Wednesday, November 14, 2012

November in the Learning Garden

Thanks to a few dedicated students work has continued in the Learning Garden at SMU this fall. So far in the month of November we have transplanted our Raspberry Canes along the fence. A simple piece of twine will hold them back and up for easy picking next summer and fall. We hope to control their tendency to spread by under ground roots. We dug a trench first in the hard ground and then filled it with good soil and planted into that.

Blessed with warm weather this November our daytime temperatures averaging 51 degrees and breaks in the gentle Fall rain we have been able to work each week at our usual time of noon to 2. This week we only worked for one hour from 1 to 2 but we completed so many tasks. We planted Garlic. We have two beds of Garlic planted which we will be harvesting next summer.

We weren't done yet. We harvested Jerusalem Artichokes and moved the Barrels over  to where our garden expansion is underway.

We experimented with growing Jerusalem Artichokes in wine barrels.

A bouquet of red Jerusalem Artichokes an edible tuber that tastes like water chestnuts.


Thanks to all the student volunteers for helping create a special place on campus. Next week we plan to be here again between Noon and 2, weather permitting. Look at that beautiful sunshine!!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Earthworms Improve The Soil In The Learning Garden

Tomorrow October 31st 2012

Weather permitting we plan to hold a workshop on Worms and Worm Bins  in the Learning Garden from Noon to 2:00. We will be refurbishing and upgrading our current worm bin. Hope to see you there!


Monday, October 22, 2012

The Learning Garden gets Fortified with Minerals

Last Wednesday
October 17th 2012
We added the rock dusts I wrote about in my post last time.
Look how green the Greensand really is.

 After mixing in the wheelbarrow we applied the minerals.

Then we enjoyed Apples and Cheese, Crackers and Cider.

Thus far this fall we have been blessed with good weather for working outdoors. We will continue with workshops as weather permits, we also will take some time for planning and research into such questions as,what is sustainability, and how can our Learning Garden best serve our community?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Minerals for Pacific Northwest Soils

The primary reasons for remineralization  of the soil with the addition of powdered rock,  called rock dusts, is to provide a slow natural release of trace minerals which are then available to the growing plants. Trace minerals are essential for optimum health in both plants and animals. Soils that have had rock dust applied produce plants that are healthier and more nutritious and equally as important more flavorful.  Rock dusts affect the soil in numerous ways increasing earthworm and microbial activity and balancing the Ph. The addition of rock dusts to the soil increases the plants resistance to insects, disease, frost and drought and decreases their dependence on chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides. These powdered rocks work to improve the texture of the soil.
Our Pacific Northwest soils in the Olympia area receive an average of 50.79 inches of rain a year. Because of this we have to replenish our soils to keep them productive. We have to offset what is leached out due to the rain. Here are the rock dusts I like to apply and replenish every four or five years.
Limestone is a sedimentary rock made up primarily of the minerals calcite and aragonite. It makes up about ten percent of all sedimentary rock. Limestone is comprised primarily of the shells of marine animals long since extinct. It is crushed to a fine powder and added to gardens to sweeten acidic soils. Anything below a Ph of 7 is acidic anything above 7 is considered alkaline, most plants do well with a Ph of about 6 to 7.5.  Dolomite is a term used to describe a sedimentary carbonate mineral referred to as dolostone. This is also used to sweeten garden soils and to add calcium and magnesium.
Greensand is a sedimentary rock that contains glauconite a mineral that adds potassium to the soil. Greensand is formed in an anoxic marine environment. It is found in coastal and estuarine environments and made of ocean sediments, creatures as well as plants. The success of 20th and 21st century agriculture is owed in great part, to the discovery of, and the ability to mine and transport these ores on a grand scale.
Rock Phosphate or Phosphorite is a sedimentary rock that is mined to add to organic fertilizer but is also used in the manufacture of synthetic fertilizers to boost their effectiveness.  Our planetary deposits of Phosphorite have been mined extensively and are disappearing.  There are other ways to obtain Phosphorous but they are energy intensive, very expensive, and under-researched. In the United States phosphorite has been mined in Florida, Tennessee, Wyoming, Idaho, Utah and Kansas. The Phosphate is present in the phosphorite as flourapatite.  Crushed rock phosphate is used to add phosphorus to the soil.
Glacial Rock Dust is composed primarily of ground feldspar and quartz. A natural glacial rock dust referred to as rock flour is created by the mechanical grinding of bedrock by glacial erosion this can be seen flowing into high mountain rivers and lakes around the world. In lieu of waiting for the glacier, Glacial rock dust can be made by milling or grinding quartz and feldspar this is another way to add essential trace minerals to garden soils.
Azomite is volcanic in origin is said to contain 67 trace elements and to be and all around plant booster.
Fertilizers have an NPK rating:
v N stands for nitrogen. Nitrogen is essential for leaf and stem growth. Low nitrogen means small plants.
v P stands for phosphorus. Phosphorous promotes root and shoot development. Poor roots, sick plant.
v K stands for potassium. Potassium is used by the plant to produce flowers and fruit. It improves overall plant health.
Nitrogen is put back into the soil via animal manures (cloven or feathered usually) green manures or by adding high protein meals like soy. The Phosphorous and Potassium are put into, or back into the soil via rock dusts. So there you have your NPK. If your plants get enough water and sunshine you should have a lovely garden.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

An October Apple Tasting!

Greetings! This Wednesday in the Learning Garden we did an Apple tasting of seven varieties of Apples, 5 of which were varieties that grow here in Western Washington and 2 varieties from Eastern Washington. We were taste testing to see which varieties were the ones we would want to grow in our potential orchard. Among the varieties we taste tested were: Fuji, Akane, Gala, Williams Pride, and Jonagold.   All  those grow well here in our coastal climate. We also taste tested Honey Crisp and Golden Delicious which are varieties that grow better east of the mountains. Our data revealed that Fuji was almost everyone's favorite and interestingly enough we have planted one apple tree and it is a Fuji. The Fuji is a wonderful apple; it was developed in Fujisaki, Aomori Japan in  the 1930's and brought to the USA in 1969. It is a cross between the Red Delicious and the Virginia Ralls Genet.
It is naturally on the large size, very crisp and sweet and keeps well. Along with our apples we cleansed our palates with local cheddar goat cheese and some Lattin's Apple Cider .

 Then we got to work spreading some mulch!

Thank You to all the volunteers that are making the Learning Garden such a growing place.
Check in with us next Wednesday when we remineralize the Learning Garden and taste more varieties of apples!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Learning Garden is Growing!

Greetings! This week we were blessed with a nice size pile of mulch to spread. Our crew was somewhat smaller this week working  in the learning garden:  6 people total, 4 students.  We had three tasks that we wanted to complete and we were able to get everything done and have a little time to enjoy the garden and have a snack.  The tasks at hand were:
  1. Move and spread  the pile of mulch over the cardbord that had been laid down last week.

2. Put more weedcloth and rock around the garden shed.

3. Move a 5'X7' garden bed to make room for the incipient fence.

Kudos and Thanks to all who volunteered! 
Our Learning Garden is growing. We need hands on help and ideas; please join us for some fresh air and fun. I hope to see you next week, Wednesday October 10th Noon to 2:00 or 3:00 to 5:00.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

SMU Learning Garden Spruces Up in an Effort to Thwart Weeds

Many thanks to  all of the FYS students that helped out this Wednesday. The Learning Garden has been both beautified and made less vulnerable to weeds by their direct action. We achieved these goals by laying down weedcloth and securing it with staples and then covering this with river rock pebble.This created a nice clean weed free environment around the shed and the foundation. This had been an area of  nuisance weed seeds that were infiltrating the Garden.

The area near the Rhododendrons got a complete makeover a layer of cardboard was stapled down and is ready for the bark mulch next week.  Enough Ivy has been taken out that we are creating room for more raised beds.

You are all Garden Heroes!!

Here is a link to a website dedicated to Ivy removal

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Some Local Sustainable Websites To Check Out

Here are 5 local websites for organizations doing work related to a more sustainable world. Take a look!
 This is a great local organization.Let's go to the solar tour in April 2013!
Another excellent place to volunteer.
They have great educational programs.
We donate our surplus here.
I have never been to this farm, but would love to go. We have their starts growing in our greenhouse.

Garden Party September 19, 2012

A huge thanks to everyone who came by and worked with us!

 Here we have some FYS students transplanting Tatsoi and Chard into gallon pots to go into the greenhouse for winter greens. This week's workshop was very productive. We worked in teams and accomplished at least 18 person hours of work. We completed almost half of a forty hour work week in two hours. Now that's people power in action! There were 3 teams, team 1 worked on transplanting, team 2 worked on Ivy removal, team 3 worked on moving the Raspberry Canes. Everyone did an amazing job.  

After all that hard work we took a break and tasted and prepared a variety of greens, Kale, Arugula, Chard, Mustard, and Beet greens. A little toasted sesame oil and soy sauce with ginger and garlic very tasty and so good for you! Keep posted to see how things are growing in the greenhouse and where did those Raspberry Canes go?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A variety of greens

Tomorrow, 9.19.12 in the Learning Garden at SMU join us in tasting 5 kinds of greens and 3 or 4 different types of Kale. We will sample Mustard Greens, Arugula, Chard, Beet Greens, hear are some pictures of the greens you can taste.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Recipe for Green Beans Almondine

Green Beans Almondine

2 pounds Green Beans stem ends removed snapped in half
1 cup or less slivered or chopped Almonds
4 Tablespoons butter
3 cloves of garlic

steam the beans first just until tender
melt the butter
add almonds and garlic
Toss in the steamed beans Enjoy!!

Garden Party with Green Beans Almondine 9.12.12

Hello and thank you to everyone who stopped by to see the garden and eat green beans almondine, recipe to follow.. Many students dropped by and were not shy about trying the beans.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Growing our own transplants

Here are pictures from last winter when a group of FYS students planted seeds in flats which we grew out under lights. This is how they looked after one week.  And a week or so later.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Wednesday Garden Parties

Join the garden party during our regular hours while the weather holds
Wednesdays 12-2pm
In the Learning Garden (just outside of the cafeteria)

bush beans growing
 This Wednesday (tomorrow) we will be transplanting heirloom lettuces, bunching onions and weeding. Lynn will be preparing a tasting of Green Beans Almondine with green beans from the garden. Come help out, learn about gardening with your hands and with your taste buds
flowers in the squash
Upcoming workshops in October:
  • Adding Minerals to our PNW soils. what minerals? what benefits?
  • Making an earth worm bin ( With Rebeca Potasnik )
  • Managing raspberries
  • Mulching