Saratoga Bridges Plants a Bed

Screen Shot 2017-08-10 at 11.48.36 AMSaratoga Bridges, an organization that enables people with disabilities to live enriching lives, came to the Pitney  Meadows Community Gardens this morning and planted seeds for green beans, mache* and Peppermint Swiss chard.

Working with Garden Director Natalie Walsh, each person planted according to the seed packets instructions, patted the planted seeds for good soil contact and watered well. In the weeks to come, different groups from the organization will care for the plants in their raised bed.

*Mache is a dark salad green, rich in Vitamin C, that grows close to the ground in rosette-shaped bunches that have elongated leaves.  It is a favorite salad green in Europe.

 

 

 

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Plan B

This morning I went to the farm thinking I was going to mark out the 8×12 beds so the gardeners of these large plots could start planting today.

To my dismay, the area was flooded. Screen Shot 2017-07-02 at 8.40.37 AM.png

Our farmer, Bill Pitney didn’t think this was an issue we could resolve quickly.

So we are moving to Plan B.

We will create the 8×12 in-ground plots in the northwest corner (the area I’ve been calling the berry patch). The area is higher, has water (controlled from a faucet) and will provide gardeners the opportunity to get plants in the ground swiftly.

Gus, Heather and Margie are in the garden staking these plots now. Give a hand if you can.

I will be in the garden Tuesday morning starting at 8 a.m.

Sorry to the gardeners of the larger plots for the delay.

We are truly very close now.

Natalie

Another Row in Place

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Four of the 24-inch high beds and two of the 4×8 raised beds were set in place today thanks to the hard work of Jim G., Bill, Kim, Jesse, George, Rich, Heather and yours truly.

Then just after four p.m, participants in the “Grow the Tallest Sunflower Contest” arrived and planted Mammoth Sunflower seeds.  Pictured below are Isabella and Kaitlin.

There’s still time to enter the contest.  The seeds, which are free, can be planted tomorrow between 3 and 5 p.m. Prizes for the tallest sunflower will be awarded in September.  Can you grow the tallest one?  Try and find out!

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First Beds Filled with Soil!

Inch by inch, the garden is coming together. Six beds were filled with soil and are ready to be planted.  These first beds are assigned to: Andrew Shaw, Kemp and Nancy Hicks, Anne Curtin, Mark Suprunowicz, Richard and Cynthia Hart,  and Heather von Allen. You can begin to plant!

What else did we do today?

  • We built more raised beds. There are now 31 ready to go into the garden. And tomorrow, with the help of volunteers, more will be filled with soil. Tomorrow evening, I will connect with their new caretakers so they can get plants in the earth.
  • We planted another row of sunflowers.
  • We prepared the area where participants in the “Grow the Tallest Sunflower Contest” can plant Mammoth sunflower seeds starting tomorrow.
  • We laid fabric down then gravel and stone dust in the first pathways.
  • We weeded.
  • We dug a trench for a waterline on the west side of the shed to wash tools, vegetables and ourselves after a day in the soil.

Pretty impressive. Thank you Heather, Kay, three different Jims, Rich and Rich T.,  John, Cynthia, George, Cathy, Judy, Gracie, Brad, Paul, Bill, Jeanmarie, Murray, Arliss, Robert C., Kemp and Nancy, Jesse. I hope I didn’t leave anyone out.

Tomorrow,  there are tasks for volunteers. If you can, please come help.  We need painters to paint the second coat on the barn siding, helpers setting the beds and troughs in place, people to rake the soil in the beds and the gravel in the pathways, and planters to plant another row of sunflowers.

Our plan is to begin at 9 a.m. and work until it rains. Right now, the forecast calls for rain around noon.

I am truly grateful for any time you can give.

Like the song says: “row by row gonna make this garden grow.”

 

 

 

 

We need Volunteers Today!

 

Screen Shot 2017-06-26 at 8.03.42 AMSix raised beds are in place and we need helpers to staple landscape fabric around the base as shown in the photo below.  Even if you can only give us an hour, it will help.  Please come and volunteer. We will be in the garden from 1 p.m. to at least 5 p.m.
This step moves us closer to getting the pathways down and the soil in the beds.  As of this morning, we have 25 raised beds built. Rich Torkelson will be there this afternoon moving us forward.  Yay!

Bring gloves and a staple gun if you have one. Hat and sunscreen, too.

Thank you.   Our volunteers have been incredible and we appreciate each and every one of you.

Great Plants

Screen Shot 2017-06-25 at 11.52.02 AMRobert Curry has grown tomatoes, tomatillos, peppers and eggplants that he is selling to the gardeners for $1. each.  The plants are beautiful, robust and healthy. This is a very generous offer.

Right now, the plants are near the silo.  You can pay Robert directly or add your money to the Robert C. honor jar near the plants.

Tomorrow is a big day in the Community Gardens

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The watering troughs will be the taller raised beds. To prepare them for use, volunteers drilled holes in the base. Next steps, fill base with gravel for drainage, add landscape fabric, soil, and plant!

We have a list of “things to do” tomorrow for the Pitney Meadows Community Gardens that includes building of the raised beds, prepping the troughs that will be taller raised beds, painting the interior of the shed, clear coating the picnic tables, staking the 8×12 beds and more.

We plan to get started around 9 a.m.

If you can help, please come.  Lots of hands will make the day go faster and it is always  more fun when a group works together. 🙂

See you in the garden, Natalie

 

Accessible Raised Beds Can Make Every Gardener’s Life Easier

There are many reasons to want tall, 24 inch high raised beds in the vegetable garden.

• They keep rabbits, moles and voles out.

• You can manage weeds more easily.

• You don’t walk in them so you avoid soil compaction.

• You can control water input and drainage.

Raised beds also warm up faster in the Spring and stay warmer longer in the Fall making for a longer growing season.

Having the plants at a height where you can sit to tend them is more than a convenience for some. It can be a necessity.

I recently spoke with Carol Whitelaw, a horticultural therapist with Cornell Cooperative Extension at the Unlimited Garden in Ballston Spa.

She has worked with handicapped and special needs gardeners for more than two decades. Her suggestions came from her experiences making gardening possible for everyone.

What should be included in a garden designed for handicapped accessibility?  What height was best for someone in a wheelchair, what pavement surfaces worked well, what tips did she have?

But our conversation got me thinking about the needs of all gardeners as we age. Friends of mine have arthritis in their hands, painful joints, back aches or trouble getting up and down because of a bad knee. Whitelaw noted older gardeners are a driving force behind the availability of tools, raised beds and specialty items designed to help gardeners keep on gardening. She said the baby boomer generation has made popular garden catalogs consider what older gardeners may find useful, especially if they are planning to age in place and continue enjoying their hobby.

Garden Priorities 

Whitelaw’s suggestions can be applied to any garden.

To begin, she said, firm and stable pathways are essential. This can be accomplished with pavers, concrete or compacted stone dust.  Having an edging to keep the stone dust from drifting outside the path makes for a neater, tidier look.

For a handicap garden, she recommended 8 to 12 foot wide pathways. A wheelchair user needs five feet of space to turn around.  Two people walking side by side need about six feet. Of course, the space you are working with will dictate width, at least to some extent.

These concrete drain pipes make excellent planters. Note the space for toes at the base. For people with balance concerns, this is important because you “can get right up to the planter and lean against it for support,” said Horticultural Therapist Carol Whitelaw.

Whitelaw noted that many people are sensitive to the “coffin look” of raised beds especially in winter and she included concrete pipe planters and triangular beds at the Unlimited Garden to break up the rows of  rectangles. There’s nothing to say that raised beds need to be rectangular.

I have been thinking of using livestock watering troughs as vegetable containers and after talking with her, I started thinking creatively about their placement. With the right space, you could arrange oval troughs in a circular pattern to create a daisy petals and use a round concrete pipe as the center.

In this concept, the orange “petals” are 24 inch tall livestock watering troughs and the yellow center is a concrete pipe.

The ideal height for raised beds is between 24 and 30 inches. One problem Whitelaw has found in our cold climate is the damage done by poor drainage in early Spring when the ground is still frozen, but the soil within the wooden beds has thawed. The retention of water within the bed causes rot and pushes the sides outward.

“Most of our wooden raised beds have needed repairs because of the thawing,” she said. They’ve also needed sanding to keep them splinter free over the years.

Her suggestion was to incorporate a perforated PVC pipe drainage system into the design of tall wooden beds. In the case of the standard 24 inch tall metal troughs, if you drilled holes in the base and placed the trough on concrete pavers to elevated them a little more, you get a bit better height and better drainage, which may mean longer lasting troughs.

Whatever raised beds you choose, fill the base with a layer of gravel, then sand and then a soil/compost mix.

One other take away from my visit to the garden, was to make a cart  24 inches tall with big wheels that could be set up right next to the gardener, eliminating the need to bend over. The cart acts like a wagon and becomes a shelf for plants, an easy to reach place for tools and an easy way to transport both. I can imagine many uses for a cart like this in and out of the garden. Garden party server, for example.

Who hasn’t misplaced a tool in the garden? Whitelaw said lightweight, brightly colored tools work well as does a pegboard organization system. Note how the tool shapes are outlined on the board.

Whitelaw also noted that tools can make gardening easier for everyone. There are petite trowels and narrow rakes with long handles or ergonomic designs.

Other suggestions: Replace those round wheel faucet handles that can be hard to turn with levers that are easier to use. Lift up the different watering wands while shopping and look for very  lightweight wands with squeeze lever controls about 30 inches in length. Dramm makes one and they are available at hardware stores, Amazon and big box stores.

“Children’s tools are the perfect size and brightly colored plastic tools can make gardening easier for the visually impaired,” she said. Another idea, go for a 1 gallon watering can instead of a large watering can.  “Water is heavy.” she noted.

By the time I drove away my head was sprouting idea after idea. These ideas will be put into action. There’s nothing like getting tips from a professional passionate about keeping gardeners growing.

If you have other tips that make gardening life easier, let me know.