeable damage from birds, bugs, squirrels, or rabbits - we hope this will continue, since we have now removed the protective screens from the root bed and the herb patch/salad bowl. We have a few small weeds coming up, but they have been easy to remove.

And now, on to the root vegetable bed:

Bok choy, before thinning. The seedlings were looking pretty crowded, so Virginia thinned them out a bit after this photo was taken.

Radishes, also before thinning. Ditto the above.

Carrots and bunching onions are also starting to appear, but the seedlings are still too small to photograph well. No sign of the parsnips, but apparently the seeds will take quite a long time to germinate. We will be patient.

We have lots of growing activity in the herb bed and salad bowl, but unfortunately very little of it makes for exciting photos...

Garlic. This stuff has been growing crazy fast.

Spinach. A poor photo, however - the seedlings look much happier in person!

Appearing in the large bed, we have:

Snow peas. These are very attractive and sturdy seedlings.

Green (pole) beans, galore.

Eight ball zucchini (top) and Pattypan squash (bottom).

Peggy and Virginia planted two Tumbling Tom tomato seedlings yesterday, but they declined to be photographed. Just about everything else in the large bed seems to be growing happily, with the possible exception of the cowpeas. So far, only one seed has sprouted...we are wondering if the free seed from Logan's was a bit old. Time will tell.

One bit of disappointing news: The gardeners have become increasingly unimpressed with the soil purchased from Page Road Garden Center. In our view, it has far too many stones and far too little organic content. Consequently, we have been amending the soil with compost as we transplant seedlings into the garden. Virginia also plans to make gravel walkways between the beds with all of the stones she has removed from the dirt! Looks like we will be doing some major soil improvement after our first harvest and before out second planting of the year.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Delayed Update: Planting Day!

The gardeners are pleased to announce that we had our first official planting day on March 28!

On hand were:
*Seeds previously purchased from The Natural Gardening Company
*Two Eight Ball Zucchini and two Tumbling Tom tomato seedlings donated by Virginia
*Four seedlings donated by Friend-of-Savasana-Garden Karen Birbeck: dark green zucchini, white Pattypan squash, lemon cucumber, and Petit Gris French melon
*One leek plant
*One butterfly bush donated by Peggy

After much consideration, all were planted as follows:

Large Bed:
Sugar snap peas (seed)
Green (pole) beans (seed)
Zucchini (two seedlings - Jane took the second Eight Ball seedling to plant at home)
Cowpea (seed)
Lemon cucumber (seedling)
Pattypan squash (seedling)
Petit gris melon (seedling)

Seeds for climbing plants (snap peas, green beans, cowpea, and lemon cucumber) were planted close to the trellises. Still to be planted in this bed are tomatoes, Kirby cucumbers, bell peppers, and eggplant (perhaps one of the Fairytale eggplant seedlings currently growing in Virginia's bio dome).

Herb Bed:
Leek (plant)
Spinach (seed)
Butterfly bush (in the center of the bed, to attract pollinating insects and birds)
The "Salad Bowl": a mixture of butter, green leaf, and Romaine lettuce seed (Jane's idea - a good one, no?)
Chives (plant)
Garlic (bulbs - we still have several more bulbs, which must be planted somewhere else before they overtake Peggy's garden shed...)

This bed will also house hot peppers and a variety of other herbs, such as basil, dill, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, and thyme.

Root Vegetable Bed:
Bunching onions (seed)
Bok choy (seed)
Parsnip (seeds were planted after being soaked for 24 hours)
Carrot (seed)
Radish (seed)

After the planting frenzy was over, we had to decide how to protect our seeds and tender seedlings from squirrels, rabbits, birds, and the sun. We considered chicken wire and we pondered poultry netting, but inspired by Jane's donation of a moveable, weighted patio door screen, we ultimately decided to purchase a big roll of 48-inch wide aluminum window screen. We used the screen to cover the root vegetable bed (we attached it with staples to the sides of the bed), the Salad Bowl (we used the patio door screen for this), and the trellises (we stapled blocks of wood to the screen to act as weights). We will relocate these screens as needed while the plants grow.

Finally, we attached lengths of hose to the water barrel overflow valves and directed these to the large bed and the root vegetable bed...then we wished the garden well and headed home.

Today's Newsflash! Peggy reports: "Good news!!  Plants already coming up: garlic, some lettuce, radishes and pac choi!!  Yeah!!"

Saturday, March 27, 2010

A Tale of Three Yards

Well, Peggy's careful soil estimates went out the window on Wednesday, when it came time to actually purchase the soil. Peggy and Virginia visited and telephone several suppliers, but could not find one that would deliver only three yards of dirt. Consequently, they decided to buy five yards, reasoning that the gardeners could split the remainder and use it for their own gardens. The kind folks at Page Road Garden Center not only agreed to deliver this relatively small amount of soil for a reduced fee, but also promised to get it to us that very same day! Naturally, they got our business and five yards of conditioned soil (a topsoil and compost mix) were purchased forthwith.

Then it was off to the Town of Garner, which was offering 80-gallon rain barrels for a reasonable price. The rain barrel was loaded into Peggy's new Subaru with no difficulty. Pleased with their success, but hungry, Peggy and Virginia stopped for lunch at Barry's Cafe before heading home to wait for the dirt delivery. Back at the garden, the rain barrel was unloaded and Peggy prepared the garden beds with a layer of newspaper to prevent weed growth.

At about four o'clock, the Page Road delivery truck was spotted and the call to arms was raised.

And here it is. We were so surprised at the small size of the dirt pile, that we asked the driver to verify the amount in the delivery, but he reassured us that this was, indeed, about five yards.

David S was on had to help move the dirt to the garden beds, and Jane joined us a bit later.

Naturally, it took almost all of the dirt to fill our three garden beds. We decided to keep the remainder in storage, in case we needed it to top up the beds. We are also tossing around the idea of creating a cut-flower bed with the leftover soil.

As dusk settled over Savasana, we rigged up the rain barrel. We placed it on two layers of concrete bricks, which we settled into a thick layer of builder's sand for easier leveling. David S cut the downspout to allow the rain water to flow directly into the barrel. Our plan is to direct both the main spigot and the two overflow valves into the garden beds via soaker hoses.

Planting commences tomorrow!